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This balancing act called life

What does a balanced life look like to you? When I hear the word “balance,” I feel the word “peace.” In my mind’s eye, the two are inextricably linked. And on some deep interior level, I know that if I can just find a way to bring some balance into my life, peace is sure to follow. But balance is hard to come by in our all-or-nothing world, and so we have to strive to be counter cultural, to look for ways to even out the highs and lows we typically traverse, to learn to be present wherever we are, even when where we are isn’t so hot, and to find beauty there. Read more

Do you hear what I hear?

I woke up the other night to a fierce thunderstorm and the sound of rain tapping on the aluminum-wrapped windowsill, and I smiled as I rolled over. As I drifted off to sleep, I remember thinking in the back of my overtired brain that it was not so long ago that the same tap-tapping—a byproduct of our new-and-improved windows—made me crazy, so crazy we had to hang a towel over the sill and close the window on it to muffle it. But, over time, the sound became familiar and comforting rather than strange and infuriating. Read more

Way of Sorrow: Seeing an old path with new eyes

It’s amazing how different something can look when we are willing to see with new eyes, when we cast aside our preconceived ideas and our human need for “progress.”

When I was on retreat at St. Mary’s on the Lake earlier this month, my retreat leader, Paulist Father Tom Ryan, took a few of us on a hike across the beautiful property along stunning Lake George, including a long-abandoned outdoor Stations of the Cross path cut into the woods behind the chapel. I hadn’t even noticed it on my first two trips down to the lake, but there it was — overgrown, falling down, forgotten, sad. At least that’s how it seemed to me at first. And all I could see was potential. Read more

Disconnect, settle in, and just listen

If you missed my latest interview on the Morning Air Show on Relevant Radio, you can catch up by clicking the link below. I’m first up so just hit play. I’m talking about my five-day retreat and the need to disconnect from our devices and just listen to the silence and the Spirit.

What are your favorite retreat spots? How do you feel about sitting in silence for a few hours, or a few days? Some day I’ll do a weeklong silent retreat. For now, it’s bit by bit. Peace.

Summer vacation for the soul

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” Mark 6:31

Today’s Gospel reading reminded me of my fabulous five-day retreat and the Life Lines column I wrote about making sure you take time apart to recharge your spiritual life this summer. I’ll be back in the days ahead with some reflections — and photos — from my stay at St. Mary’s on the Lake in gorgeous Lake George, N.Y. So here’s my column, which is running in the current issue of Catholic New York. Let me know in the comment section what you’ll be doing this summer to recharge. (That photo to the left was taken from my favorite prayer/journaling spot on a cliff overlooking Lake George.) Read more

On retreat: Finding beauty in our brokenness

I was so blessed to give a retreat day at Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center in Ossining, N.Y., this weekend. A beautiful location with wonderful people. And great food. With seashells scattered around the room and prayer intentions overflowing our sea-themed bowl, we dove into the topic of brokenness and discovered a wholeness there. At least that’s what we were aiming for. And we did “collage as prayer,” one of my favorite things to do these days. It seemed to be a hit among the retreat participants as well. There’s something about cutting and gluing in silence that is soothing and centering. And it always seems to lead to at least a smidgen of self-discovery. Read more

Mindfulness: It’s not just for Buddhists

I was featured in a story on mindfulness that’s running in the Catholic Courier of Rochester this week, so I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about this favorite spiritual topic of mine. I said a lot more than was quoted in the piece (not unusual given newspaper word counts), which also featured a Trappist monk from the Abbey of the Genesee, one of my favorite retreat places. If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that my journey into mindfulness (and sometimes back out of mindfulness when I’m getting sloppy or lazy) started with my “mindful oatmeal” practice from years ago and blossomed into two books related to the practice of mindfulness in daily prayer and daily life. With each step forward on this path, I become more convinced that this is the way to inner peace and a deeper relationship with God. And when I stray from that path everything becomes slightly out of balance and more frenetic.  Read more

Collage as prayer: cutting and pasting my way to God

Sometimes losing our serious adult demeanor for a bit and doing childlike things can take us deeper into our spiritual center than any book on prayer ever could. Case in point: I spent Saturday armed with scissors and a glue stick, cutting and pasting — and praying. Although I’d done collages before on my own, back when I was working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had never used the art form as a way to deepen my spiritual life. Until this past weekend when I headed back to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, my new favorite spiritual place, for a six-hour workshop called “Collage as Prayer.” I convinced one friend to join me and then met up by chance with another once I got there. We had a great group of women, probably about a dozen of us or so, led by Sister Ethel. The result? Two collages and a whole lot of insights into myself and my spiritual journey.  Read more

Everyday Divine: a chapel on wheels

When I returned from my first silent retreat several years ago, I realized that my automatic response upon getting into the car was to turn up the radio. Loud. I wasn’t listening to anything spiritual, mostly the classic rock channel on my satellite radio. The experience of silence on retreat prompted me to give it a try while driving. Instead of singing all the way to and from my daughter’s preschool, I turned off the radio and allowed myself to sink into the quiet of my little makeshift chapel on wheels. Read more