Monasteries of the Heart

Heart of the Matter

What is Heart of the Matter? For most of my adult life I’ve kept copybooks filled with stories, prayers, art, quotes poems—anything that gives insight to the human journey. It is my favorite spiritual practice. It is also an ongoing source of monastic formation: the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. Now I have a blog copybook called Heart of the Matter. Welcome.  —Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator

Blog Sabbatical

“Let the beauty we love be what we do,” Rumi wrote. “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

One of the beauties I love is writing this blog. But after two-and-a-half years of weekly articles, I am going to kneel and kiss the ground in another way. I am going on a blog Sabbatical. All of us need time to breathe in “fresh” and “new”.

Holy Leisure

I wanted to write this blog about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As you know, the superiors of U.S. women religious are meeting in Orlando, FL this week to continue grappling with the mandate from the Vatican that gave three bishops final authority over the LCWR and required the Conference to revise its programs and statues.

The Impossible Dream

This week we commemorate the 68th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the years I’ve taken part in protests, civil disobedience and prayer services on August 6 and 9 to stop the production, testing, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. And to what end? The weapons get more sophisticated; the danger of a nuclear holocaust continues to escalate. So is all the protest and praying in vain? Not if you go by this story:

Nested Meditations

A few years ago I got interested in playing with Nested Meditations after reading an essay by Kevin Anderson, the author of Divinity in Disguise: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul. It’s easier to show a nested meditation then to explain one, so here is one of Anderson’s:

I like you. 

I, like you, 

have many routine days. 

I, like you, 

have many routine days 

and moments. 

I, like you, 

have many routine days 

and moments 

of sheer joy.

Spirituality List

I received this list--20 Ways to Deepen Your Spirituality--from an MOH member and found it intriguing. The author is blogger Jim Palmer

On Praising God

I love to praise God with others. Recently I read a section on worship in World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwen. In the chapter “Learning to Pause” she devotes a section to her “two ordinary hours.”

A Space Apart

I’m drawn to silence and solitude. I’ve always found that too much social interaction drains my spirit and directs me toward mild depression. I guard my two private morning hours—5 a.m. to 7 a.m.-- like the pit bull next-door guards his owner’s front porch. Mess with my hours for reading and writing and drinking the first coffee of the day…and “off with your head.”

That’s why I fell in love with the poem, “The Art of Disappearing” by Naomi Shihab Nye. How can you not love a poem that begins:

The Impossible Dream

Want to know a secret about burn out? It’s in this story:

An Ordinary Day

Finding the sacred in the daily and ordinary is a gift of monasticism. It is also a gift of poets. Here’s part of a poem by Anne Sexton that celebrates the wonders of morning. In the first stanza, Sexton lists six sources of joy in her morning rituals. Notice, too, how she repeats “each morning” six times. Try imitating her by writing a short poem listing a few sources of joy in your mornings or evenings or family gatherings or… I did one on morning, too. What will you celebrate?

Welcome Morning
By Anne Sexton

I've Always Wanted To....

I just read about Toyo Shibata. After her back gave out, this former Japanese dancer began writing poems. She was ninety-two-years-old. She sent one of her poems to a newspaper and they published it; so she sent another. When she turned ninety-nine, she self-published a collection of poems (2011). Her book, Don’t Be Too Frustrated (Hang in There, is another translation) became a mega seller in Japan, surpassing the 1.5 million mark. I can’t find an English translation anywhere, but here’s a sample from someone’s blog:


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