Reflections from a Day in the 2013 Pilgrimage of Peace

Welcome O Life

08-22-2013 | Pilgrimage of Peace
Reflections on the Day by Stefan
Today and yesterday we have been together around Jesus words "I desire compassion/mercy and not sacrifice and religion." Startling words both then and now. It begins as always in the depths. It begins in the heart where compassion and mercy are born. Today we are reflecting around how this might happen through the powerful way of encounter. What capacity of heart is called for as we truly encounter another human being? What capacity of heart that brings us to a place of transfiguration?
As we reflect together on Jesus' life we see the Son of Man, the Human One who is transfigured before our very eyes. Yes, on the mountain with James, Peter and John, and ALSO ALL DURING HIS LIFE he is continually being transfigured in the encounters along the way. This vision of Jesus is a very beautiful one that sometimes escapes our eyes. Sometimes we imagine Jesus as the one who did NOT change but the gospel presents the good news that he did go through a tussling transformation as he encounters people and reality all along the way.
From the time he was very young the scripture says that he "grew in wisdom?" When did this growing in wisdom stop? When did he stop asking questions? When did he get it all together? Hmm... The good news is that right up until his final breath he was being transfigured by the many encounters he experienced.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce
Welcome O Life!
I go to encounter for the millionth time
the reality of experience
and to forge in the smithy of my soul
the uncreated conscience of the race.
Image of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Dover Thrift Editions)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Dover Thrift Editions)
By James Joyce

(Purchase from Amazon and support Friends of Silence)

We read read aloud together and reflected upon a lovely little story by Rick Fields called The Buddha and the Goddess. In it we see with humor the Buddha being transfigured through his surprising encounter with the Goddess. "Why, O Goddess do you block my way?"
Buddha and the Goddess
by Rick Fields
Thus have I made up:
Once the Buddha was walking
along the forest path in the Oak Grove at Ojai,
walking without arriving anywhere or having any
thought of arriving or not arriving.
And lotuses, shining with the morning dew
miraculously appeared under every step
Soft as silk beneath the toes of the Buddha.
When suddenly, out of the turquoise sky,
dancing in front of his half-shut inward-looking
eyes, shimmering like a rainbow
or a spider's web
transparent as the dew on a lotus flower
--the Goddess appeared quivering
like a hummingbird in the air before him.
She, for she was surely a she
as the Buddha could clearly see
with his eye of discriminating awareness wisdom,
was mostly red in color
though when the light shifted
she flashed like a rainbow.
She was naked except
for the usual flower ornaments
goddesses wear.
Her long hair
was deep blue, her eyes fathomless pits
of space, and her third eye a bloodshot
song of fire.
The Buddha folded his hands together
and greeted the Goddess thus:
"O goddess, why are you blocking my path?
Before I saw you I was happily going nowhere.
Now I'm not so sure where I go."
"You can go around me,"
said the Goddess, twirling on her heel like a bird
darting away,
but just a little way away,
"or you can come after me
but you can't pretend I'm not here,
This is my forest, too."
With that the Buddha sat
supple as a snake
solid as a rock
beneath a Bo tree
that sprang full-leaved
to shade him.
"Perhaps we should have a chat,"
he said.
"After years of arduous practice
at the time of the morning star
I penetrated reality and."
"Not so fast, Buddha," the Goddess said,
"I am reality."
The earth stood still,
the oceans paused,
the wind itself listened
--a thousand arhats, bodhisattvas and dakinis
magically appeared to hear
what would happen in the conversation.
"I know I take my life in my hands,"
said the Buddha,
"But I am known as the Fearless One
--so here goes."
And he and the Goddess
without further words
exchanged glances.
Light rays like sun beams
shot forth
so brightly that even
Sariputra, the All-Seeing One,
had to turn away.
And then they exchanged thoughts
And the illumination was as bright as a diamond candle
And then they exchanged minds
And there was a great silence as vast as the universe that
contains everything
And then they exchanged bodies
And then clothes
And the Buddha arose
as the Goddess
and the Goddess arose as the Buddha.
And so on back and forth
for a hundred thousand hundred thousand kalpas.
If you meet the Buddha
you meet the Goddess.
If you meet the Goddess,
you meet the Buddha.
Not only that. This:
The Buddha is emptiness,
The Goddess is bliss.
The Goddess is emptiness,
The Buddha is bliss.
And that is what
And what-not you are
It's true.
So here comes the mantra of the Goddess and the Buddha,
the unsurpassed non-dual mantra. Just to say this mantra,
just to hear this mantra once, just to hear one word of this
mantra once makes everything the way it truly is: OK.
So here it is:
Hey silent one, Hey great talker
Not two/ not one
Not separate/ not apart
This is the heart
Bliss is emptiness
Emptiness is bliss
Be your breath, Ah
Smile, Hey, And relax, Ho
Remember: You can't miss.
The scripture today was the story of God blazing out in the encounter between Jesus and the Canaanite woman( Mattew 15). Here is the voice of the Spirit calling Jesus to a broader, deeper vision and life.
Listen to song: Prayer of Abandonment.
Join Us August 9-25, 2013: Fifth Annual Pilgrimage of Peace
Register via email: PilgrimageofPeace2013@gmail.com 
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Join Online: 2013 Pilgrimage of Peace Online



Did You Notice in World War Z the Wall and the Zombies?

Last Week I went to a movie called World War Z. I knew it was not going to be a great film. Sometimes you just know these things. And indeed the acting was poor and the story was predictable. All except for one detail-the wall. In the story there are mass numbers of people that have become zombies. At the point of zombiehood they cease to be people. How to deal with these non-people? Hope is provided initially by one country with a solution that seems to work , at least for a while. That country is Israel and the solution is the wall. Construction of a massive wall keeps the zombies . The world takes notice and offers praise to the Israelies for a brilliant solution. Hmm... Is there a message here that goes beyond the superficial story of zombies and pure fiction? Is there also a political jab being taken here against real life Palestinians as well who are in reality kept out of Israel by a very real wall today? There is nothing made without a bias. That much is clear. Perhaps the bias here is too clear and very dangerous when we realize that the Palestinian people today have suffered disproportionately from Israeli policies that include a freshly finished wall of separation. I would like to know if others have seen this while watching the movie.


Pilgrimage of Peace 2013


I want to invite you to the Pilgrimage of Peace 2013 coming soon! From August 9 - 25 we will gather on the beautiful grounds of West Virginia in Harpers Ferry at the retreat centres of Rolling Ridge and Still Point. Together we seek peace, peace of heart and mind and peace in our world.  One thousand acres of lovely earth filled with mountain, river, woods and valley. Here we enter into a daily rhythm of song and chant, listening and mindfull speech, rest and work, story, poetry, and more...In this rhythm it is possible to experience the healing and wisdom of our lives. For the past five years each year at this time we hold the possibility of meeting one another- old friends and new- and in a sense ourselves in a new way. For many it is a time of letting go of the past and embracing the present moment as we walk into a future of possibility.

In order to welcome all we hold this gathering at no fixed cost. People with little share little and people with more share more.  We do what we can. Everyone contributes something and in this way all are welcomed at this woodland table. So come and stay for as little or as long as you wish.

One important aspect of this time is that all faith traditions are invited to come.  We listen to one another.The Christian tradition is very much at the heart of this gathering and because 'Christ plays in ten thousand places' we encourage others from other traditions to come and share their faith and experience. We learn from each other along the way...

Registration is important. We need to know when you would like to come and how long you wish to stay. Details of this sort and much more are found on the website: www.rollingridge.net and www.friendsofsilence.net  . Go to upcoming events -Pilgrimage of Peace 2013. Lindsay is glad to respond to all questions. Also, feel free to e-mail me. My e-mail is below.

I hope to see you there. I look forward to welcoming you .
Blessings and Peace,


On Light and Love...In the Midst of the Deepest Darkness


Sending you deep green, lush Irish blessings from "the waters and the wild" of Ireland! I trust you are well. I receive e-mails and FB messages from many of you and I want to say how good it is to stay in touch. Your encouragement is sustaining. Thank you.

I'm writing to you on the day of turning or the winter solstice: the shortest, darkest day of the year. But immediately following , each day receives more and more light. The ancient Celts and those megalithic peoples before them were very much aware of this moment in time, a turning point for them.A threshold and a time of wonder. Out of this darkness - light. In the midst of our deepest darkness -a light shines. Here at Ireland's New Grange, the 5,000 year old ritual site, on this day a single shaft of light enters and illuminates the whole inner chamber. Are we not this chamber? And doesn't the Celtic Christ , the Cosmic Christ shine even now in all of us?

It seems like a long time since we have been together. Living here in Ireland these past months has been a time of study, reading, writing, journaling and much reflection. In my own darkness...searching for light. Living on a relatively small island gives one a keen awareness of the mystery and powers of nature. The winds, rains, and surrounding sea seem at times to want to carry this little island away. So far we're still here with our feet on the earth.

Starting this past August immediatley after returning from two weeks at Rolling Ridge/Stillpoint in West Virginia for the Pilgrimage of Peace I began post-graduate studies in spirituality at a little college called All Hallows in Dublin. It is a fine place, a lovely little garden surrounded by a rock wall. Remember the story of the shepherd and the sleeping king and the opening in the rock wall? A very good place to think, pray, imagine and generally go inward. About twenty people from all over the world have come together here to pursue their studies in spirituality. It is a joy and an education to meet and listen to stories and perspectives from Ethiopia, Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, Myranmar, India... Deep listening to one another, one to one, and in small groups is a regular practice here, part of the program. My own focus is on Irish Celtic Spirituality. There is much to learn and being here in this ancient Celtic land of light and darkness , wind and waves, being with the Irish people, is a very good way to learn it. The Irish have much to teach us. The implications of this earthy, lyrical, imaginative and community centered way are profound both for individual and societal transformation, not to mention my own. And being in spiritual direction again is an essential part of it all. More light... more darkness...

One of the authors/teachers whom I would share with you is that of John Moriarty. He died some years ago. He was a great story teller , a philosopher and a mystic. You can check him out on youtube or find a copy of his book called Invoking Ireland ( Maybe Tom at Potter's House has a copy). But be warned- he is a wild man! At any moment he may leap off the page on you! Several of the stories that I tell now are from him. I'm coming to see these ancient stories as more than mere tales. They are ways of seeing; ways of being in the world. They take us back and in and out. Back to ancestors and earth, into depth of soul and spirit, and then outward to engage and to even re-create the world, knowing perhaps a little bit more of who we really are. By entering these stories we can re-mem-ber something of our soulful self that once lived( and still does) in harmony with wind and wave. I love these stories and look forward to sharing them with you.

Another author, full of light, whom I have encountered is Etty Hillesum. Writing at the time of the Nazi occupation in Holland around 1942 this young woman's Diary is full of insight and wisdom; a liberated and liberating companion , for sure. Especially worth noting is her capacity to always see the beautiful, the good, the meaningful . Her love of life is voracious. And her continual decision to love and to learn to love in response to the horrors of the Nazi persecution is something to take slowly, gratefully into the body, like light in the early morning.

One last name I want to share with you is that of Vaclav Havel, a shining light in the midst of a politically repressive society in the 1960s and 70's. His essay called " The Power of the Powerless" is full of the most beautifully clear and penetrating thoughts on what it means to be a free human being within the structures of any society. I heard that he died just the other day. During this season of darkness and light we honor this man who dared to shine a great light into a terrible darkness.

Each one of these authors offers us a way of responding to the ongoing violence in our society. Each one a unique path of peace and companion along the way.

The light continues to shine... The democratic risings continue to grow calling more and more people in every country to wake up and see the urgent need for economic justice and a more fair distribution of resources. Over the past few months I have been encourgaged by the Occupy movement as more and more people join in with body and soul to ask important questions and raise issues of fundamental significance. Some have criticized the movement for not having the answers and being too diverse in their concerns. But I see all this as a strength. They don't have the answers. But in their diversity they are rasing the questions of justice and equity. Essential questions. Urgent questions. And they can be very creative. I love the "mike check" they create in order for one person to speak to a large gathering. And many of them, perhaps most are from the younger generation. " And the young shall lead them..." Shall we not join in and support them in our common democratic struggle?

I look forward to seeing many of you in the U.S. this summer in retreats and workshops. Here are some dates and places:

Brigid's Circle

JUNE 30 - JULY 1
Los Angeles, CA
St. Matthew's Parish

JULY 6-8
Denver, CO
Holy Family Parish

Retreat of Song and Silence
Bon Secour Retreat Center

August 10-26
4th Annual Pilgrimage of Peace
Still Point Retreat Center
Harpers Ferry,West Virginia

The 4th annual Pilgrimage of Peace is sponsored by the Friends of Silence and held at Stillpoint Retreat Center in West Virginia from August 10- 26. This year we are creating a fund to help support those who wish to come but need financial assistance. If you wish to contribute to a solidarity fund for the Pilgrimage of Peace you can make checks to: ""Friends of Silence", memo line Pilgrimage Fund, And mail to: Lindsay McLaughlin FOS Retreat Ministry 120 Jubilee Lane Harpers Ferry, W. Va. 25425.

This year 2012 we hope to create a new CD here in Ireland. Should be ready by May. For other CDs keep in mind that you can download them at:
www.cdbaby.com/cd/sawaligur Blessed are the Peacemakers
www.cdbaby.com/cd/sawaligur2 Celtic Mass/Songs and Chants
Purchase at the Potter's House in Washington, D.C.
and Episcopal Bookshop in Memphis , TN

In the midst of these days of darkness I send you the love of my heart, dear friends, and I wish you the ever present blessings of Light at Christmas time!

P.S. A poem ,by Seamus Heaney, beloved poet of Ireland, appropriately called "Postcript":

" And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among the stones
The surface of a slate grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans
Their feathers roughed and roughling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or crestin or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Peace of Christ Always,
Your little brother,


A Call to Silence and Soul, and a Fast from Sales and Violence

Writing to you on the eve of September 11 , 2011, ten years after the horrific event that caused thousands of deaths and thousands more untold grief and suffering. As I sit here in my little room in Ireland I cannot help but wonder and reflect . After ten years it feels like many of us are still struggling to come out from behind a cloud of shock. Many are still searching themsleves to find a response that is deeper than reaction. Perhaps our very first response , as I remember it, was a clue that we can hear even now these many years later. For many of us, and I was one who was in Washington, D.C. on that day, there was an immediate and deep response. It was the call to enter the silence of the soul. We became wordless. There was no immediate reaction. Our eyes closed. Tears may have flowed. We sat. We collapsed. We felt the weight of grief and loss. We fell into soul.

I wonder how it would have been if we had remained in this soulful place for a while longer. Now, I'm speaking about those of us who lived in the United States and to those of us who formed , in one way or another, the official response to what we now call 9/11. For a moment , out of the silence, many of us asked the question: "WHY? WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?" It was a question that rose from ashes and soul. And for a moment we pondered this question in openness of heart and deeply felt grief. However, very quickly , it seemed to me, our politicians and media presented the American people with a new question: " HOW DO WE EXACT REVENGE?" In truth, the first question of why was never truly answered.

Very soon after 9/11 our American President encouraged us to " live life as normal. Go out and shop." We were instructed to return to the buying and selling that defines much of our American way of life. We were told also that we were attacked because our American way of life was " hated" and our "freedoms" were the very thing that was under attack. And that was that. Soon afterward plans were formed and executed to launch an invasion on Iraq as our response to 9/11.

In all of this , I see two very different responses and calls. The first is a call to soul and to silence. The second is a call to violence and to buying and selling. It is a huge over-simplification, I know, but there is something here that connects soul to silence. And there is something here that connects violence to buying and selling, especailly in our set priced world where everything has a set price that welcomes some and excludes others.. Furthermore, we take every opportunity to buy and sell, believing that this is at the heart of our very lives and existence as a people.

Today, on the eve of 9/11, as I receive this notice from Facebook and that e-mail offering this book, that documentary, this new CD , all about Iraq, Afghanistan, and the meaning and implications of 9/11, I am reminded of our former President's imperative to " go out and shop." There was a violence in those words not unlike today , only ten years after 9/11 when the buyers and sellers appear once again . It's like we were in the Temple two thousand years ago. Do you remember the Gospel story? In the midst of great suffering the buyers and sellers appeared there too. Then, according to the story, Jesus walks in. He sees the suffering of the people and how the sellers are taking advatage of the moment to sell their CDs, books, documentaries... This is one of the rare times when gentle Jesus flies into a rage. He becomes a wild man on a mission. His anger knocks over CD and book tables, baskets full of money, and chairs of power and prestige as he calls the people to a deeper , more soulful response- a call to prayer.

It seems to me that we are still in this Temple., this holy ground of humand suffering. It has only been ten years. Not long for those whose suffering remains raw. Can we choose a response that is counter to our consumer driven culture? Can we now join in solidarity with those whose tears are not yet dry? Can we find within ourselves a deeper response? Rather than offering them the newest CD, book, documentary, with a reduced rate or discount, can we not offer them the silence and prayers and love of our hearts? And in that silence perhaps we may find something . Something that we may have lost ten years ago when we rushed to war and onto the streets to buy and sell.

Perhaps we can . Tomorrow is Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. During the day or evening can we sit in soulful silence? Can we enter that place and be in solidarity? Perhaps for 1 hour of our day or evening. Just one hour. It will not be broadcast on any media. No bookstore will be able to sell it. No celebrity will have their picture on the cover. And can we fast? Can we fast just for tomorrow from buying and selling? Can we live our lives without this? Can we offer this as well in solidarity with the thousands who have died and with the thousands more who feel their loss?

Your Little Brother,


Each Morning, Each Evening...Into Love

Apologies for being away so long. It's been about a year. A lot has happened in all our lives. God bless us! So, without any further, I wish to invite us into a simple practice of meditation and prayer. Each morning and each evening we'll sit in silence and stillness and meditate. There's a lot of talk about prayer and meditation. I thought it would be good to make an invitation here and on Facebook and Twitter for those who wish to come together each morning and each night in the quiet. I suggest an amount of time of twenty minutes each time we sit. Some people find choosing a word or a phrase helpful as a focal point. Others do well by focusing on the breath. Others use a mantra given them or chosen. May I suggest each time that we sit for twenty minutes. However we do it, let's do it.

The idea is that we will practice stillness together in our respective places. In the stillness we learn many things. An old monastic saying from centuries ago said ," All we need to learn we can learn in the stillness of our little monastic cell." Perhaps , the most important thing we can learn is to love. Here (or there) in the silence we do indeed learn to love. For as we practice we begin to strip away illusion and violence. The illusion and violence within that prevent us from loving. As we sit in stillness, thoughts and emotions, sensations of all kinds come and go. And we let them come and go. Personally I like to use the words of Jesus on the cross -" Into Your Hands..." For me everything that comes up in meditation I offer into God's hands with these words as I return over and over again to my center. Each thought/feeling is a welcomed guest. Kinda like this: " Welcome to my house. And Farewell as you leave." There are four good guidelines here in the practice of this kind of meditation. They are the four R's of meditation:
1. Reject no thought/feeling.
2. React to no thought/feeling.
3. Retain no thought/feeling.
4. Return to your chosen word, phrase or breath.

This practice is many things. It is in reality the practice of non-violence and love. We do not react violently to anything that comes and we return in trust and love giving our attention to our chosen focus. This is indeed a powerful practice. It is practicing life.

In meditation, we begin to see more and more clearly who we are and who God is. This can be both a liberating experience and a painful one. It is a call to reality. Not escaping reality , but entering more deeply into what truly is.

There will be bumps along the way, no doubt. But let's keep on. I invite you to try this out until September 11, 2011. It seems that this is one way we can bring the realities of self, world and God together in a practical, daily way.

So, there it is. You are most invited to join a small international community as we sit each day in the wordless silence, learning what we need to learn, seeing what we need to see, hearing what we need to hear. Always be gentle with yourselves. In this way we practice peace. In this way we enter into the depths of Love.

Are ye in? Shall we go on this little journey together?

Pace e Bene,
Peace and Goodness,
Your Little Brother,


A Sudden Scream in a Public Place

Sitting in a cafe today enjoying my lunch when a sudden scream is heard. I look around and there in the corner is a young girl about 13 years of age sitting in a wheelchair, her body twisted and her head looking down and to the side. Her parents feeding her and not saying a word. Then suddenly another scream, and another. More will follow that. I sit back realizing that for this girl there are probably many screams in the course of her day. But each time she screams something in me responds. The waves of painful emotion seem to wash up against my body each time like a relentless tide. I begin to pray...for her, for me, for all of us in that cafe. Somehow , I pray, may we all feel something. May we embrace this young girl, her suffering, her parent's suffering, our own suffering, in some secret loving way . And if possible, may we communicate to her our gratitude and respect. For this person and her parents are people of courage. Perhaps, in some sense, her screaming is a reminder . It may be that our silence in the midst of all the insanity and needless suffering in this world is indeed the stranger response. God give me the courage to scream, to cry out in a public place when everything in me says -" Enough !"

Br. Stefan