“It was both validating and freeing. And now, as I’m out exercising listening to my favourite praise and worship songs, I feel closer to God than if I were to be reading the daily verse on my Bible app first thing when I wake up in the morning…”

 

When I opened instagram and started listening to the voice notes that contained the above words, I instinctively placed my palm over my heart; a gesture I often do when I’m soaking in a sweet moment of gratitude. The gesture often feels like the physical pairing to the phrase ‘treasuring it in my heart’– an embodied response to the words playing from the iphone sitting on my desk.

 

These words, like (vegan) honey to my soul, came a couple weeks after sharing two workshops virtually at the Cultivate women’s retreat…

 

Cultivate is a group for women in Winnipeg, Manitoba that does monthly small group gatherings over a two year curriculum, connect groups, and an annual women’s retreat. I first joined Cultivate in a small group monthly gathering, then had the opportunity to co-lead a group until we moved to Tennessee last summer. While being a part of the groups was a delight, being able to share my developed skills and areas of passion was always the biggest joy. 

 

The first retreat, I shared an imaginative prayer session where we entered into the story of the woman at the well, imagining ourselves in the story and noticing what it was like for us to be there, to witness, to engage in the story in this new way. The second year I shared a chair yoga practice on the theme of Being Present where we talked about embodiment, our image of God, contemplative prayer, and ended in a soaking meditation. Along with bookmarks designed for the retreats, being able to share with this group has stirred such delight. 

 

This year, even though I am no longer in Winnipeg, Cultivate reached out to see if I would be interested in sharing two virtual workshops with them at their annual retreat. Their theme, Journey, sparked their interest in two sessions; the opening session of the retreat on Spiritual Temperaments (click HERE to learn about Spiritual Temperaments), and the closing session as a soul care yoga session. Also included in offerings; a workbook to walk people through their faith journey, encouraging them to discover a touch-point word for their faith journey so far and as they continue on.

 

These offerings are, for a phrase that those who grew up in the 90’s will appreciate, my ‘jam’.

Sharing on the spiritual temperaments and the gift it is to connect with God where God is stirring the desire for God’s self within us?

Sharing a soul care yoga class where we reflect, move, breathe on God’s love for us, and the journey we are on, and meditate where we engage our God-given imagination to image God with us on a path that represents our journey, connecting with God in a new way?

A workbook to discover a touch-point word for your faith journey including pages of intentional reflection?

Yes, yes, and yes again.

 

Preparing for the session.

The session on Spiritual Temperaments was the first session of the retreat. As the retreat ‘opener’, we did a few fun things:

  1. We took time to explore the images we hold of the idea of a ‘faith journey’; what kind of image does it stir for you, do you imagine it like a straight path, a transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, etc. This allowed those attending to set a foundation for the retreat and notice where they are coming from. It also allowed conversation to flow. Each table got to chat about their answers, building community and connection.
  2. We explored how we would currently describe our spiritual life (dry desert or lush rainforest, on a scale of 1-10, etc), what kinds of practices we do, and what kinds of moments we could recall that had us feeling close and connected to God.
  3. We dove into each temperament. Each temperament had a moment to shine, sharing briefly about it along with ‘if you (fill in the blank), you might have this temperament’. At the end of reading each temperament, I asked the women to raise their hand if they saw themselves in the temperament, reminding them that we aren’t just one temperament, but often a mix of many, and even the ones we don’t identify with easily is an opportunity to explore.
  4. We ended imagining the depth our relationship with God, ourselves, and others could reach if we leaned into our temperament, even if for a year. Along with the ‘fruit’ of leaning into our temperaments, this allowed us to feel a sense of excitement for what was being talked about!

 

Interspersed between temperaments was story time. Sharing extra thoughts, pointing out where we could see how different denominations perhaps even cater to different temperaments more naturally, how we could note where we saw the value of women in a patriarchal society and noting how that stirred feelings of temperaments, noting what our western society often gives more weight to, and even sharing my own life experiences of learning of my temperaments as more of a coming home to God made me to be as I reconnected with how I felt stirred to connection with God as a child.

 

What I loved most about sharing this session is that, aside from talking about the spiritual temperaments in conversation, often when I’d also speak on spiritual disciplines, it’s something I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to share about in a group, workshop setting. While I’ve considered doing a virtual series on the Spiritual Temperaments, where we would gather for a number of weeks to learn and play with the temperaments, experiencing them for ourselves, then engaging in conversation, it’s been a mere idea, a dream to one day facilitate, as opposed to something I’ve actually been able to bring to life. This set in motion the idea that truly, this topic is worth diving into and is a gift for people to learn about, allowing themselves to lean into who God made them to be. 

 

After tuning in virtually to the second session where one brave woman shared her story of an evolving faith, asking questions, not having answers, and the reality of how that can feel scary and unknown, I put the finishing touches on the yoga session for the next day, allowing it to be a space that felt like it held space to summarize the weekends experiences.

 

Introducing the soul care yoga session.

The theme of Journey was pulled throughout the soul care yoga session:

  1. We opened with reflection on the weekend; what’s something you’ve learned about yourself, God, and your faith journey this weekend? Learned could have meant discovered, rediscovered, invited into curiosity, or resolved.
  2. We began with the Yang portion of our Yang Yin practice, with our guiding verse 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love– yet love surpasses them all, so, above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run”. This verse allows us to remember that while our faith journey may evolve and shift and change, as questions come up and things get scary, as we open ourselves up and discover Mystery, love can be our litmus test for all we do. If we feel we are being led to greater Love, love of God, love of self, Love of people and all of creation, we can trust the path we are on. Our Yang portion was a journey from the back to the front of the mat and ended with a group shape, acknowledging our faith journey is not meant to be done alone, but with people to support us as we go.
  3. The Yin portion is where we slow down and hold postures for a more extended amount of time. During this time, I offered reflection to consider; how would you know you are growing in faith, hope and love? How do you imagine God inviting you towards greater faith, hope, and love?
  4. The guided imaginative meditation to close our time together invited participants to imagine themselves along a path, coming to a clearing with a bonfire burning, Jesus there upon your arrival to offer you hospitality on your journey. Jesus asks you about your faith journey so far and holds space for you to respond. To say what you want to say. To get it all out in the open. Jesus, being who Jesus is, lovingly listens, fully engaged in what you’re saying, giving you the sense that Jesus actually, fully, totally, cares. Jesus asks you what you need for the journey, what it is you desire? You take space to consider, then respond, and Jesus responds with a hug, and a deep look into your eyes as he says the words back to you that longed to hear Jesus say.
  5. As the session ends, music plays and people are given the space to note anything else they’d like in their journals. Some take the time, some don’t, but what matters is that those who want to sit in this little loving bubble can write down things to remember these sacred moments.

 

Sharing what I’ve called soul care yoga with others, which incorporates intentional reflection and journaling, movement, breath, and a longer meditation, is a space where I feel I come alive and allow those with a sensate spiritual temperament, those who need to move before the meditate, and those who just feel close to God when being intentionally embodied, to have their time to shine in a practice that feels more tailored to them. Often these are practices that aren’t given a lot of space to in formal faith settings, so anytime I can offer it, I jump at the chance.

 

When the time comes to share sessions, I lean into trusting what comes out as meant to be. If I unintentionally skip something in my notes, I leave it. If I end up on a slight wander off along the way, I trust it, trusting that God and I get to co-create together. That when I honour who God made me to be, and trust God with what we’ve created together, beautiful things happen. My prayer going into any offering is that the offering impacts people– whether it shares something that speaks to them deeply, it makes them feel seen and known and loved by God, or even it makes the stand more firm in their own beliefs and ideas that differ from mine.

 

My prayer entering into this weekend of the Cultivate women’s retreat, sharing virtually, was the same. An added prayer that not being there in-person wasn’t a hindrance to a wonderful experience for those who were there, and that what I had to offer would be something special for them on their faith journey.

 

As I left them with the ‘My Faith Journey Workbook’ to discover on their own, it felt almost like leaving them with a little love letter to continue exploring, to engage curiosity like Jesus who asked so many questions in the pages of his life that were recorded (can you imagine how many more he asked that were never written down? The questions the Spirit still asks us now? The gift of curiosity!), and to remember that the journey doesn’t end… it’s a journey of deeper, not further.

 

When the voice notes came, and the smile spread across my face as the palm laid over my heart, I was reminded of how wild life is. How, when we intentionally live aware of the Loving Presence of God with us, inspiring us, creating with us, the things we share, the things we say or choose not to say, the things we do or choose to not do, the way we show up, impacts others. That faith and hope and love ripple like waves in the ocean, spreading out, saturating the world around us. As we lean into who God made us to be, as we trust who God us as so deeply loved, as we connect with God in authentic ways, we shine differently; we share differently, we show up differently in the world, and that gives other the freedom to show up authentically, too, which honours God so deeply.

 

If you’re hosting a retreat, or know someone who is, I’d love to be in touch about how I can facilitate sessions, create resources, or offer assistance in any other way! Send me an email to aelea.wandertowonder@gmail.com and let’s connect!