Following in the footsteps of St. Columba

This is an online retreat that was created especially for Abbey of the Arts.  It is my pleasure to share it with you here.

Some stops for us as we follow in the footstep of St Columba: transforming failure and loss into peace and acceptance.

1. Turning to face the wind.
Carl Jung said “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” I believe this to be an essential spiritual truth and a prayer desperately needed in this time. The path of peace that we are embarking on is a path of authenticity and truth. To transcend that which goes wrong in our lives must look with honesty and compassion upon our failures and mistakes.

Especially in the case of shame this is highly, highly uncomfortable and a deeply unpleasant thing to do. We want to hide (even from ourselves). A great teacher here is the monk Thomas Merton who admitted and learnt how to walk with integrity when the public learned that he had fallen in love with his nurse. My musician friend Alana Levandoski has an amazing song full of Thomas Merton's wisdom on this topic.

Instructions before you listen to the audio track:  I invite you to listen to this audio recording 3 times. The first time just get accustomed to the emotional weight of failure held there in the song.
The second time think about a failure you have lived through in your own life. In one or two sentences write down what it was that you did.
And then listen to the song one more time while looking in the mirror.
You are welcome to bury or burn the peace of paper after you are done with it!

2. Recuperating and resting in a safe place
Sometimes we are too spent to keep moving forward. Seeking shelter and the chance to just be is essential. When I left Iona I took four seasons off from my life before I began to rebuild or start anything new. My experience is that God's grace finds those in need. It is at the times we need it most that we begin to learn something of the incredible blessing and inheritance of love that is offered to us in this life. This blessing or grace is always available to us, but most of us don't perceive it until we desperately need it.  The peace that passes all understanding is a profoundly beautiful face of God – one that can change you forever.

Instructions before you listen to the audio track: Think of a time that you received kindness or gentleness when you needed it most. Let that gratitude fill you. Breathe in that feeling of gratitude, deep into your heart, and rest in that feeling while you are listening to the song. After you have listened to the audio track open your eyes and look out on the world around you maintaining this lens of gratitude.

3. Healing: the slow regathering to wholeness
When I lived in the abbey on Iona I learned a sung version of the Deep Peace prayer, a Celtic blessing whose words go back to Columba's time. I noticed that this prayer and song really resonated with pilgrims to the island, especially those who had travelled to Iona carrying great suffering. The song held something their souls needed, an outer expression of the healing they were journeying towards.

Where ever you are on your journey, allow yourself to receive healing in big and small ways – especially you who have journeyed far and alone. This journey we are on is a heart journey, not a cognitive journey; the head will never makes sense of it, only the heart can find its way through the fallout of all that was lost.  Let that mystery be and welcome the healing as it comes, sometimes as an unexpected peace amidst the ruins.