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Prayers for the Hidden Monastery

Have you been to the sanctuary?
The one with no walls or doors
that arises when you slow dance
with the moon, meet the eye of a beetle,
know the tender touch of two hands,
walk the street among those who move in protest?

Have you been tending an entry to a holy place,
keeping a candle lit in a time of epoch change–
when prayer feels restless and old forms whither?

Have you been making art when fatigue beats at spirit,
when busy days disarm grace and leadership agitates
for its next holy trouble?

Have you been praying because you don’t know what to do
but trek up and down the mountain of study and practice
and share ritual meals with friend and foe?

Have you been to your spirit hideaway to make offerings
to the One who calms religious anxiety and quells your
over-heated compassion born of Love’s insatiable desire?

Have you been working backstage as one of Joy’s stage managers 
cueing the lights and sounds that awaken the solace begged by every breath?

Have you run to the edges, to the Well, the Rock, the Tree
any place where Holy eyes meet, moist cheeks are kissed,
wild souls are hallmarks of beauty, and courageous love is daily work?

Have you gone on in spite of being ignored, laughed at, 
shunned, and told you want impossible things?

If so then you are a monk of a hidden monastery 
where like ants in collective obscurity
we create and recreate a billion sanctuaries
made by ears inclined to the flute players breath,
the deep hummed conversation, and the blue
tears that fall into a common bowl.



I sing praises to you
who erect temporary altars
at every marker so that we know to bow
at the feet of our Unsolvable Life.
I celebrate the way you enshrine
with holy affirmation the decay
of silent forest beings,
light blazing from a baby’s crown,
and the beating breasts of dancers
for whom every move is soul speech.


How lucky when we gather in twos or
twenties to dance, eat and tell stories
that spring from the ER of soul,
poems not shared at the office,
visions too big for a single body.

Beloved mystics, charmers,
master artists, fire tenders,
water bearers, gardeners, 
inventors of prayer arrows
dancers of rare rituals, 
anything that lights The Way,
blessed are you when you
let go into Love all the way,
abandon your seriousness,
and laugh with relief.
Blessed are you when you
feel safe enough to expose
the ridiculous tango you do
when Devotion throws you
upside down and sideways.

Beloved sisters and brothers who know the joy of 1,000
golden suns and the power of children singing, 
young initiates of beauty everywhere I see you.

                         Do you see me?

If so, let’s pray for wings that carry us when violence looms,
when night waves come hurtling, let us pray
that our tasks stay simple enough,
that our holy strongholds grow in grace and glory,
perfected like weeds, low to the ground, hearty, persevering.

Let us pray for Great Love to rise in justice beauty, dignity, health,
and that freedom bloom insanely feral everywhere,
making work effortless, humble, and hilariously holy
every Sacred Night and Day, now and each day forward.
And so it is.

Cynthia Winton-Henry



  1. Annie Parry says:

    Beautifully written Cynthia ????we communicated once briefly when we had both done Ginny’s FEBI! Always feel k could have a long relaxed conversation with you. At present living alongside very close friend as her body weakens daily soon to return to the earth, and ether. … and pondering my response to an ethical situation … Just appreciating your commitment and work…Annie Parry

  2. Nancy A. Banman says:

    I came back to this prayer today and I’m encouraged to keep moving forward on this journey – standing for compassion, collaboration, deep listening, love and so much more which, my mystic journey calls forth. Thank you.

  3. Nancy Banman says:

    I just revisited this prayer. Thank you, Cynthia, your prayer provides me with more courage to be the mystic I am and to take courageous steps forward. I will come to this piece frequently in the coming weeks as I move forward a new coaching practice and actions to stand for myself and others.


  4. Lydia Ferrante-Roseberry says:

    Ah Cynthia, you have inspired me for years. These poems open my heart, kindling my desire to turn toward Mystery, toward the Holy, as Source, companion, friend. Love you deeply, my friend.

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