Cultivating PRESENCE: Guest blog from Worktrader Emma
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and put my hand up to rest over my heart. There were 25 or 30 faces beaming at me in anticipation. I had just said I wanted to offer a song to this new sangha—I had forgotten how vulnerable and scary it would be to open my mouth and actually sing it, to teach others the song that we had sung together almost every day at the Art Monastery in Vermont.
As I channeled Raphael as song leader, I thought of what had brought me to this moment, in silent communion in the high desert of the west coast—by myself, but not alone. My voice was small but clear as I led the group in call-and-response. The first verse is a Nayyirah Waheed poem set to music:
take your time.
you are coming
—the becoming | wing
I learned this song earlier in the year, during three glorious summer weeks as a Worktrader at the Art Monastery. If you have ever been blessed with time at AM, you know what I mean by glorious: singing and silence, swimming in the river, Betsy’s crinkly-eyes smiling and beholding you around every bend, romping barefoot in the grass in overalls, cooking coconut curry squash soup while it rains outside, working in the garden and contemplating what wants to grow. In fact, I have almost no photos of my time there because I was so very present with myself, with the moment, with the land and the food I was cooking, with the other kind eyes around me, with new seeds that were starting to take root within me.
One of the first things I did upon returning home to California was to find another silent meditation retreat where I could build my practice, continue to feel that intimacy with myself and the moment, and keep the spark from the Art Monastery Project alive in my heart. During many of the invitations to sitting practice at AM, Betsy would ask, “What is your heart’s desire?”
This has since become a guiding question for me. My time at AM catalyzed a whole season of Becoming. Of desiring to make a home in my own body—to come home to myself, like in the song. What this has meant is honoring and prioritizing my creative self, visioning my heart’s desires, further exploration and building of my internal resources for peace… and to sing with other people as much as possible. When I left Vermont, I took so much home with me, it’s almost as if I never left.
I am so grateful to call the Art Monastery a home of mine, and I am even more grateful that it led me on this path home to myself. I invite you to join me in including the Art Monastery in your generous giving and give the gift of helping others on this precious path home to themselves.
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