Joy As a Form of Spiritual Resistance | John Philip Newell

Iona SunriseRecently I returned to Edinburgh from San Francisco and the launching of the California School of Celtic Consciousness. It was a strong beginning, both in terms of numbers and depth of engagement. Many arrived feeling overwhelmed by this moment in time, struggling to know how to confront the falseness of a system that is denying the sacred right of refugees to sanctuary, the inviolable right of religions to equality, the holy right of women to reverence, and the divine right of the earth to protection. Through teachings and spiritual practices drawn from the well of Celtic wisdom we moved together to a place of deeper hope and vision.

unspecifiedAlways in our lives we need soul-force to confront what is wrong, just as we need soul-force to powerfully witness to what is true. Perhaps part of the sin that we need now to confess is that we were lulled into a false sense of wellbeing and consequently thought we didn’t need to intentionally access the soul-force of God that is within us. If that was the case, then we are at a waking-up point. Maybe now, like never before in our lives, we are realising the need for spiritual resistance to what is false and spiritual insistence of what is true.

One of the young mothers at our California School remembered that when her son was a baby she used to hold him in her arms and dance around the kitchen, singing a chant. Over the years, through changing circumstances, she let go of this practice. At the California School she vowed to find again a spiritual practice of joy that she could share with her son. She realised that joy is a form of spiritual resistance. If she is to be strong for this moment in time, and if her son is to receive true strength through her, she needs to nurture joy of soul.
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I hope you will join us for the upcoming gathering of the School in Colorado, or at one of the other locations over the coming year, to build on the joy and vision and spiritual discipline that are essential for the work of change at this moment in time. More urgently than ever we need to access soul-force.
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With love and blessings to you,
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John Philip

Heartbeat Announces $5,000 Grant to Annunciation House

Ruben GarciaHeartbeat announces $5,000 grant to Annunciation House to

support refugee relief on U.S. – Mexico border

“When I speak to congregations, everybody understands the gospel meaning of welcoming the stranger.”  So said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, when I spoke to him last week. While the moral imperative to welcome the stranger is clear in the abstract, it is often difficult to put into practice for many.  Father Garcia has been welcoming migrants and refugees for nearly 40 years at his center in the heart of his downtown El Paso, at the geographic center of the U.S.-Mexico border.  The humble building on a triangular lot has provided shelter to more than 100,000 migrants.  Today he considers the political climate chilling and our immigration system increasingly unjust with devastating consequences to families.

Annunciation HouseAbout a month ago, Annunciation House was receiving roughly 1,000 refugees a week; that number has slowed to a trickle.  The U.S. has moved to a detention model for many asylum seekers, and Annunciation House usually receives migrants who have recently been released from detention.  Mexico is ill-equipped to handle the global refugees that continue to pour into their country headed north, after a trek across the Central American jungle, often through as many as eight countries.

We at Heartbeat are concerned with the global refugee crisis, which according to the U.N. Refugee Agency saw numbers of displaced people reach a global high in 2016, surpassing even the numbers from World War II.  The Refugee Fund that we established last year in honor of John Philip Newell’s father has already funded a group of students who set up solar charging stations on the island of Lesbos.
Today, we announce that Heartbeat is providing a donation of $5,000 to Annunciation House in El Paso as they continue their refugee work, meeting not only the immediate needs of individuals and families, but advocating for a humane response to the plight of migrants and fighting against the rampant misinformation that is informing recent policy decisions in the U.S.  While this amount is nominal based on the needs of this organization (food, diapers, clothing, formula, maintenance), we hope to challenge others to support this important work.
We recognize the plight of migrants worldwide, we celebrate the universal human family, and we say to those who are coming here fleeing war and violence, “We Stand With You” and “Estamos con ustedes!”
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Vanessa Johnson, Treasurer for Heartbeat
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El Paso, Texas
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To support future initiatives responding to the refugee crises, please make a contribution to the William James Newell Refugee Fund.

Rob Bell Interviews John Philip Newell

JPN & Rob Bell
“There is an awareness that Christianity as we know it is in trouble.”
-John Philip Newell
Rob Bell interviews John Philip Newell in a discussion that delves into his most recent publication,  The Rebirthing of God . Recorded for the “Robcast at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, USA,  Rob skillfully guides a fascinating conversation that explores the movements within Christian spirituality in our time. The chemistry between these two teachers makes for a conversation that you don’t want to miss!
Click here to stream the Robcast

From Pilgrimage to Creativity Workshops

Last year I received a Heartbeat scholarship for a pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona with John Philip Newell.  It was a unique experience in a magical place, and I am still incredibly grateful to have been gifted that experience.  To be on that island, which has such a long history, where the weather changes every half an hour and the land is so often shrouded in mist, it’s not hard to feel a strong connection to the spiritual.

One of the messages I took from my time with John Philip was that it’s up to me to create the world I want to live in, for myself and for others.

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Iona pilgrims Kathryn Shanks (left), Cami Twilling (center), and Ian Brownlee (right)

There’s a thread that runs through all Celtic Christian teaching that says the world is just fine as it is, and you are whole as you are.  This idea is counter to mainstream Christianity, which is based around the idea of original sin.  When we see the world as a place that has fallen from grace, nature is not sacred, trees are not alive, and nothing that comes innately from ourselves is good.  What a sad philosophy.  It’s no wonder that this attitude has given way to secular western materialism.  The philosophy that comes from the Celtic tradition is much healthier.  It says that what comes from nature is good, and therefore our own human nature is good.  We don’t need to be purified of the evil that is within us, we accept ourselves and embrace our own nature, which includes our sexuality and our creativity.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an artist.  It has always come naturally to me (though whether it’s coming from me or through me I don’t know.)  I have always found that when I try to steer my creativity, or in any way to impose my conscious will on this unconscious process, it doesn’t work.  Creativity is a wild thing that must be given its independence.  If you try to cage it, its spirit will die.

 To be an artist is to be a complete person: to embrace all the parts of ourselves.

One of the messages I took from my time with John Philip was that it’s up to me to create the world I want to live in, for myself and for others.  He encouraged me to share my perspective and my experience, because my impact on the world is greater than I realize.  As an artist, my way of communicating with others is through paintings.  Art is an extremely valuable form of communication, but it’s not very direct.  I wanted to engage with people more fully, to make myself useful in the world. Through talking with friends, the idea for creativity workshops was born.

I’ve taught art to children and adults, and I’ve found that each requires a different style of teaching.  Kids have a lot of enthusiasm for art: it comes to them as naturally as walking or breathing.  Teaching them is about managing their energy-levels and introducing art-making methods and materials.  With adults it’s much more complicated; they come to me to learn technical skills, but what I find they need more is a renewed connection to their creativity.  They want to be creative, but they find themselves blocked.  Somewhere in adolescence, we’re introduced to the idea that there’s such a thing as “good” and “bad” art, and we want to make sure we’re not doing it badly.  We become self-conscious, and we stop doing things that we love for fear of judgment.  This is very sad to me, because I feel that art belongs to everyone.  Drawing, sculpting, writing, singing, dancing: these are integral parts of being human.  For someone to give up doing something that brings them joy is to bury a part of themselves.

The idea for the creativity workshops was to take what I’d learned from teaching art to adults, drop the emphasis on technical skills and focus on the creative process.  This way the lessons are applicable to any discipline.  The roadblocks that stop one from painting are the same ones that stop one from dancing, playing an instrument, or writing: it’s all self-judgment.

Over the years that I’ve been working as an artist, I’ve also been practicing Zen meditation and mindfulness practice.  I’ve applied that awareness to the creative process, and I’ve confronted a lot of the obstacles that can get in the way of creative expression.  And here’s the funny part: there really aren’t that many.  If we can learn to spot just a few unhealthy thought-patterns, we can avoid the pitfalls that shut-down our creativity.  Once we see how unhelpful many of our thoughts are, it becomes easier to recognize them and move beyond them.

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The baptism of one of our pilgrims, Kate Collins-Thompson, at Columba’s Bay

The other important part of any creativity workshop is play: we make things because it’s fun.  What are you doing if you’re not judging yourself?  You’re having a good time, experimenting, mixing things together, stacking them up, rolling around on the ground, climbing trees, making music with pots and pans: basically being a kid. It’s from that sense of expansiveness and experimentation that all art comes.  Even a novelist who writes about difficult and painful subjects takes joy in the way the words are put together.  So in each session, however deep the  subjects we’re discussing, we always leave time for fun.  We draw without looking at our paper, make sculptures out of unusual materials, and come up with new ways of composing poems.  We also do exercises that get us thinking outside the box, which can expand our capacity for creative thinking.

What I’ve found so far is that there’s a strong desire for this sort of workshop.  Everyone who I’ve spoken with would like a deeper connection to their creative side; everyone has a project or craft they’d like to start or work on more often.  Attendees have told me they found the exercises we did to be powerful and important.  The most exciting parts for me have been when I have stepped back and let the participants share their experiences.  There’s so much wisdom in every roomful of people; sometimes all we need is for someone to suggest a subject to speak on.  The group conversations foster a sense of community and of shared-experience that is vital to any creative life.

So far I’ve held workshops in Minnesota and California.  Those sessions were held to an hour and a half, but the more I look into this subject, the more I realize there is to do.  So next will come a four-part series in my home-town of Asheville, North Carolina, that will allow us to approach this subject in greater depth.

As I plan my workshops, I think about the time I spent on Iona and about the example that John Philip sets for all of us.  He embodies that spirit of play, of self-acceptance, and the willingness to look deeply into the darker sides of life when that is what’s called for.  To be an artist is to be a complete person: to embrace all the parts of ourselves.  When we live in cultures that are built around shame, conformity, and self-improvement, it takes a lot of bravery to accept oneself.  That journey to self-acceptance is at the heart of spirituality, and it’s also necessary to live a full, creative life.

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Ian Brownlee and his wife Kathryn Shanks live in Asheville, NC. Ian received a scholarship from Heartbeat to attend the Iona Pilgrimage with John Philip Newell in September of 2015. Please visit his website, Art By Ian Brownlee and learn more about his Creativity Workshops.

Giving Tuesday

Will you join us? It is Giving Tuesday and we are hoping that you will take a moment to send a gift to Heartbeat. Your generosity helps us advance our Celtic vision, provide scholarships for pilgrimage and retreat, and create environments for interfaith and intergenerational relationship. Our work is needed now, more than ever, and we need you to help us accomplish our mission!
http://heartbeatjourney.org/donate-now/

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2014 Camino Peace Pilgrimage Cohort

Join Heartbeat’s community of supporters and the movement of healing and transformation by making a contribution today. Together we can make a difference!

A Prayer for Today | John Philip Newell

Be strong, O my soul,

Be strong this day

To face this moment and feel its pain

To cry with our mothers and weep for our daughters

To stand by our fathers and sons of colour

And defend our true brothers and sisters of the Qu’ran

To serve compassion rather than fear

To invoke wisdom instead of ignorance

 To elect humility over false pride

Be strong, O my soul,

Be strong this day

Be strong this day for love.

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John Philip Newell

November 9, 2016JPN_(Iona_MN)

Board Member Transitions: An Abundance of Gratitude

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Front row from left: Ben Lindwall, John Philip Newell, Robert McClellan. Middle row: Ali Newell, Margaret Anne Fohl. Back row: Frannie Kieschnick, Roy Barsness, Helenmarie Zachritz, Vanessa Johnson, Karin Baard, Steve Romeyn.

John Philip and Ali Newell nominated two people to join the Board of Directors: Karin Baard and Roy Barsness.

Karin was one of the scholars on the first Camino Peace Pilgrimage in 2014 and just finished co-leading a trip with Rob McClellan on the same route. She was also a participant in our Pilgrimage Training last summer. Karin is from Brunswick, Maine and works with women healing from domestic abuse. She is also fluent in Spanish.

Roy is a professor at the Seattle School of Theology and also a psychologist. He has brought two groups of students to be with John Philip on Iona. He has also organized multiple events featuring John Philip at the Seattle School. Roy is married with two children.

In his second year on the board, Steve Romeyn was elected chair, replacing Vanessa Johnson. Vanessa will stay on the board through next summer, fulfilling her term. John Philip and Ali expressed deepest gratitude to Vanessa for her leadership and guidance during her two years of service in this capacity. Steve moves into the position with extensive business experience as a property developer in the Atlanta Area and with membership on the board for Habitat for Humanity.

Finishing their terms, Helenmarie Zachritz of Española, NM and Mary Ann Bumgarner of Tulsa, OK were honored for their extensive work and guidance as early partners in Heartbeat’s formation. Mary Ann was one of the founding board members for the organization which was first known as The Friends of John Philip Newell and Helenmarie was the first paid director. She resigned and joined the board of directors when Ben Lindwall became Executive Director in 2013. Both Mary Ann and Helenmarie were given Celtic crosses from the Isle of Iona to commemorate their involvement.

Our Journey Forward

Image 11-3-16 at 11.17 AMOver a year ago the Heartbeat board launched a project to create a strategic plan to bring clarity and focus to the organization’s work. A survey was sent to Heartbeat supporters on February 15, 2016 in an effort to understand perception and hear feedback. A special committee convened in Palo Alto, CA on February 22, 2016 to lay a foundation for this process, led by consultant Ted Scott of Larkspur California. Ted was recommended by board member Rob McClellan because of his extensive experience in guiding churches, non-profits, and companies through change. He was instrumental in naming Heartbeat’s work and guiding the board on a path to move the process forward. After the initial meeting, Steve Romeyn, Ben Lindwall, and Ted Scott continued the process and worked with the entire board to make adjustments, understand, and commit to the plan that was being developed. The plan was then presented and approved during the Annual Board Meeting.

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During this process, it became apparent that it was time to update Heartbeat’s Identity Statements to more accurately reflect the work of the organization. The subtitle was slightly adjusted from “A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing” to “A Sacred Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing”. We also developed new purpose, mission and vision statements. They are as follows:

Purpose:

Advancing the Celtic vision of John Philip and Ali Newell, listening for the heartbeat of the Sacred in all things.

Vision:

Healing in the world by honoring the earth and strengthening relationship across faiths, nations, races, genders, generations, and economic divides.

Mission :

Expanding sacred vision, deepening spiritual practice, nurturing reflective community, and enabling action for change.

This guided the finalization of our strategic plan, which has three specific goals, each containing a list of strategies:

Advance the Celtic vision of John Philip and Ali Newell

  • Promote JPN Message
  • Promote JPN Events
  • Support Celtic Consciousness Schools
  • Promote Heartbeat activities

Foster engagement through pilgrimage and action initiatives

  • Develop action initiatives
  • Expand Heartbeat Pilgrimage Program
  • Develop Heartbeat Gatherings
  • Offer scholarships for pilgrimage, retreat and special projects 

Increase funding for operations, scholarship, pilgrimage, events, and projects

  • Solicit funds through letters, advertising, meetings and phone calls
  • Cultivate Heartbeat donor community
  • Grow new donor base
  • Win Grants

We expect this plan to bring clarity and focus to the work of Heartbeat as the organization grows and matures.

John Philip Newell Launches Schools of Celtic Consciousness in California, Colorado, New England, and Virginia

Iona SunriseJohn Philip Newell has launched an exciting new initiative, the School of Celtic Consciousness. Its purpose is threefold.

  1. To extend the study of Celtic spirituality
  2. To deepen spiritual practice
  3. To nurture reflective community and enable action for change

The School of Celtic Consciousness (SCC) will convene with John Philip Newell as teacher four times each year:

  • The California SCC (Winter)
  • The Colorado SCC (Spring)
  • The New England SCC (Summer)
  • The Virginia SCC (Autumn)

Each school will be on an individual three-year track. Participants are welcome to join at any point (starting during the first year, for instance, is not necessary). In 2017 the dates and locations will be as follows:

(Each of the regions will also host quarterly gatherings to nurture study, spiritual practice, community, and action.)

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John Philip Newell

For many years now John Philip Newell has been regarded as one of the most prominent teachers of Celtic spirituality. In a statement to Heartbeat he said, ‘We hope that the School of Celtic Consciousness will be a legacy of Celtic wisdom for today, to further enable the sacred work of healing and transformation in our lives and world.’

 

Reflections from The Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage: A Walk With the Earth

IMG_4524 “We turned an awe-inspiring place into a thin place.”

This was the reflection from Eric Conklin of Portland, Oregon, USA, one of the pilgrims on Heartbeat’s recent Northwest Coastal Pilgrimage. A group of 10 walked over 40 miles together along the Pacific Coast of Northern Oregon over the course of five days. We made our way through rainforests, fog, wind-driven rain, and across sunny beaches that seemed to stretch forever. The group studied John Philip Newell’s The Rebirthing of God, which provided a foundation for learning and discussion throughout the trip. Prayer practices were based on Celtic Treasure: Scripture and Daily Prayer as the group always began periods of silent walking with the ancient Celtic prayer:

The blessings of heaven

The blessings of earth

The blessings of sea and of sky

On those we love this day.

And on every human family

The blessings of heaven

The blessings of earth

The blessings of sea and of sky

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The combination of relationship, experience of the earth, and spiritual practices further deepened the pilgrimage. Emily MacDonald of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada said, “The Pilgrimage was an amazing, beautiful experience. The times of silence and connection gave us an opportunity to meditate on a particular topic, and do some reflection about our thoughts with another participant. At all times I felt safe and secure with the group as we had meaningful discussions about various topics, such as Love, Healing, and Connections to the Earth.”

The pilgrimage also provided time to contemplate deeper life questions and opportunities to hold areas of brokenness or pain in our lives. “I was deeply touched by the honest, caring approach to the members of the Pilgrimage. I felt safe to express some of my deepest hurts and struggles… I feel stronger to continue my work as a palliative care nurse, and hope to continue to develop the skills to be the person I want to be each and every day, and still have self care and compassion for my own needs,” said Deb Banfield of Sutton, Ontario, Canada.

The pilgrimage was an important reminder of the wisdom that the Celtic World holds for our world today in helping us nurture our connection to the earth. Our “walk with the earth” is a response to the misunderstanding that we can somehow be well while ignoring the earth’s wellbeing. One of the most important aspects of our walk is the discipline of walking in silence. Alex Tish, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA said, “The unbelievably serene beauty of that nature we were in connected me with the rhythms of the earth more intimately. The crashing of the waves were a constant source of relaxation, as well as the deep fog that enclosed us on some mornings. When we would walk in silence, meditating on various concepts, looking around would inspire me to contemplate a connection with the earth further. “

On our last day of walking there was an extended time of silence and each pilgrim was asked to sit with the question, what role do I have to play in the healing of the earth? It’s heavy question to hold. But our intention is that the pilgrimage would lead each of us to some sort of transformative action.

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The answers are many and vary from person to person. One of the pilgrims, Matt Smith of Portland, Oregon, USA, drives an electric car to work every day. He and his wife are on a minister’s salary, but the added expense was a sacrifice they were willing to make because it helped them live out their values. Eric does not even own a car and rides his bicycle wherever he needs to go, often with his five-year old son in tow. Deb is a gardener and shares her homemade jam with friends and neighbors, only asking for the glass jar to be returned when it is finished. Whether reducing carbon emissions by using an electric car, choosing bicycle transportation, or growing food in the backyard, each of us felt a call to answer this question with our lives.

The first step is relationship… spending time walking, singing, and in silence; wrapped in the beauty and power of the earth. And just like any other true relationship, the next step is to do something about it. Re-engaging this cycle is how an awe-inspiring place can turn into a thin place. It is how we find our part in the story and it’s our hope for the healing of the earth.

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photoBen Lindwall is the Executive Director at Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing. Ben lives in Portland, Oregon USA where he and his family are caretakers in residence at the Arbor Lodge Urban Farm. He has been leading group experiences in various capacities for over a decade. Ben has been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell over the past few years and is a certified Spiritual Director. He has been the Executive Director at Heartbeat since 2013, working with people from all over the world to advance a vision of healing, transformation, and peace. Coming from an evangelical Christian background and now like many of his generation, Ben considers himself spiritual (and a Christian) without any formal church membership. He and his wife Jen have been married for 13 years and have two young children.