Contemplative Times, Issue # 10
The Newsletter of Meditation Chapel
The Meditation Chapel Vision
Meditation Chapel nurtures unity and peace through the sharing of divine stillness and sacred listening. We support groups of all faith traditions in offering and sharing the contemplative experience through the sacramental use of technology.
“Spirituality is allowing compassion and love to flourish.”
~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Connection. We can find it, lose it, create it, and break it. Experiencing that life-changing connection with Source invites us to a new understanding of what it means to “connect.”
When we create an intention to connect – with others, Spirit, and ourselves – we aim to foster love, hope, purpose, and meaning. Simply opening to the possibility of connection can positively charge the environment. This is what I experience every time I am on Meditation Chapel. This is what all of us in this community find when we are together. Connection.
As the world continues to re-open, we begin to re-connect – with loved ones, with Nature, with what we want to make of our lives post-pandemic. We have been through a lot of changes, life and death, grieving and celebrating. We have moved across thresholds differently. All of these, too, are part of what Meditation Chapel is about – life’s ordinary (but extraordinary) events.
Recently, I took a long walk on the beach where I live. In the second hour, I was nearing a sharp curve on the island’s north end, and I thought, “I would really like to see a starfish.” I could not remember when I had seen a starfish on this beach – it had been more than a decade at least. Less than a minute later, as I continued walking ankle-deep in the ocean, there was a starfish in the sand. I exclaimed, startling my partner and sister who were walking with me. It was one of those ordinary/extraordinary moments.
I felt so deeply connected to the universe.
I know some might call it a coincidence, but I believe it was Divine Grace. We have these connecting moments all the time. It takes us being aware and awake to experience them for the soul-deep connection they invite us to enjoy.
You are invited, likewise, into this issue of Contemplative Times. We have a piece by Shaun MacLoughlin on his connection with Mother Teresa. Janice Mason Steeves and Nancy Ann Edwards share their thoughts on the theme, and we have poetry and imagery from several Meditation Chapel members. Additionally, you will read contributions from your Executive Committee on shifts in this vital community, as we recently became a non-profit entity.
As you read through, keep in mind what connects you. Is it your practice of silence and stillness that keeps you connected? Are you connected to your own joy and happiness? How do you experience connection in our community? What does connection in our community mean to you?
Meditation Chapel continues to be a crucial place for me to connect with others and to engage with the Eternal Flow of the Universe. The energies here are renewing and strengthening. I hope you continue to experience meaningful connections here.
Thank you for your presence.
Laura Waters, Editor, Contemplative Times
Suggestions Are Connections by Janice Mason Steeves
During the sacred sharing in Meditation Chapel one recent weekend, we were invited to consider how we listen to the voice of spirit and how we receive guidance. The thoughts that were shared in the group jumped delightfully all over the place, one idea fostering another, helping me consider how I have received guidance throughout my life.
While now and again, I receive guidance in the form of ideas that seem to come out of the blue, when I look back on my life and especially on my art career, I’m aware of how friends in my life have been the voice of God, making suggestions that have been pivotal in creating who I am today.
In my twenties, a friend suggested we take a pottery class together at night school while our husbands were doing a graduate program at university. In that class, with a wildly eccentric teacher, a door to the world of creativity opened to me. I had never considered myself to be creative, so it was a huge opening for me and incredibly exciting to allow that possibility. I wasn’t able to sleep every single night after pottery class while my friend soon lost interest and quit the class. I went on, over the years, to take more pottery classes, eventually buying my own wheel and kiln, working at the craft until one day another friend suggested that we take a watercolour class at a local college. I had grown discouraged with the technical aspects of pottery and was ready for a change. Another door had opened. Another journey had begun. This journey has lasted a lifetime.
Sometimes the messenger isn’t always a friend. After I’d been painting for a few years and feeling very shy about showing my paintings to anyone other than family, one of the parents at my daughter’s school invited parents to have a sale of their arts and crafts to raise money for the school. I worked diligently that winter getting work ready for the sale. When I called the woman in the spring to find out the date of the sale, she was abrupt and dismissive, saying that she’d decided not to go ahead with it. I told her how disappointed I was and that I’d worked all winter on the project. “What sort of painting do you do?”, she asked. I told her I worked in watercolour. She replied, “Oh I hate watercolour!”. I was speechless. I was angry. In shock, I told a friend who encouraged me to show the work in my home. Spurred on by my anger, I agreed. My friend created beautiful invitations in calligraphy (there were no personal computers then) and I invited friends. On the day of my home show, I was so nervous that I had to go to bed with a debilitating migraine. The show sold out. The woman’s rudeness was a huge catalyst in pushing me to do something I found very difficult.
As I look back, there were so many others who helped me or pushed me along in one way or another, but the next really big push came from a woman who was helping me plant some bushes in my garden. I’d been painting and showing my work in galleries for many years by that time. She looked in the window of my studio and asked me if I taught painting classes. I told her that I didn’t and in fact had no intention of teaching. Each time I ran into her, she would ask me when I was going to start teaching. Eventually she wore me down and I agreed. And if I was going to teach her, I thought I’d see if I could get a few more participants. I sent out an email to some of my artist friends and the class filled in a couple of days. Now, I’m teaching painting workshops internationally (in non-Covid times and on zoom during Covid) to small groups of artists.
This one step along with a lot of other small steps, like a friend sending a relevant video just in time for me to show it in my class or a former student sending a podcast that inspired me to revise one of my classes, has changed my life. I’m aware that spiritual guidance comes in many forms. I don’t necessarily hear the voice of God speaking to me directly. It comes through the voice of friends (or people who challenge me) if I choose to listen.
A recent suggestion came from a friend who recommended Meditation Chapel. Meditation Chapel now starts my every morning and has opened my heart in ways I didn’t know needed opening. I leave each session surrounded with a protective cloak of love to take with me into my day.
Divine rest is ours.
It is God’s promise to us.
Search for it today.
by Jo Nan Carr
Meeting Mother Teresa by Shaun MacLoughlin
In 1986 on my way back to England from producing a BBC Radio history of Australia, I stayed with the brothers of Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta. In a church behind Howrah railway station, I set up to record the ordination of 22 Indian brothers. As a man I was required to be on the epistle (right hand) side of the church, while the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity entered on the gospel side. Although I am short sighted and although the mostly tiny nuns were identically robed in blue and white, I immediately recognized Mother from the stillness and recollection with which she prayed.
Later as we emerged from the church into a courtyard, there was a maelstrom of an Indian crowd. Mother was being ushered into a battered old Padmini and it seemed impossible to get to her. But then a seeming miracle took place. We were whirled through the crush by a vortex and propelled forward to bend over her, as she sat beside the driver. My companion said, “Mother, this is Shaun MacLoughlin from the BBC. He would like to interview you.” I knew that once in New York a member of the paparazzi had asked her, “Mother is there anything in life you dislike?” She answered, “Yes, being interviewed by journalists.” Now she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bring him to see me to tonight.” With that the car sped off.
That evening we struggled for two hours through the Calcutta traffic to reach the Fort Knox-like Mother House. We rang the old bell and a sister slid open the wicket. It was quite impossible to see Mother, as she was exhausted and anyway later that night she was flying to the Philippines. I said I did not mind how long I might wait, on the off chance. Very grudgingly I was admitted to wait outside Mother’s room in a gallery overlooking the courtyard. There was a tremendous noise of car klaxons, bicycle bells and crows. I wondered whether these would drown out my recording. After another two hours of chatting to a mixed bag of others, who hoped to talk to Mother, an angry and impatient little nun bustled up to me. “Mr. MacLoughlin, you wish to interview me?” “Yes please, Mother.” ‘Sit down.” “Is your machine working?” I fumbled with the equipment and the interview commenced. She spoke very quietly and because of the klaxons, crows and bicycles bells, I could hardly hear her. I held the microphone close to her lips. As she talked about the work of the Fathers, of the Active and Contemplative Sisters and Brothers, she was transformed. The Holy Spirit entered her heart and she was no longer a tired and irritated old woman, but a loving beacon of light. This taught me how all of us human beings, if we pray and surrender to the love of God, can also aspire to be saints, despite a seeming mountain to climb. Saints are ordinary people, like you and I, but who are transformed by being open to grace.
At the end of the interview, she looked me straight in the eye again and said, “What about you, Shaun?” She told me at the close of each day to think of the good and the bad I had done to others. She then took my hand and holding each of my five fingers in turn, she told me to say to Jesus these five words, “I did this to you.” She then turned to the next person waiting for her.
I have mislaid the recording, but the interview is written on my heart.
Look at Nature by Marcia Stoner
You leap toward the sky.
Will you propel me to heaven?
O Cat-o-nine tail you grow brown
Will you soften my opinions?
O praying mantis
In your prayerful pose,
Will you include me in your prayers?
O dried golden prairie grass
Will you remind me
Of the refreshment God gives?
REBELLION by Nancy Ann Edwards
“Be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and learn to love the questions themselves.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I remember my boss once telling me how she had paid for her son’s education at an expensive private university for him to get his masters degree in civil engineering. He had just graduated when he told his mother he did not want to be a civil engineer. He wanted to do what made him happy, work with his uncle driving a tour bus. At the end of her story my boss just looked at me and matter-of-factly stated “I was wondering when he would rebel.”
Rebellion as it seems to me now is a good thing. It’s what moves us forward and sometimes back again. It’s what helps us forge a new way of life.
Yet in our attempt to create something new, to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack as being unique, one-of-a-kind, special, we soon realize that the process of rebellion is not unique, one-of-a-kind, or special in that we never lose our sense of belonging to the greater part of one another. Rebellion is not one way. It almost always results in some kind of turning back. Although we may never come back to the same point of origin, we will most likely incorporate some aspect of our past into every direction we believe to be new.
Our initial rebellion, our separation from what is expected of us in the present is, at the same time, an identification on some level with a perception of ourselves from the past, a vision that we forged of ourselves some time ago. We remember this lost part of ourselves, a time when we felt wholly accepted without having to try to fit in, when it suddenly reappears like an unexpected guest, when our subconscious demands its recognition.
This experience might seem new, but in many ways, it is old and familiar. We detach ourselves from other people’s expectations so we can live up to our own. It is then that we meet our very own unexpected guest, the part of ourselves we had overlooked, and tell the missing story which desperately needs to be told. Without our even knowing it, a part of our old self resurfaces.
My friend’s son did exactly as I just described. His uncle drove a tour bus. It reminded him of everything he loved to do since he was a child. By rebelling against his mom and following in his uncle’s footsteps, he chose to remember that part of himself his mother was trying to suppress, what she thought might be more socially acceptable than a bus driver, a stable career as a civil engineer. By uniting himself with what he had remembered as being the best part of his childhood, the joy he felt every time he boarded a bus or train, my friend’s son chose to remember as well as rebel, to belong, as well as to set himself apart.
Perhaps that’s the way life is for all of us until we decide to take a new turn, to rebel again, having found yet another place to rest in liminal space, catch a glimpse or two of who we once were and truly are.
Connecting to our Past by Roger Sessions
When I think of Meditation Chapel, two dates stand out: February 13, 2018 and April 15, 2021. Two dates separated by a little over three years. The first date was the day we went live with MeditationChapel.org. The second date was the day we were recognized by the United States Internal Revenue Service as a Non-Profit Corporation.
A lot has happened in between those two dates. We have gone from a handful of groups to more than 150 groups meeting weekly. We have gone from a few hundred people registered to more than 7,000.
And a lot of people have dedicated a lot of time to making Meditation Chapel what it is today. First, I wouldn’t even have started Meditation Chapel without Robert Lalor’s constant support and encouragement. And he has continued supporting Meditation Chapel by serving on the Steering Committee, our first Board, and maintaining our first calendar for almost three years.
Our other Board members are Laura Waters and Pamela Begeman. Both have given a great deal to our community. Laura has been our Journal editor since the beginning. If you haven’t seen Contemplative Times, previous issues are available at https://meditationchapel.org/newsletters. Pamela has been our liaison with Contemplative Outreach, a relationship that has been a huge blessing to both organizations.
Many other people have also contributed. George Warriner continues to be our Facilitator Coordinator, and he has supported and trained more people on Zoom than I will ever know. Isabel M. Castellanos has been coordinating our Spanish Groups. Donna Belk redesigned our calendar, making it much easier to see chapel schedules and find specific meditation groups. Corey Krupowicz redesigned our soon-to-be-visible new Logo.
There are so many others, especially our more than one hundred facilitators, who give their time and energy to planning meaningful meditation sessions, many doing this several times a week. And then there is you, our meditation community, which makes all of the above worthwhile. Every time I feel my energy faltering, I go to a group and fall in love with this community all over again.
Love, Peace, and Blessings to you all!
A SACRED THRESHOLD by Laura Waters
I honor the thresholds in life, as I honor sunrises, sunsets, kisses, the ocean, rain, friends, smiles. Let us together honor this one.
Crossing over a threshold symbolizes a sacred commitment – one of stepping into newness. As Meditation Chapel has crossed into a new “state” (one of non-profit status), it is important to mark this milestone.
This is a crossing for the entire community into a portal of expansion for our future. We are looking out at infinitely vast panoramas at the wide open landscape of possibility. While in this liminal space, let us pause and soak in what has come before and what may yet come by being firmly rooted in where we are right now – a beautiful and rich place full of hopeful connections.
Personally, to write that I have transformed many times over since we began here might be true and accurate, but it does not give anyone a full picture of my process. That process is for me, as your process is for you. What is important is that I have changed in how I am more of myself. I have changed in how I listen with other people. I have changed in how I see the world and my life. I have changed in what I believe about Source, Love, Joy, and Sacred Practices. Sure, not all of it is because of Meditation Chapel per se, but because I am here in this community, those changes opened up for me and I surrendered to them – sometimes with great trust, sometimes without a clue how any of it would work out, but always with Spirit guiding me.
I am sharing this with great gratitude for what these past 3+ years in Meditation Chapel have seen me through, and with immense hope for what these next years in this community will come to mean.
As a community, we plant seeds of connection for the individual and for the collective every time we show up in a chapel. Each of us is a threshold just as this particular point in time is one. I invite you to practice intention setting for this moment of time and beyond for all who come to Meditation Chapel. Pause after reading the invocation below. Stand up, kneel, jump – include your body, your spirit, your voice, your heart – and sow some seeds not only for the future of Meditation Chapel, but for the future of our universe, that people will continue to awaken from slumber and come to the table of our community to be One in silence, stillness, and all-consuming Love.
Blessed is this threshold.
May the seeds planted here grow in abundance for all.
May the Love rooted here blossom for each soul who passes through our space.
May we trust this gift and share generously with the world.
Let us honor the sacred in this place, in this moment.
Blessed is this threshold.
Let Us Unravel Like a Ribbon into The Everything by Pamela Begeman
Meditation Chapel community has evolved into a unique prophetic witness to the potential for unbounded connections. In the depths of a combined intention to silence, we experience an unraveling of all identifications, where geography, time zone, country, language, religion, dogma, politics, practices and perhaps even the concrete experience of self relaxes and expands. With this unraveling of boundedness arises a new quantum reality – interconnected, interdependent, relational. We come as individuals from across the world and leave as community. Conscious of our oneness and one-ing – dynamic, interdependent is-ness – we become whole-makers, “wholy”, in ever-increasing ways and places. Our time together is communion, sacramental, expanding into the ordinary interactions and moments of daily life.
The way forward is the way down and in, together. Practically, this looks like a commitment to our practice, whatever that is, and to showing up for ourselves and each other. In community, the rough edges are healed and smoothed out as we practice non-judgmental presence, patience, deep listening, commitment, acceptance, forgiveness – in short, what Thomas Keating called utmost charity, which is “more than ordinary charity. It is to love one another … with all our faults, limitations, and at times outrageous behavior. It is to forgive completely and from the heart everything and everyone, including ourselves. This is the path to unity” (Contemplative Outreach theological principle #13). Going forward, what would it be to make this commitment to one another, to be whole-makers at this level? Meditation Chapel was aspirational from its inception; the future calls us further.
The visionary Ilia Delio puts it this way: “[E]verything we were yesterday is everything we are in this moment increased by one. … Every human life is the cosmos winding its way into the future. Every life makes a difference to the whole … the fire in my heart is the fire in the heart of the universe and its flames will not be extinguished. The fire will destroy that which is not God and forge what is God into an ever-radiant new presence of God because God is forever being born in us. … I have a mission because every person has a mission – to be the truth of who they are so that God can be God in them. …
“Travel inward by way of unknowing, and you will know the world in its truth; turn from what is unloving toward that which is love, and you will know yourself loved. And if you want to be someone special, try not to be anything but yourself. You and I are divine Love incarnate – in the flesh … in this particular body, in this particular moment. Trust the power of love in you, and let go of everything that crushes love. Let love take you by the hand and lead you into a world of promise and future life … and we will be one in love” (Birth of a Dancing Star: My Journey from Cradle Catholic to Cyborg Christian).
My friend Susanne has this beautiful way of describing death: We unravel like a ribbon into The Everything. I think this is also perfect description of new life and of the future of Meditation Chapel community.
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