It has been a full year now since I began the act of intentionally setting aside each morning to practice a spiritual discipline. What felt most comfortable for me was meditation, silence, and contemplation. During this year of setting my alarm earlier than usual, I learned much more than I could ever adequately describe on a simple blog post. However, I do want to share a few, as I feel it’s important we all crank up the volume on our inner selves.
I feel like this an easy one to begin with. Maybe it’s the smartest one to begin with. I believe anyone who commits themselves to something that is both time-consuming and foreign, will feel the familiar itch of “Maybe I’m just not made to do this…” But like every muscle that meets its first workout session — it takes time. Each dark, winter morning I awoke to was not always — if ever — easy. I talked myself from the bed to couch. Then, slowly, it became easier.
“How we listen to our lives is a question worth exploring. In our culture, we tend to gather information in ways that do not work very well when the source is the human soul: the soul is not responsive to subpoenas or cross-examinations. […] The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”
– Parker Palmer
Not only was getting used to crawling out of bed earlier difficult to get used to, what my silence began to unravel and reveal was even more so. Often, my silence would involve me sitting, looking out of the window … and crying. I cannot explain it. There was not anything particularly on my mind. But there I would be, in a tiny puddle of tenderness. My soul, before my mind, was feeling the rising revelation.
Without going into great detail, when I began these spiritual disciplines, I figured it would be more or less for strictly my spiritual life; as a way to draw closer to the Lord and the Spirit. Little did I realize the internal muddled mess I was carrying. Sure, I knew I was bitter. But that’s not why I was sitting by my window every morning. Or so I thought. Very gently, I began to feel an indescribable tug. This tug began to pull me from the bed of bitterness into the light of compassion. Whatever I had held onto for the past few years began to dissipate.
I feel I must stress this point: my bitterness did not disappear over the course of a day. It took months and months of returning to my window and waiting. That waiting for the Spirit to do only what s/he can do led me to particular scriptures that I meditated on and let soak my every fiber. And when I felt it revelatory, I wrote it all down. My journal entries remind me of how the Spirit taught me to love genuinely, more wholly, despite the very real pain. Out of this, I could no longer be angry. My heart, mind, body, and spirit were healed. I felt compassion where bitterness once ruled.
Speaking of Compassion…
“Jesus found and named the unified field beneath all the contradictions, which Annie Dillard speaks of. If we do not find that unified field, “our complex and inexplicable caring for each other,” or what Buddhists call the Great Compassion, there is no healing to life’s inconsistencies and contradictions.”
– Richard Rohr
When I share my journey with spiritual disciplines with people, I am adamant to express that this journey should be about leading us into a sea of compassion. For ourselves and for others. As an Enneagram One, I am wired to see my world in black and white. I have to fight for the grey areas. But what these disciplines have taught me is that I no longer have to fight; it comes much more naturally the more I am consistent with the practice.
Like Rohr writes above on life’s contradictions and complexities, we must find a unified field. I have learned that the unified field begins with inner work. Where we create space and time for the soul to speak, and listen to it. When we are unified with our truest self, even if for the briefest moment, we get a sneak peek of who we have been created to be. I find myself in the tiny twigs, the breeze, and the older man who, every morning, sweeps the sidewalks of the elementary school across the street.
I would love to write more about how to get started, and I will. But I want this blog to be what it is for now. Feel free to reach out if you are at all curious. These disciplines are some of my favorite things to talk about. Because I know just how powerful they can be.
“The soul is like a wild animal — tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye, we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”
– Parker Palmer