50 days to 50 — Day 7: Calming: Taizé

Tuesday night. Taizé.

In my coaching practice, I’ve developed a tagline that holds the flow of our experience of working together. Calm. Create. Connect. Calming can come from many directions. One of my favorites is to find rituals and experiences that take me out of my ordinary mind and back into my heart and body. I realized as I returned home from leading a Taizé service tonight that this practice has become a true lifeline.

The practice of Taize chanting and reflection came into my life as I studied in at Santa Clara University in the mid-80’s. A brother from the Taize community in France came to train us in the music and chanting that serve as the core of the Taize “Prayers Around the Cross” service. The chants were simple and meditative — so different from performing — and so powerful in creating a contemplative and loving space for those who attended. Together we learned the flow of chanting, readings, silent reflection, intentions and time for prayer at the cross while the community stays with us, holding us as we pray.

A few Taizé chants

That music and practice has woven through my entire life as I traveled to France, worked with the Labyrinth Network at Grace Cathedral, attended services at Mercy Center in Burlingame and many other small gatherings all over the world — joining anywhere I happened upon the practice in my travels. Always I was welcomed by the ritual and music — calming my mind and allowing me to return once again to trust and reflection.

Labyrinth Walk at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA. We also did Taizé services around the labyrinth. Via Veriditas.

In 2015, as my recovery was just beginning, my sister and I decided our first trip away from the house would be to go to the Taizé service at the church nearby. I was frail and in a wheelchair, but by golly, I could and did get there on Tuesday’s from 6:30 to 7:15 pm each week. It was such a joy to discover I could sing (at least that was still working) and receive the healing and hope that the incredibly beautiful community of humans, the prayer, silence and chanting provide. In that community of practice at the church, we often laugh at how each and every one of us runs to Taizé in times of chaos — as it grounds us and allows us to continue on — gently reminded that we are cherished and surrounded by love.

I’ve always viewed the Taize service as an essential part of my practice as a contemplative and as a human being. It allows me — again and again — to open my heart and continue in trust and love no matter what the circumstances I find myself in. It quiets the troubled mind I often bring and allows me to remember my center.

You can find Taizé services and chanting from other traditions in a lot of places these days. Walking a labyrinth, with it’s single path in and out, is another form of practice that lets you sink into the repetition and let the mind rest from all its busyness. Here’s to finding ritual and community that can support us in all that we live through to lift us up into doing more than just surviving.

Having written this tonight, it strikes me that I’m going to enjoy continuing to deepen these practices and grow and find others. Being spiritually (and every other kind of) geeky has been extremely helpful so far in life and I imagine it will continue being so.

I’m intrigued to hear what practices other people have to calm things in their lives. Tell me about it if you’d like!

Onward. Gently.

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