Keeping Green with Hildegard of Bingen

“O, You who are ever giving life to all life, moving all creatures, root of all things, washing them clean, wiping out their mistakes, healing their wounds, You are our true life, luminous, wonderful, awakening the heart from its ancient sleep.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard has been called one of the most important women of her age, and described as the “Sibyl of the Rhine” for her wisdom, and influential writings. She was born in 1098, but has been rediscovered in the last 40 years, and a flurry of books, articles and films have generated a passionate group of admirers for this German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. Hildegard seems almost contemporary in her thinking, and is a fore-mother of eco-spirituality. Her music and art have inspired wide audiences, and her spiritual writings are uplifting, challenging and deeply comforting all at once. She was no stranger to controversy, and like her contemporary, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hildegard was a woman of substance. She traveled, corresponded with great leaders, theologians and thinkers of her time, founded monasteries, suffered terrible headaches and illness, and came through it all with a graceful reliance on God. Hildegard was an unflagging advocate for every human person to develop their God-given talents. She spoke her mind, and did not hold back because she was a woman, not even drawing back from rebuking the pope, and the emperor when she felt that it was needed. We will dip into her fresh and nearly modern writings, explore her positive spirituality which focused on the “greening” of the soul, and have quiet time to rest and reflect. Imagine the refreshment of spirit to be gained from spending a retreat with Hildegard, who said “The earth of humankind contains all moisture, all verdancy, all germinating power. It is in so many ways fruitful.” Together we will hope to participate in the fruitfulness of this extraordinary woman.

A Woman is Like a Teabag: Poems for Grace and Feminine Energy

Someone wise compared women to the tea that gets plunged into hot water…the hotter the water, the stronger she gets! As women, we shoulder a large load — family needs us, jobs depend on us, chores call to us, others pester us, daily “disasters” unnerve us. We “do it all” with grace and appreciation for our blessings, but sometimes it helps to let our feelings fly — to complain, give thanks and say “Are you kidding me?!”

In this program, we reflect on poetry written by and about women, share our stories and pull strength from one another. This gathering gives us permission to praise ourselves, laugh at ourselves, feel sorry for ourselves, and relish in our own strength, regardless of what life sends our way.

More than Baking Bread: Untold Stories of Women and the Word Revealed

What was the world like for our foremothers? Things sure were different then!

This gathering offers fascinating insights into the lives of well known and little-known biblical women — Eve, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, Miriam, Priscilla, Junia and others. During our encounters with these women, we learn of their struggles and triumphs, and uncover the parallels in our own lives through reflection and discussion. Their stories, strength and courage provide a rich experience and offer a new perspective to the role of women in the Bible…and present-day life.

Women in Scripture, Women Like Us

Reflecting on our own lives through joyful meetings with women in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures finds us face to face with the moving stories of Sarah, Hannah, two headstrong midwives, an ideal wife, Mary Magdalene, Priscilla, a woman bent double, a widow of Nain, and a woman suffering chronic illness. Time together and time alone, journaling, slides, music and prayer create a rich experience through which these women can make their mark on our lives. These are flesh and blood companions for our journey.

Your Life Quilt: Spiritual Growth for Women

Women have always known how to piece and stitch, cut and join, mend and imagine. The art form of quilting has been a means of self-expression for our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers — what of ourselves can we discover in the making?

This retreat explores quilting as a metaphor for personal growth and an aid to connecting with generations of women who understood better than many of us how to “sit and take time” for centering activity. We’ll hear the voices of women quilters, past and present, as we discover our own ways to pattern our life quilts. This is a program filled with humor, strength and good old-fashioned sisterhood! It can be structured as a mini-retreat of 3 hours, or an overnight event, as time permits.

Meeting God Through Rumi

Rumi has been described as the “most popular poet in America” and his poetry is truly wisdom for the ages. This mystic believed passionately in music, poetry and meditative dance as a path to God. This is characteristic of Rumi’s loving challenge: “This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and attend them all…”

During our “spiritual journey” through Rumi’s poetry, we also may turn towards truth, grow through love, abandon our egos, and arrive at God. We join Rumi as seekers, and return to our everyday lives with greater maturity, open hearts and a deeper call to loving service to all creation.

Poetry and the Spirituality of Transformation

Thomas Merton said that we must continually be converted, and we take up this theme of holy alchemy during this special mini retreat. We’ll reflect and pray with selections by Roethke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Rumi, and Mary Oliver – poems that will forever enrich your life. With Robert Francis, we’ll open up to a Summons – “Keep me from going to sleep too soon/ Or if I go to sleep too soon/ Come wake me up.” Hear the soul’s entreaty to wakefulness!

Poetry and the Spirituality of Personal Endeavor

We spend most of our lives working – caring for family, earning a living, devoting time to our homes’ upkeep. This mini-retreat helps us to bring new meaning to what we do without thinking…the countless tasks that add up to a meaningful life. We’ll discuss Marge Piercy’s To Be of Use, and we’ll be challenged by Ron Padgett in Think and Do – a little jewel of a poem aimed at those of us who tend to run through life!

David Budbill urges us to grab onto the “Shining Moment in the Now” and, with God’s help, we’ll get better at that together. Make this time for reflecting on human endeavor in many forms into a gift of integration of the parts of ourselves that we take for granted, or in which we neglect God’s presence.

The Angle of Repose

Earth, screed, mulch – when poured out of a truck – all collect in a heaped up cone with a predictable shape, because they settle into their rest according to “the angle of repose”. This is the maximum angle at which they will remain without sliding further. People have angles of repose as well, and exploring them together in prayer and poetry can be a precious thing. We look at poems including Job (our biblical hero re-examined), Lifer, Notes from the Other Side, and Advice to Myself….for an unforgettable mini-retreat.

Finding the Sacred in Poetry

As William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack of what is found there.”

Together, we explore the themes of Wonder, Refreshment, Longing and Redemption through the power of poetry by Hopkins, Rilke, Dickinson, Yeats, Mary Oliver and some not-so-famous voices. As past participants have expressed, you will “find a kinship with poets you had no idea about,” “see how poems are food for journaling and prayer in a new way,” “recognize and integrate little known parts of yourself,” and “see God in poetry in a fresh, passionate way!”