O That You Would Vanquish My Fears

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 3

On the fourth day of my eight-day retreat, Father Roshan asked me to pray with three “Sorrowful Mysteries.”

The first memory that returned to me was the day our son, who was sixteen at the time, was leaving for six weeks. Somehow our wires got crossed and Fred ended up leaving to take him to the drop-off spot without me. Those years were difficult ones for our family. I had really wanted to go with them and say goodbye to our son and let him know I loved him.

That feeling of being left behind still cut into me. I wept in my prayer as I pictured myself feeling distraught and bereft. Jesus put his arm around my shoulders and comforted me. In that spacious hour of prayer, he showed me that this fear of being abandoned has been in me since before I was born.

After my prayer, I sat by a creek, listened to the water and looked at the trees. High above me, some birds began squawking. I’ve heard birds squawk until the danger has passed, but these birds didn’t stop. I couldn’t see them, and there was nothing for me to do, but I noticed it.

The memory I returned to in the next prayer was also one in which I felt abandoned. Once again, God was bringing it into the light. This was a fear God wanted to vanquish. I stayed with Jesus and let him love me, but my body was restless. My legs were jumpy and I could hardly sit still. I was as agitated as the squawking birds. Then a cry from deep within came out of me, “I am so afraid of being abandoned.”

I wiped my tears and pictured my friend Theresa holding her godchild’s tiny baby. The newborn was in distress and crying uncontrollably. When Theresa took him in her arms, she felt his hard tummy and instinctively rubbed his tiny feet. She gently stroked his back and kept rubbing his feet until he let out an enormous burp and shortly afterwards filled his diaper. The crying stopped and, after a diaper change, he rested blissfully in her arms.

For the rest of my prayer, Jesus held baby-me, stroking my back and rubbing my tiny feet. I remembered the first words that stood out for me in my retreat: I am with you, encompassing you with love wherever you go.

“I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus said gently as I rested blissfully in his arms.

God has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

For Reflection:

  • What “Sorrowful Mystery” might you bring to Jesus?
  • As you relive this moment, how does Jesus want to love you now?
  • What fear is coming into the light that Jesus desires to vanquish?
  • What image, word or phrase does Jesus use to release you from your fear?

* * *

FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat

  • What do you do on an Ignatian eight-day retreat?

The whole time is spent in silence (except for daily meetings with the director). As much as possible, we are encouraged not to speak (verbally or non-verbally), listen to another or give another person eye contact. We are not to use the phone, computer or the internet. The inner space then becomes a private cell for the retreatant to commune with God alone, much like Jesus experienced when he went up the mountain to pray.

Each day we meet with the director. He or she listens to what happened to us in the previous day’s hour-long prayer periods and then assigns us four subjects to pray with based on what they have just heart. The focus of each prayer is either a meditation from scripture, a prayer of imagination with a gospel story or a story from our own lives, or an invitation to meditate on a particularly intimate moment when we encountered Jesus in a previous prayer (called a “Repetition”). After each prayer period, we make brief notes of what happened during our prayer, particularly noting how we felt and how we noticed Jesus responding to us.

During the other twenty hours when we are not intentionally praying, we rest, eat, go for walks or engage in an activity that does not occupy our minds (e.g. no reading, watching TV, video games) and sleep. Some retreatants knit, colour, photograph, or do puzzles. I took the time to draw (with stick figures) what happened in my prayers, tidied cupboards, sat by the creek, went for a walk, napped, and biked from home to UBC and back for my meetings with Father Roshan.

Credits and References:
“Archangel Michael” by Guido Reni [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Angel of Healing” sculpture by Susan Lordi. Photo by Anne Davis 773. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t Do a Thing

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 2

“I don’t enjoy praying for a whole hour,” I admitted to Father Roshan on the third morning of my eight-day retreat.

His eyes widened for half a second. But he didn’t question me. He just kept listening.

“I told Jesus how difficult it is for me to be present and sit still for a whole hour. Jesus said he knows and is grateful that I keep showing up.

“Eventually I realized what keeps me from true abandonment is doing things. I think that I’m responsible for fixing myself when I see a weakness or a sin. But Jesus said, ‘You don’t have to do anything. Just receive my love.'”

Father Roshan smiled.

“In my next prayer period, Jesus invited me to be okay with the silence. ‘Just receive. Don’t do a thing,’ he said. ‘Breathe in my love.’

“In my fourth prayer–the passage on the lilies of the field in Luke 12:22-31–these words stood out for me.

Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

“I realized that I was afraid–afraid that the eight days would go by and nothing significant would happen. But here was Jesus reminding me, I’m his dearest friend and I won’t be disappointed.”

Father Roshan asked me to pray a third time with Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1-3–one in each prayer period–and again with the Luke 12:22-31. In each of these prayers, I was to return to the moment when I had the deepest felt experience of God’s love. This was a stretch because, except for the first day, I didn’t feel any strong emotions, only calm or restless. My fourth prayer was to be a prayer of imagination with Luke 7:36-50.

I biked home by way of Kits beach and enjoyed the cool ocean breeze. Cyclists coming the other way greeted me and smiled. God was everywhere seeing me and loving me.

Back home again, I showered and had a short nap then sat down to pray. In the first prayer period, I returned to an image I’d been given earlier, of floating in an ocean of God’s love. I floated, looked at my clock every ten minutes or so, and tried to simply rest and receive. “Enjoy this,” Jesus whispered.

The next prayer period began as slowly and uneventfully. Eventually, Jesus got up and opened a door into another world and invited me to follow him. In this place, I could see everyone on earth. I saw God intimately and actively working in each of their lives–redeeming, healing, comforting, empowering, inspiring them and bringing them home.

“I’m doing it all; you don’t need to do a thing,” he said again.

“But I want to,” I said, achingly bored.

“Then know it’s already happening. It happens as you rest, as you abide in me.”

My prayers continued to be calm, without much emotion. Even in the prayer when I imagined myself washing and anointing Jesus’ feet, I had no tears. So I got some water in a bucket and used that.

Simon scowled, “She’s not that sorry or grateful. Look at her. Not a tear.”

Jesus rose up indignant. “Watch what you’re saying. You have no idea how many tears she’s shed.”

At that, I burst into tears. I felt defended, understood and deeply loved–just as I was.

Just Sit There Right Now
–Hafiz

Just sit there right now.
Don’t do a thing.
Just rest.

For your separation from God,
From love,

Is the hardest work
In this
World.

Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to
Drink.

You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your
Head.

For Reflection:

  • How do you feel when Jesus asks you to just be with him and don’t do a thing?
  • Are you ever bored or restless during prayer? How does Jesus respond to you when you feel that way?
  • Is there an image, word or phrase in my story today that evoked a noticeable feeling in you? Welcome that feeling with Jesus. Notice his compassion. Is there something God wants to bring into the light to comfort, encourage or heal you?

* * *

FAQs about My Eight-Day Retreat

  • Where did you have your retreat?
    In the past, as you may recall, I stayed at a retreat centre (Rosemary Heights in Surrey [now closed], Carmel Hill in Deroche, and Queen of Peace in Squamish), and the retreat director stayed there too. Except for when it was in Squamish, the director travelled back and forth to Richmond for supervision. This year, however, because Father Roshan doesn’t drive, we needed to travel to him. Only three of us were participating this year and each of us elected to retreat at home.
  • How was it organized?
    Father Richard Soo, SJ, who oversees the Jesuit Spirituality Apostolate of Vancouver’s Ignatian Exercises in Daily Life (Annotation 19) and supervises the dozen or so directors who lead people through the exercises, arranges for us to have an eight-day silent directed retreat annually.
Credits and References
“Time” by Free Photos at Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons.
“Lily Flower Early Flora” by Pixel2013 at Pixabay CC0Creative Commons.
“Just Sit Right There Now” from The Gift: Poems by Hafiz  Translation by Daniel Ladinsky.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Praying with the Imagination, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Encompassed with Love

Hi fellow pilgrims, 

In the next five posts, I will share with you some of what I experienced on my eight-day retreat. I will be posting them on Mondays and Fridays from now until August 17.

As you begin, I invite you to notice where you are standing. Are you standing outside my experience or entering in?

Standing outside, you might be analyzing, quantifying or evaluating what happened in my prayers. I can tell you right now, there is nothing I learned in my eight days that I didn’t know already. 

Entering in, we take off our shoes as Moses did when he realized he was standing on holy ground. The reader receives these encounters with God as gifts to treasure and to deepen their love for God. Although the encounters didn’t happen to them, these stories still have the power to transform as do the encounters recorded in scripture: Moses and the burning bush, Elijah when he hears the still small voice of God, the Samaritan woman when she meets Jesus at the well. 

So, please, take off your shoes, enter into my story, and meet for yourself the God who loves you more than you can ever hope for or imagine. 

My Eight-Day Retreat: Part 1


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” I read and was moved to tears. God cares for me and looks after me completely.

I was touched again when I read that God is “ever with me.” God was with me, not just in my life, but now as I began another eight-day silent retreat. God would be with me in green pastures and the dark valleys I would be experiencing as I spent these days alone with my Saviour and Friend.

“Rest,” my shepherd said. I imagined myself as a dog and lay my head on Jesus’ lap and he stroked my head and played with my ears. I felt content and carefree. Whenever thoughts lured me away, my shepherd reached out his crook and gently brought my mind back to his presence. “Don’t do a thing,” he said. “Just rest and receive my love.”

In the next two hour-long prayer periods on that first day of my retreat, I meditated on Psalm 139 and Isaiah 43:1-3. In both passages, I heard again that God is with me. In the heights and depths, in life and in death, before I had substance and after I have none, through deep waters and in darkness, God encompasses me with love wherever I go. Once again tears came.

I was reading a paraphrase of Psalm 139 by Nan Merrill and joined in the prayer near the end of it.

O that you would vanquish my fears, Beloved,
and all that separates me from true abandonment
and surrendering myself into your Hands.

My shepherd heard my prayer, and as I will share with you in the next posts, did exactly that.

Here is Nan Merrill’s Psalm 139 rewritten as though God is speaking these words to us personally.

Oh My Beloved, I have searched you and known you!
I know when you sit down and when you rise up;
I discern your innermost thoughts.
I find you on the journey and guide your steps:
I know your strengths and your weaknesses.
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, I have already heard your heart call.
I encompass you with love where’er you go,
and My strength is your shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for you;
it is high; boundless gratitude is your soul’s response.

Where could you go from My Spirit?
Or how can you flee from My presence?
If you ascend into heaven, I am there!
If you make your bed in darkness, I am there!
If you soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts of the sea,
Even there My hand will lead you,
and My Love will embrace you.
If you say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me is night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to Me,
the night dazzles as with the sun; the darkness is light to Me.

For I formed your inward being,
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
You praise Me, for I am to be reverenced and adored.
My mysteries fill you with wonder!
More than you know yourself do I know you;
your essence was not hidden from Me,
When you were being formed in secret,
intricately fashioned from the elements of the earth,
My eyes beheld your unformed substance,
in My records were written every one of them,
The days that were numbered for you,
when as yet there were none of them.
How precious to you are My creations, O Blessed One!
How vast is the sum of them!
Who could count My innumerable gifts and blessings?
At all times, I am with you.

O that I could vanquish your fears, Beloved;
O that ignorance and suffering would depart from you –
All that separates you from true abandonment,
is surrendering yourself into my hands!
Yet are these not the very thorns that focus your thoughts upon Me?

You wonder if you will always need reminders to turn your face to Me,
but I hear only your yearning to come to Me in love,
to learn of My mercy and wisdom!
I have searched you, O My Beloved, and know your heart!
I will help you to face the darkness within you;

I will enlighten you, that you might radiate My love and My light!

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Every day for my eight-day retreat, I biked to the UBC endowment lands to meet Father Roshan Kiro, SJ. for spiritual direction. I had never met this young priest before and little did I know when I began what love mischief he and God were up to. When we met, Father Roshan listened to what happened in my prayers for the point at which I experienced God’s love most intimately. Then he invited me to meet God there in the next day’s prayers. He trusted that all God wanted to do was love me and instil in the core of my being the significance of that love. He knew that God joined me in my deepest desire: to be free from all that keeps me from loving and being loved.

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

Credits and References:
“The Good Shepherd” is by Liturgical Works
“If You Can’t Beat It, Enjoy It” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
Photo of Father Roshan used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Ignatian Spirituality, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Desires Us

Today I am on the last day of my eight-day retreat. So I offer you this post from 2015  which illustrates the loving God I am retreating with. 


Creation_of_Adam_Sistine_Chapel wikipedia cropped
“You can’t catch the Macdonald bus here,” a man says to me at the VCC-Clark Skytrain Station in Vancouver. “You need to go up to Clark.”

I hurry up Sixth Avenue. It’s early Saturday morning, and I need to get to St. James Anglican church. I’m co-facilitating a retreat and don’t want to be late.

I suddenly realize I’m not sure of the bus route. Do I catch it going north or south? I feel a twinge of anxiety. I want to ask someone but no one’s around. If I run back to the station, I might miss the bus.

I spot a woman with a bag of groceries in each hand, walking briskly ahead of me. I quicken my pace.

“Hello,” I say to get her attention. But she doesn’t hear me.

“Hello!” I call louder.

And then, “HEL-LO!”

The woman stops, turns around and removes her earphones while still holding the bags. She’s about thirty years old with long curly hair and a hand-knitted toque.

“Oh, darling,” she says, looking into my eyes. “What’s the matter?”

Her compassion disarms me. “I … I need to catch the #22 bus to Main and Hastings.”

“Oh, that bus stop is across the street there.” She comes closer and points. “See it?”

She waits until she knows I have.

“Yes. Thank you.”

She hears the relief in my voice. Her shoulders relax; her back straightens. “You’re welcome.” She smiles warmly, then goes on her way.

Creation_of_Adam_Sistine_Chapel wikipedia eve

HE DESIRED ME SO I CAME CLOSE

No one can near God unless He has
prepared a bed for you.

A thousand souls hear His call every second,
but most every one then looks into their life’s mirror and
says, “I am not worthy to leave this sadness.”

When I first heard His courting song, I too
looked at all I had done in my life and said,

“How can I gaze into His omnipresent eyes?”
I spoke those words with all my heart,

but then He sang again, a song even sweeter,
and when I tried to shame myself once more from His presence
God showed me His compassion and spoke a divine truth,

“I made you, dear, and all I make is perfect.
Please come close, for I
desire
you.”

–Teresa of Avila (translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

∗ ∗ ∗

Love Mischief for the World

Love by Dustin Gaffke

The term “love mischief” comes from a poem called Seed Cracked Open, written by Hafiz, a Sufi who lived in Persia in the 14th century. He wrote scores of poems about his playful relationship with God. Once I spent a whole retreat reading nothing but Hafiz’s poetry and felt divinely embraced. It’s the love mischief of Daniel Ladinsky, who translated these poems, we have to thank for introducing us to Hafiz and reviving the love poetry of Teresa of Avila and other ancient mystics. Daniel left this comment on one of my posts. “You say, ‘I did a little dance,’ in reading a comment I posted. That is really my sole care in the world now … to help every creature boogie ever higher—become more free and safe.” Daniel has very kindly given me permission to use the title and poem Seed Cracked Open for my new book, which will be a collection of my earlier blog posts. That book will be available in the late fall.

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

Credits and References:
Creation of Adam” Sistine Chapel. Wikimedia. Non-commercial usage allowed.
“HE DESIRED ME SO I CAME CLOSE” by Teresa of Avila in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West by Various (Author), Daniel Ladinsky (Translator). Used with permission.
“Love” by Dustin Gaffke. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Mystical, Poetry, Popular Posts, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Spark of Something Holy

Last week’s post reminded me of a previous post I wrote a few years ago. Here it is again. 

Fred and I have been attending an Anglican Church in our neighbourhood. For Lent we joined a group that has been gathering after church to discuss Brian McLaren’s new book, We Make the Road by Walking.

One chapter focused on the kingdom of God. In it, McLaren writes,

freedom by Anne YToday as in Jesus’ day, not everybody seems interested in the good news that Jesus taught. Some are more interested in revenge or isolation or gaining a competitive advantage over others. Some are obsessed with sex or a drug or another addiction. Many are desperate for fame or wealth. Still others can think of nothing more than relief from the pain that plagues them at the moment. But underneath even the ugliest of these desires, we can often discern a spark of something pure, something good, something holy–a primal desire for aliveness, which may well be a portal into the kingdom of God. 

So often when I meet people who are in difficulty, all I see is the tangled mess they’re in. I wonder how I could possibly help them welcome God into their lives. But McLaren invites me to believe that God has already placed a divine spark of the kingdom in everyone. My job isn’t to help them address the smothering mess but to give some air to the spark that is there.

I remember a pastor friend doing that at an outreach lunch we had.  The man sitting at the table beside him launched into a rant about church people being hypocrites and how he hated hypocrites. The pastor could have been offended and pointed out that this fellow was in a church, and the meal he was eating was made by “hypocrites,” but he didn’t. Instead, he matched the man’s intensity and said, “Me too. Preach it, brother.”

The pastor found a portal into the kingdom. He saw how this man and Jesus were alike: both wanted people to stop being “whitewashed tombs” and get real.

I didn’t hear what was said after that, but I saw the men’s body language and heard the tone of their voices as they interacted. They were relaxed, animated and laughed easily. My friend had kindled a spark of something holy.

Blueberry Hannah N

I love the place where your glory dwells. — Psalm 26:8

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I was inspired by Whitney Thore in this Ted talk. I didn’t like hearing that it was a malicious smack on the head that fanned into flame the spark of holiness in her, but I love the courage she was given to stand against judgment and let go of shame.

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

Credits and References:
Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
“Freedom” by Anne Yungwirth. Used with permission.
“Blueberry” by Hannah Nieman. Used with permission.
The reference to “whitewashed tombs” comes from Matthew 23:13-39. Jesus delivered seven woes to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. In verse 27 he says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
Today’s post was originally published on March 27, 2015
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Reflections, Stories, Wednesday Lunch Club | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

God in Every One of Us

God is in all creation–including us–just by virtue of the fact that we were created by God and of God. In the beginning, there wasn’t anything else but God to create us with. We were made in the image of God, and God is in every cell of our being.

What would it be like to trust that God is in every person, with them in all that they do, loving them and working for their good, whether they are aware of it or not?

What would it be like to believe that about ourselves?

When I trust that God is in every person and actively working in their lives, I am more able to let go of judgment, less quick to give advice, and less focused on what they might be doing wrong. A humility emerges: I don’t know what they need to be whole. I don’t know what being whole looks like for them. I wonder what God envisions as God continues to transform them.

When I trust that God is in every person, I have more space for who they are right now. Forgiveness comes more readily. I start looking for where God is active in their lives. Where is new life sprouting? I want to join in what’s taking shape. Often it’s simply by listening and bearing witness to what gives that person joy.

When I trust that God is in me, accomplishing the good work already begun, I am more patient with myself, less judgmental, and less focused on what’s wrong with me.

As I write these words, a sadness comes out of hiding. I feel it in my throat and tears fill my eyes. As I sit with the sadness longer, it tells me its name: Compassion. I make space for Compassion to sit beside me, as I would a friend. She puts her arm around me and invites me to put my head on her chest. She strokes my hair.

I don’t know what I need to be whole either, I tell her.

Shh, she says, It’s okay. God in every cell of your being does.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s good purpose. —Philippians 2:13 (NIV)

Love Mischief for the World

This week I’d like to honour the love mischief of sexual trauma survivors and their courage to talk about what happened to them. This is for all the “Me Too”s in the world. You are beautiful.

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

Credits and References:
Sunflowers sprouting after four days by Eve Chan. Used with permission.
Sunflower by Najat. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Creation, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIY Prayer Retreat #11: Releasing Reality

Hi everyone, 

I led our contemplative groups’ monthly retreat in June and this is what I used. For instructions and guidelines to help you lead a DIY, check here.

May you be blessed as you open yourself to God in the silence.
Esther

Releasing Reality

FELIX CULPA

Recorded by Steve Bell on PILGRIMAGE
Song by Alana Levandoski (used with permission)

He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.
O my child, lay your burdens down.
Lay them at my feet.
He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.

GLORY PRAYER

In the light of the high heavens
and the infinity of dawnings in space,
in the darkness of ocean depths
and the sea’s ceaseless waves,
in the glistening of a creature’s eyes
and the dark life-blood that ever flows,
in every emanation of creation’s life
and the warmth that moves my body,
in the inner universe of the soul
and its everlasting foundations
your glory glows, O God.
In every shining of the world’s inwardness
and the warmth that moves my everliving soul your glory glows.

–John Philip Newell,  Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter  (Material Media: San Antonio) 37.

A MEDITATION:

Someone gave me two situations in which she found it difficult to be aware. She was in a service industry where many people were lined up, many phones were ringing, and she was alone and there were distractions coming from a lot of uptight, angry people. She found it extremely difficult to maintain serenity and calm. The other situation was when she was driving in traffic, with horns blowing and people shouting four-letter words. She asked me whether eventually that nervousness would dissipate and she could remain at peace.

Do you pick up the attachment there? Peace. Her attachment to peace and calm. She was saying, “Unless I’m peaceful, I won’t be happy.” Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you’ll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you. Anthony de Mello, Awareness p. 144-145

FOR REFLECTION AND PRAYER:

  • What is in my reality right now? What awareness is it releasing?
  • What do you think you need to be happy? How would you fill in the blank? Unless I have _____, I won’t be happy.
  • What emerges in you as you see yourself holding onto what you think you need? Get the feel of it. Stay there with God and let whatever happens happen.

CONNECT WITH CREATION

  • Notice the beauty in Creation around you as you walk. What is inviting you to spend time with it?  (e.g. a tree, plant, bird, the sky, the earth)
  • Engage with what draws you. Using your senses, touch it, smell it, gaze at it. Notice its colours and textures and unique attributes.
  • Listen to what it is saying to you and the reality being released in your life. What do you want to say to it? How might God be loving you through this gift of creation?

See the whole universe,
not only as something to love,
but as something that can love you back.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin 

THE RIVER by Coco Love Alcorn

The river is a healer 
The river is a sage 
The river knows no end  
And the river feels no age 
The river is a leader  
Every single day 
It’s living in the moment  
And it always finds a way 

Water heal my body
Water heal my soul
When I go down, down
To the water
By the water I feel whole

The river calls me over 
It’s calling out my name 
In the day and in the night 
I hear that river all the same 
It’s calling me over 
Calling out my pain 
Oh a river gathers tears  
Just like a river gathers rain 

The river is a traveller  
Always on the go 
A river never worries  
If it’s fast or if it’s slow 
River take me 
To where I need to go  
Oh, and I will just relax  
And let the river flow 

PSALM 16 Conserva me, Domine (Grail version, adapted)

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.”

You have put into my heart a marvellous love.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep you ever in my sight:
since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

Silence awakens us to the fullness of life below the surface.

Image Credits:
“Glory Prayer” by John Philip Newell used with permission.
“Sunrise” by Susanne Nilsson . Used with permission.
“Bark Cabin Natural Area” by  Nicholas A. Tonelli. Used with permission.
“Vulcan Stream” by Reza. Used with permission.
The last photo was taken of an image I chose in a prayer exercise at the SoulStream partners’ retreat in early June.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com
Posted in Prayer, Prayer Retreat Outline, Reflections, Resource | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exactly What I Need

It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here, right now with its aches and its pleasure, is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. — Pema Chodron

I finally stopped snacking after supper and at night when I can’t sleep. I’ve been trying (and not trying) to kick this habit for a long time. Now, it’s happened. I didn’t get a download of willpower or receive a miraculous healing. I had a bad bout of acid reflux. It was so painful it woke me up–literally. Reading up on it later, I discovered that lying down after you eat makes it worse.

It’s not like I suddenly got this condition. I knew I had it but somehow got used to the gnawing feeling in my oesophagus, which increases when I’m stressed–like I am now as I write about this.

Let me stop here and tell you about the feelings going crazy in my body right now. Shame is at the base of my neck poking me. A wee bit of panic is in the pit of my stomach as I imagine some of you reading this and being turned off. “Acid reflux? Do we really need to read about that? What’s next? Hemorrhoids?” A wisp of despair is expanding in my chest. Am I getting to that stage where aches, pains and medical appointments take centre stage?

The urge to hide is strong. Wouldn’t it be easier to write about something else, anything else? After all, it’s personal and more than one of you may be tempted to give me advice, which is the last thing I want.

So, why am I telling you this? Because that is how God is working in the life of this everyday pilgrim. Lately, God has been speaking to me through creation–lakes, trees, my Christmas cactus and now, my body. Creation isn’t just the earth, trees and animals. It’s people too. And not just our souls but our skin, limbs, and organs. God is in my body giving me exactly what I need to be fully alive.

This morning as I was brushing my teeth, I remembered Jesus’ saying, “I will be with you always.” Typically and contextually, we interpret that to mean Jesus will be present with us. But this morning I heard it in a more collaborative sense: “I’m with you in this.”

God desires my wholeness and is using my suffering (pain in my gastrointestinal tract) to end my suffering (the fatigue and discomfort from overeating), and it’s working. . . so far, anyway.

This post may incite some strong emotions. My story may not be yours. It doesn’t have to be, but what it evokes in you… now that’s all yours. Don’t waste it. Listen to those precious feelings expressed in your body. Listen to what they’re saying to you. Listen with God, who is with us in this, awakening us to a full life.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

This week, I’d like to honour the love-mischief of those with long-term illnesses. My friends who have Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Lupus, Crohn’s, Fibromyalgia, and Celiac disease take great care to listen to their bodies. They often have to curb their enthusiasm, pace themselves, and rest when they’d much rather be active. A full life looks different for them than for others, and they, like pioneers, are patiently discovering it.

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

Credits and References:
“No Body Is Perfect” Permanence (2015/16) – Zhang Dali. Photo by Rob Oo. Used with permission.
Photo of seniors in a pool by Calgary Community Services. Used with permission.
Photo of a man sitting on a bench from Max Pixel distributed with a Creative Commons Zero CCO.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Aging, Creation, Overeating, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Faithful Companion

See the whole universe,
not only as something to love
but as something that can love you back.
–Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As many of you know, I have a Christmas cactus in the room where I pray, write, and offer spiritual direction. I love its quiet, faithful companionship. Nearly a decade ago, a friend grew it from a cutting and gave it to me in a tiny pot as a Christmas gift. Now it is over a foot tall and bushy with a woody stem and thick branches. For its whole life, this plant bloomed only in the appropriate seasons: Advent and Christmas. However, this year, as I’ve noted in my blog, it has “loved me back” exuberantly–blossoming through the dark days of Lent and into Eastertide.

I had adjusted to its dormancy through Pentecost and now in Ordinary Time, and then four pink buds appeared as summer began. I watched and waited for the flowers to open, but the first tight bud never did. Since I’d suspected that giving the cactus fertilizer regularly had helped it to bloom more during Advent and Lent, I gave it some more. But the next day, the second bud dropped.

I listened to my cactus friend like I listened to the tree and the lake. It asked, What has been going on in your life that my unopened buds invite you to notice?

I carried the question in my pocket, forgetting it was there until I felt a pang of guilt over a couple of untended relationships. I held both the weight of disappointing others and the squeeze of trying to fit everything in.

The dropped buds also spoke to me about wanting something to happen before its time and my incapacity to do anything about it. Whether it’s a piece of writing, a patch of darkness in a directee’s life, the ripening of forgiveness, or adequate housing for all our city’s citizens, I can’t force a blossoming.

Without buds or blossoms, my cactus is still vibrantly alive, keeping me company as I let go, once again, of trying to be more than I am, and as I wait for God to bring words, hearts, and justice to life.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong,
and let your heart take courage;

    wait for the Lord!
–Psalm 27:14

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

“B.C. Housing and the city are scheduled to build Burnaby’s first residence for people who are homeless by March 2019, the provincial government announced Friday,” says Lauren Boothby in Burnaby Now. “A new three-storey building at 3986 Norland St. will have 52 studio units for men and women, including seniors and people with disabilities, who are homeless and need support to address mental health or substance abuse issues” The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby has advocated for this for a long time. So good to see this love mischief happening in my city.

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

Credits and References:
Photo of my cactus by Fred Hizsa. Used with permission.
“Sitting in Silence” by Alice Popkorn. Used with permission.
Photo of a homeless man by dgozgozz on Pixabay. Creative Commons.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com.
Posted in Creation, Homelessness, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How My Suffering is Ending My Suffering

In my post “Releasing Reality,” I referred to Anthony de Mello’s counsel to let our suffering end our suffering. How does that work?

Suffering reveals my siren gods. It reveals the alluring attachments that toss me about. Suffering helps me notice when I’m either lamenting their loss, trying to hold on to them, or striving to get more.

Richard Rohr defines suffering as “whenever you are not in control.” We suffer when we can’t control getting or keeping what we think we need to make us happy.

I found it helpful to use de Mello’s statement, which is in the story I quoted in that post, as a fill in the blank: “Unless I have _____, I won’t be happy. Using a previous post “Tossed About” as an example, I could say, “Unless I feel calm, I can’t be happy.” I could also say, “Unless I feel good about myself, I can’t be happy.”

When I notice and name what has me in its spell, I begin to see that requiring this to be happy is an illusion. All I need is right here. God, who loves to give good gifts, gives me everything I need in abundance.

Listen to the words of one who knows and speaks of this reality.

Psalm 16 Conserva me, Domine (Grail version, adapted)

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.”

You have put into my heart a marvelous love.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.

O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep you ever in my sight:
since you are at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.

We too can say: “You are my God. My happiness lies in you alone.” We can say this because it’s true–even while we crave what the sirens are offering.

On the surface of my soul, standing in my boat, seeing only a black, empty ocean, it’s hard to believe there’s an abundance of fish down there. But I have been asked to put out into deep water before and have known times when my boat was filled to overflowing. Silence has taken my hand and opened my eyes to the love right in front of me. Moment by moment, if I wait, I will behold the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I will see a fish breaking the surface of my disbelief and awakening me to a deeper knowing.

It’s true: God, you are showing me the path of life; there is fullness of joy in your presence right here, right now.

When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
–Psalm 17:15 (NRSV)

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

Listen to the lyrical love mischief of Coco Love Alcorn:

Water heal my body  
Water heal my soul  
When I go down, down  
To the water 
By the water I feel whole.  

Guaranteed, you’re going to be singing it all day… and feeling wonderfully heard and whole.

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

Credits and References:
“Ulysses and the Sirens” by Herbert James Draper (1863-1920) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2 Peter 1:3, Matthew 7:9-11, Luke 5:1-11, Psalm 27:13
The Naked Now by Richard Rohr,p. 123
Awareness by Anthony De Mello, p. 141-145
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
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 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

 

Posted in Mindfulness, Prayer, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment