Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 4: Vocation
How would you describe your unique ‘vocation’ in the world?
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I think my sense of – my own personal sense of “mission” (I guess you can call it) in the world, something that might be a couple of steps above like a vocation, is this sense that what God wants out of me personally – perhaps as an expression of gratitude for all God’s given me – is to simply be present in a particular way, to cultivate that, to practice that, to foster an awareness of God’s presence and God’s love both within certain aspects of creation, within my own heart, within other people. I think being in the world in that way is really what God wants out of me; that’s like the primary thing. Now experience has taught me that in some ways that “being,” you know that thing that I feel called to do, is really the generative thing that I feel like is the thing that I have to offer, the thing that I have to give, the blessing that I can pass on. Something that has been given to me that I can then share. Being a monk as a vocation seems to be one of the best ways that I have found to cultivate that, in community. To live a life that helps me aspire to, keep in mind the intention of, and to practice that higher mission of being present and giving that back to the world.

– Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 3: The Work of Human Hands
What spiritual practices help to strengthen your connection with the natural world?
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There are a few fairly simple practices or rituals that help keep me in touch with nature, with creation. One of them is I have been living in Emery House for a few months and if I am asked to prepare a meal or if I am asked to help beautify the chapel, you know, things like going out to the garden and gathering basil or mint or eggs from the chicken coop for the meal, doing that as a prayer. So when I harvest those things or take those things, I thank God and I thank the earth for having given those gifts to me, to us. I think of the verse from the Eucharistic liturgy that refers to the wine as “…fruit of the vine and work of human hands; May it become for us our spiritual drink.” So I think of something raw that has come from the earth, from nature, and that’s somehow been worked through with the work of my own hands and then becomes something more, becomes sort of an “interspecies collaboration” in a sense, whether it is the meal that ends up on the table or as a painter, I practice egg temper painting, which is paint that is raw mineral pigment and egg yolk and white wine so there is a very Eucharistic symbolism to that. So now when I gather eggs from the chicken coop to make paint, it does really feel like this interspecies collaboration, and I thank the chickens for the gift that they are giving me, the way they are participating in my own creative process.

– Br. Keith Nelson

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 2: Simply Gaze
To what part of nature do you most feel connected, and why?
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One of the exercises that I have engaged in myself, and I have also invited others to engage in, is this practice of focusing one’s attention on an object, any object, something as simple as a table for instance, and actually doing a little mental exercise where you simply gaze at the object without attempting to put any qualifications on it, brown table, black table, nice table, not nice table, table that is in good condition, table that is pockmarked, etc., etc., all the kinds of things that we do. It is also a very powerful exercise to this with a living thing: a tree, an animal, an insect. I just thought what would it be like to do it with a fly [laughs], because I generally impute certain qualities to flies, which may or may not be true. So I think that just simply being with what is and somehow suspending that judgmental voice that is always making qualifications is a very, very powerful thing to do. And I think something that can bring real insight, both into ourselves, into the world we live in, and also a deep sense of peace and centeredness.

– Br. Robert L’Esperance

Week 5: My Relationship with Creation
Workbook Exercise: My Creation Collage

Watch: Week 5 Day 1: Good Soil
How would you describe the ‘soil’ of your heart and soul at this time in your life?
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In this phase, we’re going to explore our relationship with creation and one of the parables of Jesus that has really come alive for me is the parable of the sower. And we know that parable about how the sower went out to sow and some seed fell on good soil and some seed fell among the thorns and some seed fell among the rocky path, and in many ways Jesus is reminding us that our life, the life of the individual, is in a sense like that soil and how we are receptive to the word of God as it is sown into our hearts. Is our heart good soil? Is it abundant? Is it rocky? Is it full of thistles and thorns? And one of the things that I’ve learned here at Emery House in the garden is that the soil can in a sense be all of those things in a very enclosed area. And so as we explore our relationship with creation, we need really to pay attention to what soil both that we are growing in ourselves but also the soil that we are planting. The good soil that Jesus speaks of, the soil that is abundant and can produce 60- and 90- and 100-fold, is also soil which over time, if we constantly plant the same thing and don’t pay attention to renewing that soil, will end up being depleted and will be the very soil that will support the thistles and the weeds.

So as we explore our relationship with creation, we need to explore what it is in ourselves that can give abundance, can produce abundantly, and where is it in ourselves that is full of thorns, full of thistles, full of stones.

– Br. James Koester

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 7: Grow into Greater Life
How will you love the people in your life?
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So in this phase we have been thinking about our relationships with others and as we grow a Rule of Life how that Rule of Life might help inform and direct our relationships with others. So at the close of this phase here, we want to step back a little bit and look at the web of relationships that make up our lives, to see where relationships are strong and where they might be weak or even damaged or broken. To see what we might do to build relationships, to foster intimacy and to grow together, and what we might do to overcome obstacles in relationships or breakdowns in relationships. Forgiveness is always a central part of the Christian message and the message of reconciliation is the message that we have for the world. So forgiveness and reconciliation will play a big part in this.

So as we reflect on our relationships, as we look at the relationships in our lives and the relationships we want to foster and grow, the end of this phase gives us a chance to review those and to see how we might grow into greater life with those whom we love and those whom we find difficult to love.

– Br. David Vryhof

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 6: Receive Love
How can you grow in the ways you give and receive love?
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As we look for ways that we can love more, love more deeply, all those with whom we share our life, there are certain practices that might help us to distinguish between love and attachment. If we think about the way that the Johannine writings and scriptures speak about love, you know, we think “God is love,” “we love because God first loved us,” and “as Christ has loved us, so we should love one another.” So I think first a Rule of Life, our spiritual practices, the whole rule itself should help us to remain centered in that primary fact that we are loved by God and that all of the love that we give or receive is just God’s love. It’s not our possession, it’s not our product. If we are attempting to, I think, to manufacture it in our own strength as something that is just ours of this little limited quantity that we can give or receive, it is easy for our love to become attachment, which essentially is love without freedom, which is impossible. So when we are attached there is this sense that there’s something blocking that primacy of God’s love, of which all human love is just a reflection, a conduit.

So one thing we might do is just simply periodically, as part of our Rule of Life, review all of the relationships in our life. The relationships in which we are conscious of cultivating love with a spouse, a friend, a family member, and just sit down and perhaps review internally how much freedom is there in this relationship. How much am I getting stuck? Might this person or this relationship sometimes become a substitute for the love of God? Or is this relationship like a window through which the love of God is passing to you? So how attached might you be? And is your freedom being limited or is the freedom of the person you are loving, the freedom of your beloved, being limited by your attachment?

– Br. Keith Nelson

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 5: Saying No
To what will you say ‘no’ in order to say ‘yes’ to what is most important?
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There are so many good opportunities and yet I find the hardest thing is to say no and yet it’s also, I find, the healthy thing I am often called to. We have the delight of welcome guests into our home most days of the week – and yet we also have a Sabbath in which we don’t. We welcome guests and give them many opportunities – and yet we also define spaces where they cannot come. We give them many things – and yet we also find there are things we cannot give. People come needy and wanting things – and it’s hard to remember I have to say, “No,” that there are limits.

The same is true not necessarily with guests but also just my own experience of… well, most humanly, that I need sleep. That I have to stop. There is always more work to be done. I can make my body function on less sleep, but if I do it over and over again, everything suffers. So the boundary of actually going to bed on time or getting back on schedule when I have been off it is an ongoing lesson and challenge and yet it’s that choosing to stop, what must I say no to, that is actually the freeing “yes.” And I find that’s what I struggle with and that’s what people I listen to struggle with. What must I say “no” to so that I can actually be the most healthy?

– Br. Luke Ditewig

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 4: What Worked Yesterday?
What practices help you to thrive in your relationships with others?
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One of the things that I’ve found helpful for me is that I feel like for some reason I have a remarkable tendency to forget what is actually nourishing. And I would say even if you don’t have a reason for why something feels good or why it is nourishing for your soul, it doesn’t matter. I remember there is a great poem from Aquinas, it’s great. He says – I’m going to paraphrase it – he asked a plant, you know, he said to the plant, “What does light talk about?” And the plant says, “I don’t know but it helps me grow.” And so I think in a lot of ways without asking a lot of questions like what is this practice or this hobby or why does it work for me, why does it nourish me spiritually, why does it make me feel closer to God, to myself, to other people? I think without needing to know we should write a little note on our hand or something that says, “What worked yesterday? What worked last week?” Think of something that was nourishing at some point in the past and just do it again … just do it again. I would include that.

– Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 3: Conflict
What relationships in your life need mending or strengthening?
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So for a very long time I was quite conflict adverse and felt that every conflict I had in relationships meant the end of that relationship. And some of that was just from my own experience and maybe also my own shortcomings of, “Oh, you want to fight with me,” like, “well, I have no use for you then,” which obviously isn’t a very mature or spiritual response to a situation. But as I have grown and gone through more experiences of broken relationships and experiencing reconciliation I actually find that the people that I often have the greatest conflicts with, the people that I am able to fight with, argue with, to disagree with strongly, and then reconcile with, it reinforces my sense of goodness in the world, my sense of trust and my freedom to be myself and to say that it’s okay to disagree and to fight and that doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship.

– Br John Braught

Week 4: My Relationship with Others
Workbook Exercise: My Web of Connections

Watch: Week 4 Day 2: Forgiveness
Who has loved you well, and how did that love make you feel?
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I am often painfully aware of how difficult I can be to live with. I think it is really true in my case, I’m my own worst enemy and that can come out in all kinds of ways. One of the reasons I am here, and one of the reasons that I continue to remain here, is because this is one of the few places in my life that has both been able to, in a sense, contain me but also allow me to be myself, and to know that when I make mistakes, and I make many mistakes in the course of the day, I can almost inevitably call in expectation that my brothers will forgive me. That has been my experience over and over again. And I am not talking about a kind of cheap love either, because one of the hard lessons I’ve learned here is that there are consequences to behaviors and part of their forgiveness is knowing that and acknowledging that.

– Br. Robert L’Esperance