ITEM: Albuquerque faces wellness issues in its underground aquifer: a Kirtland Air Force Base fuel spill has contaminated the city’s underground stream.
ITEM: For two centuries, Hispanic and Native American pilgrims have sought help from El Santuario de Chimayo during pilgrimages to this mountain hamlet in northern New Mexico.
ITEM: On October 5, Fr. Francis Dorff led a room full of pilgrims at the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid in south Albuquerque on an “inner pilgrimage to the underground stream” at a Meditative Writing Retreat. This is how one of those pilgrims learned how meditative writing helps quench his thirst for self-knowledge and spiritual direction.
In our all-day pilgrimage, during which we employed meditative writing exercises to journey through the “well of ourselves” to the underground stream of communing that flows beneath every religion at interpersonal depths.
Our guide, who wrote the excellent Simply Soul Stirring: Writing as a Meditative Practice (and seven other books on living spiritually.), who is a specialist in the holistic depth psychology of Ira Progoff, and who is the Spiritual Director of Albuquerque’s Norbertine Community at 5825 Coors Blvd. ( a 900 year old Roman Catholic religious order of priests and brothers living a simple communal life), has been leading enriching one–day meditative writing retreats that guide the participants through the process of meditative writing on their path to wellness. He uses the metaphor of a pilgrimage to which the other twenty-some participants and I find useful, even some of us are not practicing Catholics.
Pilgrimages are defined as “long journeys, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion to the relics of some deceased saint,” are perhaps the most powerful rituals performed by religious members of many religions, including the Catholics, Incas, Buddhists, Muslims, and Mayans,. Most religions prescribe a pilgrimage of some sort, and pilgrims often return from their sacred journey with a new sense of self, a reaffirmed religious identity, a new outlook on society, and a strong social solidarity with others of the same faith. In addition, pilgrimage carries pilgrims into the holy land, where, in the past, prophets received revelations from God and performed miracles, and/or where important religious figures performed unequaled acts of piety.
This was one of monthly retreats (the writer’s third) using meditative writing practice and the theme “Celebrating the Prophetic Vision of Vatican II” that pays homage to recent changes in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, a Jesuit, a Latino, and, and a pastor, has expressed his preference for Vatican II’s image of the church as the people of God, as will as a more expansive, extroverted church that must be “the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.”
Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, a noted author and speaker, is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, has said, “Up to now, Catholicism has largely emphasized metaphysics (“what we think we know”) and has severely neglected epistemology (“Exactly how do we know what we think we know?”). Francis is not so much telling us what to see (which our dualistic minds will merely fight and resist) nearly as much as teaching us how to see and what to pay attention to.” Which brings us to the power of meditative writing.,
Each of these retreats has a different focus but they all share the Pilgrim Process that everyone who goes on pilgrimage experiences. What we experience on pilgrimage is different for each of us, but how we experience it is shared by all,” said our guide. “In the process, you will experience yourself as a person on pilgrimage and deepen your experience of writing as a meditative practice.
The Method Father Dorff led us in a process that included coaching, readings, guided meditations, journal writing, and discussions. Each series had its own theme and goal: (1) “Feeling the Movement of One’s Life”; (2) “Where Am I Standing Now?” (3) “Entering the Well of the Self”; (4) “”My Spiritual Stepping Stones”; (5) “My Mantra”; and (6) “Sharing the Underground Steam with Others.” We are asked to meditate on, receive what we find, and record the answers to such questions as:
- Where am I standing now on this pilgrimage?
- What is the next step? (needed to reach my goal)
- Who are the wisdom figures in my life?
- How do I feel when I read what I have written in my journal?
- How can I overcome and clear the muddy waters in my well caused by events in my past?
- What are the common depths in the underground stream that all faiths point to?
- What are the parts of the bridge between another’s faith and mine?
Upcoming monthly meditative writing retreats at the Norbertine Community include:
- November 7: The Inner Pilgrimage to the Chapel in our Hearts (“In this pilgrimage we journey through the darkness of our lives to the chapel hidden in our hearts and are invited to live our whole life from there.”)
- December 7: The Inner Pilgrimage to Deep Unity (“In this pilgrimage we experience the deep unity of the Star of David and the Cross of Christ and how a New Creation of Peace and Justice comes from living in the light of this experience.”)
- February 1, 2004: The Inner Pilgrimage to the Tree of Life (“Without using any biblical words, this pilgrimage leads us through the movement that underlies the whole Bible. It takes us to the taproot of the Tree of Life and lets us experience the flowering of the TreeCross that comes from there.”)
- March 6: Living Creatively in a Broken World (“This pilgrimage explores the pathway that leads us from suffering to service.Most of us know this pathway only too well but we may never have considered it as a meditative pilgrimage. This retreat helps us to do just that.”)
All retreats take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey. Lunch is included in the $55.00 offering per retreat. Registration is required. Call 505-873-4399 or email MAshcroft@norbertinecommunity.org to register for retreats.