Loving the World: My Learnings

Last week, I led a wonderful group of people in my contemplative photography retreat. We explored such questions as:

“How do we see now?”

“Might we see differently?”

“In what ways do our inner lives influence our outer vision?”

We referenced medieval mystics, such as St Francis and Meister Eckhart; modern poets such as Mary Oliver; and photographers like Minor White.

As I do this work, I find that our awareness broadens. We begin to consider our relative degrees of comfort, ability and willingness to really see people (including ourselves), places and things. We begin to ask about empathy and compassion.

I find this remarkable, and, at the same time, not surprising.

When we consider the relationship between our inner lives and how we see the world, a gentle awakening begins. When we adopt an internal posture of curiosity (“I notice…” and “I wonder…”), we slow the mental leap between our seeing and what often comes next – evaluation, judgment, and categorization.

Those activities of the primitive brain – assessing danger, for instance – are very useful. And, for our own survival, they happen in a split-second. Our capacities for evaluation, judgment and categorization drive remarkable discoveries with which medicine, science and other disciplines continue to gift us.

And, yet, in other contexts, these capacities create unhelpful boundaries, close us off, keep us separate.

Hence, I find the simple lead-ins of  “I notice” and “I wonder” to be so transformative. And, when I forget to use them, I remember that, although I may not be able to control my first thought, I do have a choice about my second.

These are great techniques to employ in the moment. If you want to create greater interior spaciousness through a consistent practice, I recommend Centering Prayer and Mindfulness meditation. On the first, you can rad more at Thomas Keating’s website, http://www.centeringprayer.com/ Or, a personal favorite, http://www.contemplative.org/, with Cynthia Bourgeault. On Mindfulness, please see Jon Kabat-Zinn, at http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many things...in my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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