by Christine Sine
It is the second week of Celtic Advent for me and my focus this week will be What do I do for self care that enriches my joy in God? With American Thanksgiving only a few days away, my mind is focused on gratitude and thanksgiving, a pretty good focus as I think about how to nourish what gives me joy. Self care, is an important foundation that helps us set boundaries, increases our self awareness and encourages us to strengthen the vulnerable places in our lives. So the question that I am asking myself is, What in the circle of my life gives me joy and how do I express that with gratitude?
As I thought about this over the last couple of days, I was reminded of the circling prayers that Celts loved. Circles were significant to the Celts. It was felt that a circle with no break was a symbol of eternal life, a complete whole affording no access to the devil. It was a symbol of unity, togetherness and purity. Of course, Celtic crosses incorporated the circle at their heart in a unique and special way and I think that the circling prayers provided that same sense of completeness and protection from the devil. They helped set boundaries, sometimes in the form of an imaginary circle, sometimes as a real circle, like the ring of crosses that might be planted around a monastery.
As we move towards Christmas, I think we all need the type of boundaries and strength that the Celtic circle and the circling prayers it inspired, provide. I have blogged about this in the past and the prayer and image above were part of the response, but I know that I needed to refresh my memory and thought you might want to as well. So I have been drawing circles in my journal and using the exercise below to guide me.
The following circling exercise is adapted from a traditional CAIM. You might use it to encourage restful pauses throughout the day and use it to focus your attention for a couple of minutes, or you can use it as a more relaxed, longer exercise to focus you for the day or even for a season of your life.
Sit with your eyes closed and take a few deep breaths in and out. Imagine the circle of God’s presence surrounding you, your neighbors and God’s creation. Repeat the words Circle me Lord, Circle me with joy several times and allow your spirit to rest.
Extend the forefinger of your right hand and draw an imaginary circle around the place in which you sit. Envision God enfolding you in a cloak, and ask God for peace to hear the divine voice. Repeat the words Circle me Lord
Imagine Christ standing at the centre his arms outstretched as on the Cross, binding together the elements of the natural world and the built world of your city or dwelling, into a sacred circle of wholeness. What stirs in your mind as you do this?
Open your eyes and draw a circle in your journal or on a piece of paper to represent the encircling presence of God. What is embraced by the circle of God’s wholeness for you? Where, in this moment, are you aware of God’s wholeness and the completion of the healing both of creation and of all humankind that the circle represents?
Contemplate your circle and remind yourself of the attributes of God you want the circle of your life to embrace in this moment and in the place where you sit. Write them around the inside, add the words circle us Lord, and envision that enfolding cloak of God around you.
What do you want to keep outside the circle? Outside your circle write the emotions and feelings you want excluded from God’s enfolding cloak. Are any of these currently inside your circle but needing to be pushed out?
Who stands within the circle with you? Contemplate who stands with you at this present moment in your circle. Is it your family and friends? Is it your colleagues and workmates? Is it the homeless and dispossessed, the hungry and unjustly treated? Write their names, in the circle you have drawn.
Who stands outside the circle that you would like to bring inside? Perhaps you feel distanced from a colleague or your spouse. Perhaps you are suffering from compassion fatigue. What could you do to bring others into the loving circle of God’s embrace? Write their names outside your circle.
How is God’s creation bound with us within that circle? God’s loving circle doesn’t only encompass people it encompasses the creation too. What of God’s creation does your circle encompass at this particular moment? Write down what comes to mind.
Write your own circling prayer as a response to this exercise. Use the template
Lord circle me, keep ….within and ….without as a template. Read through your prayer. What other inspiration comes as you meditate on it?
Have Some Fun With Friends
Get together with some friends to look for circles and create circling prayers. Go for a run or a walk around your neighborhood or even just around your house and see how many circles you can find. Take photos or make a list of the circles you see. When you get together compare your lists and talk about the circles you noticed.
Now work on a circling prayer or exercise. You might like to use the template above or you could create a work of art with your circle. Here are some suggestions:
- Get out a large piece of paper and place it in the center of our table. Get everyone to doodle in a circular motion, with their eyes closed for 30 seconds. Open your eyes and create a pattern out of the doodle. Write words of encouragement inside the circles.
- Create a tree of many colors. Have your best artist sketch a tree skeleton on a large piece of paper. Have each person in the group draw and then color a circle to paste onto the tree. Write words that express what you would like to see inside the circle of God’s love on the colored circle then hang it on the tree.
- Alternatively, encourage people to gather rocks as they walk and when you come together get a large piece of construction paper to lay the rocks out in a circle. Get each person to write inside the circle the attributes of God they want embraced by God’s love and the names of those they want in the circle with them. Write outside the circle what you want to be excluded. Talk about the image you have created. Thank God for the circle of love that surrounds you.
- Go for a walk on the beach. Create circles in the sand. Make sure your circles overlap Write love at the center of the circles where they all overlap. Recite a circling prayer and a prayer of thanks to God.
Prayerfully watch the video below. Is there any other response that God is asking of you?