In my last blog, I reflected on how, over the last several years, my life has been
re-orienting more and more towards the Divine. It is true that I have been actively seeking, intentionally exploring and dedicating space towards a renewed spirituality, one with genuine care, concern, compassion and love for all people and the real struggles they faced every day. A Place To Be Spirituality Center was borne out of that sense of longing. And I hope APTB offers that feminine energy, those feminine qualities, to those who also feel the void and long for a different way. There is much work to be done in this area and we are blessed to be able to continue serving in that way.
And yet my heart has yearned for something more. Deep within is a call to the contemplative life, to a more intimate, complete surrender to the Divine Will, to become a channel for that Divine Energy to flow into the world. For me, there can be only one response to that call – yes! A Way To Be New Monastic Community is the manifestation of my inner “yes”.
Now, the Catholic tradition has a long-standing mystical path as taught in the early monastic communities, the many Saints, theologians and contemplatives over the years – as does pretty much every other spiritual tradition. These monastic communities traditionally consist of ordained, celibate men and women who align with a specific faith tradition, denomination and founder who vow to embody and live out a specific charism. In recent years, as vowed religious communities have dissolved, this intentional community model has evolved into what is called The New Monastic Community. This is a call to a life committed to contemplation, simplicity, prayer and service available to folks who assent to this call to a deeper spirituality; non-ordained, deeply faithful people - mothers, daughters, husbands, fathers, students, ministers, etc. – who long to align the entirety of their lives to the Divine. A Way To Be New Monastic Community invites those who not only feel this call but are ready to commit to and live out the core values in community.
The path of the new monastic involves making a commitment to live a particular way and practice their spirituality according to what is called a Rule of Life, which are guidelines for helping one stay on the path. The new monastic participates in a community with other new monastics who gather to offer support and encouragement along the way. A Way To Be New Monastic Community does not replace one’s faith tradition but, rather, deepens the new monastic experience of God in order better live out their faith in every-day life.
Now, many may look at these commitments, this Rule of Life, and think, “I already strive to live this way – how does the making of a formal covenant change any of that?” To some extent, this is a fair question, one I wrestled with for a long time. I am not a very public person by nature so declaring these covenants for all the world to see causes a bit of anxiety and discomfort. But somewhere along the way it became clear that I was being called to voice the intention to live the new monastic life publicly. I’m learning that “…once we name something out loud, it becomes true in a way it wasn’t before.” (Kaitlin Curtice, “Trauma as a Journeying Partner,” “Trauma,” Oneing, vol. 9, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2021), 61–62.) So last Friday, May 21st, before a small groups of close friends and family, I made my covenant and A Way To Be New Monastic Community was formed. I pray the Divine presence live deeply within my heart and the heart of this community so that all we do manifests the Divine Presence in the world. Amen.
It was a beautiful spring day – deep blue sky, warm sun shining down and a cool breeze reminding me that winter hadn’t quite given up. Called into nature, I went for a walk in the woods. I lingered along the path, taking in the spring flowers and budding trees while listening to the wind rattle branches and shuffle fallen leaves. Soon I came upon a meadow, a clearing in the woods where someone had thought to tuck a picnic table. Seeing an opportunity for a quiet mindfulness meditation, I climbed on top of the table, settled into my breath and opened my awareness to the sounds and senses all around me. It didn’t take long for the sound of buzzing of flies to distract me so I slowly opened my eyes and noticed a dozen or so of them swirling around the table (probably because of a bag of dog droppings I discovered nearby!) And so I began to watch them. They landed, hopped around a bit, settled for a few seconds then flew off, only to repeat the cycle over and over again. I began to notice that once the fly had hopped around a bit, it positioned itself in the same direction before flying off. Every time. The same direction. All the flies did the same thing. Landed, hopped around, and turned to face the same direction. Intrigued, I noticed they weren’t facing the sun, nor was the sun behind them. They weren’t facing into the wind, nor was the wind at their back. Yet they were orienting themselves, ever so briefly, to something. It occurred to me that these insects must have had some internal draw, an internal orienting toward a common source.
That got me thinking about what oriented me, what orients us as a people? Am I oriented toward the Holy One or something else? Reflecting on the past several years, I realized I’ve been orienting parts of my life more and more to the Holy One. This past year of Covid has really given me the opportunity to re-align parts of me that wasn’t oriented toward the Divine. More and more I’ve shed that which no longer fits the deep desire of my being – oneness with All. While much of this work goes unseen, it has helped me focus on what is most important and who is most important. My hope is that these subtle re-alignments draw me closer and closer to being who I was created to be.
Now that things are returning to some sort of normalcy, the question lingers even more. What is my life oriented toward? As I hop around from task to task, where do I land and what or who do I face? Am I listening for that still, quiet voice? Am I allowing myself to be led, guided, directed? Or am I swirling around trying to find that next best thing? Each day brings its own challenge, for sure. Each day the questions arises anew.