Friday, June 28, 2019

Sacred Spaces June 28th

sacred places vortex sedona
"You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something will eventually happen." ~ Joseph Campbell
Dear Aspen Chapel Families, 

     This is such a sweet reminder for us, as parents. Can we possibly find a time in the day to forget the appointments we need to make, to ignore the texts and emails, to not worry about our children or the world we're raising them in? How can we be our most divine selves if we don't give ourselves the gift of quiet in a sacred space? How can we really know what to do in our daily matters if we don't listen to the still, small voice within, which is the voice of our highest consciousness? 
    This past week we had company in our house, which meant double the house work and half the time for oneself. All spaces were filled with conversation and time was filled with rushed efficiency to ensure all mouths were fed and bodies hydrated. I found myself toward the end of the week spiraling into self-doubt and anxiety about the growing and impossible to-do lists and anticipating the piles of sheets and dirty bathrooms. But last night I treated myself to a yoga class where time literally stood still. The pace of this class was so slow with very little music...maybe a tap on a healing crystal bowl. In that hour and a half I found my equilibrium again and walked out feeling like everything was possible again. Truly, we need the gift of sabbatical every single day. 
    Parenting often feels like a race track with multiple obstacles to jump over, roll under and dodge almost every day. We can't possibly tackle the demands unless we calm our nervous systems by finding a sacred space where we can breathe, silence the noise in our heads, silence the noise of the world, and to find our inner light and stillness which will keep us upright when circumstances push us off balance. Equally important is to equip our children with the same daily practice: taking a daily break from music, screens, friends, camps, and all stimulation and bring them back to themselves, which can only be found in stillness and silence. 
    This Sunday we will continue to explore the idea of sacred spaces. We'll look at images of sacred spaces people use for worship, both indoors and outdoors, and discuss the qualities we look for that make a place special for us. Children in Sunday School have shared certain places that feel sacred: their bedrooms, the ocean, next to a river, and even within their classrooms when they need a break to be alone. Hopefully as parents we can model self care and the importance of silence for ourselves. Perhaps this will motivate them to create a special place in the home where they can retreat when their sensory systems are overloaded. And by fostering the importance of being still in sacred spaces at home, our children will seek out places in nature and/or places of worship or spiritual practice. The overall lesson is that the most sacred space lies within each and every one of us; but that sacred spaces can facilitate or help us access that space more easily. 
    Have a wonderful weekend, enjoying this glorious summer weather and I hope to see you and your children at the chapel this Sunday! 

Sacred Spaces; June 21st

sacred spaces
"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again." ~Joseph Campbell
Dear Aspen Chapel Families, 

    I apologize for skipping this weekly communication last week. I was with six students on a border immersion program in El Paso/Las Cruces, and didn't have access to the Internet in our guest house. I had intended to begin our "sacred spaces" unit a couple of weeks ago, but because I delivered the Sunday sermon on the 9th and Father's Day was last Sunday, we're beginning the unit officially this Sunday. 
    For those who have lived in this valley for awhile probably have identified a place that brings pure serenity. Maybe it's a mountain valley, a specific trail, a place by a stream, or even a place of worship or yoga studio. As parents, maybe we yearn to sit in those places to shut out the noise of our daily life, with all of its fragmented demands.
    Our kids have come into a world with even more distractions and demands than we had as children. They have much less down time and the expectations to participate in multiple extra-curricular activities begin much earlier, especially as parents feel the pressure to prepare them for getting into college. Many of us as children had more free play time and open spaces we were allowed to go in to let our imaginations soar. This is no longer the case for our kids, since there's more development, more traffic, more information about safety, and less time. 
    Helping our children identify a sacred space, away from pressure and demands and distractions is critical. It doesn't have to be a high mountain valley; maybe it's under a coffee table or a closet, or a part of the house where the sun comes in just right. We know how important our children's human and pet connections are. They find solace and support in friends, dogs, cats, siblings, and of course their caregivers. But they also need to feel connected to places in their world that bring them peace and a place they can be alone with their thoughts, especially since our friends and family members aren't always physically or emotionally available. 
     This Sunday I'm going to help our kids identify the places they feel safe and peaceful in. We'll discuss whether it's outside or inside, and how these places make them feel. We might explore the idea of heaven and hell. Is heaven a distant place we go to after life on earth? Or is it something we find in this physical life, through our spaces and thoughts? What spaces bring tranquility and peace, and what spaces invite agitation and angst? If we can help our children become AWARE of how a space can be sacred, seeking them out can be a tool for calming their nervous systems and discovering their own independent thoughts and imagination. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

connection image 4

"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."
~Dorothy Day

Dear Aspen Chapel Families, 

     Since we started our exploration into "connectedness" a couple of weeks ago, it seems to be a topic many people are talking about. I listened to an interview on NPR the other evening about college students suffering from anxiety and depression at alarming rates on college campuses. I have talked to parents whose college-aged children want to live back at home because they feel so isolated and lonely at school. And of course the take away from the presentation on" raising teens with family and community" was that human connection is essential for keeping kids from engaging in destructive behaviors.
     It seems that the more connections we have on our phones, the less connected we are to the people in our own homes and neighborhoods. I see it in myself! My kids ask a question, and the response is delayed as I finish a text or email on the phone. Our work demands bleed into family life with the convenience of emails on our phones! That's the modeling we're doing, so when it's time for "connecting" at the dinner table, it becomes harder and harder to set limits on kids when we don't set them for ourselves. Phones aren't the only reason for this lack of connection: we're overworked and our children are over-programmed. We're too busy to see our friends during the week, and no one is home during the down time for kids to play with. And the academic pressures are insurmountable, contributing to the unprecedented rates of anxiety among teens. 
     I came across an article written by a minister in Boulder called The epidemic of loneliness in young people and how spiritual youth groups can help. It explains how our too-full schedules and technology have replaced the connection kids have with nature and each other. 
     I am so grateful to be able to create a space at the Aspen Chapel where youth can come and explore ideas openly and without judgment. As they grow older, we'll dive deeply into these more difficult topics, such as depression, addiction, and loneliness. But for now I'm thrilled to have a platform to teach them about what connectedness means and to provide a way for them to connect with each other. This Sunday we'll discuss why our connections to people, places, and things is so important. We'll also begin discussing whether it's okay to let go of a connection. Sometimes friendships become painful for kids, and they need to know it's okay to move on. And we'll think about how our connections have enriched our lives. I do hope to see you and your children this Sunday at the Chapel! Enjoy the emergence of Spring, finally!
connectedness image 3

"If we all stand together, we'll all begin to heal."
~Sonja Linman

Dear Aspen Chapel Families,
    Early this week I had the privilege of attending a presentation called, "Helping Our Teens Through Family and Community" at the Aspen District Theater. Individuals and families who had direct experience with addiction sat on the first panel, and mental health therapists, police officers, and an ER doctor sat on the second. Sonja Linman, a prevention specialist and long-time educator, spoke in the middle.
    The first panel shared their harrowing stories of addiction and what factors they believe got them there. The second panel shared their observations of what teens are facing today: incredibly busy schedules, academic and social pressure, time on social media, and easy access to drugs and alcohol. Sonja Linman suggested that we become good at what we practice. Kids are practicing being on their devices and being over-programmed. She equated their experience to a cat watching a horror film: over-stimulation and anxiety as a result of a perceived threat, which life today offers!
    The common thread that each speaker spoke to was connection. It was stated that when kids stop connecting to their family, they become disconnected from themselves. Kids can feel lonely in their family if they don't connect on an emotional level. One of the presenters shared that as he became more distant and withdrawn from his family due to feeling overwhelmed and isolated by his emotions, he turned to drugs because he could connect just by sitting with someone else doing drugs. It was a way to be with people without sharing anything except a temporary high that numbs the pain. It wasn't until he was sent away for wilderness therapy that he realized how sad it was that he sought connection that way, now that he has learned that sharing our emotions is how we really connect with others. 
    Kids and adults alike need purpose, structure, goals, and connection. As we work towards goals, search for purpose and operate within a structure, we rely on connection to make it all worthwhile! We need to connect with people to manage all our experiences and emotions, we need to connect with what we're doing so we can be present with it and have buy-in, and we need to connect with ourselves in order to self-regulate when outside factors become out of control. 
    It was perfect timing that we began our "Connectedness" unit last Sunday. Last week we discussed the people, places, and things we're connected to. We'll continue discussing that this week, but the focus will be on what causes us to become disconnected and what it takes to reconnect. As adults, we learn to become more aware of our emotional triggers and we learn to hold space for that. We're also equipped with tools to find our equilibrium again: exercise, breathing, prayer and meditation, and conflict resolution skills. But most of us didn't learn about this when we were kids, so we're learning it now! If our kids can become aware of how they feel when they're connected and how to become connected, and further to notice when they're becoming disconnected and what they can do about it so they don't become isolated and depressed, they will be far more equipped than we were for the challenges that await them. 
    We hope to see you and your children this Sunday. Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend filled with "connectedness"! 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 11th, 2019

mothers day image chapel

"I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is." 
~Oprah Winfrey

Dear Aspen Chapel Families,

     It is mid-May and we are coming upon Mother's Day. Many mothers may look forward to this day of family, brunch, flowers, and little coupons for chores. Others may meet this day with grief because it's a reminder of what they've lost or never had. And of course there are numerous emotions between joy and grief that honor the complexity of motherhood, family structure, unrelated caregivers, single parenthood, and the difficulties and heartbreaks associated with raising children, whether we're parents, step-parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts & uncles, or friends.
    Wherever we fall on the spectrum of emotions, we can probably all agree that mothering or care-giving is a spiritual experience. From the very beginning we experience the need to surrender, let go, trust, self-reflect, fail, try again, and to learn from the mirror, which is held up to us by all those we attempt to care for with our best intentions. Each time our hearts break or our strategies don't work or we're brought to our knees through care-giving, we are blessed with insight, which leads to wisdom. Unfortunately the wisdom comes after we've made numerous mistakes, but it comes when someone else needs it. That is why Mother's Day is a day to celebrate all caregivers who impart this insight. 
"So we are grateful and we appreciate both - our biological mothers and mother earth. We are here because of this mother and that mother."
"If you look closely enough, there isn't one thing in creation, without which you can exist. So I want you to look upon everything as a mother."

    Please join us this Sunday as we gather as a Chapel community to enjoy a short message, beautiful readings, and the music of ASPEN NOISE. We will also be passing the microphone around the sanctuary so everyone can share how motherhood or care-giving has touched them.

   Older children are invited to stay upstairs in the sanctuary for this special service. If your child would like to perform with ASPEN NOISE, they are having an 8:15 rehearsal at the Chapel, and we would love to have them join. Very young children will join McKenna downstairs for stories and a special craft. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April 27, 2019

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dear Aspen Chapel Families,
     What perfect advice for this Spring season. Yesterday was an example of the fickleness of Spring and such an appropriate metaphor for our lives when we're trying to bring about more peace and happiness in our experience. We set goals for ourselves and hope our children will grow and thrive according to external expectations. But sometimes the good we're hoping for doesn't always happen on our timeline, and it's easy to feel discouraged.
     We know warmer days are ahead. We've experienced enough seasons to know that the earth will experience abundance and color again. When we set goals or pay attention to the benchmarks children should hit, it's easy to get discouraged by the roller coaster of hopes and setbacks. But it's unnecessary because the universe does know our desires, and our good unfurls in divine order.
    Nicholas will be discussing patience this Sunday, and children will also explore this theme through Spring literature in Sunday School. If we can instill a better sense of patience in this next generation of young people, perhaps they will experience less anxiety or depression in the future. I encourage you to observe your surroundings and the weather with them and try to relate its cycles to their lives.
    I will not send a newsletter next weekend, for I'll be out of town, but back on Sunday the 5th! I hope to see your children then!

If you ever have any questions regarding
our services or your children's needs, please
email me at

In Peace and Blessings,
Michelle Skagen
Aspen Chapel Youth Department

Friday, April 19, 2019

April 19, 2019

"As a child welcomes the dawn with a heart filled with expectation and hope, let us welcome Easter, this symbol of light." ~May Rowland
Dear Aspen Chapel Families,

      As we welcome Easter weekend along with celebrating our beautiful Earth, which is exploding with Spring flowers and smells, we can reflect on what the Easter story means for us and how we can impart that to our children. In many ways, the Easter story holds elements of our own lives. Once we recognize that, then the rituals we take part in take on a whole new meaning.
    We have all experienced deaths in our lives in the form of losing someone very close to us, or losing a job or experiencing illness and hardship. We've all felt like the world was against us and as if we've been abandoned or betrayed. In times like these we almost feel crucified.
     When Jesus was crucified on the cross, people scattered and feared for their lives. They were filled with grief and confusion. There is a darkness that can engulf us in the same way, when we're met with tragedy, hopelessness, loss, or loneliness. Being in that dark space is similar to Jesus being in the dark, stone tomb. It's hard to imagine things improving when we're feeling this way.
     The Easter story really illustrates how the sun does rise again. When the women discovered that Jesus' body was no longer in the tomb, they weren't sure immediately what that meant. Just like we don't always know the reasons for our suffering, yet people people say to us, "there's always a silver lining," or "this too shall pass." We don't always recognize the good that comes into our lives after a painful event, and sometimes we don't know when or how we've left the tomb.
      But there usually comes a day where we notice life has gotten better! Maybe we laugh or we feel more energy or confidence. We start to see light again. The Easter story reminds us that good can come from the most difficult circumstances. Perhaps we develop more compassion, or an unexpected door opens after another was slammed, or we develop the wisdom necessary for our next chapter in the journey.
     As we say goodbye to the dark and cold days of winter, and welcome the sunshine and color of Spring, we can celebrate not only the man who taught about peace, love, forgiveness, and faith, but also the resurrection that we as humans experience throughout our lives.
    This Sunday, children of all ages are welcome to join us in the Aspen Chapel Sanctuary for a short Easter message by Nicholas Vesey, then join us downstairs for lighthearted crafts and an egg hunt that celebrate Easter and Earth Day. We hope to see you Sunday at 11:00am.

If you ever have any questions
regarding our services or your
children's needs, please email me

In Peace and Blessings,
Michelle Skagen
Aspen Chapel Youth Coordinator