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Prayer Beads as a Path into Mystery

 

Growing up in the Protestant Church I was not exposed to the rosary, prayer beads or other tools of meditation but as an adult I have looked upon Catholic and Buddhist rituals of using prayer beads with interest, longing for a similar method of prayer that would nourish me.

 

Recently, friends of a variety of religious traditions have bubbled up with their own interest in the rosary, including former Buddhist monk and author Clark Strand who leads community rosary gatherings locally in Woodstock, NY, on-line and on the phone.

 

So, as I prepared for a ten day retreat at St Benedict's monastery in Snowmass  Colorado, I made the intention to create a Creation Spirituality rosary while on retreat. I packed a variety of beads, tools, books of quotes and other inspirations. I had been pondering this idea for months and before I left I checked in with Matthew Fox to learn about his experience with the rosary. Matthew shared his favorite meditations and exuberantly sent me on my way, quickly listing a few ways a new CS rosary could be created. What I took away from his comments, in addition to a big sigh, was a trust that I could create something naturally, there wasn't one way but many ways and I could discern what would be a meaningful practice for me.

 

And so my rosary came to be - very naturally and beautifully. Even though I brought books of quotes and inspirations, the prayers for the rosary came from my daily ritual of reading and chanting texts. I would come across a quote in my reading and it would burst through with clarity that this should be in the rosary. I discovered four quotes that became prayers for the four paths and one prayer that was meant for the separating beads. And instead of spending a lot of time stringing beads, I shortened and adapted the Benedictine rosary sold in the gift shop (see pictures). To memorize the quote or prayer, I read, sang and chanted it while I played five differently toned singing bowls. Sometimes I walked in a circle, voicing the prayer until it came more easily from memory. Then, with the newly made rosary and the memorized prayers, I took walks outside in the snow, stopping at a quiet vista to do the rosary.

 

This is where the mystery enters. Reciting the prayers as I gently touch each bead, and repeating each prayer ten times creates a contemplative mind. It is a quiet mind that lets go of thinking, planning and analyzing and creates a space for the Divine to enter; a spaciousness that invites Mystery and a deep rest in that Mystery. 

 

Most religious traditions have practices that help individuals experience the truths of that tradition. In the Creation Spirituality movement we are invited to invent and reinvent practices so that we can deeply engage with Mystery and thereby be nourished for our deep engagement with the world.  Through our times of dwelling in mystery and befriending states of non-doing and non-knowing we can emerge with the wisdom to engage mindfully and compassionately in our work, with family and in  community. In our meditative practices we can open up to the mysterious and the miraculous; to the new dreams and visions that are uniquely ours to experience and share.

  

Creating one’s own collection of prayers and memorizing them can be a deeply personal method of meditation and a portal for transformation. When I returned from the silent retreat, I shared my experience of creating a rosary with my friend Stephanie and read her each prayer (below). Growing up, she had a rich history with the rosary so the practice was especially meaningful to her. A couple weeks later she asked me to assist her in creating her own rosary as a ritual for her sixty-second birthday. See pictures of that Co-creative day and read Stephanie’s blog about it here: http://somanyblogssolittletime.com/2014/04/02/the-crones-rosary/



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During the weekend of January 16-18, 2015 I will be co-facilitating a retreat with acclaimed author and former Buddhist monk, Clark Strand.  Clark has renewed the use of the rosary in many interfaith groups. Together, we will help retreat participants craft their own rosaries during our January retreat.


Susan’s 2014 Rosary

 

(each number represents a bead)

 

1. Holy Breath Breathe through me

 

2. Path of Mystery

3. Path of Delight

4. Path of Creativity

5. Path of transformation

I honor you and am committed to your ways.

 

6. Saints and Ancestors be my guide, my protector and my inspiration

 

* 1-10 repeat

Good people,

Most royal greening verdancy,

Rooted in the sun

You shine with radiant light

 

In this circle of earthly existence

You shine so finely,

It surpasses understanding

 

God hugs you.

You are encircled by the arms

Of the Mystery of God

 

**11 (also 22 and 33)

Blessed are those who birth mercy;

They shall feel its warm arms embrace them.

 

Aligned with the One are the compassionate;

Upon them shall be compassion

 

Healthy are those who extend grace;

They shall find their own prayers answered

 

Healed are those who extend a long heartfelt breath wherever needed;

They shall feel the heat of cosmic ardor

 

Tuned to the Source are those who shine from the deepest place in their bodies.

Upon them shall be the rays of universal Love. 

 

 

 

***12-21 repeat

For whoever has learned to Love, for whoever has learned to suffer, Life is imbued with serene beauty.

 

22

Repeat bead 11

 

****23-32 repeat

Divine womb

Birther of the Universe

Fertile darkness

Bringer of light

All creation magnifies your name

 

All creation rejoices

With Mary

That you chose to be born

In her

In us

In this blessed realm of time and space

 

You come to us and

Become through us

In this evolutionary adventure of life

Divinity fleshed in a Bethlehem birth

But also in all willing souls

Who, with Mary

Consent to give birth to you

And the sacred Kin-dom

Yes, we join Mary in magnifying your blessed name.

Amen

 

33

Repeat Bead 11 and 22

 

 

*****34-43 repeat

We are not alone.

We are not separate.

Take life in. Give it back

One breath at a time.

 

44

Saints and ancestors, thank you for being my guide, protector and inspiration

 

45-48

45 Path of transformation

46 Path of Creativity

47 Path of Delight

48 Path of Mystery

I honor you and am committed to your ways.

 

49

Holy Breath, all gratitude to your holiness for the divine breath that breathes in and through me.  Amen

 

References:

 

*Quote: Hildegard of Bingen

**Adapted from Neil Douglas-Klotz:  Prayers of the Cosmos, Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus

***From the Journal of Brother Roger of the Taize Community

**** Adapted from Bruce Sanguin’s book of prayers: If Darwin Prayed, page 7

*****From Natalie Goldberg in her book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language

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The Summer Day   excerpt:  Mary Oliver  

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.   
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down   
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,   
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,   
which is what I have been doing all day.   
Tell me, what else should I have done?   
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?   
Tell me, what is it you plan to do    
with your one wild and precious life?   

from New and Selected Poems, 1992    
Beacon Press, Boston, MA