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The Art of Sacrament

Sacrament is traditionally explained by use of the definition given by St. Augustine of Hippo a Christian theologian who was instrumental in many of the formative ideas of the church through his writings in the 4th century. The definition is simple:

"Sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace"

Although it was expressed in a Christian context, I feel this definition can explain why ceremony and rites of passage are so important in all human experiencing. They are the both the evidence of and the facilitators of evolution.

Last month my husband and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with a vow renewal and a party for our friends and family. As I prepared for the event, I wondered why I had decided to celebrate this way.

The details of the event had become overwhelming, food, flowers, travel, schedules, iced tea! I could not remember why we didn't just go to Cancun or something. I mean who cared that we were renewing our vows. Why did it matter to anyone except for us? Why did I feel the need to create such a public display of our private life?

I know from the inside of my marriage how much love we have put in to our partnership. It is extremely hard and beautiful work. We have changed and grown so much together over the years and I am grateful to have a partner who is just as committed to development as I am. We are not the same people or the same relationship we were ten years ago.

By inviting our community to witness and honor our development with us, it becomes a hundred times more real. We are a hundred times more accountable to it. People can see how renewed we are and confirm that yes, it is real. 

The cool thing is when they see that we have grown, they also grow. They think about their relationships, their life ten years ago, the things they have to be grateful for, the challenges yet to come. In that way, our one sacrament shared could set in motion a domino effect of growth. 

Love is meant to be shared...and so is grief, so is joy, so is truth. 

If human beings horde those inner graces (experiences) by keeping transformation and learning private, it all just ends there.

The lesson of the change sits inside the heart like a seed in the earth. We have rites, ceremonies and sacraments because the light of community must shine on that seed in order to fulfill it. 

I argue that to fully receive the grace of the change, we must invite it to be both inward and outward; to become a sacrament.

The script is simple. Stand up in front of those you trust and say; "Look at me...I am different than I was".

Thus a grace is not just confined to one soul's evolution. Everyone who sees and says "Yes, you are", also grows. 

 

 

 

Get Behind Me, Satan

I had a powerful spiritual experience this past month in a group I was leading. It was a watercolor class, designed to allow the participants to relax and enjoy the free flowing fun of a simple medium. But I know, as much as any other teaching artist, that any time you invite people into a creative process you are also inviting something darker...more sinister. 

The course went as planned and all participants seemed to enjoy the activity. It wasn't until afterward that I realized something strange and powerful had happened. As we were cleaning up one of the older women in the class approached me. Her gentle energy instantly grabbed my attention.

"I just want to thank you." she said. 
I listened.
"I am going to say something the only way I know how and it is going to sound crazy.", she whispered.
I nodded.
"I have had this thing lately, this devil. It has been in my way and it has been telling me things; lies."
"go
on", I said.  
"Well, today when we started our class I thought there was no way I could do this, that whatever I made would be terrible. Then I realized it was the devil speaking to me and I told him to get out."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, I loved it. I am so proud of what I made", and she held up her artwork for me to see. 
I smiled at her "beautiful".
"It is. So, thank you for helping me get Satan behind me."
"Oh, I think you did that all on your own. I hope you start to banish him more often"
She smiled.
"He has no power here". 
She chuckled and gave my arm a squeeze.

"He sure doesn't"

Who knew that the strength and might of the very devil could be swayed by simply picking up a brush and dipping it in water!

 

Although I don't often think in terms of demons, I did know exactly what she was talking about. It is what I call the "inner critic", but has had many names throughout the ages. It is simply the part of ourselves (or our egos) that tries to stop us from being who we fully are. 

The devil's intentions are sometimes honorable. This part of us is just longing for survival, it wants to save us (or our egos) from annihilation. Sweet...kind of...because, most of the time we can keep it in check. Sometimes, however, our inner critic gets out of control. It starts working over time, day and night, stopping us in our tracks by letting us know how weak, undesirable, incapable, and unloved we are; lies!

It is in these instances that we must figure out a way to get the devil behind us. We must say "you have no power here" and let him slip out for a coffee break. Once he is no longer blocking our view, we can return to the light and see our own beauty.

 Similar watercolors

Similar watercolors

Resolution

When I was in 7th grade my parents told me that we were going to the beach for New Years Eve and I could take one friend. If you have never been to Galveston, Tx you won't know why I was a little disapointed with this plan. It is a beautiful part of the world the ocean is tame and still on the Gulf. It is a place where I can reliably find peace. However, my 13 year old self wanted anything but peace. Those myths about New Years had already set in. New Years Eve was supposed to me raucus, wild and anything but peacful. The word that came to mind was BORING.

Anyway, I grabed my old friend Nicole and we tradged along to the calmest little peice of our worlds. When we arrived Nicole and I went to Walmart. It was the only place arround that was open with bright lights. I was despratly looking for a way to make this evening special. At Walmart Nicole and I talked about our 7th grade lives. She had a lot on her plate, I knew that. Her parents were in teh midst of a divorce and she was about to be uprooted. We had lived across the street from eachother our whole lives and both of us knew that was about to come to an end along with so much else; childhood, inocence, imaginary powers on magical abandoned islands. Soon, if not already, Nicole and I would be playing very different games.

Of course I couldn't articulate that at the time. In the midst of transition we only felt a need for something big this New Years, something memorable. I had an idea, we bought candles and returned to the house where we were staying. I don't remeber the ritual we came up with but I know it inovlved lighting a candles for what you wanted in the next year. We decided that saying what we wanted was much better than coming up with traditional resolutions, wich ussualy require judgement and sacrifice. In the midst of a vast ocean of unknowing, what we needed was a place to swim to not a thing to leave behind. We did not want to make resolutions rather we needed a resolution.

As midnight came we retreated to the loft and began our little ceremony. I still remember the way that the light looked on Nicole's face as she lit her candles and talked ernestly of what she wanted. If we went back and listened to ourselves we might even laugh at what those girls said. It wasn't brilliant or particularly well put, but it was the truth and we heard eachother say it. How powerful it can be to speak your truth and be heard, to have it rembered maybe not in content but at least in context.

This afternoon I am running the first workshop that PassageWay arts has hosted. I am runing it with another good old friend and we will be lighting candles for our intentions. I hope that those who have wondered there will find what I found that night in Galveston almost 15 years ago; a new years resolution.