My name is Nancy L. Ogilvie, and I always find it a daunting task to write about me or my life. What’s important to include about who I am in this context? Certainly, some information about my current spiritual practice and how it’s led me to this blog. Perhaps a few details about my life circumstances, past and current. And my awareness that I write from an exceptional position of privilege. If there’s more you’d like to know about me or my spiritual journey, please feel free to ask.
I’ll start with demographics, just to get those basic details on the table.
I am white, lesbian, retired, 68, comfortable financially, able-bodied, and highly educated (two masters’ degrees). I was married once (to a man - in what feels like another lifetime, 1974-80). I have been in multiple relationships since then, with men until 1990 and women after. I do not have children and have been single by choice since 2012.
I had a 35-year career in organizational development and change, including developing my employer’s first interactive videodisc training products in the early 1980’s, creating a professional and leadership development program in a large regional retail company, and designing and facilitating diversity training for volunteer leaders in community service programs at AARP. I currently live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan, which I love for all the cultural opportunities the University offers in a relatively small town (just under 125,000 population), the liberal political climate, and the natural beauty here, especially in the fall color season.
Writing from a Position of Privilege
I share many of these details because I want to acknowledge explicitly that I am writing from a perspective of exceptional privilege in my blog, in general and in the context of COVID-19. Because I am retired, financially comfortable, single and living alone, I have not had to worry about whether or how I would support myself, never mind a family. I have not had to adjust to working from home, or to supporting children with home schooling. I have not had to continue going to a job where I risk being exposed to the virus every day. Living alone has sometimes felt lonely and isolating, but both my spiritual communities shifted pretty seamlessly to connecting online. So while I miss the hugs and seeing people in person, I have had extraordinary emotional and spiritual support through the challenges.
That privilege has given me the freedom and spaciousness to focus on my spiritual journey through the pandemic in ways that have not been possible for many others. I am grateful for that gift, and hope that witnessing my personal inner spiritual journey in my blog will provide food for thought or even inspiration to others.
Current Spiritual Practice
My spiritual beliefs and practice are eclectic, to put it mildly; I have traveled through many spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Earth-based Goddess worship, and new thought/metaphysics with a smattering of Buddhism as well. I am an initiated Wiccan priestess (although I don't practice that tradition much anymore) and a Science of Mind Practitioner, trained to offer spiritual guidance and prayer. I integrate these diverse paths into my current spiritual practice, and do not ascribe to any one tradition. You'll notice as you read blog posts that my conception of the Divine remains primarily Feminine; I typically refer to Her as Goddess, or more colloquially, "Mamas."
My current spiritual home is with a small interfaith contemplative community here in Ann Arbor which I’ll refer to as the “Small House community” (because of the space it meets in). It is loosely affiliated with a contemplative monastic order called the Oriental Orthodox Order in the West (www.theooow.com). “The Order’s aim is to create people of wisdom, sages, in fact, who not only know wisdom but authentically live it as a path in its many dimensions” (from “The Nature of the Order,” h ttps://theooow-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/17214601/301-definingorder.pdf).
I love both the Small House community and the Order for their focus on transformational wisdom from a variety of world religious traditions in addition to Christianity. This inclusivity means that my eclectic belief and practice fit well, and I feel right at home. I am also drawn to their emphasis on traveling the inner path of wisdom without institutionalized dogma or expectation. In short, in both groups, we join in community to support each other in expanding our capacity to bring transformational Divine wisdom into our own lives and to apply it practically in the world.
I do not call myself Christian in the traditional sense, and that is not required in the Order. Many members do take the original vision and teachings of Jesus (or Yeshua, to use his Hebrew name) as their model of a master of wisdom. I do not, although I do honor Yeshua’s teachings as they are described in the gnostic gospels. I'm particularly falling in love with the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, which we are studying in the Small House community.
I start my day each weekday by joining the Small House community for a half-hour of prayer and meditation (on zoom). Gathering in this way with other members has become part of my bedrock through the pandemic. It sets my intent to stay connected with the Divine throughout the day.
The Small House community also gathers for a weekly class where we practice skills and tools for becoming more fully present in each moment. Here, I am learning to inquire into my experience, to be curious about my own and others' reactions instead of judging or rejecting them.
Through the Order, we have the opportunity to participate in occasional week-end retreats and an annual week-long “Wisdom School.” These longer events explore sources of wisdom both historical and contemporary and how they might be integrated into each of our lives and the life of the community. For example, we've just completed the first of two week-end retreats on the Four Quartets of T.S. Eliot, where we explored the ways in which Eliot might be a prophetic voice of wisdom for the chaos of our times as well as his own
This summer (2020) after our annual wisdom school, I took a big step and became a postulant in the Order, with the aim of becoming a monk. This feels to me like preparing to marry Divine Wisdom, and committing to be Her voice and physical presence on the planet in all my affairs. This blog is one of the vehicles I’m choosing to express that commitment.