Reflections on the Healing our World through Contemplative Practice Conference – by Julie Elliot

As promised in the previous blog, I’m continuing with sharing a recollection/learning from the presenters Dawn Kilarski, Judith Burch, Kurt Schwarz and Shelly Manley-Tannis.

~ I was grateful to be part of the Gurdjieff movements led by Dawn Kilarski. The movements are designed to keep us awake and I certainly experienced that under Dawn’s leadership. It’s impossible to follow along and have a wandering mind! Dawn has a gift for introducing the movements in a simple way while at the same time adding complexity for those who are ready. She does this by showing the added movement while saying, “If you have room…” This feels like a good way to look at the inner work. I ask myself, “Do you have room… for more depth, more practise, more love?” Thank you Dawn for getting us out of our chairs – out of our mind centres (only) – and into our bodies.

IMG_7994 2~ Judith Burch was very clear that the world needs contemplatives and the world needs us to be all we can be. How do we do that? I was inspired by her story that was shared in an honest, direct and open way. As a contemplative she says, “ I constantly ask what’s my experience? When I’m uneasy I ask for help to know what I need. I pay attention to how my Spirit is doing and then I take the medicine that in this moment feels right; the antidote for when I feel numb or constricted.” Thank you Judith for sharing your antidotes. Over the rest of the conference, we created a drawing of our own antidotes for healing ourselves and our world. Double click on the image to read the medicine bottles.

~ What can you do with small groups of people who are all holding a single leaf? Well, if you’re part of an exercise led by Kurt Schwarz you can do something truly amazing! Kurt invited us to use our leaf and take about 5 minutes to come up with an action that would express the spiritual practice of letting go. I enjoyed the discipline of having little time because our group was energized to quickly grasp the essence of what we wanted to express. And what a profound gift to watch each group’s expressions of letting go in different and creative ways. I was reminded that you don’t need complicated props, scripts and loads of time to create something original and beautiful. Throughout the morning, Kurt shared other rituals and practices and they all built on this theme of simplicity and the fact that less is more when it comes to the contemplative life.

~ Shelly Manley-Tannis led our evening worship each day of the conference. She thoughtfully gathered prayers, music and reflections that rounded out our days and allowed time and space for our own integration. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Shelly was to create a worship service about the healing power of laughter and humour. It must have been daunting to gather us in a circle and explain that tonight we’re going to laugh. Shelly did it! We quickly knew that laughter is infectious and Spirit was alive that night in chapel even though “my karma ran over your dogma.” Thank you Shelly for your sense of humour, care and attention throughout the conference.