Hesychia: Day 3, Week 2

Today my biggest take-away was a growing respect and awe for the many different and nuanced ways people express and experience their spiritual journeys.  I am just blown away by the depth, vulnerability, honesty, and capacity of spiritual journey-ers of all “shapes and sizes,” as they say.  I feel so honored to be invited into the sacred space created by the sharing of these personal and varied stories, and I so look forward to the opportunity to enter this kind of sacred space with many more people after I leave Hesychia.

It’s too early to reflect on my experience here, but it’s hard to avoid doing so.  We only have two days left of Session 1.  In some ways, I can’t wait to get home to my own bed and my husband and my regular life.  In other ways, I’m not sure what it will be like to return after having been in Arizona for two weeks. I’m not sure what the desert has done to me.  I’m not sure how I have been affected by this program already.  I’m not sure of anything at all.

I think the thing about being in the middle of something is that it’s all so nebulous.  I’ve begun, but I haven’t finished.  It’s like having one foot on the shore and the other foot on the boat.  I know where I’ve been, but I’m not sure where I’m going yet.  And the ground beneath me is shifting.  Something is happening, but I can’t define it.  Something is stirring, but I couldn’t name it yet.

But it’s something.

In some ways I feel like a sponge.  Not that I am impressionable or indiscriminate.  It’s just that there is so much here, so much in the people in my class, in the teachers, in the material we are being exposed to, in the director sessions we are practicing, in the desert setting, in the supplemental reading, in the sacred space we are creating together.

There is so much.

I feel like I have to soak it all up, get it all in there, every single drop.  And then I can sit in it all and let it begin to begin to be something new, something with shape and figure, something perhaps even with name.

In tea-language, I need to steep.

In some ways, I am glad for the break between sessions. It gives me a chance to breathe, to recover from the pace I have been keeping and the lack of sleep I have been getting, and to let things simmer.

I am mixing my metaphors.  Oh well.

But I still have two days left. Two more days to soak up and take it all in before we break.  Let’s see what happens tomorrow.


Hesychia: Tour of the Pathless Path

Just for fun, our group had an impromptu tour of the Pathless Path, a Buddhist retreat center on-site at Redemptorist. Here’s a little video so you can see the building, meditation path, retreat rooms, and meditation room.  We pass the big gong in the hallway.  A fun little almost-adventure exploring the building right next to the Hesychia classroom.  On Buddhism day, it was a fitting excursion.  You also get a glimpse of some of my group-mates as well as Father Greg who is leading the tour and our school.

Warning: it’s a little bumpy.


Hesychia: Day 4, Week 1

Every time I sit down to write one of these posts, I have to resist the urge to give a play by play of all we’ve been learning.  I’m sure it will only get harder to resist as the program continues.

This afternoon I found out that I am to be the first “directee” of the first practicum session of the program.  This means I sit before the group and share something real that I want to receive spiritual direction about while another member of the group functions as the “director” and the practicum leader observes.

So tomorrow I pretty much have to bear my soul to half the participants at Hesychia.

Now you’d think playing the director would be the hardest role, but actually most of what she’ll be doing is listening, being silent, and perhaps reflecting back what she is hearing.  Which means I have to talk the whole time.

Introvert’s nightmare.

Dear Jesus, help!

I also have to spend the evening preparing for the session and deciding what I’m going to bring in to share with the group.  It has to be something real, something I’m really dealing with, but I also don’t want to be too personal.  We only have about 25 minutes for the session, so it’ll need to be a relatively short or concise issue that I can explain quickly so we can spend more of the time going deeper.

Here are some ideas:

  • discerning what to do with what I learn with this program (vocational discernment?)
  • exploring my changing concept of God and searching for language/framework that helps express my experience
  • discussing an interpersonal conflict
  • thinking through ways I can participate in the new church community we’re a part of while remaining true to myself and utilizing my gifts

Anyway, I don’t know what I’m going to choose. Maybe we’ll just see what comes up in the moment during the beginning silence.

Speaking of silence, I think that’s the element that I appreciate most about this program, or maybe just about hesychia spirituality in general.  The value of silence.  What silence teaches us.  The way silence prepares us for the movement of the Holy Spirit.  The emotions and distractions that arise in the silence.  The embodied rhythm and pace that silence creates space for and facilitates.

I’m fortunate that I work from home and can spend as much of my day in silence I want.  Yet that silence is full of thoughts and activity as I work online and write reports.  That silence is only outward and not inward.  It is not fruitful in the way that attentive silence is fruitful.

How can I bring this attentive silence into my daily work?  Is it even possible? Maybe that‘s a good question for my spiritual direction practicum tomorrow. How can I pursue this embodied rhythm and life balance when my brain is so fully occupied?

I think that’s one reason the monastic lifestyle stresses manual labor.  That kind of work leaves the mind free for contemplation and prayer. I notice that when I cross-stitch. Although my mind is still occupied to an extent with choosing the correct color thread  and following the pattern, there is also a rote-ness and repetition to it that becomes almost methodical and leaves the mind open to wander and process and move among thoughts.

But my work is pretty much all cognitive.  Unless I’m in the office doing printing and filing or cleaning where there isn’t much mental effort involved, I’m generally thinking critically and creatively at all times.  It’s hard to think about prayer while writing an email to a client who is upset or coordinating multiple schedules to find the best time for a conference call.  My work is restful in that I don’t have to invest the same type of energy that it takes to interact with people face-to-face, but it requires all my mental faculties.

Maybe I will bring this up tomorrow after all.  We’ll see what happens.  I’ll report back, so stay tuned!