Sunday thoughts

Today I made my weekly trip to Mt. Irenaeus. It was a lovely morning and when I first arrived I met Br. Kevin who is a good friend. He was walking toward the House of Peace and after dropping off some groceries for brunch I accompanied Kevin up the path toward the chapel. As we walked I could see overripe elderberries hanging from their bushes. Kevin and I talked about how he had prepared elderberry preserves last year, but not this year.

Once inside the chapel I spotted many familiar faces. Several present were members of our St. Irenaeus Secular Franciscan fraternity. Others were parents of St. Bonaventure alumni and others were Mountain regulars. Four of those present were students from nearby Houghton College. A Houghton alumni member who currently is on the faculty of Daemen College in Buffalo and me the spouse of a Houghton graduate. Amazingly there were more Houghton students than St. Bonaventure students.

Mass began and our celebrant, Fr. Lou McCormick, OFM led us in the opening song. The readings were very powerful for me today. Especially the second reading from James. A familiar quote of “faith without works,” was part of that reading and that got me paying attention a bit more. Fr. Lou’s homily on the readings and in particular the gospel caused me to see where I’d been in an error lately. I hadn’t been picking up my cross and following Christ. I’d been complaining a bit more than necessary about a situation where I believe I’d been wronged, but complaining no longer seems to work, at least in that situation so I have to pick up my cross and follow. The Serenity Prayer has a line about “wisdom to know the difference,” and today’s readings and homily helped me to see and know that difference.

After brunch and an extended visit with the Houghton students I wandered back up the hill toward the labyrinth and walked it very mindfully. I really tried to stay in the moment and be cognizant of what I was doing. After my contemplative walk I took a nap on one of the benches near the labyrinth. I had a sense of peace as I walked and later drove down from the Mountain. Merton’s prayer was with me as I walked and it continues to be with me at times. “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead…” Yet, I continue to walk the road which much like the labyrinth continues to twist and turn.

Those are my thoughts this day and into the night. I’m looking forward to working with the students again this week. I’m surprised and challenged by their excitement. I’m challenged by the graduate classes I’m involved with at St. Bonaventure too. I cannot imagine a schedule that could be more full. I’m almost overwhelmed at times.

A Sacred Path

More than a month ago I wrote about taking a picture of the labyrinth at Mt. Irenaeus and how that invited some comments from friends that sent me on a journey that included reading Dan Pink’s, “A Whole New Mind.”  Actually, I downloaded the book and listened to it on my iPod Touch. I listened to it more than once and went so far as to buy a finger labyrinth from the Labyrinth Company. The labyrinth arrived this week and in the past several days I’ve used it a number of times.  The very first time I used it I had the sensation that there was some movement in my brain. I could almost feel my brain move. I know that sounds strange and I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not experienced it.

Yesterday, while visiting a friend’s home and returning a computer to her that I had recently restored to original condition for her I shared this story. She didn’t think I was losing it and instead recommended a book which I began reading last night. The book is, “Walking a Sacred Path,” by Dr. Lauren Artress. I’ve only read a couple of chapters, but I am really enjoying this and from the stories therein I realize that my reaction to the labyrinth was anything but strange. I intend to keep using the finger labyrinth and see where it leads me. Each time I experience the labyrinth it is a bit different but each time I come away renewed.

Finger labyrinth

I remember the first time I ever walked a labyrinth. It was at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ. I remember how calming and centering that was. Since then I’ve had an attraction to labyrinths. A month ago while attending an Evening of Re-Creation at nearby Mt. Irenaeus I snapped a picture of their labyrinth. The picture posted to Facebook invited a conversation which saw me read Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind.” It was from Dan Pink’s book that obtained a web link to the Labyrinth Company and now I’m the owner of my own finger labyrinth.

I ordered it last week and it finally arrived in today’s mail. It’s very exciting and restful to know that I now have my labyrinth and that I can use it whenever I might. I took it out of it’s case today and traced the path with my index finger. I had a peculiar sense as I moved my finger around that path. A sense of peace and stability ensued. I’m going to keep trying to use my labyrinth everyday. I want to bring it into my classroom at school but I’m going to wait for an opportune moment.

A whole new paradigm

Wednesday night found my wife and I on our way to Mt. Irenaeus for an Evening of Re-Creation. Diane doesn’t usually accompany me and so having her along was special for a number of reason. We were a bit late getting there in time for the Mass that began Wednesday’s evening. As we walked from the parking lot near Holy Peace Chapel we passed by the labyrinth. I pulled my Blackberry out, snapped a picture and shared it on Facebook with my friends. We enjoyed our evening very much. When I returned home and logged into Facebook I could see that two of my friends had commented on the picture of the labyrinth. One expressed delight and the other mentioned that Daniel Pink mentions labyrinths in his book, “A Whole New Mind.” I respect both of my friends a great deal and so a conversation is begun about the labyrinth and Dan Pink.

I did some googling and became interested in purchasing “A Whole New Mind.” At work the next day another of my friends had seen the picture and discussion too and she volunteers some insights which further pique my interest in both labyrinths and Pink’s book. Rick offered to bring the book to work the next day, but when I get home on Thursday, curiosity gets the best of me and I decided to purchase the book from iTunes and so that’s what happens. I began listening to the book immediately and in short it’s been great to listen to. In fact much of my experience with the collaborative nature of this story is very right brained. I’m amazed too that my own experience at Mt. Irenaeus and my spiritual journey have left me advantaged once again. In the past almost ten years I’ve become increasingly aware that I’m a contemplative and a mystic, so Dan Pink’s book resonated very much with what I’ve experienced at the Mountain and elsewhere.

The very first labyrinth I ever experienced was at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, AZ.  A year or so later the friars built the labyrinth at Mt. Irenaeus. In that time I’ve found myself walking both of them at different times and each time I found the experience grounding. Pink’s primary premise is that success today comes from a right brained paradigm. Labyrinths promote or facilitate right brained thinking which may hold the keys to success in today’s marketplace and society.

I highly recommend “A Whole New Mind,” it’s a very interesting book with  great insights.  Pink’s book has led me to topics like Laughter Yoga and more reading on labyrinths and how they are being used in hospitals and schools. Here is a great link to a virtual labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.  I’ve lalso learned of Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness site.

How did all of this happen? It was a smartphone photo sent to Facebook which invited a collaborative response or responses. These technologies didn’t exist five or ten years ago and like Dan Pink’s book they make possible changes in the way we work and learn. Maybe we should change schools and teaching in general to a more right brained paradigm.