Marsha Forrest

Once again, our Spring Conference brought us together at the Pilgrim Park Conference Center, with its cozy gathering spaces, sturdy porch furniture, and peaceful natural setting. Our keynote speaker, Marsha Forrest, spoke to us of noticing, acknowledging, and listening to every living thing, being close to the earth, and taking the time to understand our own path upon it. She led us in a self-exploration exercise that included a solitary walk, barefoot if we wished, around the grounds. We shared our symbolic hand drawn pictures and personal discoveries, and supportive and curious responses from others were much appreciated.

During our fall retreat in the beautiful DeKoven Center we truly celebrated our lives as women. With the guidance of our keynote speaker, Joyce Higginbotham, we explored how to value and deepen our wisdom as women while reaching out to others in a compassionate way. Higginbotham, the coauthor of three books on Paganism, discussed Pagan Spirituality, and through meditation led us all on an exploration of our own unique life experiences. During discussions we learned much about each other, and at the same time realized that as women we shared many common concerns.

In her workshop, Higginbotham talked about the Sacred Act of Listening. Using material from the Parliament of the World Religions in 2009, she defined the sacred art of listening as:

Every Spring, as I arrive at Pilgrim Park, peace settles over me. It seems to have the same effect on all of us, we just settle in. Pilgrim Park is set in farm country, with old stately trees, calm water, walking trails, a porch for just sitting, reading, or chatting. Every year I feel lucky to get away for this quiet weekend with no responsibilities: a time to relax.

For me, Pilgrim Park is a also a joyous place: old friends, lots of hugs, catching up , and new attendees, greeted and introduced.

I was up early Saturday, a beautiful day, and was out for a walk. By the lake I saw a woman I didn't know, moving slowly and peacefully in Tai Chi. (It was Kathy Salzano!) I stepped behind her and started following her slow flowing moves. I didn't know Tai Chi, and she didn't know me, but that didn't matter. She glanced at me, and continued. For fifteen minutes or so, in the quiet morning, with birds chirping, and frogs croaking, I was one with nature, moving slowly and gracefully. Later, when I told her how much I enjoyed it, I asked her if maybe she would do a Tai Chi morning workshop next year.

I could share the rest of my day... but you can read the rest in the Summer-Fall issue of Voices of Women!

As a UU Women's Connection Council member, I am sometimes asked to write something for the newsletter. It's not required. And at the moment I have nothing newsworthy to impart. But I have some thoughts I'd like to share. If you like my thoughts, I may make this a regular item in the newsletter.

One of my spiritual teachers recently told me that only about 5% of all people are doing spiritual work at any given time. I knew what she meant, at least as it applied to me. But I got to thinking -- what is spiritual work; what activities qualify? Also, who's to say what spiritual work is and what isn’t? Must it be a conscious effort? Or is everything we do spiritual work? To those last two questions, I guess a case could be made for a positive answer to the latter. But I'm going to go with an affirmative to the former for this discussion. So first things first -- let me attempt to define spiritual work. But as with all things spiritual, I know that my definition will be limited and may not match your definition or that of others -- all of which are valid.