|Chartres Journal #1: Mining the Gold|
June 7, 2011
Eddie Sears, the former facilities manager and beloved friend of those of us who count Laity Lodge as one of our "thin places"* in our spiritual journeys, used to wrap up the retreats by reminding us that people at home had been going about their daily lives, taking care of their business and sometimes the responsibilities we had left in their hands while we were on retreat. "People are braced for miles around," he would joke, "waiting to hear your story."
Eddie's gentle and wise reminder to be sensitive to our loved ones at home always reminded me of how when I was a child, I would return from a trip with my parents, having collected brochures and souvenirs at every stop, wanting to share my adventures with my friends and other family members who hadn't been on the trip I was so eager to recount.
When I was first initiated into Brownies, probably in first or second grade, I knelt beside my bed and prayed that "every little girl in America and even in all the world" could be a Brownie. I've always wanted everyone to have a chance to enjoy what I enjoy; thankfully, I've learned along the way that what thrills me may bore someone else!
My two-week adventure and the fulfillment of a long-held dream to participate in the workshops sponsored by Veriditas, the non-profit organization founded by Lauren Artress to promote awareness of labyrinth walking, could not possibly have been more satisfying and fulfilling. Consciously, I chose to lay down any expectations I had of the experience of being in Chartres, France, for two workshops and labyrinth facilitator training, and just let the experience be what it would be.
I knew that if I loaded this experience with my own agenda, I might miss what it really was. Because I have a way of setting myself and God up for failures by my limited and limiting ideas about how things oughtta be, I chose day by day to move into the day's experience with an open heart and an open mind, consciously receiving what came to me, embracing the beauty of it all and dancing with the moment, just as it was.
Everything about the experience -- the Cathedral itself, the participants in the workshops, the labyrinth experience, the people who assisted Lauren in putting on the workshops and Lauren herself-- far exceeded any expectations I might have had. Flying home, I felt so full of a new depth of gratitude and joy for what I had experienced and received. Listening to both mellow Enya and rockin' Eva Cassidy on my iPod sing "How Can I Keep From Singing", I had to smile and say, "Indeed!"
Thankfully, my friends have been gracious to express curiosity about my pilgrimage, and I look forward both to showing the photographs I took, talking about the fun of it all and to teaching what I have learned about the powerful practice of walking the sacred path of the labyrinth. Sharing the good news I have experienced always deepens the experience for me, as well.
As I flew home, I had the sense of wanting to hold on to the bounty of my time in Chartres, not in a clinging, grasping way, but with the intention of mining the motherlode of gold I'd discovered and integrating my experience into everyday life. I knew I would probably blog about the experience, but in this week that I have been home, clarity about how to do that has unfolded in my mind. Writing is my way of integrating my life experiences and what I've learned, after all, but I write, as well, to connect with others.
So it is that I want to write about my experience in such a way that what I write sparks a thought in you, a response out of your own life experience or a dialogue about what it means to become more expansive, more conscious, more open and more loving -- and therefore, I think, more hopeful. In my usual manner, then, I will write about my trip, but I'll be asking questions along the lines of "and what about you?"
Those of you who are familiar with this blog know that format, and you also know that I treasure and enjoy your responses, responses that often open my mind to yet another point of view. Somehow, together, the expanding consciousness of each of us contributes to the growing consciousness of the collective, and I truly believe that that is a very good thing.
My next blog post will be about veriditas, the word and the idea, and Veriditas,the organization that sponsored the workshops I attended in Chartres. I want to write about the Cathedral, itself, the splendor of the stained glass windows, what it means to walk the labyrinth, the gargoyles, threshold experiences, sharing that time with new friends from around the world, our dance circle each morning and the amazing power of "Notre Dame."
"Did your trip change your life?" a friend asked, teasing me.
I took a deep breath, and then I said, "I don't know yet, do I?" and then I said, "We'll see."
The truth is that the pilgrimage I was on was so powerful, so beautiful, so rare and precious and full of life that it has the potential to change my life. What I do with what I learned and experienced there is the crucial element in what happens with what I received.
Deeply, I want to be a good steward of the gifts of my pilgrimage.
What about you?
When was the last time you experienced something wonderful and wanted to hold on to it, share it, include others in it, give it away in some form?
If it's been a long time since you have experienced something wonderful, why is that?
What's the "something wonderful" that is right in your own backyard, your own community of faith, your family, your own daily life? What are the simple joys of daily life that are there for you, waiting to be noticed, appreciated, enjoyed?
Have you taken lots of trips, but maybe need a pilgrimage, as well?
What scares you most about going on a pilgrimage?
If you could go anywhere in the world you wanted to go, where would it be?
And are you content, right at home?
Have you experienced a "thin place", a moment in which you experienced the Presence of God in a powerful, and yet mysterious, way?
Grace to you --
* A "thin place" is a place where the veil between "here" and "there" seems thin. It is a sacred place, a place where other people have gathered for a religious ritual, perhaps over millenia. It is a place where people often experience the power of the numinous, where God "winks" at you, giving you just a moment of Presence and Mystery.
"Surely God was in this place, and I didn't know it," Jacob said when he woke up from dreaming about angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. (Genesis 28:16) He had experienced a "thin place", and his words remind us that often, we don't know that we are in that thin place until after the moment.
A wise teacher taught me that while we cannot manufacture, manipulate, control or contrive a moment of encounter with the numinous energy of the Holy One, we can suit up, show up and be available, just in case.
And sometimes, like Jacob, we are brushed with a moment, a dream, an encounter or a surprise that comes to us unbidden and when we haven't even made ourselves available!