Seeking Connection 2018
For four days in late April, St. Louis, MO, USA became the capital of spiritual direction.
For many of us, Seeking Connection 2018 was like diving into a pool of kindness. It was a remarkable opportunity to meet and welcome diverse people who all honor and make space for spirit. The SDI Conference was participatory from beginning to end. Not something you watched, but something you shared. Keynote speaker Rev. angel Kyodo williams showed the way -- offering a compassionate challenge to let our differences guide us to our common humanity. In our one-day intensives and more than 40 workshops, participants and presenters connected to expand one another. The Heartland Journey and the Meramec River Retreat that followed the conference continued the experience that was equal parts contemplation, connection and adventure.
We wanted to share some of the highlights with you in photos and videos. So, we created this page on our website. Have a look.
All you need to do is click on the photo next to the part of the conference you want to explore. This will start a carousel of photos.
We hope it reminds you of the extraordinary community we forged in St. Louis, a community that all those who read these words are welcome to join.
We also want to plant a seed of invitation for next year's conference, Seeking Connection 2019 will be held March 14-17 in Bellevue, WA, USA. Please save the date.
Thursday Plenary - Spiritual Direction with New Friends
Celebration of Contemplation
With thanks to the artful eye of photographer Matthew P. Whitney, we can share moments from an extraordinary opening session at Seeking Connection 2018.
There was a song of spirit to start.
An indigenous blessing from SDI Ambassador Maria Barrera.
SDI executive director Anil Singh-Molares brought stillness to the room by getting everyone to raise hands.
Then ... let the listening begin: participants found someone they didn't know and then found connection by offering the welcome no one can resist -- deep listening.
All in all, a delightful evening, capped by Lizzie Salsich's original lullabye.
And the phrase lingers in the memory, "Go deeper. Go deeper."
Blessings to all.
Friday Plenary - Mirabai Starr and Rev. angel Kyodo williams
The Divine (and Compassionate) Feminine
More than 400 people gathered Friday morning at the St Louis Union Station Hotel to listen to one of the world’s foremost writers on what many are calling "The Divine Feminine." Mirabai Starr spoke about the needed paradigm shift to feminine leadership in all walks of life, including spirituality. Great talk, great feeling in the house.
Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams followed with a spell-binding talk all about transformation. Rev. angel explored how our sense of brokenness can lead us to compassion and acceptance of others - and how that compassion can lead us out of brokenness to wholeness. Beautiful.
Grateful for her wisdom. Grateful for the hundreds of kindred and kind spirits listening to her and Mirabai. When the audience is made up of so many avid and trained listeners -- communication is golden.
In-depth, hands-on learning
Writing. Interspirituality. The Enneagram. Dreams. Making a Living as a Spiritual Director. Sowing Healing.
Our 1-day intensive workshops covered rich topics. It brought our the student in some of us and the contemplative in others - sparking joy in learning.
Learning & Discerning
In our 40 workshops, participants and presenters connected to expand one another. Sometimes it brought delight. Sometimes it brought tears, but never without tender ears to hold space. We learned side-by-side - the listener often teaching as much as those who spoke.
Saturday Plenary - Fr. Richard Rohr
Diversity & Going Deep in One Place
Brilliant man. Expansive heart. Gate-opener to mystery. Bridge builder. Story teller. Spiritual director, too.
Richard Rohr, OFM captivated us at Seeking Connection 2018 in St. Louis via live stream. He spoke of the “Universal Christ,” but left no doubt that all spiritual traditions are brothers and sisters. In fact, he said that all religion is metaphor to give us access to truth. He also explained how going "deep" into one's own spiritual tradition can open one's curiosity and appreciation for the traditions of others What a gift of communication he has. The audience was rapt and gave him loving attention. Thank you, Father Richard. Photos by Matthew P. Whitney.
Saturday Night - Community Event
Truth & Song
This was a night to invite the St. Louis community to join with us. Shivali Bhammer charmed the audience with a song of spirit in Hindi. Panel discussions moderated by keynote speakers Mirabai Starr and Rev. angel Kyodo williams gave free reign to a diverse group of spiritual companions who spoke from the heart and from experience about social justice, truth, love and how spirituality and contemplation can dovetail with action.
Sunday Plenary - Inter-Mystical Service
Playing in the deep end
SDI Executive Director Anil Singh-Molares says that spiritual companions like to play in the deep end. Seeking Connection 2018 took us all to the deepest part of the pool on its last day -- holding an inter-mystical service.
With readings from a variety of traditions by Mirabai Starr , Rev. angel Kyodo williams and others, some exquisite stillness from author and SDI Coordinating Council Member Sean Murphy, some remarkable guitar music from the very same Anil Singh-Molares and songs from New Contemplative Lizzie Salsich, it was an opportunity to expand, explore and celebrate -- sharing contemplation in community. Beautiful.
Then it was time to say goodbye - poignant but not without promise of reunion. Seeking Connection 2019 already beckons -- this time in Bellevue, Washington, USA -- close to Seattle and home to SDI. Mark your calendar - March 14-17. All photos by Matthew P. Whitney.
SDI Heartland Journey
What does it mean to be bound together through place?
These photos depict the SDI spiritual journey that explored three remarkable contemplative sites near St. Louis.
Monday's Journey included a group of conference attendees visiting a series of holy sites around St. Louis. It began with a visit to Cahokia Mounds, the largest ancient civilization site north of Mexico – the site of the largest Pre-Columbian city in North America (16 square km). It was also home to the Mississippian culture that thrived more than 1,000 years before Europeans arrived, and a city which scholars say rivaled the population of London in 1300 CE. Attendees were welcomed by elders and participated in a blessing and shared prayer, exploring what it means to well tend our relations with the native people and traditions that our country is built upon.
From there, attendees journeyed to Ferguson, MO, site of civil unrest following the police killing of Michael Brown and major catalyst in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Journey concluded at Confluence Point State Park, where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers meet just north of St. Louis. The confluence is important socially and economically and plays a role in U.S. history - it was the starting point of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1804. Attendees learned about the environmental and cultural impact of these waters, and the ways they are at risk. Attendees participated in the mystical power of this holy place through meditation, prayer, and presence.
Meramec River Retreat
Nature. Spirit. Joy.
Spring. Creativity. Silence. Renewal. And don't forget fun and camaraderie
We wanted to share some photos from the Meramec River Retreat which followed Seeking Connection 2018.
Contemplation, deep connection and bonhomie blossomed under the leadership of Sister Kathleen McAlpin, SDI Ambassador Maria Barrera and Kathleen Davis. At the tree-planting, the group even demonstrated that it could get work done even while wearing stylish shoes.
The retreat was held at the Marianist Retreat and Conference Center about 30 minutes outside St. Louis.