Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rome: Spiritual practices at the Sistine Chapel

People go on about the Sistine Chapel. They rant. They rave.

I understand. It was created by big wigs in the art world. Fine folks like Michelangelo who toiled away to make an impressive chapel that was worthy enough to be the place where the Pope prays each day.

So naturally, when in Rome, one must see what all the fuss is about.

The fuss.

But first, I walked next door to the Vatican to see my favorite site:
My friend Claudio is by far my favorite part of the Vatican.
My friend Marni is visiting me from LA for the week. She had an interesting moment at the Vatican. She was hoping to find an audio tour and she saw a guy with what looked like an audio tour apparatus. She asked him where he got it. He looked at her and asked her where she was from. She said she was American. Then he looked straight into her eyes with a very cold stare and in a very clear, very cold way, he stated, "I don't like Americans." Then walked away.

Scary ass shit.

So that was probably her least favorite part of the Vatican. And after that, we snuggled a little closer to Claudio.

Then we traipsed through the crowds to the Vatican Museum to experience the alleged Awe that is the Sistine Chapel.

That's when the herding began.

There were so many people trying to get to the Sistine Chapel that I felt we were being herded like cattle. Marni felt like we were being herded like Jews into a gas chamber. Since she's Jewish, I can see her point. We were poked, prodded and pushed. Then, after an eternity of being ushered through corridor after corridor, we made it to the Sistine Chapel, where guards added to the mayhem by yelling "Shhhhhhhhhh!!!"

...which is just odd.
Are you kidding me with this?
One of my spiritual advisors, Mary Hulnick, who is one of the founders of the University of Santa Monica, the home of Spiritual Psychology, once told me of her lovely experience of being in the Sistine Chapel and the joy of feeling the beautiful energy of the room.

So, wanting to be a good student, I was standing there in the Sistine Chapel trying to feel the energy of the place. Trying to absorb the residual good vibes of all the Popes who have used the chapel as their sacred prayer space.

But I was just hot, flustered and claustrophobic.

Then I remember another lesson Mary taught me. What is present is our practice.

So I sat with that instead. I worked on being Zen. I held my tongue when I wanted to scream. I tried to smile at the stinky people that bumped into me. I tried to calm myself.

I managed to keep my cool but barely. We left immediately after the Sistine Chapel episode. We walked across the river and I managed to lead us to within five minutes of our apartment. Then my internal compass got mixed up and I got us lost.

My feet were aching. I was hot, thirsty and hungry. And now I was lost.

Then I really lost it.

Self became very mad at self. Once I found where we were on the map and knew how to get home, I hightailed it back to the apartment. I ate. I had water. I hopped in the shower and went straight to bed.

When I woke, I made coffee and wrote a list of what makes me happy. I felt better.

I also vowed to only visit the Sistine Chapel again online.

Final tally: 

Feeling the Sistine Chapel good energy: Epic FAIL.

Evolution of spiritual development: Marginal SUCCESS.


  1. Jason A.May 14, 2011

    Love the post! Made me wonder what would have happened if you just let out a raucous shriek in the Chapel. Probably would have been kicked out, but I'd be interested to hear about the reaction of the guards to an authentic expression in such a "sacred" place. Can you go back and try that? :)

  2. Oh Jan what an experience. pray at home it is less frustrating.Being thirsty.hungry and tired is not a good combo I know from experience

  3. AnonymousMay 15, 2011

    Marni!!!!! Miss you. (Hi, Janice! From your secret blog admirers.) Love, G., S., and little pupster

  4. I was disappointed when I went there too. I remember feeling more moved by some of the ceiling scapes and wall frescoes leading up to THE CEILING of all ceilings. Expectations always get us in trouble, don't they?


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