Tag Archives: music

On Facilitating Circles

2018-05-27 09.23.43

Joran Oppelt facilitating an Integral Church circle in Siofok, Hungary.

Recently, at Integral Church, we had what I felt was our worst Circle ever. But when I voiced my frustration about it, my wife surprisingly said she thought it was the best Circle she’d ever been to.

What happened during the Circle that could have been so polarizing?

In my mind, many things had gone “wrong“ over the course of the morning. It was our outdoor circle so I had to get there early and set up the blankets, chairs and altar. I had forgotten to bring the cash box to pay for our childcare. It started raining halfway through (the first time in 6 years) and we were forced to pack up and move to a nearby pavilion. The children came scampering back early from the playground (due to concerns about lightning) and joined us. We reconvened under the pavilion at one of the picnic tables but were now looking more like a rectangle than a circle. I had intended to sing one song but was moved at the last minute (due to the small group) to sing another. I felt like that morning’s selected reading (a work of science fiction) fell a bit flat with some of the participants and those who I’d hoped would be there to participate in the discussion couldn’t make it. We passed the offering bowl and got the least amount of money we’ve ever collected. Because I had asked for a volunteer, the closing meditation ended up being led by my six-year-old (as I whispered prompts in his year).

Now, none of these things on their own are particularly negative experiences, but in the aggregate I felt like I had lost control of the circle. And, therein lay my dilemma. The circles aren’t something that are controlled. They are facilitated. And the next day I had to do some deep inquiry into why I felt so exhausted after facilitating a circle that felt so bad to me and so good to my best friend. Continue reading

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Alchemy Fest 2015 [Photos and Video]

photo by Tanya Sharkey

photo by Tanya Sharkey

Thank you so much for making our 10th Annual Alchemy Fest event an amazing celebration of transformation and community. We’re already looking forward to next year.

Thank you to our leadership team and to the rest of the planning committee and all the volunteers. This event would literally NOT be possible without you. Thank you to all of our vendors and sponsors. This event could not happen year after year without your contributions and financial support, and we appreciate you so much.

We saw over 400 attendees over the course of the day, over 90 pre-sold tickets (the most we’ve ever had), 36 completed Green Cards, 3 big raffle winners and 38 satisfied vendors (again, a new record).

I can’t say how happy it makes me to see that this community and family-friendly event continues to grow and stay true to its mission of connecting and showcasing amazing and talented LOCAL people while honoring Earth Day, the arrival of Spring, the spirit of transformation, and so much more.

Thank you, again. I know that next year will be even bigger and better and I know that we will cross paths in the meantime to create more meaningful and transformative events and experiences (though not quite as labor-intensive as this one) for the members of our community.

You have my sincere gratitude.

Looking forward,
Joran

photo by Cassidy Brooks

photo by Cassidy Brooks

Obscure Belly Dance by Caroline Hekate.

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The Offering of the Stones: An Integral Church Tradition

Chapter 15 - Stones

Offering of the Stones: Community Guidelines

by Joran Oppelt and Catherine St. John

Each month, we dedicate a section of our circle to intentionally working together to create a “well” of love and healing for our members to tap into any time they need. The idea behind the “Offering of the Stones” ritual is a synthesis of an improvisational Neopagan “reclaiming” ritual, the candle-lighting ritual of “Joys and Concerns” from Unitarian Universalism and traditions as far-reaching as Catholic Taize prayer service and the Quaker “spirit of the meeting.”

When we need prayer, meditation or spiritual support, these stones provide a “well” of intentions — a place to hold our stories and our suffering as well as our gratitude, love and healing; a place that may be returned to in our hearts and minds between circles anytime we need.

The stones symbolize our connection with each other and the Earth. We offer stones to the collection so we may have a physical representation of the prayerful energy that we support one another with.

We encourage everyone to share openly using “I” language, and in order to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in the circle, we ask that what is shared come from the heart as we speak about our own experience, and we listen without comment to what others share.

We ask participants who have shared at previous services to go first, setting an example for the newcomers.

When a person is finished speaking, they end their share with the word dibarti — a Hebrew word meaning, “I am complete” or “I have spoken.”

The group then responds in unison with the word shamati, meaning “you have been heard” or “we welcome your story.”  

The next person shares spontaneously, in no particular order. Those who brought stones have the opportunity to share first. Participants sit and hold their stone (talking stick method) while they are speaking and then step into the circle to offer it to the “well.”

To protect the space created within our sacred circle, please keep in mind the following guidelines while you are sharing:

  • Use “I” language
    • Avoid using “You” or “We” statements that reference specific individuals in the group or the community in general. Speak about your own experience or how something makes you feel.
    • This is not a time to teach or preach. It is a time to connect with your own body and mind and speak openly about how you are feeling. If a participant gets too caught up in storytelling, they are moving away from their own bodily awareness, and may need a prompt from the facilitator to return.
  • Avoid crosstalk
    • Crosstalk refers to people speaking out of turn, interrupting someone while they are speaking or giving direct and unsolicited advice.
  • Offer a specific intention
    • Ask for direct prayers through a difficult time.
    • Celebrate an event or obstacle you’ve overcome.
    • Speak from the heart. This intention is a contract for you and Spirit-in-Action!
  • Be mindful of time
    • Try to limit the share to less than 2 minutes, especially for large groups, to give everyone an opportunity to share.
  • The “Offering of the Stones” is not a space for dialogue, response or debate.
    • When a person is offering their stone, it is their turn to speak
    • If a previous member’s share inspires you to speak, share how you feel personally, and avoid singling them out by name or referencing their story.
    • If a member wants to discuss what someone else has shared, he/she should approach that person after the service and ask their permission.

See also, the “Touchstones” developed by the Center for Courage and Renewal.

The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.

 

The collection today (2015). It now contains stones from around the world, including California, New York City, Austin,  Albuquerque, the Berlin Wall, The Chapel at Chimayo, the cave of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Glastonbury Thorn Tree.

The collection circa 2015. It now contains stones, shells, crystals, fossils and dinosaur bones from around the world, including Florida, California, New York City, Austin, Albuquerque, the Berlin Wall, France, Spain, Scotland, Belgium, Amsterdam, The Chapel at Chimayo, the cave of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Glastonbury Thorn Tree.

 

love-stones

This photo was submitted to Integral Church as a long-distance offering via e-mail.

 

 

 


Leaning Forward: The Art of Living on the Spiritual Path [VIDEO]

FULL AUDIO: http://uustpete.org/service/2014-09-07/new-beginnings

TRANSCRIPT:

What is your spiritual path?

When we talk about being “spiritual but not religious” or living a “spiritual” life, what do we mean exactly?

There are different ways we can define spirituality (its own line of development, the highest level or stage of any line of development, an attitude toward life – like compassion or love, a peak experience regardless of lines or stages, or the Ground of all being and experience). Spirituality means all of these things (and more) to so many. And when discussing spirituality with others, it’s important to determine which definitions are in play.

But one thing is for certain – the spiritual path should not be confused with our spiritual practice. The path is not what we do. It’s who we are, who we choose to be in each moment. It is the journey to which we are called.

And whatever we are called to do – whichever cause or organization or group of people we’re called to serve, this is also part of our path. It’s a sacred relationship, a spiritual contract held in place by the agreements you have with yourself – that you will serve on your path with integrity.

I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to having doubts about my own worthiness – and my own qualifications. Not only in my career, but in parenting, in my pastoral and chaplain work, in community leadership, in my writing. Who am I to be deserving of these teachings and experiences that I’ve received? Who am I to be worthy of happiness in my life? Am I deserving of the opportunity to teach others?

Self-doubt sometimes greets you on the sunniest parts of the path.

Continue reading


Alchemy Fest 2014 [Photos and Video]

UPDATE: See photos from the 2014 event!

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Alchemy Fest is St. Petersburg’s 9th annual family­-friendly event featuring live music, interactive arts and crafts, food, an organic vendor marketplace, kids games and activities, dance performances, yoga, meditation, massage, workshops, magic and more! Bring the whole family and enjoy a beautiful day packed with music, art, education and fun!

Entertainment confirmed so far includes Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, Red Feather, Rebekah Pulley and Luxury Mane, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real.

There will be seven “Transformation Stations” set up throughout the event. To be entered to win the grand prize, containing donations from our sponsors and vendors, attendees must visit all stations and submit their completed “Green Cards” before the end of the day!

Visit the event page.

What: Alchemy Fest 9
When: Saturday, April 26; Noon – 6 p.m.
Where: First Unity Campus, 460 46th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 33703
Who: Live music by Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, RedFeather, Luxury Mane and Rebekah Pulley, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real.
Tickets: $10 in advance at enlivenwellnessworks.com, $12 at the door, Kids 10 and under Free; Parking available on 46th Ave. N., all ages, plenty of parking and restrooms, stroller and wheelchair-friendly

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/661768430510307/


A Spiritual Internship: My Journey as a Chaplain

Joran Slane Oppelt - Chaplain

Last weekend, I committed to a year-long chaplaincy at a local church.

For those that are unfamiliar, the purpose of a chaplain is to hold sacred space alongside the pastor, minister or spiritual leader – by assisting with prayer and/or meditation requests, making calls on the members of the congregation, and attending regular group meetings.

It’s basically a spiritual internship, with rounds to make and hours to satisfy, but primarily it’s an opportunity to develop my skills as a compassionate listener, and continue to hone my chops as a reverend and as a shaman. It’s truly a responsibility that I was honored to take on, and the inner rewards are many.

In the weeks leading up to the retreat, we had been advised to re-focus our efforts toward self-care, as it’s difficult to lead and open yourself to others when you haven’t done the work yourself. I had been dealing with some personal shadow work and some issues around “letting go.” Meditating on what it meant to lead and be led, and on how my roles as musician, father, marketer, husband, reverend, son, etc. all fit together.

The weekend-long retreat took place on the church property, located in St. Petersburg, and I was joined by 23 others who were drawn to the chaplaincy for various reasons, or were renewing their annual commitment (one woman was going on her 7th year). We were told the theme for this year’s retreat was “angels,” and I tried not to visibly roll my eyes. After all, I told myself, “angel” is just another word for a guiding energy from the bardo (or causal) realm, and I would surely be safe from any metaphysical mumbo jumbo as long as I interpreted my experience from a pragmatic (read: integral) perspective and listened from the compassionate centers of the heart.

It started off simple enough, with a lot of sharing and getting to know one another over communal meals and team-building activities. But on the second day, it started to become clear that I was truly in the right place at the right time.

As we were fully immersed in three hours of silence, taking turns in the labyrinth and in a sanctuary filled with musical instruments, we all drew Archangel Cards and were sent to the rose garden to write in our journals. I’m not sure what anyone else drew, but I drew a card labeled “Victory,” marked by the Archangel Sandalphon. Sandalphon is one of two angels (the other being Metatron) that, according to legend, started life as a mortal man and was allowed access to archangeldom for his numerous good deeds on Earth. Sandalphon’s chief purpose was to gather up the prayers of humans and send them as a glowing orb of white light to God.

“Victory,” I thought. Victory, indeed.

Not only am I blessed with a loving wife and family, but the serendipity of things continues to reveal itself to me in unexpected ways. Cards like the one I drew seemed less random when I realized that my path wasn’t so much a road, but a new mode of being. A state of perpetual insight and intuition, and also a stage of development that is tuned to the highest ethical ideals, the highest and most inclusive forms of consciousness. In other words, this new way of looking at the world is recognizing that you are an expression of Divine energy. That when you reflect on the Cosmos, you are staring at the best and most beautiful parts of yourself.

Not only was I tapping into the unfolding of cosmic consciousness – of which our own unfolding is but a small part – but I was learning to articulate these states and stages in the language of the heart. Continue reading


Improving Your Sunday Soundtrack

One of the most anti-climactic and disappointing elements of the traditional church service, to me, is not the message clouded in hyperbole. It’s not the sermon — delivered by motivational speakers with drawn-out, dramatic pauses. It’s not the church politics or the passing of the plate.

It’s the music.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envy the job of the church musical director — keeping an eye out for new talent among the congregation, readying material with little time for rehearsal, limited budget for session players or name acts, politics from the board of directors who have family members who “love to perform.”

I understand it. But I don’t have to like it.

I’m a musician after all, and I have a hard time finding a musical service that both pleases the ear in composition and tonality and also moves the soul to the kind of heights necessary to attain spiritual reflection and illumination.

There is no sheet music for this, there is no cheat sheet or chart. It has to arise in the moment. And when it does, the whole room can feel it. Is this kind of performance too much to ask?

Please take a second to answer this one-question survey in the comments section below.

“I would go to church every Sunday (or more) if the band performing at the service was ______________.”

(Can be anyone, living or dead)