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Sacred Vessels

“To listen another soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being can offer another.” - Douglas Van Steere, an American Quaker and ecumenist

The other day, when I sat back and listened to reflections, I felt myself become an observer of me listening. It’s hard to describe the observer while I observe. I live more and more with the dualism of being human and being spirit.

As I spend time steeping in silence, I learn more about me, my humanness, my happiness, my fear, my sadness, my spirit. My body is the container holding my human experience. My spirit holds color and light and expansiveness and curiosity, and sometimes feels too big for my body. There is so much within and so little understood, all limited by words born out of my human experience.

There is more. I don’t have words to describe the more. I have sensations and knowings and images and curiosity. And above all else, I have a willingness to participate.

Each one of us has a willingness to participate because we are here. We bring ourselves to this container, sit on the rims of our existence and listen to our silence.

Authenticity is delicious and it feeds my soul. Collectively, we share in the abundance, feel safe cradled in comfort when authenticity abounds. Our container has its own engine, with an energy of authenticity holding each one of us in silence. It doesn’t matter if we are sad or fearful, in pain or preoccupied. It matters that we show up honoring ourselves no matter our story. We honor our silence.

I remember the first time I attended a women’s festival. I felt safe, surrounded and proud to be a woman beyond my self-judgment and inner shame. The festival was a welcoming vessel for all who entered demanding only one rule and that was authenticity.

I let go of my limitations and judgments and felt free. I put down the baggage that held me back and walked in taller and happier. I was amazed to see creativity and free expression. I was led by my curiosity, drawn to handcrafted drums, ceramic bowls and art that depicted the celebration of a woman. It was a life-changing experience to feel celebrated, not judged.

I appreciated the beauty of ceramic bowls and learned they are more than a dish that serves up food.

Throughout countless texts, artistic depictions, and various Indigenous and ancient beliefs, bowls are symbolic of the Divine Feminine, the womb, or the Womb of the World; powerful symbols of fertility and creative energies.” – the Dreaming Goddess blog

On reflection, I see my life containing many vessels, some that support me and others that don’t. My mindset is a vessel that sometimes spirals downward out of control. I’ve learned to crawl out of this vessel’s black hole and reside somewhere that helps me.

We are a container and every one of us contributes to the authentic energy that swirls within its walls. Each one of us offers a unique vibration. Our vibrations reflect our experiences we share. I feel it in our silence.

We learn from each other. What one of us shares helps someone else. A sacred shift occurs and I am witnessing what holy means. This is a place where everyone comes with a sacred heart to hear truth and align with truth.

We grow together. We step past our limitations when we feel safe to do so. We get distracted, change our mind, hem and haw, loop back, always finding our way back to our truth within. We learn gentleness, kindness, and self-respect on our way. We become the true gift to ourselves.

Willing to experience aloneness, I discover connection everywhere;

Turning to face my fear, I meet the warrior who lives within;

Opening to my loss, I gain the embrace of the universe;

Surrendering into emptiness, I find fullness without end.

Each condition I flee from pursues me,

Each condition I welcome transforms me

And becomes itself transformed

Into its radiant jewel-like essence.

I bow to the one who has made it so,

Who has crafted this Master Game.

To play it is purest delight;

To honor its form--true devotion.

Participants' Reflections

  • Thoughts of the way the container of this circle has its own resonance, like a singing bowl.

  • Thank you, you beautiful people,

  • That took me back. Doug Steere taught at my college and we had meditations. On the fifth day, we had a Quaker meeting. In these, you sit silently for an hour unless you are moved by the Spirit to speak. Thank you so much.

  • Yesterday, we were on the rim of depletion when you started the meditation. Today, we are on the rim of a bowl. I think the bowl is our lives, what’s in the bowl, we experience it. I went further. I was thinking about kintsugi, the Japanese mending where pottery is broken and you mend it with precious metal like gold and it is stronger. I think that’s a piece of what we are doing here. What do we put in the bowl? What do we think about the bowl? How do we experience it? How do we mend the broken places?

  • Part of my journey has been in accepting the bowl. Thank you.

  • As you were reading, there is a bowl outside my house on a stand. The bowl was a stir-fry pan, very sturdy, and now it is a bird-bath. As you were reading, a squirrel was at the bowl, having a drink. That was magical. You talked about the shape of the bowl, the receiver. It’s also an offering, a server. And then deeper into my meditation, I thought of a time late in my career as a teacher and we had a young man as a new principal. I had gone on a women’s retreat where they gave us clay to make what we wanted. I first formed it into a cave and then I turned it over and it was a bowl. The leader taught us to bless the bowl so that when we took the bowls home, we’d put water in them and remember the blessings in our lives. When I retired, I gifted that little bowl to my principal because I knew the days got stressful. He absolutely treasured that bowl and heard its message.

  • I was thinking about listening to people’s souls into discovery. Shirley does that and holds this space. Others help. It’s easier if all of us become part of the bowl around the rim to hold it so that other people can say whatever the spirit is moving to say. We all do it for the new people that come in. Especially the people who have been here longer than me: they are steadfast, they are holding the space so that other people are going to be able to speak what needs to come out. That’s what makes it easier to meditate in a group like this than on our own. Because on our own, we don’t have the support of everyone around us holding us as we are meditating. Thank you.

  • Thank you. The journey that you described coming to our authentic self was similar to my journey. What arose was a question that I wrote down. Is the holy trinity then spirit, body, and mind? Is that really the divine creation? Once I moved from being a body on Earth to being a spirit needing a body to have an Earthly experience, this transition opened wide the floodgate of curiosity of knowing spirit. Then I moved to nurturing my body to support the spirit. But then an awareness of needing to protect the Earth to support my body. What if the real prize, the real truth, is the trinity being the divine way beyond all other to the Great Mystery?

  • It sounds like a full circle. It’s beautiful.

  • That was beautiful. I have enjoyed being here. I had to get out of my comfort zone to do this. I have felt so comfortable in this group. It feels like you are all with me here. I so appreciate it. It has uplifted me so much over this past week. Thank you so much.

  • I know I feel it, the comfort people feel here. It’s this collective, with the intention of holding this space. It is powerful. Thank you so much.

  • That quote you read is exactly what you do for us. Hold us. You are the big bowl and all of us are other bowls inside the big bowl. You are holding the space making it safe for all of us. When I first started here, it was outside my comfort zone as well. I am very introverted. The gold of this group mends my bowl. I spent the day yesterday torturing myself basically. I’m a little bit better today. I’m glad to be here.

  • I’m glad for every face here. It’s such a comfort.

  • I want to second what was said. You are all beautiful people. It just helps me tremendously to be here. We are all virtual, but it doesn’t feel that way. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone. Thank you so much.

  • It’s because of the energy. We are all energy. It’s why we can reach beyond any distance. It’s an amazing experience because it proves that it’s the energy that’s connecting.

  • With the image of the bowl, I envisioned a bowl where I was floating spread-eagle looking up. But then I was reminded of a time decades ago when I went through a rough period and went to visit a friend in Hawaii. During the day, I was by myself and I was snorkeling. I was doing the dead man’s float in this wonderful warm water watching the fish. I wound up getting sunburn on my back. I feel very much that comfort here. You reminded me of that. Thank you.

  • Those words of beating oneself up. It reminded me of my first year of teaching and wondering if I was capable. I worried about my students too much. My spiritual counselor told me to look for the stars. If you think it’s a night sky, look for the stars. That helped me through difficult times. I offer that concept of looking for the stars. It’s changing focus.

  • I have a poem that I have been reading for the last 30 years that I was reminded of today. It’s called First Lesson by Phillip Booth

Lie back daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand. Gently, and I will hold you. Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream and look high at the gulls. A dead- man’s float is face down. You will dive and swim soon enough where this tidewater ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe me, when you tire on the long thrash to your island, lie up, and survive. As you float now, where I held you and let go, remember when fear cramps your heart what I told you: lie gently and wide to the light-year stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

  • The difference between the bowl being seen as a chalice is a point of view. We can see our lives that way too. I forget that sometimes. Maybe we all do.

  • Thank you. Thank you for joining us. This truly is a vessel. It has its own engine. It’s an amazing experience to be part of. I’m grateful each one of you is here. I hope you have a gentle day.

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