the magic of sweden’s simplicity.

i’m not sure if this was my fourth year or my fifth year of having the joy of being part of the annual camp at skeppsgården in sweden, but it doesn’t really matter. every year is exactly the same and completely different all at the same time. it’s very much like my reynolds family beach week tradition that my family in the states has had for about 29 years now.

the camp at skeppsgården was started many many years ago by the methodist church in sweden, and it is a place available for people to come and enjoy the simplicity and beauty of the swedish archipelago (islands by the sea) and the beauty of gathering with friends & family year after year. lina’s grandfathers, both methodist ministers like my grandfather, were a part of beginning this week-long tradition of renting the camp for their congregations and friends/family year ago, and the tradition and been passed on and carried down by lina’s parents and family.

skeppsgården, for lina, is that thing that has been a constant in her life for as long as she can remember (she was only 6 weeks old when she at tented her first week in 1984). and while i’ve only been a part of it for 4 or 5 years, i feel that history and connection, and i can understand it very well, because of my family’s own traditions. so, now i have my family’s beach week tradition of 29 years and lina’s family’s camp tradition – both constants in my life.

it’s so important to have these places and people and times in our lives, i believe. they give us (me) a sense of grounding. a reminder of who we are – and that, even when life changes and moves on, there is a ritual, a sacred space, a certain, special spot that touches our soul like nothing else.

so, skeppsgården has become a place like that for me. my first year there i had no idea what was going on, what people were saying, or anything about anything. it was all so, well, foreign. then, there came a few years that i “worked” the camp, seeing as i was one of the ministers that was to led some of the group discussions/worship services. and this year, after being away from sweden for an entire year, it felt as if i had come home. this year, skeppsgården was my home. i now have my own traditions, feelings, memories, and special places that are tucked away in my heart. i know the people, i can speak the language. what i am saying is, this place is now a part of me. i am not just a participant or observer, but i belong.

and that, my friends, is amazing. i give thanks, once again, for the beauty of having two places, two countries that i call home.

now, it’s time for me to finally share with you some photos of this magical, beautiful place – where life is simple and easy and all about community. enjoy!

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here’s to wishing you a sacred place (or two) of your own, where you can just be who you are, where you can connect with your soul and others, and where you can feel at one with the nature that surround you.

peace and love.

40 days in a cathedral: week 3

i did it, friends. i made it to the cathedral/basilica every day this week. being committed and following through is such a powerful feeling. there were no major personal revelations or anything, but it was a chance to experience the joy of solitude in the midst of community. let me explain…

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on monday i decided that i would head over to the little chapel off to the right of the sanctuary. it is a very intimate space, with only 4 chairs set up – two on either side of a walkway – facing an altar. there is also a bench behind the chairs. there are candles all around the little chapel, and i’ve come to understand that people use this space more than any other place in the sanctuary for individual devotion and prayer.

i must say that i felt a bit awkward walking up to the chapel, wondering where i was going to sit. i didn’t want to invade anyone’s personal space. and i didn’t want people judging me because not only do i sit quietly, but i take photos as well (obviously). anyway, i snagged one of the two chairs on the right side. there was a woman in one of the chairs to the left, and a woman at the little altar in front of her. directly to my right there were some pillar candles burning, and i hoped that i wouldn’t set the whole place on fire as i peeled off my jacket and scarf.

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i sat down in the chair and began snapping a few photos of the space. on a little kneeling bench in front of me, something caught my eye. it was a purple and white plastic rosary. just left there, hanging right in front of me. taking it as a sign, i picked it up from its place and held it in my hand, twirling the beads through my fingers as i meditated.

as i held the beads and thought about many of you, i realized that my uncomfortable-ness at being so close to others wasn’t weird or strange at all. in fact, those moments of personal solitude in the presence of others who were also having their own moments of solitude, was a powerful, bonding moment. there was a silent energy moving between us, a spirit of love and connectedness, simply because we were humans seeking silence and peace together. and then, the idea of sharing that space with others became a beautiful gift.

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the theme of a community of silent meditators continued into tuesday. when i opened to door to the basilica, i heard a voice and i realized that i entered in the middle of a service (they have daily mass around noon). i slipped quietly into a back pew and listened. it took only a few minutes before the priest began reciting the liturgy for holy communion. as a christian, i knew that i could take part, but i decided to stay in my seat. not as a refusal of this ritual, but more as a continuation of my reasoning for entering the basilica every day – for meditation and silence. it was still quite powerful to observe and quietly be a part of this community. what a great change from my regular routine.

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i admit that i began this little lenten journey with the hopes of finding some discipline within myself which would ultimately lead to some sort of transformation or growth. and i still think about that – it’s still a goal. but, ultimately, that meant that i was thinking only of myself.

on wednesday, my whole idea/purpose of this 40 day challenge changed. i entered the sanctuary and headed to the chapel to the left, the chapel dedicated to mary, mother of jesus. it’s a place where i feel the power of women – like some sort of solidarity. i sat down in a chair and before i knew it, another woman sat down right beside me in the other chair (there are only 2). we are very close to each other, and yet we never really acknowledged one another. still, it was comforting and amazing. seeing her devotion. wondering why she was there. and then, just sharing that space with her.

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it was then, in that silence as i meditated through my list of intercessions for others, that i realized something… this 40 day journey is not about me. it’s about you all. it’s about others. it’s about the fact that you and i and everyone else are all connected. it about learning to love and think of others. it’s about how to support one another – whether we know each other or not, whether we even know what’s going on with each other. it’s simply about being present with each other. in mind and in spirit.

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thursday was the first day of spring. and guess what greeted me when i walked up to the basilica? a cute little birdie landed on the church’s sign just as i passed. such a perfect greeting, i thought.

i opened the door and walked in and was struck by the complete silence. i know that this place is silent every day, but this was different. it was poignant. usually there is some murmuring going on, or people walking, or some kind of little bit of busy noise. but, today, there was nothing. utter, total silence. and it was beautiful.

i slid into a pew bench toward the back and noticed that the sun streaming in the east stained-glass windows. with the silence and the sun, today, the basilica felt like home. and my soul was filled with peace and comfort.

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friday was the total opposite of thursday. i walked in and right away saw about 6 people sitting in a back pew bench, with  – since the basilica is in the middle of downtown and is a unique architectural building, it is a popular tourist spot. there was a man standing in front of the bench talking. it was immediately obvious that it was a tour. the man spoke with a regular conversational volume, which meant that his voice carried through the entire basilica, bouncing off the round walls. and, while his voice was loud, it was not disturbing. i found my place, sat down, and enjoyed the moments. however, i was a bit distracted every now and then because the tour guide was sharing some pretty interesting information. still, i found a nice balance between focusing on my meditation and listening to the guide. more than anything, though, i was happy to share the space with others.

at the end of the week, i felt so inspired, realizing that the entire week had been one that i spent alone in the basilica; and yet, i was never actually alone. what a powerful thing it is for us to be in community with one another. thinking of you all… and wishing you a beautiful, lovely sunday.

namaste. xx

 

40 days in a cathedral: week two

“we cannot become what we want to be remaining what we are.” – max depree

lent is the time for confessions. and i’ve got a doozy…

i did not go to the cathedral one single time this week. that’s right. not once did i darken the doors of that beautiful space. but, i have some good reasons – i mean, excuses. because that’s what i need when i mess up, right? excuses. oh, screw the excuses. i admit my failures. here’s the simple truth:  i just confess that i did not go. i did not make it a priority.

here are my excuses:

  1. guests: we had german friends visiting and were all over the mountains around asheville doing touristy things all day long, so i wasn’t downtown and couldn’t get to the cathedral. but, i still took time at home, or wherever i was, and did some very focused lenten meditating and praying. i did not forget those of you whose names and wishes are on my lenten list.
  2. spring break: after the german visitors left mid-week, i could have (should have) made time to go to the cathedral, but i didn’t. i used lina’s spring break as an excuse for the interruption in my routine, or my secret reason to stay home. i still took part in lenten acts of devotion and silence, though. i promise. i did not fail completely.

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so, yes. i am disappointed in myself. but, i am also ok with myself because i did continue to read/focus/meditate/contemplate. was it as good as it should have been? no. but, it was something. i attribute this week’s “cathedral” time as being contemplative in the world – not pulling away, but being in the midst of the world. of course, that is a good thing. but, it is also not the ultimate point of a lenten journey. the idea is to pull away. and to be dedicated to that promise/challenge. to spend time alone in the wilderness. and that i did not do.

i suppose that this is the nature of journeys. everything is so exciting and fun in the beginning. everything is new and there is no lack of enthusiasm. it’s always such joy and an adventure to start something new!

but, as time passes, when it gets down to business, everything gets a little boring, mundane, and/or challenging. it’s easy to just make little adjustments and slack off. it’s easy to make excuses and forget the real intention of the beginning of the journey because it just seems too difficult.

however, if we hold on through the difficult and challenging times, there will be a time when we settle into the routine. there will come a time when we accept what is and then begin to thrive and grow. and we will realize that, because we pushed through, we will be changed.

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that’s the beauty of the lenten journey, of any journey. there is always transformation at the end for those of us who hang on and push through. oh, yes, there will be mistakes and failures. but, those are the points where we learn and grow. a journey that is easy and perfect would not actually be a journey at all.

so, i embrace my failures this week and i celebrate my accomplishments. this is my confession. i lay it down and leave it here. i need you to receive it, for there is no confession done in isolation. i ask for forgiveness from you, from the Universe, and from myself.  and i recommit myself to my original plan of devotion. lord, be with us.

onward, my friends! namaste.