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

You Can Do It

In less than six weeks, Monasteries of the Heart will observe it’s first anniversary.

One of the measures of the movement is the development of online and onsite MOH communities. Right now we have a total of 33 communities and have begun interviewing the leaders to find out what’s working and what is to be desired.

Old Monk 8

Old Monk is reading a life story
of William Stafford,
one of her favorite poets.
She loves that he awoke
at 4 a.m. every morning,
fixed a cup of coffee,
a piece of toast,
lay on the couch in his study
and began a new poem.
O blessed morning star.
Monks across the ages
bow to this holy practice,
this daily delight of discipline.
How he wrote in a poem,
“there’s a thread you follow…
you don’t ever let go of this thread…”
how he never did.

An Image for the Heart

A quote that has haunted me over the years is by Camus who wrote: “A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art, or love, or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which the heart first opened.”

February Poem 2012

Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog presents a poem for you to play with. To get things started I ask a question or two and put in a writing prompt that I play with.

It’s Valentine month so let’s do this poem by Billy Collins in which he whimsically and lovingly questions the merits of aimless love over face-to-face human love. It is also a poem of appreciation and gratitude for all that surrounds us. Not a bad way to say Happy Valentine Day.

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

Wanted: Leadership

My favorite quote on leadership is from Lao Tzu: When the best leader's work is done the people say, "We did it ourselves."

And my favorite story is one told about Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gula, Uganda. It is told by Donald H. Dunson in Child, Victim, Soldier: The Loss of Innocence in Uganda:

To Do List

The first month of the new year is quickly drawing to a close and I’m sitting here looking over what I wrote for my 2012 “to do” list and have yet to implement. I need a push. I need a plan.

Every year I sit down on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1 and write these lists. This year I wrote 32 “to dos.” (I like “to do” rather than resolutions because it’s open-ended --you can do it today, next week, in five years….) I’m not wedded to all of them this year, but there are a handful of hopes.

Let me give you some examples:

Old Monk 7

Not a trace of the midnight snowfall
when Old Monk pulls open her shutters.
Today she hangs a new calendar in her cell
and prepares a notebook for this year’s musings,
yesterday’s insights already gathering dust on the bookshelf.
Last night’s revelry awaits the street cleaner—
broken bottles, fast food wrappings, empty plastic bags—
a stray dog sniffs and moves on.

Name One Thing

My nephew, Justin, who describes himself as an “armchair sociologist and perpetual contrarian,” writes a blog.

At the end of the year he mused on “10 Things That Changed My Life in 2011.” Number 10 on his list was the following

Desert Mother

Today is the feast of a great woman monastic, Amma Syncletica.

I first saw her name in the book Desert Wisdom by Yushi Nomura. As a younger seeker, I was seized by the tales of the Desert Fathers and eager to sit at their feet. What a surprise to find a woman’s name among all those abbas. My consciousness of the women’s issue was just kindling, but I remember feeling great joy. A Desert Mother!

New Year's Poems

Poetry always goes to the “heart of the matter.” So once a month this blog presents a poem for you to play with. To get things started I ask a question or two and put in a writing prompt that I play with.

I thought I’d give you two poems to work on as we usher in the new year. Both haiku are by Issa, the renowned Japanese poet. The poems, by the way, are from a charming children’s biography, Cool Melons - Turn to Frogs!: The Life and Poems of Issa by storyteller Matthew Gollub and illustrator Kazuko G. Stone


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