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Monthly Archives: July 2010

by John Althouse Cohen_______________________

You might ask this question if you notice a gap in blog entries here.  Summer vacation?  Can a serious writer ever take a vacation, you ask?  Or have family obligations or other interests that permit a pause in writing?  Don’t we need to write every day to keep our skills sharp?  Aren’t we compelled to write?  YES!  And I have continued to write every day, even yesterday on the second day of a medical procedure that required three days of fasting and general anesthesia two days running (one of my shortest ever journal entries).  But I am not yet open enough to the world to publicly share my daily journal.  Perhaps after my death you’ll see those boxes of hand-written journals dating back to 1969 and the computer journals from the last eight years.   Is that selfish?  Prudent?  Shall I try a few to see what you think?

But there has also been exciting progress on the book during this gap in blogging.   Since my guitarist husband had already scheduled to have his producer here to record his four days of live performances, Tony also did two sessions with me.  The first was a 45 minute recording of a guided meditation similar to ones I do for women’s retreats and the second a recording of the introductions to the first several chapters of my book, The Power of Love.  Shall I post one when I receive them?

Have you recorded your voice reading your own writing?  How did you feel about the process?

I had the great privilege yesterday of organizing a day of meditation for women friends.  The setting was an octagon in a beautiful blueberry farm.   I led guided meditation, walking meditation amidst the blueberries and on the labyrinth, deep relaxation and eating meditation.  At the end, we shared and listened to each other’s experience of meditating in a group of women.  For some it was a first experience; for others a reunion of fellow meditators.  Some of the women there had guided me toward this path after a period of deep hopelessness and despair in my life.  Now I was able to offer them methods of meditation I had learned over the last 19 years.  Giving away what we have been given is truly the best way to ensure its presence in our lives.

Later that evening I attended my regular Sunday evening sitting with the Washington Mindfulness Community (  I needed to be nourished after giving and being present for others all day.  I also wanted to say goodbye to a very special young woman who was leaving us for a year.  It was her first time as bell mistress and she did a lovely job.  Passing it on…that’s important…teaching others that anyone can meditate, that we can’t meditate wrong, that peace and calm are available to us at any moment, anywhere, as close as our next breath!

After becoming a nun at age 17 and remaining in the order for almost 12 years, I eventually became very alienated from the religion of my youth.  My book traces some of these deep changes, but that story ends in 1970.  A great deal has happened since then.

Saturday I attended the memorial for Bill Callahan, a Jesuit priest who devoted his life to relieving poverty in Central America and challenging sexual inequality in the church.  He founded the Quixote Center, which shipped millions of dollars of humanitarian aid  to Nicaragua during the Contra wars.  He challenged his religious order and the church on many levels.  I was privileged to work with Quixote Center years ago, so I participated in his service with gratitude and joy at having been part of his community.  Two nuns there- whose political actions got them in “hot water” with their original religious orders- found acceptance in my old order, the Sisters of Loretto.  They are part of my community and my life.

I find that my old antagonisms melt in the face of believers of any faith who are able to sing in their grief and celebrate beautiful lives.

“Jon Fravel” “Rushing Waters”

Today, July 2,  is my brother’s birthday.  I hope he enjoys my gift -the draft of my book, The Power of Love: How a Nun became a Revolutionary.  I realized as we walked along the bridge over Great Falls, enjoying a magical day outdoors together, that he has been one of my greatest fans all his life.  He knew and understood my life as his sister, as a nun and as a convict awaiting sentencing for my opposition to the Vietnam War.  He has always been open-minded, loyal and passionate in his own convictions.

Thank you, my brother, for your love and support, now as I launch my story.  Thank you for being such a joy in my life.  Thank you for “walking in beauty” in your own life.

Farm 3 by Mableton

My husband’s computer crashed suddenly a couple of days ago.  OMG!  All the pictures, wordfiles, music,  ideas for books, emails, gone.  I haven’t been blogging much during the last week due to wonderful celebrations and trying to recover his files and re-edit my book for backup systems.  The crash has brought much reflection on how dependent we have become on our computers, on things in our lives.  Here are some musings from my journal (which I do write faithfully every day).

We are more than our things, we are life unlimited.  This is hard to remember when we lose something we use everyday.  We are so dependent on our beds, refrigerators, AC, groups we cherish, our families, friends.  But everything changes.  People change.  We change.  It is strange how much of our early lives we seem to focus on “acquiring” education, manners, language, toys, habits, etc.  Then in older age, we slowly start losing memory, manners, language, toys.  Habits sometimes remain, not always our best ones.  Life is change.  So important to focus on the present moment, to relish it deeply for all that it contains, to give ourselves in the moment to LIFE, to the people in our lives, to live as fully as possible.  Because this moment will pass and another will come quickly.  Things and people will pass out of our lives.  Our life will change.  Present moment/wonderful moment!  Letting go can be such an exercise in freedom and openness.