Why Welcome Our Feelings?

“Welcome and entertain all your feelings,” Rumi says in The Guest House. Then he gets specific, “The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.”

Why in the world would I want to do that? I wondered when I first read this poem.

“Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond,” Rumi replied.

Over the years, as I set an intention to befriend my feelings, I’ve come to trust what Rumi said. Feelings are a part of being human. We have all kinds of feelings, and when we allow them to be seen and heard, they help us become more fully ourselves and more deeply rooted in God.

When I’m disconnected from my feelings, I do what I don’t want to do. I’m driven to overeat, overwork, obsess about relationships, worry, and numb out. But when I finally sit down with God and welcome my feelings, something shifts in me. I see something I didn’t see before. I feel something I didn’t feel before when I allow the silenced part of me to have a voice.

Welcoming my feelings can be scary. I mean, really, who wants a crowd of sorrows sweeping their house empty of its furniture? People who have experienced depression know only too well what that’s like. They may fear that if they allow their ominous feelings to be acknowledged that they will become even bigger and consume them.

I know. I’ve been there. I start thinking about how hurt I feel by what someone did, and it can escalate into dark thoughts that validate my worst fears: I’m not lovable. There’s something wrong with me. I’ll never belong anywhere. 

So welcoming my feelings doesn’t come without a risk of things getting worse.

Fear that my feelings will pull me under, makes me want to distance myself from them. I ignore or minimize them. This can be helpful in the moment by keeping me from doing something I will later regret. But feelings are persistent, and if they continue to be dismissed, they come out as anxiety, depression, bursts of anger, or impulsive behaviour.

Another strategy I have for handling my feelings is to name, judge, analyze, and control them. For example, if I feel angry, I judge that as wrong. Then I try and figure out what about the situation is making me angry, tell myself I don’t have to feel that way, articulate the reasons why, and then take steps to become a better, calmer person in the future. I love this plan and yet, I know from experience, that it doesn’t work. I know it doesn’t work because the anger doesn’t go away.

It doesn’t work because I have judged the feeling and tried to manage it. I haven’t welcomed it and listened to it.

Instead, I’m learning to set aside the desire to manage, fix, or get rid of my uncomfortable feelings. I want to step closer to them, but not so close that I become overwhelmed or identified with them. I can tell when I’m identified with a feeling when I say I am hurt, irritated, or lonely instead of recognizing that something in me feels hurt, irritated, or lonely. It helps to become the observer of my own emotions. From this place, I can listen to them calmly and compassionately. I also make sure I’m not alone when I listen to them. God and I do this together in a quiet moment or in spiritual direction.

When I tell my director about an overwhelming feeling I have (e.g. fear or loneliness), eventually she asks how I imagine God feels about me or my situation. In the silence, I hear a gentle voice say, “This is so hard.” God’s compassion brings me to tears. I gradually notice that God is calm. God isn’t upset or afraid of my feelings or disappointed with me. This helps me relax and opens me to experience love and self-acceptance while also feeling afraid or lonely. In this space where I am enveloped in love and present to my feelings,  some new awareness or freedom comes into view as if it were “a guide from beyond.”

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning there is a new arrival: a joy, a depression, a meanness.” I may not meet them at the door laughing. I may not meet them at all, today or even tomorrow. But when I find the courage to take God’s hand and open the door, those guests guide me home to my true self.

Welcome the grief. Welcome the anger. It’s hard to do, but for some reason, when we name it, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin. Don’t lose presence to the moment. Any kind of analysis will lead you back into attachment to your ego self. The reason a bird sitting on a hot wire is not electrocuted is quite simply because it does not touch the ground to give the electricity a pathway. Hold the creative tension, but don’t ground it by thinking about it, critiquing it, or analyzing it. —Richard Rohr

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Love Mischief for the World

The Welcoming Prayer practice “is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in the ordinary activities of our day. The Welcoming Prayer helps to dismantle acquired emotional programs and to heal the wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored — in the body. It contributes to the process of transformation in Christ initiated in Centering Prayer.”(Contemplative Outreach). You can find the method on Contemplative Outreach’s website. They also have a book available which is a 40-day guide.

I also want to let you know about Sounds True’s free event 10 Days to Activate Revolutionary Love hosted by Valarie Kaur. Kaur was a speaker in a similar event Sounds True presented last year at this time called the Radical Compassion Challenge which impacted my life a lot. I am looking forward to this year’s event and hearing what the other speakers (including Brian McLaren and Parker Palmer) have to say. In the meantime, you may want to listen to  Valarie Kaur’s Ted talk on Revolutionary Love.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Kinderreigen (1872), Hans Thoma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Guest House” is in The Essential Rumi by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. Used with permission.
Richard Rohr quote from Meditation on Welcoming Prayer, September 2, 2017
Love Revolution image from Wikipedia Creative Commons
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in compassion, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Would You Like to Do?

“I don’t want to be here,” my insides were shouting.

For months, I disregarded my feelings and kept doing what I should, what a good Christian would.

Then in Advent, God, who hears my thoughts and feels my feelings, asked me a question. “What would you like to do?”

Relief washed over my body as I held the possibility of not showing up. God wasn’t asking me to sacrifice what I needed for another. I’m not indispensable. I don’t have to keep trying to be what I’m not.

For a few days, I walked around with the delicious thought that I don’t have to be in this group anymore. I imagined myself not being there.

As I thought about that possibility, I felt sad. I would miss each person there.

I brought the relief of not having to go and the desire to continue to God and we listened. What was making my insides shout?

With that loving invitation to be an observer of my own story, two feelings came out of the shadows. Under my frustration, I noticed I was feeling discounted and irrelevant.

In other groups that I’m in, I’m often able to share articulately about what’s going on for me. I can tell by the way people respond that my words have opened a door for them. But in this group, I often stumble over my words, what I say falls flat, and the same questions get asked over and over.

Then I saw it. I don’t like being discounted and not making a difference in other people’s lives. It’s really uncomfortable for me. To put it more precisely, my ego doesn’t like it.

I could have gone into blame and shame, but remember, God was right there with me. I didn’t get a lecture about my ego. God said, “That’s so hard.”

I let myself feel how hard that is, and with every breath, my feelings lightened.

God asked me again. “What would you like to do?”

I listened from a deeper place in me.

I don’t want to only be in groups with people like me, that are safe and comfortable.

I wondered: What would it be like to keep going and allow those feelings of being discounted and irrelevant to be there? If I wasn’t so afraid of them, what might they offer me?

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

– Jelaluddin Rumi
(translation by Coleman Barks)

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Love Mischief for the World

Please join me for an online weekend silent retreat and introduction to Ignatian Prayer on February 19-21. The retreat is designed for anyone who would like a silent, guided prayer retreat, for anyone who is considering participating in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or anyone who would like to experience these Ignatian ways of praying: Lectio Divina, Joyful Mysteries, Gospel Contemplation (Praying with your imagination) and Prayer of Examen. Go here for more information.  Here’s what participants in the last one said.

  • “This retreat offered me an opportunity to have encounters with God like never before. It has opened a door for me that I didn’t know exists.”
  • “I was guided with grace and tender wisdom. I met my God in each prayer initiative and was encouraged to listen for the heart of Jesus’ love for me, as I met with my director. Our weekend was well planned and flowed gently in the Spirit’s movements. As we shared together on Sunday, it was evident that we were met and experienced an encounter with God that was unique to each of us.”
  • “The Introduction to Ignatian Prayer retreat was a highlight of my year! Thank you for making it available online.”

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Sad_Creature” by quantum bunny. Used with permission.
“The Guest House” is in The Essential Rumi by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks. Used with permission.
“Dog & Cat” by 紫流. Used with permission.
“Let there be light” by Sylvia Sassen. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2021.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2021.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, compassion, False Self, Ignatian Spirituality, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

At the Edge of the Year

I stand
at the edge of a virgin year,
hallowed with a light dusting of snow.

Skates in hand,
I hope
the ice is thick enough
the surface smooth enough
my ankles strong enough
to do something beautiful.

But I’m not a skater.
I’m a writer
and sitting on my couch
in the silence and spaciousness of morning,
I can write myself
into any metaphor I choose.

But this is the one that came,
even though
I don’t own a pair of skates
and the lakes rarely freeze.

I stand on the frosty edge of a still perfect year
with a gut load of I-can’ts
don’t-haves
and should-have-started-sooners.
My aging body isn’t tricked so easily
into believing that
a fresh start
is all I need to stay upright,
never mind move with grace.

I can write myself across any frozen lake
with ease and confidence
and take my readers with me.
I know how to do that.

But I don’t know how to do this–
to be the me that’s being formed
minute by minute,
hour by hour.

I haven’t met her yet.

Sometimes I get glimpses
of what I think she’ll look like,
and when I do,
I trip and fall.

As Teilhard de Chardin said,
“Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.”

So with my skates laced tight,
I put on my mittens
and give You my hand.

 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.  And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually—let them grow; let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

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Love Mischief for the World

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

The principal, David Ward, asked my husband, Fred, to dress up for his sendoff. So, as you can see, he did. For the past four years, Fred has been the facility manager of John Knox Elementary School. Whenever he went into the school to do one or two jobs, he was given one or two more; they were so delighted by all he could do. He moved lockers, hung bulletin boards, fixed doors that wouldn’t close properly, contracted roofers and plumbers, and reset 56 clocks–twice a year. Fred received many handmade cards, gifts, and accolades. Wendy Pertulla, Director of Curriculum, called Fred gold and had a long list of what they appreciate about him, particularly his diligence, patience, and ability to troubleshoot problems and communicate well–and with a sense of humour. As one of the students wrote: Thank you, Mr. Fred. You came, you sawed, you fixed.

Credits and References:
Frozen lake by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, via Wikimedia Commons.
Ice skates by Benson Kua. Used with permission.
Photo of alien Fred used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in False Self, Poetry, Reflections, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What Can I Bring Him?

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
–Christina Rosetti, In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Oftentimes it is easier to name the hopes we have for others than for our own selves. Easier too, sometimes, to place our hope in another—to follow someone else’s star—when the invitation might possibly be to stand on our own patch of ground and look at what our own sky holds for us.
–Jan Richardson

I beheld the stars in my sky
and followed
the star of oneness
and another that shines with the desire
that everyone would find their way home
to God’s heart.

They lead me on bleak paths
away from doing good things.
My heart feels hard,
water like a stone.

The stars in other people’s skies
lead them on warm roads
of baking and making
and finding the perfect gift.
But those are not my stars.
That is not my road.

I carry on through the snow
of cold thoughts,
a stranger in this season.

And then it happens.
My stars perfectly align.
Images come,
my throat swells,
and tears prick my eyes
as words are born–
perfectly formed stars.

This is what I give
the newborn Christ.

 

The scholars set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

–Matthew 2:9-11 (The Message)

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Love Mischief for the World

Churches in B.C. have been closed for worship until at least January 8, 2021 due to the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean our church can’t be open for personal prayer. St. Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church in Burnaby has opened their doors to anyone who would like to come in and pray. There are candles to light, a decorated Christmas tree, stained glass, wood, and silence. One woman teared up as soon as she sat down inside. “It feels so good to be here,” she said. “Life is really hard right now.”

If you would like to drop by, check the church’s website for more information, or call the office to find out when it is open for prayer.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Stars in sky image by Kyle Gregory Devaras kyledevaras, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
In the Bleak Mid-Winter  by Christina Rosetti
Quote by Jan Richardson, Illuminated Advent Retreat, December 14.
“Nativity”  by violscraper Used with permission.
Photo of St.Stephen the Martyr Anglican Church, Burnaby by The Rev. Ruth Monette. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Christmas, Mystical, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preparing the Way Home

From the moment I stepped into this chapel, it felt like home. Wood, stone, glass, and flame together breathed a silent welcome. . . .

Advent invites us to prepare the way for the Holy One who comes to meet us. . . . What does “preparing the way” mean to you? . . . How do we open ourselves to being part of the path by which Christ comes into the world? —Jan Richardson

“Repent,” John the baptizer says in his blunt, awkward way.
“Return,” whispers my soul.
“Come home to God,
the ground of your being,
the Love in all love.”

“Prepare the way of the Lord,” John beckons,
and my soul hears,
“Come home to this moment,
this chapel in time.
Embody Jesus’ words,
‘I am in my Father,
and you are in me,
and I am in you.'”

We are one–
not separate from God,
not separate from others.

Sky and earth,
river and rock,
whale and bird,
friend and foe,
you are a part of me.

A voice finds me in the wilderness, and says,
“Prepare a way for all the parts of you
and all the parts of them
to come home to your heart.”

I am far away,
disconnected,
overwhelmed.
All the parts?
Of everyone and everything?

Advent calls me back
to God,
the ground of our being,
the Love in all love.

Here
all of me is welcomed with wood, stone, glass, and flame.
Here
I have room
for everyone and everything
and feel no angst.
I am
whole.

On that day you will realize
that I am in my Father,
and you are in me,
and I am in you.
–John 14:20

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Love Mischief for the World

Take a moment to pause right now. Imagine yourself lighting the fourth Advent candle, the candle of Love. Take a breath and notice where you are. Allow each breath to return you to the chapel of time in your body, to the truth that we are in Christ, all is in Christ. Picture every part of you and every part of everything and everyone being welcomed home by Love.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1799) Creative commons.
Quote from In the Mary, Mother of God Chapel, Jan RichardsonIlluminated Advent Retreat, Dec 10, 2020
The phrase “a chapel in time” is adapted from “a palace in time” by Abraham Joshua Heschel Sabbath.
Collage: I made this collage on a retreat in March 2019 after my nephew, Lee, passed away.
“4. Advent” by grosskopf_photography. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Christmas, community, compassion, Creation, Mindfulness, Mystical, Poetry, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the Shadows

Those who have sat in the darkness know how the shadows give way to desire. Without sight, without our heads swimming with the images of what others tell us we want, we can turn our gaze inward and search our souls . . . What longs to be born in us in this season? Jan Richardson

In the shadows
I hear what has been silenced by
loud voices telling me
what I should do,
what I should be.

In the stillness
I know
what I don’t want to do.
I know that
trying to make myself do it
isn’t working.

As I wait and listen deeply to my soul
I hear
possibility.
I can stop doing what I should.
I can let go of trying to make myself become.

A kind voice asks,
What would you like to do?

Relief and spaciousness fill my chest
as I hold the possibility
that my soul glorifies the Lord.
If I listen to it,
I will become
aligned
with the mysterious forces
that overshadowed Mary.

I hold the possibility
that I can be as brave as Mary
and do what isn’t expected of me,
and become exactly what is needed.

Mary said,
“My soul glorifies the Lord. . .”

–Luke 1:46

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Love Mischief for the World

On Sunday, we light the third Advent candle for joy. What possibility is your soul offering you that brings you joy? What do you hear when, as you “let your shy soul speak”? When you read today’s post, what resonated with you, disquieted you, or inspired you? Could this be the mysterious forces at work in you?

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Opening quote by Jan Richardson, Illuminated Advent Retreat, Dec 5, 2020
Shadow” by myrealnameispete. Used with permission.
Annunciation” by Fra Angelico, 1437. Wikimedia. Non-commercial usage allowed.
“3ter Advent” by grosskopf_photography. Used with permission.
Quote “Let your shy soul speak” by Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Mystical, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peacemaking

“Sensing your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing,” Maureen said. It was her turn to accompany me in a focusing session. “Bringing your inhale inward through your head, use your inhale to make deep inner contact with yourself and the exhale releases.”

Maureen’s gentle voice slowly guided me to feel my feet inside my feet . . . my back against the chair . . . the heart space within my chest . . . the whole pelvic floor.  After eight or ten minutes had passed, she said, “Now sense that you are inside your whole body at once and that your whole body is breathing. Pause there to invite in whatever it is that wants your attention now, waiting until you’re ready to begin.”

Before we started, I’d told Maureen I wanted to keep losing weight, yet I seem to be fighting with a body that wants to be fat. Halfway through the opening meditation, I felt an uncomfortable pressure along the right side of my chest extending up into my throat. This is what wanted my attention.

With my eyes still closed, I described what I felt to Maureen. “It’s fear,” I said. “Fear that I will always be fat.”

“Something in you is afraid that you’ll always be fat,” Maureen said, following the focusing format. “You might notice what more comes.”

“The discomfort is extending now up to my right ear. At the same time, the left side of my body feels calm.”

After acknowledging that, Maureen invited me to sense what was happening now.

I began to notice that something in me felt strong and determined and wanted the fearful part of me to be patient. Something else in me felt helpless and unheard. That was the part that was loudest. The tension on the right side of my body hadn’t eased. It was still lit up like a string of light sensors from my belly to my ear.

As I stayed present to the opposing voices, the calmness I felt seemed to put one arm around the determined part in me and the other arm around the fearful part, lovingly embracing them both.

“As we end, is there anything your body would like you to know?” Maureen asked.

I sat for a moment. From the deep calm, I felt an invitation to listen to and keep company with both parts in me and let them be heard.

Before I could publish this post, I needed to contact Donna Varnau, who taught the class on focusing that Maureen and I took, because I wanted to use her material. I thought she would need to know what I planned to write, so I sent her a draft of this post.

From the email conversation that followed, I realized that my determination and my helplessness were driven by the same fear. Both were fuelled by my attachment to a specific outcome. Donna wrote this:

Great tracking! You are getting to know the parts in you that both desire and fear something related to your weight. And as you are able to listen to all aspects of these parts from a loving and embodied perspective, you realize: Something wants to party, something wants to eat organically, something wants to toss it all to the wind, something wants to chow down on French fries and ice cream, something wants to feel healthy and strong, etc. etc.  Everything is welcome!  “We welcome and entertain them all…”.

Your loving presence keeps the fear places company. From the space of your loving, fully embodied presence, you can create a life-giving intention for your body that incorporates the essence of all the parts, e.g. “I want to feel strong, attractive, healthy and in love with my body and enjoy my relationship to food.”  (That’s just an example of an intention.) Then you invite your body to show you “what more comes about this”… an interesting journey.  Yes!

Donna’s words made me laugh. I felt encouraged and grateful that the war in my body could ease. I wasn’t just keeping company with my fears and desires until they went away. There’s something invaluable that each one brings to my awareness. I feel relief when I name what that is. Donna’s example works perfectly for me.

I want to feel strong, attractive, healthy, in love with my body, and enjoy my relationship with food. And God, who dwells in the temple of my body, wants that too.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1 (NRSV)

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Love Mischief for the World

The second advent candle is lit for peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). You might want to ask yourself: Where is there tension in my life? What two opposing thoughts or desires need to be heard and acknowledged? How might God be inviting me to make room for both and be at peace within myself? 

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Calm” by Mike Green. Used with permission.
Maureen’s words in the first two paragraphs were from “Brief Attunement to Full Body Presence” © Donna Varnau, MA, LMHC Embodied Presence Counseling. Used with permission.
Donna’s quote “We welcome and entertain them all” comes from “The Guest House” by Rumi.
“Friendship” by Felipe Bastos. Used with permission.
“2 Advent” by grosskopf_photography. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, Overeating, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Safe

“You are joy. You’re our hope. You are gen-tle-ness.”  Then I heard the Poor Clares sing, “You are safe-ty” and teared up. I noticed the impact the word “safety” had on my body and remembered a similar sensation I’d had the day before when I heard someone speak of love as safety.

A day or so later, I was on my laptop looking for a creation image to go with last week’s blog post. Nothing fit. I paused, and a thought came: Search with the words “Let there be light.” I did and found a picture of a flower, delicate with morning dew, facing the sunlight. It spoke to me of unselfconscious beauty and receptivity.

At another moment, the question, “Do you feel safe?” came to me. I opened to it as gently as the pink flower opened to the sun and saw myself on the ground with my legs drawn up trying to protect myself while being kicked. It lasted no more than a second. Another image came of a dried, curled up leaf on the ground being angrily crushed underfoot. My heart pounded and thoughts came. It’s not safe to be vulnerable. If you say what you think–that you’re loved– you’ll be ridiculed and crushed. 

That evening, I watched a documentary on trauma and how trauma is buried in our bodies and forms beliefs in our subconscious. Therapies that integrate the body in healing, such as Focusing, yoga, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping), help the body release the pain around the traumatic memories and reveal unconscious beliefs. Expert after expert had strong words to say about suppressing or hiding our trauma. They all said we have to let it out.

So the next morning in prayer, I opened to the thoughts and images that had come to me and the hurts that had hardened into beliefs.

With the fingers of my left hand gently tapping on the outer edge of my right, I said softly, “Even though a part of me believes that if I open up and let people see who I am I will be kicked, I love and accept myself as I am.” I thought of the person I’ve been trying to forgive who caused my dismissal.

I continued tapping. “Even though a part of me fears that if I believe it when someone tells me that they love me, I will be ridiculed, I love and accept myself as I am.” I felt the beginning of tears as I pictured the beautiful, brave flower opening to Love.

“Even though a part of me feels like a leaf that will be crushed if I say I’m good or loved, I love and accept myelf as I am.”

I tapped specific points on my head, face, and chest while naming the images and thoughts that evoke fear in me: “This flower that is open and vulnerable, this leaf that can be crushed, this thought: who would ever love you?” All the while, I was tearful and calm but acutely attentive.

Then I tapped with some recent loving experiences: Deb’s enjoyment of my writing, Jeff’s smile on Zoom, Brent’s words in an email, a directee’s gratitude for a spiritual direction session,  Fred’s hug, the affection of my sister, my kids, and grandkids. As I named and recalled in my mind’s eye each experience, I felt panic rise up in my chest and began to weep. I took deep breaths to enable myself to keep tapping and remain receptive to the messages of love.

The little girl inside me was panicking while the mother in me continued to soothe her. My breathing and gentle tapping reassured her. “It’s okay. You’re safe here. You can believe you are loved. No one’s going to hurt you.”

A half-hour later, I was on a Zoom call with my friend and Living from the Heart co-facilitator, Audrey. I wanted to tell her what happened, but we had a ton of work to do and limited time. However, one thing led to another, and I ended up telling her anyway.

We were both in tears. It was good, but I was nervous. I wasn’t able to read the look on Audrey’s face when she was listening to me. I took a brave step. “Can I ask you what was going on for you when I was sharing that? Were you wishing I would just hurry up and move on?”

Audrey looked me right in the eyes. “I wasn’t thinking that at all. You know what I was thinking? I was honoured that you would tell me. I was glad that I was able to listen to your stuff because you listen to mine! I was so glad to there for you.”

She was essentially telling me I was loved and safe. I expected my body to panic and my mind to rise up to protect me with thoughts like, “You know she’s just saying that to make you feel better.” But my body and mind were at ease. For the most part, I could meet Audrey’s eyes and receive her love. When I told her that, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Can you come alongside the scared little girl in you?” Audrey asked me.

“I can,” I replied with my hand over my heart. She’s safe here.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
–Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)

Love Mischief for the World

Illuminated 2020 retreat-banner

This year I will be attending Jan Richardson’s online Advent Retreat. Jan writes, “Beloved friends, it has been hard to wrap my head around what the season of Advent might look like this year. But I do know this: I will be offering a new online Advent retreat, and I would love to spend the season in your company! Registration is now open for the Illuminated 2020 Advent Retreat. In a chaotic time, this retreat will offer a space of elegant simplicity. Intertwining writing, art, music, and community, this online journey creates spaces of reflection and rest that you can enter into from anywhere you are, in the way that works best for you.”

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Photo of dried leaves from Max Pixel in public domain.
“Just right!’ she sighed.” by Steve Corey. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Advent, community, Prayer, Reflections, Spiritual Direction, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joyful Mysteries and Silent Dreams

“Let there be Esther,” I heard God pronounce, speaking right into my life-long struggle to exist.

During the Ignatian prayer retreat I was leading last week, I had a chance to pray with one of my “joyful mysteries.” As I instructed the retreatants to do, I returned to a moment in which I felt loved by God.

That morning, I’d shared the poem Book of Genesis with the retreatants gathered online. Whenever I hear read this poem, I find myself close to tears. In prayer, I returned to that feeling and lingered there. I imagined God saying, “Let there be Esther. Let her be soft and strong. Let her be short and like biking and. . .” More tears came as I got a sense of God creating me with the same wonder and delight God had when s/he said, “Let there be mountains and trees and birds and fish,” and they came to be.

The subject of my birth took me back to a pre-cognitive memory I had when I was praying the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises eight years ago. I was a baby and, being the third child, there was no room for me on my mother’s lap. One of my siblings squeezed my cheeks, and I heard, “Be quiet. Nobody asked you to be here.”

Whether this was an actual memory or my child’s mind trying to make meaning, it seeded a fear of rejection I unconsciously internalized from a very young age. This fear has plagued me ever since.

In prayer, I saw myself with my siblings and mother again, but this time the heavens parted. A chorus of Let was pronounced over me in the presence of my family. God had spoken. I was beautiful and good and deeply loved.

This led me to look back on my life-long struggle to exist.

At times, I experienced bouts of depression and a desire to disappear whenever life validated that what I feared was true. Other times, I experienced anger and barked back when I felt dismissed or silenced. A recent experience of that woke me up and allowed me to notice moments in which I can now hold uncomfortable feelings, notice the pinch, and not react. In these moments, I didn’t need to bark back or disappear.

More “Lets” are being spoken from God’s heart as I continue to be created. “Let Esther stand strong, and let her know the freedom of feeling her fears and not being overwhelmed by them. Let her be free to respond in love. And let her believe that she is beautiful and good and deeply loved by her family and friends.”

God “continues in rounds saying let, and let and let until even silent dreams are allowed.”

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
    a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
–Zephaniah 3:17

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Love Mischief for the World

I am so inspired by Jim Kwik’s story. He was called “the boy with the broken brain” but there was a “Let” for Jim. God shared his silent dream of becoming a superhero, and he became one. He uses his superpowers to help others find theirs.

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Let there be light” by Sylvia Sassen. Used with permission.
The quote in the last paragraph is from Kei Miller’s poem, Book of Genesis.
Photo of Rudy Hizsa and Hannah-Lynn Hizsa-Munson by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Childhood, Creation, Ignatian Spirituality, Poetry, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When You Are In Over Your Head

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said to Sally after she shared the news that her mother was dying. “Don’t worry about the retreat. I’ll find someone to fill in for you.”

She’d been looking forward to co-facilitating the Ignatian silent retreat with me. I saw a mix of sadness and relief on her face.

I reached out to my friends Katherine and Thelma. Thankfully, they were available to step in last minute, and together we would offer spiritual direction to each of the participants. The retreat could go ahead as planned, but I would need to facilitate the input sessions by myself. I was comfortable with the material and the format. It should be fine, I thought.

An hour before a Zoom check-in a few days before the retreat, I got a phone call from a participant who lives in Alberta wondering why I wasn’t online. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t allowed for the time difference between provinces. Another participant lives in Saskatchewan. Would the schedule still work for her? During the check-in, I discovered that a couple of people hadn’t received the handouts and another didn’t have the schedule for the spiritual direction sessions. Addressing issues like these were the reason I scheduled the check-in, but what transpired rattled me. I felt alone with the weight of it.

“This is exactly why we have co-facilitators in Living from the Heart,” I said to Fred. Why did I think I could facilitate alone? I caught myself. I didn’t choose this. It’s just how it played out. But the hard facts landed. There was more stress in facilitating alone, and it was not likely going to be as enjoyable as working with others.

The next day I settled into a full day of offering spiritual direction online. In a moment of silence, I looked over at my Christmas cactus and thought I saw a bud on it.

When the session was over, I remembered what I saw and got up to take a closer look. There wasn’t one bud. There were fifty or more facing the window. I turned the plant around and saw that many of the buds were pink already. One would likely bloom on the weekend of the retreat.

A sense of awe filled me. The coming of the blossoms at the darkest time of the year has always been a visible sign to me of God’s presence and of hope.

You are not alone, the cactus reminded me. God will be with you.

And God was. As I explained Ignatian prayer to the retreatants sitting in little boxes on my computer screen, God was with me–invisibly and visibly. The cactus was blooming and Katherine came to every input session even though I hadn’t expected her to. How good is that?

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
    When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
    it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
    The Holy of Israel, your Saviour.
–Isaiah 43:2 (The Message)

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Love Mischief for the World

One of the participants in the Ignatian retreat told me about the music of the Poor Clares of Arundel. I listened to it and feel my body relax and my heart open. What a gift. Here is the story behind the music. In it, one of the sisters says, ” Our hope for the album is that people will have an experience of God and know they are loved by God.  And if people can have an experience of God, then we will have achieved what we set out to do.”

What love mischief are you and God doing for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
Geertgen tot Sint Jans (circa 1460-circa 1488) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image of Christmas cactus by Esther Hizsa.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2020.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in community, Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment