Episode #7 - Imagination on Luke 8:22-25 with Miri.

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I just drove a car load of teenagers to a youth retreat and now I’m recovering from a very chatty four hours in the car, posting this in a quiet space. (Aaahhh.) I love those kids.

Here’s what to expect in this episode of the podcast:

* Ro and I chat about the last week, including community lunches that have been full to the brim, dance meditation, planting seeds, forgetting about the sun, and a beautiful Devotion Circle.

* Miri guides an imagination meditation on Luke 8: 22-25. (If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 09:13)

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*Also, during the introduction, I talked about an art piece that my fourteen-year-old daughter did in response to a dance meditation this week. Here it is:

Dreamy.

Here’s the episode on iTunes. 

Here it is on Youtube.

Here’s the podcast and blog Facebook page.


I pray that you feel scads of joy this week, wherever you are. 

~ Rae

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. 

theRiver Gathering

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Last week most of us Shekina Communities people joined another 70 or so folks in Chiang Mai for theRiver Gathering, for communities like ours from all over the world. We had friends there who are living in Israel, the USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, India, Scotland, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, England and more. Folks running hostels, farm stays, ashrams, meditation spaces, mobile communities, and other creative communities.

It was beautiful to connect with so many people who have a similar heart to us, making spaces where travellers can connect with Jesus' life and teachings, in a welcoming environment. 

We sang and prayed together, had sessions and panels and interviews about life in community, rhythms and practices, sharing Jesus, mentoring volunteers, and pilgrimages. We worked out loads of creative ways to stay connected with each other and help our traveller friends meet each other too, in other spaces along their journeys. And I may have caught the travel bug again, hearing about all the amazing places and practices that these amazing people are making happen all around the world!

(a post by Ro)

 (photo by Scion)

(photo by Scion)

Episode # 6 : Lectio Divina on Psalm 126 with Rowan

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This week I’m posting from theRiver Gathering in Chiang Mai. It has been such a full week, so full to the brim with goodness and thoughts and connections that we are overflowing. 

Here’s what to expect in this episode:

* Ro and I talk a little about the gathering, including dance meditation, wrestling contests, new and old connections, and amazing worship. 

* Ro guides a Lectio Divina meditation on Psalm 126. (If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 08:30)

Here’s the episode on iTunes. 

Here it is on Youtube.

We have a Facebook page up if you want to follow us there.

May all the love and mercy you need flow freely to you and through you this weekend. Much love.

~ Rae

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free to travelers and spiritual seekers from around the world.

Episode #5 : John 14: 1-7 with Joshua

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How exciting to already be on week 5 of this little podcast. (This is Rae.) It has been a hot, sticky, busy day here in Thailand and it feels good just to take a moment to send this out. 

Here’s what to expect in this episode:

* Ro and I talk about our week, discussing Devotion Circle, a successful surprise, friends who are in town from around the world, and what is happening next week! 

* Joshua guides a meditation on John 14:1-7. (If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 08:30)

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here it is on Youtube.

We have a Facebook page up if you want to follow us there.

Many blessings for the weekend, wherever you are. Remember God’s mercy, flowing all around you.

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. 


Holy and dearly loved.

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I’ve been reading Colossians a lot lately. Over and over again. Today it’s this verse.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

Deep sigh. Going into the day with a hug all around me, loved. The sparkle in a friend’s eye when they delight in me, the cries of my children when I arrive home after being away, an arm around my shoulders, God standing behind me- what does it mean to be holy and dearly loved? Set apart, not flailing in an impossible sea. Held. Unarmed because I am already protected.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Today I put on fisherman pants and one of Chinua’s T-shirts. Then those got wet on the motorbike when I drove through a rainstorm. So I changed to leggings and a top that used to be really beautiful but is now rather faded and a little torn. Clothe myself. Put on compassion. Pull it on, really think about it, really get ready for the day with kindness like a pair of pants, with humility like my glasses that I wouldn’t leave the house without. Gentleness. Patience. I’m ready for anything now. Ready to look around the world at my brothers and sisters and really see them.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

This reminder carries the tiniest, gentlest bite. Forgive how? As the Lord forgave you. Bear with one another… how? Why? He bears with you and more. He listens when you are being a total jerk. He doesn’t walk away during your rants. So you can bear with one another. It’s possible. You just need to tap into being dearly loved…

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love is the superhero cape that you tie on last, or the cloak that swirls around you, protecting you. When you truly love someone, you smile at their ridiculously beautiful tiny human ways. You love them, you love them, you love them. When you love you enter into the warm realms, the Kingdom of God, a place so rich with belonging that everything else fizzles and falls away.

And it doesn’t mean that the warm realms don’t have hard things, hard truths. Not even belonging can keep regular human consequences away. But God will be there, and we can do all things with him in our midst.

I pray that today you know you are holy and dearly loved.

Episode #4 : Imagination meditation on the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe, with Rae

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(Rae here.)

We’ve been so busy with life but one of the gems right now is being able to guide meditation. I hope today’s meditation speaks to you.

Here’s what to expect in this episode:

*Ro and I have a short chat about life right now including rainbow salad, contact dance, city life, and being glad to be home. 

*I guide an imagination meditation based on the story of the woman who came and touched the hem of Jesus’s robe. (She was so brave.) (If you want to skip straight to this, it’s at 07:05)

Here’s the podcast on iTunes. 

Here it is on Youtube.

We have a Facebook page up if you want to follow us there.

Many blessings for the weekend. Love one another and remember that you are so, so loved.

Sundays at Shekina Garden

We love hosting our traveller friends for Community Lunch at Shekina Garden on Sundays!

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We sing and pray thanks for the food in a big circle. We feast of yummy vegetarian food (most of us take turns to cook each week, sticking to things that can be made for big groups like dal and rice, curries, soups, bean bowls, rainbow brown rice salads). I make big batches of kombucha at home each week and bring it to share. Sometimes friends bring other things to add to the meal; Michael from Wales usually brings some fresh fruit.

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Then we have a Sharing Circle, where each person has the opportunity to introduce themselves. We usually ask our friends to share a little about themselves and answer an interesting question. This week we asked people to share a story of the worst place they have slept or spent the night…there we stories of camping misadventures, truck stops, bathtubs, train station and airport floors, hitchhiking woes…just what you would expect from 50 world travellers!

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After our Sharing Circle we share chai and dessert, and the afternoon rolls on. Usually there is music, often there is dancing. Together we enjoy acro-yoga, contact improvisation, art making, handiwork, jewellery making, good conversation and of course doing the dishes.

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It is a very, very good way to spend a Sunday.

(A post by Ro)

Episode #3 of the Podcast! Imagination meditation on John 13:1-17 with Neil

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Hi everyone, this is Rachel. I hope you have had an excellent week!

The podcast is live on iTunes, so you can subscribe there if you like!

Here’s what to expect in Episode 3 of the podcast:

I tried something new this week and created this episode without any background music. We normally meditate without music. Let us know what you think about the difference. Music? No music? 

* Ro and I do an update of life around here this week, including uncles, camping dreams, housecleaning, and a quiet week.

* Neil guides us in an imagination meditation on John 13:1-17 (If you want to skip straight to this part, it’s at 08:34.) 

Enjoy!

The Youtube version is here :)

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support, which helps our communities to offer this kind of meditation and other Christ-centered practices for free. 

A Little Breath

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Here at Shekina Garden we are taking a little breath.

For two weeks we are halting most of our regular rhythms at the Garden. It is school holidays for the kids. One family is away for a holiday with visiting parents. Jazzy and his Dad Joshua need to go to Laos for a visa run. And we are preparing a Gathering for theRIVER - a whole bunch of communities like ours, coming together in Chiang Mai in a few weeks time. There will be folks coming from all over the world to think about community and faith and travel and Jesus. Just the best sort of gathering!

Soon the season here will start to ramp up, as the rains stop and the weather cools down. Already, friends are starting to return for the part of the year that they live here. We have joyous reunions with friends we see each year. And I realise the sweetness in both the seasonal friendships - where we are apart for half the year and get to catch up on each other’s very different lives; and also the friendships that go all through the year - the ones we cough with during the dry burning season, and sweat with during green season.

We all do different things when we take a seasonal break like this. Some folks like to give their homes a big spring clean (autumn/fall clean?). The kids don’t have school so there are more fun holiday-type adventures to be had. There is a little bit more time for other projects or study, creating or reading. We get together with friends for bible reading circles, or coffee, or board games.

Our regular work is so good. We love it so much! Our meditations, gardening days, meals together, devotion circles. Beautiful practices that require our full selves. But if we keep doing them all year without any break, it can feel like we are on a wheel that never stops, as Rae says. And that isn’t such a nice feeling. So before High Season is upon us, with all its energy and visitors and events, we make an opportunity to take a breath. To look around at all that has been going on. To thank God for what has been happening around us and in us. It is good to stop, and to breathe long and deep.

  (A post by Ro)

(A post by Ro)

Episode #2 of the Podcast! Psalm 119:25-32 with Chinua

Hi, Rachel here! Here’s what to expect in Episode 2 of the podcast:

* Ro and I do an update of life around here this week, including pita, a river of people, controlled fells, weeds like trees and bees with knees.

* Chinua guides us in a Lectio Divina meditation on Psalm 119: 25-32 (If you want to skip straight to this part, it’s at 07:33.) 

Enjoy!

The Youtube Version is here, if that is what you prefer. 

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. Thank you to new patrons: Alison, Maja, Kesselfam, and Susan! We're so thankful for your support!

Food Forest Glory

Hi, this is Ro writing today. I want to write a blog post about our amazing Food Forest at Shekina Garden, but I've been putting it off because how could I ever do it justice? So let me just give you a little snapshot...

This area out the back of the property, over the last year, has been transformed into a wonderland. Joshua is the mastermind and coordinator of the magical transformation happening in the Food Forest at Shekina Garden, born out of a growing love and knowledge of Permaculture and a passion for beauty and growing the food we eat.

We see caring for the earth as an integral part of our spiritual life. The Divine has gifted us this spectacular planet to care for and live off, to protect and cultivate. We look forward to the day when the whole world will be made new, and the glory of God will cover the earth! Until then, part of our work here on earth is to care for, respect, learn from, and bring back to abundance the little patch of earth we have been entrusted with. Sounds lofty, perhaps, but to me, gardening is holy work.

So to tell a little of the story so far of our Food Forest...

In May 2017 we hired a guy and a tractor to come and level the ground a little. To plough through whatever weeds had survived dry season, and mulch it all up into the newly soggy soil at the start of the wet season. (Wet season starts here in May, usually with some wild, windy lightning storms, then settling into more regular rains in June, which become daily in July and August, trailing off during September.)

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We soon threw kilos and kilos of beans and legumes into the soft wet soil to begin a cover crop of awesomeness, fixing nitrogen into the soil and blocking weed growth. Mung bean, kidney beans, pigeon pea, soy beans...

 Then came even more fun... 

A pathway to facilitate a meditative walk through the whole property had been concocted by Heather, Chinua, Leaf and Joshua as part of our Grand Plans for the whole of Shekina Garden. Paths through the soon-to-be Food Forest were laid out by Leaf and Joshua.

Five banana circles were dug and planted. 

Tapioca and mulberries and citronella and lemongrass were propagated. 

Trees were planted! So many kinds! Lemon and orange and lime and mango and cocoa and jackfruit and mangosteen and guava and coffee and pomegranate and Jamaican cherry and dragon fruit and papaya...so many papaya.

Whole coconuts sprouting new growth which will take years to grow into huge palms and bear fruit. 

I sprouted a baby moringa tree from seed that our friends Brian and Katie gave us, and it's grown about 12ft in the last 12 months. 

To protect our baby avocado tree we created an Avocano! An avocado volcano!

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We planted and propagated all last wet season, then watered and watered all through dry season to keep things alive. Then this wet season everything has absolutely exploded with life. Every shade of the colour green imaginable. I tell our friends that it's a magical fairy land. And it really is. Wild bees have started a little comb on a tree. Butterflies are in abundance and the soil is full of fat, happy worms.

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We've also added aloe vera, pineapples, Thai basil, cannas, Mexican sunflower, sweet potato, zinnias, Queensland arrowroot, turmeric in abundance...and so many more species that are edible and/or medicinal.

I brought dozens of marigold seedlings from my garden at home and planted them along one section of path. 

From one small comfrey, carefully brought from afar, Joshua has spread comfrey plants all over.

Plans for how we can incorporate seasonal foods growing on our property are becoming part of our conversations and dreams for Community Lunches. To feed our traveller tribe fresh organic food from our own gardens - bliss!

Low benches are being made in little shady spots where a couple of people can sit and have a chat together.

Hand-painted signs and bible verses can be found in various nooks.

A plan for a labyrinth is afoot.

Plans for two small bungalows are being drawn up, so that travellers who want to do a dedicated Jesus Retreat with us can stay onsite.

Mmm, really I can't do justice to the loveliness which is this little patch of land at the back of Shekina Garden. You'll just have to join us one Thursday for Community Gardening Day and get your hands dirty with us, to fully appreciate it! Consider that an open invitation!

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Episode # 1 of the podcast! Psalm 32:1-5 with Ro

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(Rachel here.)

Well, this is exciting. We've been dreaming of offering recorded meditation for a long time, and here we are! In this episode:

  • We have a brief introduction, talking about a few things we've been up to around here.

  • I give a short introduction to some of the points of meditation.

  • Ro guides us in a Lectio Divina meditation on Psalm 32 :1-5. (If you want to skip straight to that part, it starts at 07:30.)

Enjoy!

The Youtube Version is here, if that is what you prefer. 

***

The podcast will always be free, but you can support us on Patreon.com and get extra audio each month. We're so thankful for your support!

Announcement: Our podcast is on its way into your earspace!

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Oh, hello! This is Rachel, stumbling out of the jungle of life to say HELLO and tell you about exciting things in our future. After years of dreaming about it, we are starting a meditation podcast, featuring guided meditation recorded specifically for the podcast or live from our morning meditation sessions at Shekina Garden.  

If all goes well and the creek don’t rise (quite literally, the Pai river is full to the brim) we will be sending Episode 1 of the Shekina Meditation Podcast into your airwave space (I don’t exactly understand how that works) on Friday! Yes, on Friday, this coming Friday. We will be posting weekly! All our podcasts will be totally free, but we do have a Patreon account set up if you want to support our communities through this venture, as well as get extra audio each month.

We hope that these recordings will be a resource for those who are interested in having Christ-centered meditation in their lives, either for personal practice or in small groups. And we’re so happy to share what we have learned about meditation in the presence of God. 

The Unseen Path of Faith

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We begin by laying on the floor of the saalah, letting our bodies sink onto the cool concrete.

Placing our hands on our bellies, we breathe deep and take a moment to arrive at this morning's Movement Meditation. A special practice, a time to connect with the Divine. With the creator of our amazing, intricate bodies.

Our focus this morning is on this verse from the Sacred Scriptures:

The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Our guide, Naomi, reads this verse again and again during the Meditation, letting the words sink deeper and deeper.

We slowly begin to stretch and move, as soft rhythmic music flows around the saalah. We take up space. We squeeze ourselves into little balls. We play and stretch like little kids.

Naomi suggests that we slowly make our way to standing. She describes to us the image of walking a slack-line or tight-rope, and we all begin to pretend to walk, on unseen lines, around our space. Some close their eyes, some walk backwards or on all fours.

We are using our bodies to go deeper into the concept of faith, of walking a spiritual path which we cannot see. Of believing in the unseen.

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

What does it mean to walk a path we cannot see? How do we journey with the concept of faith, or trust? We walk and move and meditate, enjoying the experiment - how do our bodies and our souls interact?

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

Later in the meditation, we are guided to create a figure-8, or 'eternity' symbol with our hands. Following the music, we create this shape with our shoulders, hips, or feet. We dance our own dance around the saalah, not caring what others think of us or our movements, just free in the moment to dance with the eternal Divine.

I begin to trace the eternity symbol on my body. With my forefinger, I write eternity on my hands, my arms, my chest, my belly, my legs. The verse comes to my mind:

...God has placed eternity in the hearts of humankind... (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

and I imagine God's hand tracing eternity over my heart. In my heart. The concept of forever and ever, beyond what I can see or imagine.

I keep tracing. On my feet and toes. On my face. A big, swooping eternity symbol over my eyes... 

'Christ, be over my eyes today. May I look on people with compassion.'

I trace a small eternity symbol over my lips...

'Jesus, May my words today reflect you. Help me speak loving words. Words of grace.'

I think of another verse, from Jesus' prayers in the biography by his friend John:

...I am in you and you are in me. (John 14:20b)

The eternal Christ lives in me! I am hidden with Christ in God! As I continue to trace the shape again and again, I consider this deep, deep mysterious truth.

"The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

Eventually, we again make our way to laying on the cool floor. We breathe deeply. We consider the eternal Christ. We consider his presence with us here and now. 

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Then we sit in a circle and drink ginger lemon honey tea, and share of our experiences of the morning's Meditation.

I am thankful for this practice. For the space and the music. For my sister guiding us with gentle prompts and ideas for movement. For other seekers and wanderers to walk this Path with. This Unseen Path of faith.

 

(A post by Ro)

Floods

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me." -Psalm 42:7

 

On Saturday morning, after a night of apparently light rain, the Pai River was unsatisfied to stay within its banks. It broke free, rising a meter and a half, rolling over fields and grassland, huts and motorbikes. The pretty green lady river became a raging, muddy monster, freaking many people out of their wits. It didn't take any lives.

The water flowed into Shekina Garden, and, stronger than we could have imagined, picked up big things and small things, carrying them from one side of the garden to the other, or taking them away completely. It knocked our fence down and plucked out our flowers. It pulled our garden beds apart and ripped up the seeds I had just planted. It destroyed our beans and some of our trees. It brought us many chili plants from another place. It displaced angry fire ants, now looking for revenge. 

The flood also came into Brendan and Leaf's house, creeping up the walls of their downstairs room, destroying precious things. It swept their neighbor's bamboo house away, and covered their motorbikes. It swept the little fish that Isaac named Steven (?) out of his bowl and into a big, wide world. (Leaf says that Steven swam all the way back to the pet store and she and her little daughter Ruby are going to go and pick him up there.) 

When the water went down, everyone could see the feet and feet of fine mud everywhere. The garden is no longer the rich green of this season, instead it is brown, brown, river mud brown. 

I was away when the flood happened, and I didn't get back until a few days ago. Today I went to the garden for the first time, and I saw a changed place. I was in Chiang Mai on a work retreat, trying to get World Whisperer 2 ready for publication and World Whisperer 3 written, and decided to stay rather than turning around and coming back home. I'm not sure it was actually such a good idea, in hindsight. I drove around and cried. I walked around and cried. And perhaps being away made it more sad, because I was alone and anxious. When I went to the garden today, all I could see was what it didn't take.

Here's what the water didn't take: our carefully made earth walls. Josh's precious comfrey plant. The songbooks I made by hand. Or really, the garden itself. Because Shekina Garden is the physical representation of an idea: that we can live as a group of Christ followers in the world and in living out our faith, form a loving community of people in different points in their path toward God, existing in the circle of Jesus's love. It didn't take Brendan and Leaf's hospitality when it hurt their home, it didn't take Rowan's playfulness or Neil's mad scientist obsession with fixing electronic equipment, even when it has been submerged in water.

I look around and see pictures of the love, the play. Josh digging trenches, Chinua throwing people in the mud, Heather upending a bucket of mud over his head, Naomi watching our kids so he could help while I was away (crying and trying to work). It reminds me that community is always better. That adversity can't hurt community. People have rushed to help, cooking and digging through the piles of stinking mud to cart debris away. 

We are warmed, we are loved, we are resilient. Pray with us as we look for ways to help others affected by the flooding.  And thank God that the flowers will grow again. They can't help it, in soil this fertile with love.  

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life." -Psalm 42:8

Neither of these images are mine, and this post is cross-posted at journeymama.com

Gardener's Paradise.

It was our own form of shopping spree and we were in heaven. 

“It’s gorgeous… I’ll take four,” is a phrase that doesn’t come out of my mouth very often. Nor do I exult in shopping sprees. Except, unless… I am in the Kamthieng Market, a blocks long garden market in Chiang Mai. Basically, shop after shop has the most gorgeous plants and trees and flowers for sale. It is a hippie’s paradise. We could have spent days there, but we limited ourselves to a few hours, roasting in the hot sun, (Leaf and I bought sombreros to keep our heads cool) while Brendan kept the kids in the air conditioning at the Tesco Lotus nearby. He watched as the kids played in the playground and stormed the arcade. We, meanwhile, stormed the garden market, determined to make the garden of our dreams.

“Avocado trees?” 

“Yes, let’s take more of them!” 

“What about these wildflowers?”

"We have to have pomegranates!"

“Let’s get three kinds of mango tree.”

“What are lamyai?” “Oh, they’re small fruit, really good. Let’s get one!” 

The enthusiasm was crazy. I quickly took photos of all the little trees, labeling them in my phone so we wouldn't forget which was which.

We are planting trees at Shekina Garden, and for the first time ever, all of us in our little community got on the curvy, sick-making bus ride to go to Chiang Mai so that we could buy trees together. We piled into the back of a song taew, which took us through the city to the market. Plants. Flowers. Heaven. We bought a lot of fruit trees that will take years to bear fruit. We bought climbers and ten crepe myrtle trees to stretch along the front of the garden, blocking the view of the new resort that is being constructed directly opposite us. (One day—the crepe myrtles are still pretty short.) When we got home I found a nursery in my yard, trees upon trees. We have planted many of them and every Friday, during gardening time, we plant more. Planting trees is always good, always right, and doing it together is a lot of fun. And a lot of work, but what beautiful work. 

(This post was cross-posted at Journey Mama)

A Thin Layer

The evenings have been otherworldly, lately. A drape of thin cloud hangs over the valley, and as the sun goes down, the clouds pull the light into them, refracting a golden glow onto everything you can see. An extra bit of brilliance just before the light disappears, like a thousand invisible lamps being turned on at once. We were sitting in the sala at Shekina Garden yesterday, finishing up with meditation, bamboo leaves rustling in a strong breeze. Brendan began riding Nay’s bicycle in circles around the garden, testing it or something, I never did find out.  “It’s like the Wizard of Oz,” our friend Beau said. “And look, he’s riding a bicycle out there.” Brendan did make quite a sight, green and golden in the weird light, cycling on the grass. 

We were drinking kombucha and I felt the kind of happy settledness that meditation brings me. We lingered, the light keeping us there, our little conversations blinking on and off. We talked about light therapy and skateboarding, and then I told some stories about the Catholic shrines in Goa, out of nowhere, related to nothing. Snippets of memories. Leaf and I walked back over the bridge together, then lingered longer beside the river, talking. We meant to head in different directions, but we were caught there, talking by the river, as the light got dimmer and dimmer and finally it was gone before I even pulled away, my headlights guiding me along the narrow street. 

Earlier in the day we had looked at land, dreaming of a future with a bigger retreat center in it. Chinua is recording everything lately, every moment, so I drove while he held the video camera and we followed Brendan and Leaf on their red motorbikes, which are forty years old and aptly named Big Red and Little Red. It was all ridiculously photogenic—Brendan with his waist-length dreadlocks and Leaf with her brilliant hair on these old, beautiful bikes. They drove side by side and chatted. Chinua filmed it all. (Filmed? Is there a different word for that these days?) 

I left quickly when I realized I was late for my afternoon tea with my friend Rowan Tree. Ro and I ate cake. We ate too much cake, the pieces were twice as big as we thought they would be. I offered Chinua some when he wandered into the café later and groaned that he couldn’t go anywhere anymore without bumping into us. He looked at me suspiciously. We are competing to reach our weight goals, (people still ask me if I’m pregnant, nearly every day) and we have been known to offer each other food as a weapon because we both want to win. But I really just wanted him to enjoy the cake with me and eat it because it was too much. He took a bite and disappeared. Ro and I talked about learning Thai and how it can be an obsession, words tumbling over each other in your brain until you think you will go crazy. I was nervous about guiding meditation because I’ve been using up a lot of my courage lately and it seems to be finite, though rechargeable. I’m not usually anxious about guiding meditation but this time I was and Rowan Tree set me at ease as she clutched her stomach and groaned “I ate too many snacks…” 

We went to my house and I finished making dinner so it would be ready while I was away and Josh was watching the kids. Once the salsa was made and the lettuce was cut, we rode off to sweep the floor of the meditation space and put the mats out. Our friends began pulling up one by one on their scooters and the sunlight slipped further along the red floor as we settled in a circle and began. 

God is our refuge and strength.

Sometimes there is difficult work to do in community. I think this particular group of friends has fooled me away from my firm belief that community is a kind of suffering. I start thinking it is all fun and games and playing in the mud and get careless. But in talking about what really matters to us and digging to find each other and dream together, a wild fear of being seen or unseen, changing beyond recognition or being misunderstood can rear its head. 

A very present help in trouble.

Past days, memories and fears and stumbling, clumsy love can make me retreat into myself, can tempt me to isolate myself. Maybe you are the same. But as soon as we try to run from the knife of suffering, the iron of community, we give up on the depth and truth of love. It is the same in marriage, in parenting. We flinch away from pain, but suffering guides us to new depths of understanding. We learn more of what God is doing as he writes his story among us. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…

We sat in the circle together, our minds close and far away, and birds sang above us, and one shrieking cicada tried for all our attention. 

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.

The evenings have been otherworldly, lately. A drape of thin cloud hangs over the valley, and as the sun goes down, the clouds pull the light into them, refracting a golden glow onto everything you can see. 

*From Psalm 46

This post was cross-posted at Rae's blog: Journey Mama.

Building Walls Together

 Everyone gets into it, from big to small.

Everyone gets into it, from big to small.

I finally borrowed some photos from a new friend who is visiting for a few weeks, so all but this first one are Josh’s photos- thank you so much Josh! When I went to look at what Chinua had taken of wall-building, I found, egad, that it was all video. On the unedited video I watched I saw myself make this statement: “I’ve never been happier than I am building these walls.”

What can I say? It has been a lot of work for a lot of days, and I have made mistakes and floundered a little, but sitting there in the afternoon at our beautiful garden space, the trees on the hills in the distance slowly turning red, using our hands to grab mud, smoothing it in between the bamboo lattice of our wall—oh, I am truly happy as I tell the wall that I love it and the wall tells me that it loves me too, somehow in Ro’s creepiest voice.

(There is a cast of characters that has come riding into our lives on white horses, singing loud songs. We are smitten with them, and their names will litter these pages from here on in. Get ready.)

But the mud, the mud. We take earth, beautiful red earth, and we add water to it, smoothing it and stomping it with our feet until the hard bits are gone and it is the loveliest soft mud. The kind that Kenya desires to swim in, and does. Then we add a lot of straw and rice husks and stomp more and more and more until we all fall over because mud stomping is very tiring. But what we end up with is something very pliable and soft and buildable, with long strands of straw that catch on the bamboo lattice and hold the whole thing together. 

And then we build, taking handfuls of it and moving up the walls. Neil coined the term “poo-shaped slug” to describe the shape of the mud that we form to push into the wall, and soon after the words poo-shaped slug came into our lives, a song was created, and that song worms its way through my mind for days and hours on end.

 Sometimes Little Gem and Leaf come along to brighten our lives. One time Leaf stomped mud with us and it sucked two of her toe rings off, so we have silver in our walls as well.

Sometimes Little Gem and Leaf come along to brighten our lives. One time Leaf stomped mud with us and it sucked two of her toe rings off, so we have silver in our walls as well.

Travelers come to help us build and we initiate them into the methods of building. There is a lot of laughter. And the golden light moves across the hills and our hands are in the dirt and it’s rather hot in the middle of the day and the sun feels good on our backs. And I feel so blessed to be doing this work— I wake up thanking God for it- this work, this community, the hills and the future garden plans and the wide sky that surrounds us. 

(This post was cross-posted at Journey Mama)

A light has dawned. (Late Christmas Post.)

On Christmas Eve we had gatherings in two countries. Miriam and the community in Goa made a beautiful circle and dinner there, and here in Thailand we made a circle as well, and we ate and sang and shared together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We passed a light around the circle, which has become a tradition, lighting each candle from the candle next to us and sharing what has been a light to us in the past year. The kids joined in and some of us scrambled to keep everyone safe, but it was beautiful.

There was so much food, there was music, we sang carols, and many travelers found their way to us throughout the night. I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas, I love to welcome in those who don’t have a place to celebrate, and it's beautiful to eat and sing and be together. 

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas. I’m excited for this gift of a New Year! Who can tell what it will bring?