I am a wife, mother, all around volunteer, and organizer of all that is around me. No, really, it is pathological, I can't help it. If you need help, you ask me, I help. I have a few chronic illnesses that try their hardest to slow me down, but my brain is the Energizer Bunny of brains and it demands that I try to do everything and try new things and keep going all the time. So here I am, blogging about it all.
This week in Spiritual Practices class, we discussed retreats. What is a retreat for your spirit? It’s a time apart to reflect, pray, and meditate, usually somewhere around three to four days in length (but it can be as short as a day). It can be done as a solitary thing or as a group. It is usually time set aside to ask the Big Questions (such as “Who am I?” or “What is worthy of my life?”).
We were given a couple sample retreat schedules and asked to ponder over how we would do a spiritual retreat for ourselves. It was an interesting group activity to think about — the younger mom’s of the group all wanted to go on retreat by themselves, while the single people all wanted group retreats.
For me, I’d need to do it on a weekend that was not already filled with other activities, probably at a hotel or something. My intention would be meditation, personal writing, and art.
My day would probably rotate around those things in 30-60 minute time slots, depending on what I was doing. Thirty minutes for meditation times, but longer for walks, art, and writing, and a few rest periods where I could read or nap.
Today (or whichever day I am currently on that may or may not be the right day – it’s hard to keep track with the group calendar changing) we were supposed to make two different kinds of dolls: one a Creativity Doll and one an Inner Editor Monster Doll.
I have a lot of random craft supplies at my house because, as you all probably already know, I am a craft dabbler. So I dug out a bunch of stuff, traced an outline on some beige fabric, pulled out my mom’s old sewing machine, and I went to work. I’d made a doll once in the distant past, around third grade for the one room schoolhouse experience. And when I say “I’d made” I really mean that my mom made it while I stood by and handed her things, as was the way of my people.
The doll itself was easy to make, with simple lines and a quarter inch edge all the way around. Using my mom’s sewing machine is second nature, unlike the one that I’ve had for the last decade or so that never made sense to me (which I shipped off to a friend the moment I got my mom’s in my hot little hands). I did have a little trouble at first with the thread tension, but a little swearing and rethreading later, I was good to go.
Stuffing proved a little harder because my stuffing tool went missing, but I used a skinny handled jewelry making file instead. Then I decided she needed clothing, so I freehanded a dress pattern while playing games with the boys. Sewed that up, then painted a face, glued on some curly, colorful wool (from needle felting) for hair, and gave her a bit of bling. But something was still missing. Shoes. I had no idea what to use for shoes. But she was just about baby sized, so I hand-sewed her some felt baby booties based off a pattern I’d thought about using for Kay’s twins when they were born, but never got around too. I eyeballed it. They turned out okay.
The Inner Editor Monster Doll is where I went off the rails. I felt like it should just be wackier, I guess. I grabbed an old, much hated bra out of the dresser, cut the straps off, and sewed it into a tube. I really thought I was going to break the sewing machine, but she worked like a dream, sewing through multiple layers and a zipper without any trouble at all. The backside, the secret side I’m not showing you all, is a black and white striped ribbon with all the bad phrases we wrote down during that Golden Words writing experiment several weeks ago, all those not so nice things people, and therefore my Inner Editor, have said to me. After I was done, I didn’t like her staring at me. It made me uncomfortable. Now in this section of the book, Julia Cameron says some people like to burn this creation or destroy it or maim it in some way. Another thing you know about me is that I love setting things on fire. But I just couldn’t somehow. So I came up with option B: a sleep mask. So now my Inner Editor can just take a rest and leave me alone. 🙂
This week in Spiritual Practices class we talked about how the Unitarian Universalist faith is a covenantal faith. We are a community that welcomes the strangers because we were all once the stranger.
I grew up Lutheran, for the most part, until I was 15 or so. I don’t remember hearing much about this topic growing up in that church. I do remember experiencing hospitality as a child, though, in the form of many, many people visiting our house over the years, mainly professors and grad students. My parents loved having people over. My dad’s parents were known for their parties and my mother was known for hers. As a child and teen, we were always having people over. As an adult, I’ve struggled a little with this one. When the children were little, my house was always too much of a wreck, though I did host other mom’s weekly for playgroups. My husband is an extrovert and would have had people over every weekend for games and fellowship. With his church, though, it was hard to get people to drive all the way out here (his church is a 40 minute drive from us and his church area expands an hour and a half around outward from the church). Now that the kids are older, we’ve hosted monthly gaming afternoons a have a few other big parties a year.
So what are the qualities of hospitality? At first we think of food, greeting and welcoming people, and listening to others. Hospitality involves an opening of the heart, as well. It’s about cultivating the desire to welcome people and invite them into our lives, a willingness to accept change and accommodate for others.
It’s not one-sided, though, it’s also about letting your community know that you have a need that should be filled. This side of things, I know I am not good at. I never really saw my parents ask for help from others when I was growing up. Helping others, volunteering for others? Yes. Getting help? Not so much. When we moved from Nebraska to Pennsylvania and then on to Texas, we didn’t have people over to help pack. We didn’t ask people to help put furniture on the trucks. As an adult, I still don’t know how to ask others for help when I really need it.
Hospitality is also a social skill. You need to have the ability to know when to reach out and when to leave people to their privacy. Another tough one for me. I watched my mother ask many intrusive questions over the years and I was always so embarrassed. I tend not to be a reacher-outer. I don’t like to bother people. I never thought of this as being the other side of the hospitality coin.
The last collage style thing we were supposed to do this week was make a treasure map of what we wanted our future to look like. I made mine a “From Here to There” style map. I know y’all are all laughing at the bottom middle one, but it’s the hardest thing to do for me. I like to help people, but I spend far more time on that than anything else. If being published is a goal of mine, I’m going to need to spend less time volunteering and much more time writing.
I had to go out and purchase more magazines. I tried a couple local thrift shops and in one I found National Geographics from the early 80’s, which was perfect because these next couple collages were supposed to be things from Birth-Age 5 and Ages 6-10. Even more perfect: one had a whole section on Nebraska in celebration of writer Willa Cather. I literally cried seeing photos that my heart knew were Nebraska before my brain read the words on the next page that told me they were, in fact, Nebraska. It was wild.
There weren’t a lot of magazine pictures left for the second poster, sadly, so it mostly got old family photos, interspersed with a few magazine bits from England or California, which were big family trips during Ages 6-10.
This week for our Spiritual Practices class, we were encouraged to make a library of spiritual or sacred texts. I wandered the house for hours, picking up books here and there, and piling them all up next to my bed. Nick and I had a long conversation about what we each thought should go in a spiritual library. His definition leaned towards Christianity, naturally, while mine was wider reaching and included not just spiritual practice manuals, but also covering mythology, fairy tales, and books that weren’t necessarily about religion, but changed my views on it. Then I realized that my library also includes things on my kindle and on my hard drive that I do not have physical versions of, so I made myself a little collage of all those books to put alongside my “new” spiritual library. It was an interesting thought experiment, over all. Now I just have to figure out where to put all these books now that I’ve gathered them and people refilled their spots with other books.
What books do you consider Must Haves in your spiritual library aresenal? Please leave me some comments below. I am always looking for more books.
Another Vein of Gold post. Sorry, it is eating my brain lately, so it’s what you get to see. Here we were supposed work as fast as we could, grabbing thirty or so images that struck us from magazines, and make a collage without overthinking it. Overthinking it. Hahahaha. Well, I hit a couple walls right away: 1) we don’t keep magazines in the house, really, and 2) I was totally out of scrapbooking tape.
So I gathered up all the Entertainment Weekly’s and Tyler Today’s that my dad had at his house (with permission) and here’s what I came up with. It took way longer than you might think. Enjoy!
This week in Spritual Practices class, we covered Eating Meditation and Walking Meditation.
I was having an awkwardly laid out schedule, so I was starving just before class started and was eating pizza during the chat at the beginning. I’d forgotten it was Eating Meditation day and people were looking at me strangely as I gulped down my food.
For eating meditation, you practice eating slowly and mindfully, savoring each step of eating. First you “eat” with your eyes, taking in the color and shape of the food. Then you “eat” with your sense of smell, savoring the smell of the food you are about to eat (we were eating grapes and guess what? grapes don’t really smell like anything.). If it’s something more solid, you could “eat” with your sense of touch, feeling how the item feels under your fingertips. You could “eat” with your sense of hearing if it was something like fruit that you could thump or tap. Finally, you put it into your mouth and feel it with your tongue and the roof of your mouth. You chew slowly, taking in the texture as it is chewed. Eventually you swallow it and feel it going down.
The whole process makes me giggle a lot. I’m not sure why. 🙂
We were also supposed to do walking mediation, but since this is a pandemic and we were on Zoom, that part was hard to do online. So we just talked about it and our leader shared a visual about how to hold you hands while you walk (think of what the kids did with their hands in the Sound of Music while they were singing, it’s sort of like that.) We talked about where there were local prayer/meditation labyrinths for walking. There’s one quite near my house (that I know about thanks to the Pokemon Go group that I joined one day last year).
I’ve been doing mine longhand, but it’s about killing my hand after three pages in the morning. Today’s task has us writing a personal narrative and I’ve had to write another six handwritten pages in the afternoon. Our class calendar gives us three days to do 10-15,000 words of a personal narrative and I just don’t write that fast, especially not longhand. What to do, what to do?
Fortunately, some of the writing I have already been doing for BYOB dovetails nicely with some of the questions suggested by Julia Cameron to answer, so I do have some of that kind of thing written already recently. I’ve also had two decades of blogging about my life to draw from, so I have some things I can go back to here to kind of look through for inspiration. I may just not be able to do all of it by hand. Typing or dictating is much easier on the hands.