Tag Archive: Education


I am an occasional instructor in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at a nearby University. The OLLI program across the country is a college for seniors, age 50 and older, who come back to school just for the fun of learning, because it is NEVER too late to learn new things or buff up on skills and talents put side during the busy years of looking after others or working full time.

This past fall, I taught a course inspired by a wonderful book by the author Christine Valters Paintner. With a rather unusual title, “Nurturing Your Creative Spirit with Monastic Wisdom” the book shares Benedictine monastic practices and daily rhythms to deepen our spirituality in a complicated world AND guide us back to that  “room” in our souls where creativity is  birthed and stored,  hopefully followed by  the courageous  re-entry into our actual individual  time-apart studios to manifest artwork, poems, writing, sculptures or crafts.

Our class was exceedingly exciting as we employed various meditative practices from monastic life to settle down, reach inside ourselves within the context of silence and stillness, and find our way back to personal artwork and creativity in new and surprising ways, gathering up long ignored pen, paper, journals, paints, brushes and the like.  Our  daily inspirational mantra was a prayer from the Divine Muse, with which we initiated our creative endeavors awaiting the surprise of new expressive ideas:

“Now I am revealing new things to you.

Things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment!

Of these things, you have heard nothing until now, so you cannot say, ‘Yes I (already) knew that’ “

Some wrote exquisite poems, some shared reflective journal entries. One woman started an art project, a beautiful book of paintings..one for each of the monastic hours (Lauds, Vespers etc) with eloquent musings on each…and with delightful imagination, one woman made for the homeless, a comfy sleeping mat from colored plastic bags, much like a hooked rug, and complete with the ability to roll it up and carry with handles.

Crea Mona 4 Five

Crea Mona Se 4 One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our class was a total delight but our Eldest Elder was one of the most delightful creations herself.  “Joan” is well known and very beloved by all  who know her at OLLI. In her mid-90’s she attends a variety of classes for enjoyment, inspiration and, as she has told me a number of times, to find out what it is she is supposed to be doing with her life at age 95!

During the class she sat attentively up front as always, usually rather quiet until she has something to say.. generally a soft-spoken one or two-liner that catches us by surprise and makes us all laugh with delight…or a question that reveals a piercing depth of curiosity and wisdom that stops us cold to ponder.

Throughout this class as others brought their creations in for our opening “show and tell”, eliciting claps and smiles, we knew that Joan had not as yet gone back into her “studio”  to start painting again which had for quite a time, maybe years, been set aside. She was quite elusive about why she was unsure about doing it.

But then …..

On the last day of the class, she and her daughter came in with a surprise!

Joan had in fact gone back into her “studio”,  picked up her brushes and painted a picture of the rough ocean waters  near the sea wall after a wild storm! Like Joan herself who is quite a “modern-thinking”  Elder at 95, her painting is also modern in expression, impressionistic and with dynamic movement.

Crea Mina Joan PICA ED one 1 (2)

I am a Senior now as well, and the rhythm and responsibilities of life have shifted although I am still far from being  95 years old. With new “open spaces” in my days, I often wonder what I am supposed to be doing with my life now, knowing that it is up to ME to create the new meanings and that, given good health, I need to listen and follow The Divine Muse who has ideas for me to be creative and of service in a world so needing inspiration and beauty.

I think on one level, Joan’s work at 95 is being a “Muse” for us younger Elders… 

 And… for the record…..

We’re  paying attention to you, Joan!!

Crea Mona Group PICASA Blue (2)

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

"Write the truth"

 

 

 

 

 

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I am on FB/social media daily and interact with a number of creative people who are free-spirited and artsy: craftspersons, lovers of music and dance, writers, poets, painters,photographers,animal lovers,  yoga teachers…. and political activists in this chaotic time of challenging social priorities.

However recently this past year, showing up in my feedback stream are a number of posts (or comments) by persons of fundamentalist religious beliefs who are ardent about particular issues that they feel are dangerous, sinful, against God’s will or threatening to their biblical or dogmatic faith teachings. These passionate concerns include issues around pro-choice vs pro-life legislation, transgenderism, gay relationships, emerging women’s voices with access to public power for change, to name a few.  Let me say that altho we may differ vastly on what we think about these issues, both they and I have a common right to think what we will.

Debate that can often lead to arguments as to who holds the “Truth” are common although I try not to engage in that way, beyond stating what feels right to me…for me. What I ardently resist is the attempted legal imposition of fundamentalist  belief systems upon the rights of others to choose for themselves how to live a sane and hopefully moral life.

And I do not hold that there is only one valid spiritual path that is the one true faith for all and that that one path is a cure for all of societies ills.

As the prophetic priestly Matthew Fox often says of the world’s spiritual Wisdom traditions :  “One River, Many Wells”.

I teach a variety of courses at a local University and one of them, a course I describe as “a retreat in an academic setting” focuses on three words (plus one) from a poem by the Celtic poet John O’Donohue.  The three words are Silence, Stillness, and Solitude. I added the “plus one” as Simplicity. These words are practices that help us to discern a deep ability to access a personal  spiritual conscience leading to right and just decision making personally and in society.

A meditative exercise we do to demonstrate open-ness and respect for the many ways of finding a healthy inner guidance system without judgementalism born of fundamentalist hubris is the artistic creation of our Soul Mandalas.

Each person receives a black and white image of a complex mandala design. Everyone receives the exact same image (ONE RIVER). In quiet meditation to soft music, everyone colors this image. At the end of the exercise we display our creations and are awed at the diversity (MANY WELLS) and all and each one is beautiful, whole and unique. Yet the original pattern is identical. Each of us, given free will (and a set of colored markers) must personally create a life, a spiritual path, a Voice for what we stand for without demanding that everyone else believe as we do or denigrating others for standing up for justice from another angle. We each color in our mandalas without demanding that they are colored in the same way.

Often then a challenge comes back such as “well is MURDER a valid life choice, or GREED or LYING or Terrorism? And should we accept those? ”  Common sense and decency can answer that one. The issue here is about intolerance of diversity in how people make life choices that lead them to whom they were meant to be in the Creator’s plan for service and inspiration for others.

It is vital in today’s complex society filled with so many forceful “opinions”,  judgments and and sometimes “righteous” religious hubris, to craft honorable discernment through personal spiritual work and the humble practices of Silence, Stillness, Periodic Solitude, and Simplicity.

And it is also vital to keep the image of these multi-colored mandalas in our imagination and the wise teaching of One River, Many Wells.

OLLI Class photo

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

OLLI peace

 

 

 

 

 **This Sunday, the ongoing all day Dreamcircle Retreat will be held at the Greening Spirit’s place from 11-4:30. Please bring your dream,written out in the present tense…and food to share for lunch! “Dreamer’s Tea” will be served, from the garden  (mugwort, scullcap,lemon balm and spearmint)**

THE POWER AND WISDOM OF YOUR DREAMS

On the Journey in a life that incorporates  wisdom gathered from both the Outer and the Inner Worlds,  paying attention to the inate guidance provided in the “Dreamtime” is one of the most valuable personal blessings which we may draw upon for direction in our lives.

The dominant everyday and materialistic culture we are presently living in,  is not known for drawing guidance from the depths of Soul, and is not particularly enamoured of the slow, or contemplative way of gathering information for wise direction and guidance. Being addicted to speed,  technology and the mass consciousness of consumerism, we are often pulled away from a unique, authentic, creative and spiritually vibrant life.

However, in other cultures, especially indigenous ones, the power of THE DREAM  was very much a part of the wisdom system, consciousness and CONSCIENCE of the people, guiding them and re-balancing them into a way of life that was good for all concerned ( the Community) , and therefore, for the individual. 

 In the stunning audio program Becoming an Oracle: Connecting to the Divine Source for Information and Healingby Shamanic teacher, Nicki Scully (check the audio programs on Soundstrue.com), there is an amazing guided meditation to Australia and the sacred “Dreaming Time” experiences of the Aboriginal peoples, who “go” where their dreams lead them, both physically and culturally. The Iroquois People (especially the Mohawk) of North America also had/have a strong reverence for the Dream as a powerful gift of the Creator to communicate with and guide the community into right and balanced living. 

As  part of my work,  I accompany/teach people in the practice of gathering and working with their nightly dreams through:

  • one-on-one spiritual direction/guidance sessions
  •  in our ongoing once-a-month all day Dream Circle  retreats  inviting in interested newcomers on ocassion  (we have been working together for over 16 years!)  
  • in periodic Dreams  and Inner Healing Workshops/Retreats  for training in the sacred skills of paying attention to, gathering , working with, and creatively manifesting the guidance of your dreams in your life and personal unfolding, through dreamtasks involving art, writing, creative pursuits and new behaviours. (check upcoming events schedule page)
  • In certain situations, when 4-6 interested people have expressed the desire to learn more in such a retreat, we also make it happen for you and a group of your comapnions who wish to learn together!

In the next week, there will  be several parts to The Power and Wisdom of your Dreams  post.  Please check back!

To contact me for more information/appoinments please e-mail me at cphoenixrising@earthlink.net with the header “Dreams!” Thank you, Christine, thegreeningspirit

(Please click on the “INSIGHT GUIDANCE SERVICES-click HERE first ” page and check ”Dreams and Inner Healing” under the Retreats and Workshops   page for more information.  Thank you!)

 

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