Soul Journeys

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Writing is a vocation. But so, too, is workshop facilitation; it is not so much teaching, as inviting people to play with you. The added bonus is that you make up the game. I have led many creative writing workshops to all age groups, all men, all women and mixed groups. I’ve led workshops in libraries, community resource centres, a room above a tourist office, at a Buddhist centre, in hospitals, a yurt, and prison. But what may prove my most popular offering defies the conventional creative writing tag. Yesterday, I guided twelve brave souls through a writing process I call Soul Journeys: Writing Your Spiritual Autobiography.  I have taught material on this subject many times, within varying time slots. But what keeps getting affirmed is that people want to explore their own story of soul growth.

I am grateful that the group I met with yesterday wants to continue working with the material the workshop prompts revealed for them. I am also grateful that the individuals trusted me to guide them and trusted their fellow participants to share the process  of examining their soul’s storylines. In a safely held environmemt where trust flourishes, often the themes and plot twists of a lifetime become clear. By framing a indivual story within universal archetypes, one’s own heroism shines.

While early Quakers like John Woolman faithfully recorded their experience of The Light in journals, there are many approaches to convey and frame our spiritual sojourns on planet earth.  But because we are often ‘in the messy middle'( to borrow a phrase from Brené Brown), we may think that our spiritual life needs to look something like this to be worthy of interrogating and sharing with others.

Soul journey

When actually, a soul journey is much more like this.  A Life lived passionately and authentically is likely to have a bit of chaos and mess. It probably looks a bit more like this:

Soul journey

If you would be interested in a Soul Journey  writing workshop in your locality, contact me at dowrabeesmith@gmail.com.

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Thoughts and Prayers

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I respect thoughtfulness. I respect prayer and I practice it often. But I admire most a phrase that I think I encountered in some Quaker literature – Love in Action.  Which simply restates the adage ‘Walk Your Talk’- but with the addendum of walk in love. In a week where there have been a lot of thoughts flying around the interwebs, and most surely a lot of prayer, I have crafted a spell. And since auld Samuel Beckett said “all poems are prayers” this is my weekly poem. Which is also a heartfelt spell working. There have been too many Parklands, Pulses, Sandy Hooks. And may the little children lead us. They certainly are demonstrating a raw fearlessness in the face of tragedy. May they be surrounded with Love as they take action.
Thoughts and Prayers

Enough of thoughts

Enough of prayers
Enough of tears

Banish the fear
May Love disarm you

Enough of being bought

Enough of anger

Enough conspiracy jeers

Banish the fear
May Love disarm you

Enough of siege and SWAT

Enough of all coming to naught

Enough of the primacy of crackpot

Enough of the always all too sure shot

Banish the fear
May Love disarm you

Enough of cowering in closets

Enough of bandoliered bigots

Enough of ideology driven budgets

Enough of guts and gore as year-round climate

Banish your fear
May Love disarm you
Copyright 2018 Bee Smith
Featured image is a painting from a photgraph of Samuel Beckett by Barry Hodgson,  owned by the author.

Lost Worlds

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Fellow blogger, Traci York of  www.traciyork.com, spotted the anniversary even before WordPress sent me a notification. Four years ago, I started this WordPress blog on the back of an amazing opportunity to travel and learn and write at Lumb Bank, Yorkshire and in Manchester. I was travelling with a company of strangers cum creative colleagues and tutors; the whole travel package was courtesy of Cavan Arts Office and the Cavan Office for Social Inclusion through EU funding programmes. (If anyone bad mouths EU funding projects, I passionately defend them because this one certainly renewed the lease on my creative life and mental health. ) Living in a remote rural area I had had a few of my own creative wilderness years. That trip and blog changed everything. So was born Sojourning Smith, sometime tour guide, writer and creative writing tutor. Exploring the world one word at a time. For within a word, there is a whole world. And some are being lost.  You might think it odd then that the title for this anniversary issue is Lost Worlds, when what happened  for me personally was a world regained.

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This Week’s Poem

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In a flick of a couple calendar pages it will be NaPoWriMo2018  in April. Despite being focused on workshop delivery and still having some brain fag/flu hangover, I decided to get in training for NaPoWriMo2018 in earnest. My personal challenge is to post a weekly poem in the run up to NaPoWriMo2018. Sunday is my usual posting day, but this week I had other things to communicate. So consider this a bonus post.

Two images/ideas forged the poem. You might easily figure the principle one. Thank you, Martha, Terri and Helen for our online interaction that seeded this poem.

Paper Dolls

 

Little girls’

Flat and flimsy

Auditions

Of adult interaction

 

Cut out and colour

Personae

Dress designed

To order by whim

The whimsy of childhood

Ordering plot action and reaction

Doing all the dialogue

Being every character

In the costume box

Of an eight year old’s

Imagination

 

The first flutterings

That every story

Ultimately

Is about

The adventure of love

While still staying outside the lines

With our safety scissors

No teeth

Required to cut the cord

Holding up

The scenery flats and flys

 

© 2018 Bee Smith

Featured image found on http://www.topdownloadables.com

Poetry as Sacrament

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There is a point to having one day being the Sabbath, a day of rest and contemplation. There is a point to taking a tip from Orthodox Jewish women who cook in advance and leave the dishes and clearing up for twenty-four hours once a week. Leave the quotidian grind behind and contemplate the larger reality in a pause. For some, worship fulfills that pause, but organised religion and ritual left me cold years ago. Secular concerns rarely nourish the soul; at least, that is my experience, but I was brought up in a religiously observant environment. I am not alone in having a hunger for the numimous. In the absence of collective ritual, poetry offers itself as a sacrament. Even the ritual “Take this and eat in memory of me” resonates not only the nourishment offered in the sacrament of Communion, but the mentioning of memory.  In the genealogy of St. Brigid, memory is the ultimate source of poetry.

This Sunday snow falls in a desultory dance  outside my window. I went to the poetry bookcase and pulled out an anthology at random. What does Spirit want to speak to me today?  Even though I have left the spiritual traditions of the Peoples of the Book, the Judeo-Christian attachment to books remains. I pulled Risking Everything: 110 Poems love and Revelation from the shelf. Then I opened it and what a pleasure to have a David Whyte poem before me.  

Moses appears on the first line of “Fire in the Earth.” I had to smile. So appropriate for a Sunday morning reading. Secondly, the title synchronously echoes some exercises in writing spiritual autobiography I have undertaken.

Like many writers, most of my income is earned from teaching. This is no hardship and I discovered that I had a vocation for encouraging people to use words to express themselves and find greater confidence in their inherant worth. It has been my privilege to work in prison and share in profound moments of communion and revelation .  I have witnessed  the exhileration  of  those with literacy challenges seeing the words from their lips crafted into a poem. Currently, I am a co-pilot on a Cavan Youth Arts Lab project with a dozen 12-14 year old girls; already I can sense we are moving into that communion space of affirmation.

On the last Saturday of this month 24th February, I will lead a half-day workshop Soul Journeys: Writing You Spiritual Autobiography. The workshop will take place in a appropriately liminal space. The Markethouse in Blacklion lies metres from the border with Northern Ireland where Cavan meets Fermanagh.  The workshop will run from 11am-3pm. Bring a notebook and a comfortable pen with a good ink flow. Bring some food tomshare at lunchtime.  Also, prepare to enter into the sacrament that is your own life.

To book a place or get more information leave a comment. There is a Facebook event page with full details Word Alchemy Event Writing Your Spiritual autobiography

I highly recmmend a listen to this podcast of David Whyte. He has some powerful words to say about the nature of poetry, the poet’s purpose, and how e can re-frame our life story and make meaning from our lif’s experience and soul’s destiny. David Whyte RTE 1 Podcast

As you journey through next week bear in mind my friend Pen’s words to me this past week 

In theory,  every encounter – even with the postman – is sacramental. 

It’s a Mystery!

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Some people might call it inspiration. The actual process of writing can be a bit of a mystery.  Personally, I think writers are magpies. We collect shiny things – like ideas- and take them back to our lair and then we rearrange all the shiny found objects and re-purpose them. So the poem I wrote this week has been constructed out of just such found objects: a question someone posed on Facebook, a memory from grade school, a deep conversation with a good friend, a personal musing on the nature of trauma and survival.

Inspiration for writing can be that random. But also, perhaps, it is best to just give the brain a rest. And I ‘parked my head’ yesterday and tried some art in a workshop led by a friend, Morag Donald, of Crafting Your Soul.

I cannot draw. But I love visual art. I love colour. In my next lifetime, if I can actually put in a bid, I would like to be a visual artist. But we did this thing called Touch Drawing, which is really just letting your hand play with shape and space. I have not felt so relaxed in months! And the flu last month felt a bit like a brain fever, with my mental concentration gone walkabout.

 

Touch Trio

 

And this week’s poem.

The Unsolved Mysteries of the Multiverse

 

Escapee socks, uncoupled

Like train wagons

Those orphans in lonely sidings

 

One is a found object

Location known

Yet aimless and unpurposed

 

Its other is off

In some alternate space

Living an alternative story

 

Squirreled down a plughole

Or a portal, off to elsewhere

Steaming down the narrow gauge

 

But what of the remaining single sock

Discovered in the tumble drier?

Limp and lifeless

 

Who now populates the crowded compartments

Of the train

Still clattering down the line?

 

The unfound

The man that got away

The woman someone gave away

 

Somehow

The story has been interrupted

By a very important announcement…

 

Those left behind the line stories

Assemble like dusty manuscripts

Cliff hanging off the top shelf of a closet

 

The door is shut

It’s dark

But nothing is quite closed

 

The gnawing unknowing

Somewhere someone elsewhere is living

At this moment your story’s dénouement

 

Stung by the rude interruption, denied

Wondering if there will come a day

For having the courage

 

Or foolishness

Or intellectual curiosity

To do the necessary

 

Reach up, lift down

Sneeze at the dust,

Turn the pages, revisiting

 

Your story

The one that got away

Reappraise the theme

 

Snip the loose ends off the plot

Wrestle the angels of resolution to the floor

With, or without, a plan

 

Take it all back

The characters, places, problems

That disappeared like Houdini

 

Into some crack in the multiverse

But, unlike Harry, had not the trick

To come back from the fathomless

 

Having probed this mystery

Which turns out to be

Much like God

 

As the nuns once said

When evading explanation

It’s a mystery!

 

Call it your personal myth

Make us cry. Make us laugh. Make us clap.

You are the wonder of this tale

 

©Bee Smith 2018

On the Threshold Hovering

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You heard of the Lost Weekend? Well, how about a mislaid month? We supposedly cross the threshold of the New Year on 1st January, but it feels like 2018 has been stalled from the start. Being post-flu, post-viral has sapped most of January of any juice; my concentration was blown and needing ten hours sleep a day can put a crimp in one’s productivity. Anything done this month feels an achievement. But it also contributes to the feeling that the threshold of 2018 has not been crossed. Anecdotal evidence collected from friends suggests I am not alone  in this observation. One friend said it felt like the old business 2017 hung over this January making it seem like a thirteen month year.

Fortunately, in Ireland we have the festival of incoming Springtime on 1st February, le Féile Bríd – Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, the old feast of the fertility goddess Brighid vanquishing her crone/Cailleach aspect and arising reborn as the youthful Maiden. Imbolc then is a liminal time, another threshold to cross and begin 2018 in earnest.

Also most fortunate, Brigid/Brighid, whether as saint or goddess, is matron to poets and other ‘makers’. So her feast is special to bards and poets, songwriters and artisans, craftspeople of every ilk or silk, and to healers. For in making and creating, we manifest cures, too.

But, back to thresholds. The cover boy for this blog is a wild cat that I have been taming this since autumn 2016 when he began to attach himself to our property. First, we gave him a kennel. Now he has a basket beside a radiator.  Building trust has been slow and painstaking – and I have the scabs from claw marks to prove it! Being formerly feral, he may never completely let go of fear. He may accept our food, love, comfort and care enough to come in from the cold. But will he be able to cast out fear enough to love us in return? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, he and The Old Dog have formed an alliance of aloofness. All they require of one another is that they share oxygen proximally. Another brick in Felix’ House of Belonging, as poet David Whyte styles it.

We all have fears, large and small, that hold us hand on door lintel, immobile. Fear separates us for love, connection and a sense of belonging. The message of St. Brigid and the Celtic goddess before her is in the English cognate within her name – a bridge. And bridges are very special liminal, threshold places. They can be windy places, vertigo inducing spaces. But they take us across to a shore, a beginning or new phase. Liminal places are ‘edgy’ in every sense of the word.

How might 1st February be a threshold place where you overcome some fear in favour of love?  Which,  it has to said, is a large part of the recipe for what Brené Brown calls ‘wholehearted living.’  How might wholehearted living feel or look in 2018? How might an early Christian abbess and proto-femininist and an ancient goddess lead you to have the courage to cross a threshold?

If you would like to learn more about some of the legends surrounding miraculous Brigid, Goddess and Saint, you can read my poems inspired by Her in my ebook  Brigid’s Way: Reflections on the Celtic Divine Feminine.

No matter how you spell her name, Brigid is the well of inspiration and the flame of purification. May it be so!

Brigit of Kildare

Here is one of my poems included in the collection, which also appears in the anthology edited by Patricia Monaghan and Michael McDermott., Brigit: Sun of Womanhood

Brigit’s Mantle

Lay me down upon your cloak –

Swaddle me. Sing to me

your secrets of always enough.

 

Lay me down upon your cloak –

Wrap me snug.  Tell me a story.

The miracle of always enough

 

Lay me down upon your cloak-

Rock me. Gently now lay me

down in the source of always enough

 

© Bee Smith, 2009. All rights reserved.