Experience of Bro. Don Bisson's Workshop:
Healing Christianity, July 11-16, 200
Healing Christianity was a powerful workshop designed to renew and deepen our understanding of stages of spiritual growth and how God is at work within us.
As the workshop went along, a number of insights came to me that were life changing. First, I prepared to go talk to Don by doing some soul collages. I was feeling the heavy grief of this last year where my ministry stopped, and I had no motivation. The grief of divorce, losses of retreat house, losses of church ministry were too much, and something in me died. Fortunately, doing dream work, I discovered that my inner self had believed that I had nothing to offer. When this surfaced in consciousness, I felt freed and able to discount this lie. Nevertheless, I had no motivation to minister, and, through Sr. Claire’s advice, began practicing "acceptance" as a spiritual discipline.
As I considered sharing this with Don, I did a soul collage of a slain Roman soldier and broken eyeglasses with the phrase, "shattered trust." On the back I wrote: "I am one who is slain. No energy or light exists in me. I am in the grave, moldering. I have gone the last mile and done my best, yet victory was not mine to claim. All is dependent on Christ's descent into my hell to redeem.".
After getting that out of my system, I thought about the difficulties of turning 60, of aging, of my mother’s recent descent into temporary insanity through dementia, and of what could lie ahead for me in my later years. I remember reading something that pointed out to me that all I had to do was to choose to cope with whatever happened. That was such a freeing insight. So my second collage was of an older woman peacefully looking out her window with small binoculars and below her, an aged Shaker woman. On the back I wrote: "I am the one grown old. My energy has waned. My life has become simple and plain. I no longer look for relevant things to do, but sit and breathe and look for God.
A third collage suggested itself, a woman peacefully pondering, and I wrote: "I am the one content in silence and solitude, accepting what is and letting life pass through me. Nothing to be rejected. All to be received and pondered."
The last collage was of my most authentic self, a picture of ancient, eroded boulders on an ocean beach. On the back I printed, "I am the one who is ancient and heavy with wisdom. I wait for those to come and ask my secrets so that they may also become as I am, for I will reveal what I have learned through fire and flood, so that they may stand firm."
One of the pondering periods was on being a healthy adult. Don played a meditative background piece on CD and read the characteristics of a healthy adult. I was surprised to find that I fit the description quite well, not perfectly, but quite satisfactorily. A huge weight lifted from me, and I created a certificate:
Of Healthy Adulthood
This certifies that
Has reached the stage of healthy adulthood.
Bro. Donald Bisson, FMS, D.Min.
Just as I finished the certificate, Don walked up to me and I asked him to sign as my witness, as he has observed me as spiritual director from 1995-2000, and been in touch as friends since. He smiled and commented that it should be his official signature. For the rest of that day, and the rest of the retreat, I had much more energy.
Finally, the last morning, Don taught on the Interior Castle of St. Teresa of Avila. I recognized myself in the 5th room and facing the temptation of that room—to be content not to go further, being generally peaceful, lower energy at the age of 60, and so forth. I also realized that I had a choice of whether to open myself to the 6th room, the room of engagement. One of the signs of a mystic is to have a developing capacity for suffering. I certainly feel qualified in that regard. This gave me hope that God might call me to engagement, and this helped me feel again my desire, more grounded now, to be a saint, to go all the way with God. Last night as I went to silent, contemplative prayer, I held my heart open to God acknowledging my willingness to surrender completely as grace is given. I experienced a very subtle intuition of joy and love, of Christ’s and mine together.
I do not know what lies ahead, but, by God’s grace, I choose to cope, and I hope that what lies ahead includes a deeper oneness with Christ.