Hesychia: Day 1, Week 2

It’s Interfaith Spiritual Direction Week, which means this week we’re being exposed to spiritual direction within faith traditions other than Christianity, including AA and “spiritual but not religious.”

I think my biggest takeaway from today is this: Let the directee name the moment. Don’t impose language on them that isn’t theirs.

How often we go about our lives unaware of how we are shaped by our own assumptions and experiences.  How often we blunder into unintended offenses simply because of our assumptions about others.  We assume people are like we are, think like we do, talk the way way do, feel how we feel, and want what we want.

How easily we can shut a person down or end a conversation by using language that they receive as an implied judgment or a lack of understanding of who they are, where they are coming from, and what they have to say.

Rather than asking a person what their experience of God is like, ask: “What does your spiritual world look like?”

It is my desire, through this experience, to learn how to portray and conduct myself as a person who is open to conversation, who does not judge, who will not be shocked, and who is capable of hearing and containing another person’s sacred story with interest, compassion, and empathy.

It’s so easy to turn someone off with a careless gesture or misplaced word.  As Parker Palmer puts it, the soul is like a wild animal, easily scared away by sudden or rough movement and loud language.  I want to create space where the soul can feel safe to come out into the clearing and share that sacred story.

It starts with my own self-awareness.  It starts with my own openness.  I am responsible for the space I create, and I am responsible for containing that space.

Tomorrow afternoon I will sit in the director’s chair for the first time and practice in front of the group.  I spent all afternoon today experiencing anxiety over the anxiety I expect to feel tomorrow!  I hope and pray I can find a way to release that anxiety, release the desire to “perform” and to “get it right,” and use the opportunity to really practice, try something out, take a risk, and be bold.

Oh, Lord, help me now!  Help me THEN!

What I hope more than anything else for my director session tomorrow is to create that safe, open space for my practice-directee to share his sacred story with me.  Above anything else, I want to be able to hold his story, honor his experience, and simply be present with him in whatever he chooses to bring before the group.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can!

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And if you’re not following me on Twitter, you should check out my feed and see some of the pictures I’m posting throughout my experience in Arizona.  You won’t want to miss the one about the scorpion attack! Gross.

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“Yearly” Examine, Elephants, and Psalm 131

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to the year 2012.  Today I decided to begin the new year by reviewing the old one, using the Daily Examination of Consciousness as a guide.  Some of what came up was expected, and some surprised me, but overall it was a fruitful time.  I used a journal my brother brought back for me from China when he came to visit me in June 2010. I had only written in the first couple of pages, recording spiritual exercises from September and October 2010 before I got engaged in November and my life was completely taken over by planning a wedding, getting married, moving several times, working overtime, and becoming overwhelmed by fatigue.  2011 was a crazy year.  Now in 2012, I hope to fill the pages of this journal with my encounters with God through various spiritual exercises.

my elephant journal

As I closed the journal after my prayer this morning, I noticed there is an elephant on the front.  Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of elephants and came across these adjectives in my web research: grace, prosperity, power, loyalty, wisdom, luck, solitude, intelligence, honor, stability, patience, temperance, chastity, reliability, dignity, royalty, pride, determination, responsibility, sensitivity and social connection.  Specific to China, the elephant represents happiness, longevity, and good luck.  Wow, that’s a lot to live up to.  In any case, I like that the elephant is a symbol of so many positive traits and that 2012 is the year of writing in my elephant journal.

I also had my Bible out in case I needed some inspiration during my “yearly” examine, and I happened to flip through the Psalms and come to one I’ve never really noticed before: Psalm 131.

1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

Over the past two years, God has used a lot of imagery about babies to teach me about dependence on and trust in God to take care of the the things that burden me as well as to take care of me.  Now, as I move into a new season, I believe God is using this psalm to show me I have grown enough to become the weaned child–older and more content with the waiting and patience that come with seeking God.  Now that life isn’t so crazy and I have more free time to invest, my soul has become still and quiet, hoping in and waiting on the Lord as King David modeled.

I will take Psalm 131 into 2012 to remind me to wait on God with the patience of a toddler (however little that might be), confident that I have tried God and found God indeed dependable and trustworthy.  Welcome, 2012!