Self-care comes in many forms, for we are complex creatures housing physical, intellectual and emotional components. We are image-bearers of the living God, made to display His glory. Self-care honours our innate purpose. There is no shortage of information on diets, exercise, and other habits meant to promote healthy bodies. Our technological devices offer all kinds of games and online courses to learn new languages or other skills meant to keep our brains firing on all cylinders. We have wonderful opportunities to remain active and astute. We pay less heed to soul care. Christians consider church attendance, Bible study, and prayer at the forefront of their inner care. And yet, sometimes, it doesn’t seem enough; peace and wholeness are elusive.
Cathy A J Hardy has been a spiritual director for twenty years, leading ecumenical song and prayer services throughout the Lower Mainland for over half that time. She has worked with the Benedictine Monks at Mission’s Westminster Abbey, leading retreats for the past 8 years. She offers personal spiritual direction, has released several CDs and just published her first book.
Hardy notes that in these challenging times, it’s easy to turn to our addictions as a way to cope, but there’s also significant discussion on personal soul care, simply because right now “we have to be with ourselves whether we want to or not. This is an incredible time to choose how we want to respond to a situation where we don’t have a lot of control.”
Hardy didn’t know what spiritual direction was until 25 years ago when her life came crashing down. It was a time when her theology and traditional faith just wasn’t enough. In that dark time, Christ led her to a spiritual director by the name of Joy – who walked with her on the pathway to healing, which eventually brought Hardy into becoming a spiritual director.
Hardy describes her inner faith life as deep. As a follower of Christ, her desire is to find common ground with others – whether they are pastors, therapists, or people on the fringe of the church community – and being faithful to that which God calls her.
Hardy connects with people of various faiths, responding from the integrity of her own heart. “I invite people into an awareness of the presence of God. If they have a particular language [for them] that’s easier to use, I’ll try to be sensitive to that. With spiritual direction, our job is to listen, to be attentive to what is happening in your soul journey. How can we be attentive together to the invitation that you are experiencing in your soul?” Guiding people with Christian roots, she pays attention to the movement of God in that person’s life, but is careful not to formulate words for their own description of it. Hardy explains that her work as a spiritual director is to walk along and bear witness as opposed to trying to help or ‘save’ those who seek her out.
Hardy has witnessed pastors and ministry leaders whose inner lives are a complete wasteland. It can come from the need to accomplish. It can come from endless lists of tasks and goals – from a life of outer focus that makes no time for the inner work of self-care. Hardy points out that Jesus invites his followers to living waters. “We already have it in us, this inner wellspring,” she says, “but we neglect to access it.”
Of her recently published book, Walk With Me, she says, “Spiritual direction taught me a posture of being attentive and to learn to embrace silence and listening. Those things have changed my life and … I wanted to introduce [them] to others in a deeper way.”
Hardy has taught music for 35 years, and enjoys the range of genres. Her own compositions have an earthy sound. “When my mom died, especially, I spent a lot of time in the woods, and so the rhythms I heard as I walked in the woods are what is in those songs.” One of her influences, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a German mystic who lived on the Rhine River, and whose faith journey paralleled that of other mystics rooted in the Christian faith. With most music written by men in monasteries, Hildegard of Bingen’s songs were ‘out of the box’ for the time. Hardy’s music contains aspects of those ancient sounds.
Many years ago, in her time of crisis, a friend placed a small book into Hardy’s hands. It contained Taize music of that community begun in France during the 1960s by Brother Roger. “The songs of Taizé and the values of Brother Roger changed my life and I became passionate about creating evenings where we could experience prayer together through music no matter what background we came from,” Hardy explains. She still leads song services once a month, Evening of Sung Prayers. Today she uses many of her own compositions – rich melodies and lyrics – a conduit through which the ‘collective voice’ prays and draws into the presence of Love.
The term ‘mystic’ elicits visions of old world monks walking solemnly through an abbey in their hooded robes. Living the life of a modern-day mystic, Hardy explains that mystics are regular people aware of the ordinary and the unordinary in all of creation and of being alive to the presence of God. She adds, “We should all yearn to be mystics. It’s not meant to be some strange thing for a few people. It’s something we’re all meant for – to be awake and alive to the Living Presence.” She reveals that it’s not an emotional experience, but it’s rooted and grounded. It has an outcome. “What is the fruit of this in my life? Am I more selfish or am I more loving?” The early mystics gave themselves to a life of service. “That’s the sign of a true mystic. That is the sign of someone who has been undone by love. My life becomes poured out by the love I receive.”
Cathy AJ Hardy sustains her attention to God’s voice in her own life. To others, she offers various means to discover God’s work deep within their souls. She passionately desires to partner with Christ who invites all to the living waters.
Hardy offers an online course, Getting to Know Yourself, CD’s, her book and events listed at cathyajhardy.com.
Holy Saturday Afternoon Soul Care Retreat – Online
Holy Saturday is a time ‘in-between’… a time of sorrow, of unknown, of waiting, of uncertainty.
Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday is a symbol of Holy Darkness.
Holy Darkness can be a space of loss and it can also be a space of formation.
It offers two things:
1. An opportunity to receive soul care, stillness and wisdom in the midst of collective and personal fear and disorientation
2. An opportunity to receive guidance for how to live our lives with the gifts we have been given.
Through music, meditations, journaling questions, images and more, Cathy will guide participants in this place of Holy Darkness.
Open to all, this is an Online Event.