A sweet gift landed in my lap. Sheila Bender, a friend and former Spirited Woman blogger asked me to cover her poetry and spirituality class at Seattle University as she prepared for a conference. I said yes months ago and felt my stomach tighten increasingly with anxiety as the class approached. I did my best to ignore it.
The truth is, only part of me worried; the rest of me knew I would revel in this combination of my favorite things: learning, students, spirituality, and poetry. I was right to ignore the worry. The students, mostly creative writing majors, were adorable, the relaxed exploration of spirituality, life-giving, and the poetry, beautiful. Leaving that first day of class, I had to restrain myself from running through the fallen leaves on the campus kicking and waving my arms in joy.
I began the class asking students to share words that relate, describe, or define spirituality to them. Some were creatively "out-there" like dog, bone, and Mia Farrow's clothes! They all inspired. I felt rich in good words after their sharing words like seeking, rest, connection, harmony, beauty, flow, awareness, rain, forgiveness, grace, infinite, mystery, zen, truth, justice, conflict, loss, growth, acceptance, imagination, listening, divine, genius, ocean, letting go, creativity. Spirited women, I bequeath these words to you. I would love to see a poster with these words in colorful calligraphy.
Sheila's syllabus contained excerpts about poetry as the language that asks the unanswerable, that cries our grief, sings in the stun of beauty, and connects us to our voice, our depth, each other, our world, to the Mystery of it all and our very life. Thomas Moore writes in his book Dark Night of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way through Life's Ordeals hat our truth is best expressed in the arts. He refers to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, The Poet quoting Emerson saying the poet "stands one step nearer to things" and "turns the world to glass." Our art makes life more readable. Moore goes on to say that "you have the capacity to be the poet to your experience." "You have to learn how to 'sum up' your experience in images that convey your personal truth." We are all poets with the voice of art. When we seek to express our experience through beauty and image, we have access to spirituality, the water of an abundant life.
The part of me that worried about subbing for Sheila I see now as an interior weed whereas I liken my "Yes!" and desire to dance after class to fields of golden wheat. I am reminded of Jesus' lessons on spiritual farming. He advised that we let weeds be for the time being lest we pull up the wheat. I ignored my fear, taught the classes in spirituality and poetry and reaped a harvest of joy. Here's to saying "yes" to our art that may show us our weeds but more importantly help us harvest the fruits of a spiritual life.
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