Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Spiritual Directors International’

Listen: Become Available

Become Available

My smartphone chimed, indicating a new text message. I read four words, “How was your day?” Pausing, the simple sentence evoked a multitude of emotions, sensations, and thoughts. I stood still, surprised. Primary was the realization that it has been a very long time since I’d been the recipient of this gentle question, a genuine invitation to reflect and share, four simple words conveying interest and care.

Our conversations and communication with each other are often functional, relaying data and details: I’ll meet you at …., When is …?, I need …., How about …?, Where is …?, and so forth. The text, How was your day? queried me, posed a reflective question, evoked my response, and began a mutual conversation and exchange that held potential to grow intimacy and friendship. When we communicate and interact with each other, a flow of energy and presence brings forth expansion or contraction.

I had a choice in my response to that text message—I could share about the productivity or pleasures of the day, or my concerns and fatigue, or a dozen other details. My desire was to be utterly available to my best self, and to the person asking the question. To become available means to be able to avail ourselves on behalf of someone, or something. It is a choice that involves intention, willpower, and decision. Sometimes to be available involves risk and takes courage. Being available generates connection and ultimately involves both giving and receiving.

In the beginning of Aleph, a provocative new novel by author Paulo Coelho, the main character prepares to make a journey, and visits a chapel. Coelho writes, “There I asked Our Lady to guide me with her love and help me identify the signs that will lead me back to myself. I know that I am in all the people surrounding me, and that they are in me. Together we write the Book of Life, our every encounter determined by fate and our hands joined in the belief that we can make a difference in this world. Everyone contributes a word, a sentence, an image, but in the end it all makes sense: the happiness of one becomes the joy of all” (21).

When we pause, on behalf of our own soul stirrings, on behalf of another person, or when stirred by empathy, compassion, or injustice, we evoke the inner spaciousness to become available. To be available allows healing, wholeness, connection, and joy to birth in the cosmos. I imagine a world where every day we make the time to pause and ask, How was your day? or How are you? to someone dear to us, or to a complete stranger. And then show up, and listen.

A spiritual companion might ask these kinds of questions during spiritual direction, opening a pathway of conversation, and allowing a listening presence to flow within and between both the listener and the speaker. When asked with sincerity, these genuine, evocative questions heal, and lead each of us to our authentic self, mystery, and ultimately write the book of our life.

— Pegge Erkeneff

Reprinted from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, 6.4 page 1 (Spiritual Directors International © 2012). Reprinted with permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a subscription of Listen, call 1-425-455-1565 or go to http://www.sdiworld.org.

Advertisements

Cultivate Spiritual Awareness

Cultivate Spiritual Awareness

Mentors teach and guide us. I know this to be true: when the student is ready, the teacher will come. Perhaps you do too. Who are the important people who have arrived in your life at distinctive times and places? At this time—are you seeking to learn, know, or experience something specific that you can identify and name? Do you wrestle with an inner restlessness that may want to reveal something to you about your life, work, a relationship, action of service, creative endeavor, or spiritual inquiry? Have you experienced a person approaching you for mentoring or guidance?

A mentor can be a valuable person who illuminates life lessons and insights. Mentors appear in many forms, and often surprise or challenge us. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, a thirteenth century Persian Muslim poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic wrote, “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you; Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want; Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.”

Central to our human existence and evolution is the capacity to listen. In order to listen deeply, many find it helpful to make  a commitment to a spiritual practice. A spiritual practice allows us to participate in dynamic stillness—a moment of strength when we think we cannot go on, a rootedness in the present moment. A regular spiritual practice develops the necessary courage and resiliency to reconcile dissonance and polarity.

When we cultivate and grow peace in our hearts, learn with our bodies and minds, and contribute to our families and communities, an opportunity presents itself: live with integrity and awareness. Every day we have the choice to up-level our communication with others—and our own inner dialogue—agreeing to align and interact with the best parts of ourselves, not the weakest. We can make a promise to be truth-tellers. When our actions generate from this center, we often discover a teacher or mentor arrives to help us grow in ways we may currently name and desire, or perhaps only intuit. When we wake up, tell the truth, and are faithful to our spiritual practice, unforeseen possibility and potential shows up!

Mentors and spiritual guides assist us along the way, until one day, our fidelity to a spiritual practice and listening deeply creates an awareness that that we have become the mentors, examples, and witnesses to a life of authentic engagement and flow, where the breeze at dawn or dusk whispers secrets to our awakened life.

Reflect
Stop everything you are doing, be still. Ask yourself, and then ponder:

  • Who are my mentors?
  • How am I a mentor or witness to others?
  • What is it I truly desire in my life?
  • Dare I believe in possibility?
  • Am I ready to sort things in—and out—to create the time and space for my deepest calling, and heart desires?
  • How might a spiritual director or guide accompany me in my journey?

–Pegge Erkeneff

Excerpted from Listen: A Seekers Guide to Spiritual Direction, July 2012, vol. 6.3, published by Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org.

Cultivating Compassion: Good, Enough

A young person, mid-twenties, whom I accompany as a soul-friend asked, “You’re saying it’s possible I’m good enough just the way I am? That’s hard for me to believe. How come we never hear that message?” That conversation was two years ago during a telephone spiritual guidance exchange. I have not forgotten the question or my response.

Outer, external voices seek to influence and define our inner reality, informing us how we think and feel, what we expect and desire. We receive messages about how to appear through the way we dress and what we say, and even where our social action should—or shouldn’t—be placed. Images, words, and encounters can come from the media, strangers, or people we share a home with. The truth is, most of these words do not ring with accuracy. No one can define our inner reality, our own lived experience. It is a form of abuse when this occurs—a stealing of another person’s unique identity, personality, and a loss of the opportunity to validate dreams, hopes, fears, or life-given purpose and gifts.

Spiritual direction or spiritual guidance is a place and time to validate, explore, and discover the powerful human experience of connection, healing, and love.

That evening on the telephone I encouraged, “Perhaps you are good enough. Just like this, right now. You are, and I am. We all are. No matter the circumstance. Certainly we can always be better, and there is value in striving for more. But, today, right now, maybe you are good, enough.” With this particular seeker, questions about God or the Sacred Other was not part of our conversation. A deep sense of judgment and abandonment had created an angry soul-wound. My role was to put skin on compassion and care.

A few days after the conversation, I recalled “Wild Geese” a favorite poem by Mary Oliver from Dream Works (1994). Her opening lines shocked me. I invite you to tumble Oliver’s insight into your heart and body:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

It is time to announce our place in the world, invite others in out of the cold to break bread, gather at our table, in our communities, at the workplace, in our schools, places of worship, and in our sacred circles. There is enough when we share with love. Let us love what we love, and love one another with welcoming presence. We all belong. This starting place is good, enough.

Reflect

  • Do I give myself permission to love what I love, feel what I feel?
  • Who can I invite in out of the cold to join me at my table?
  • What healing and hope can emerge through my heart of compassion and thanksgiving?
  • Am I good, enough?
  • Do I know when to say, “enough.”

— Pegge Erkeneff,
Excerpted from Listen: A Seekers Guide to Spiritual Direction, April 2012, vol. 6.2, published by Spiritual Directors International, http://www.sdiworld.org.

Speaking of Faith: Holding Life Consciously

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.” –Arthur Zajonc

Krista Tippett, author, producer, and host of the Public Radio show, “Speaking of Faith” writes, “Focused Attention, Open Awareness” – I’m not sure I’d seen the words “physicist” and “contemplative” in the same sentence many times, much less found them together as descriptors of the same person, before I met Arthur Zajonc.”

The opening words in Tippett’s e-mail announcement for the June 24, 2010 show, “Holding Life Consciously” grabbed me. I had not yet listened to the show or podcast on my iPod, but immediately threads of subtle language began to weave in me: Focus. Attention. Open Awareness. Alert. Alive. Stillness.

Gift yourself. Take a minute to read the quotes in this blog post. Or, read the full description I read in the e-mail announcement, and listen to the June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously”

As you read, notice and ask yourself:
What opens in me as I listen to this conversation?
Is my inner knowing affirmed with any insight?
Does a phrase or turn of words evoke an inner smile and affirmation within me?


From June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously:
“Zajonc’s own life experience has been recently reshaped by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He has seen the progression of this illness in other members of his family, and so has some understanding of what is ahead. This is at one and the same time a source of grief and a continuation of the adventure Arthur Zajonc has long been on — to explore what holding life consciously means, now with a progressively debilitating condition. He tells me: “There are two main types of meditation and both of them are part of my life, which one is a concentration and the other is what I call open awareness. It’s a very open presence.” In the concentration phase, tremors actually worsened.

You have a line of poetry or from scripture or an image and you bring your full undivided single-pointed attention to that content. But as we’re straining mentally to do that, the hand begins to tremor more. And then when you release the image and become very still and quiet and open yourself wide, the hand slowly calms to the point where indeed your whole body feels at ease and the tremor disappears. Interesting…

I can see that the mind and the body are so delicately attuned to one another that these practices affect the Parkinson’s state itself. … So here’s the question I pose to myself.

“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.”

June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously.

This post first appeared June 28, 2010, in my Spiritual Directors International blog post. http://www.sdiworld.org.

What do you think? Is it possible to hold life consciously? What spiritual practices help you cultivate an alive, active, calm?

Blogging for HoustonBelief.com

The undeniable power of technology now bridges time and place. This is significant to me.

Read more