What is Spiritual Growth? Part 2 Movement

There is a subtle yet profound movement from an orientation in our head to a heart based, intuitive orientation that takes place as we grow spiritually. It’s not a matter of your personality type. That may influence the steps or speed, but not the reorientation. We move from being a self-absorbed human who is entangled in the world, it’s affairs and how they touch us, into a spiritual being that is grounded in Love, sees the integration of life on Earth and listens for the movement of intuition for guidance.

Spiritual growth often doesn’t take place in academic classrooms. It’s not about the books read or essays written, but rather about learning that is absorbed into your being so you are changed. That learning might come from a book, even from a classroom setting or through a sermon, but often it doesn’t. Spiritual growth commonly happens through tears, disappointments and sorrow. A basic teaching is that we wake up spiritually through great pain or great love. There are a few other alarm clocks, but those two are the main ones. I’ve had both. The Great Love has been a spiritual outpouring where I was embraced by Love. That’s a common human experience if you read spiritual biographies. The Great Pain was within our family. It was a pain that shook me up, so I knew I needed to become more real, more my True Self. I didn’t have that language at the time, but I had the kick that made me know I had work to do. Don’t think it’s a one-time alarm clock. Pain and Love keep knocking, especially if you hit the snooze button.

This week I’ve been enjoying a poem ‘Please Come Home’, by Jane Hooper. I hear the call to authenticity, to coming home to who I am, to being myself, not hiding, but lovingly sharing who I am with those around me. I’ve added Jane’s poem below my blog for your enjoyment.

Spiritual growth is about coming home to ourselves, engaging in the movement from an external orientation to an internal spiritual one. It’s not navel gazing. When you touch into LOVE she always sends you back out to give yourself to others, but you’ll do it differently, wisely, with less effort and more effectiveness, at least the effectiveness which Spirit is seeking and that could be surprising!

Growing spiritually is core to who we are as human beings. It is why we are here. We are meant to shed our attachment to the world and open into Spirit so we KNOW ourselves as a branch of God’s vine, that intimate, intwined connection with our Creator. That’s how the world is changed. Each of our individual changes has ripple effects that move throughout the world and history. Each one of us needs to come home to who we truly are.

So how are you doing? How’s your day so far? Please come home.


Love and prayers
Anne
Mystic in Motion
Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire
Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder
Companion on The Rivendell Way
Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

***

“Please Come Home” by Jane Hooper


Please come home. Please come home.
Find the place where your feet know where to walk
And follow your own trail home.

Please come home. Please come home into your own body,
Your own vessel, your own earth.
Please come home into each and every cell,
And fully into the space that surrounds you.

Please come home. Please come home to trusting yourself,
And your instincts and your ways and your knowings,
And even the particular quirks of your personality.

Please come home. Please come home and once you are firmly there,
Please stay home awhile and come to a deep rest within.
Please treasure your home. Please love and embrace your home.
Please get a deep, deep sense of what it’s like to be truly home.

Please come home. Please come home.
And when you’re really, really ready,
And there’s a detectable urge on the outbreath, then please come out.

Please come home and please come forward.
Please express who you are to us, and please trust us
To see you and hear you and touch you
And recognize you as best we can.

Please come home. Please come home and let us know
All the nooks and crannies that are calling to be seen.
Please come home, and let us know the More
That is there that wants to come out.

Please come home. Please come home
For you belong here now. You belong among us.
Please inhabit your place fully so we can learn from you,
From your voice and your ways and your presence.

Please come home. Please come home.
And when you feel yourself home, please welcome us too,
For we too forget that we belong and are welcome,
And that we are called to express fully who we are.

Please come home. Please come home.
You and you and you and me.

Please come home. Please come home.
Thank you, Earth, for welcoming us.
And thank you touch of eyes and ears and skin,
Touch of love for welcoming us.

May we wake up and remember who we truly are.
Please come home. Please come home. Please come home.

What is Spiritual Growth?

I was drawn to this question from one of our readers. There are many ways to approach it and I’d be interested in your responses.

I immediately went back to 1972, recalling a moment when a scripture verse suddenly intrigued me. Paul is praying for the people in Ephesus who have discovered faith in Jesus as The Christ: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3.16) What I heard that day was that I had an ‘inner being’ that could be strengthened with God’s Spirit. Wow. I was more than just this body, this life.

So over the years I set myself to learn more about this inner being. I’ve learnt I have a body that I need to care for, yet not be identified with, rather feed, exercise and appreciate. I have a mind that I need to develop and turn towards what is true, right, just and pure. I have emotions that can both enrich and entangle my life, so I need to learn wisdom towards them. I also have something else, an inner being, a soul, that place that carries or is the spark of God, the light of God, the resting place of God within me. It’s my True Self, my home. If I grow spiritually it relates to strengthening the spiritual muscle of my inner being so that it is my anchor, my rudder and my sail as I catch the spiritual winds of God.

A significant component of spiritual growth for me has been shifting from an entangled identification with body, mind and emotions to an identification with spirit so that growingly my primary awareness is as a child of God. It feels like I wake up to who I really am. I’m less identified with how my body looks or the aches I have, less identified with proving my point, or being ‘right’, less identified with swells of emotions both hurts and joys that move through me. Spiritual growth is less about learning dogma, apologetics or theology. It is more about becoming authentic and staying present to how I actually have experienced God, living with the joy, light, clarity and love that I’ve known. It’s bringing those experiences of God into my everyday life. If I’m more compassionate to myself and others this year than last year, I’m growing spiritually. If I’m more forgiving, kinder, I’m growing spiritually. If I’m more aware of my immortal, eternal soul and less attached to the coming and goings of Anne’s life, I’m growing spiritually.

One of the major supports in my spiritual growth is to have a community and rhythm of life. Contemplative Fire’s rhythm of ‘Travelling Light – Dwelling Deep’ and ‘Being – Knowing – Doing’ has been a grounding presence in my life for the last decade. I have a regular prayer rhythm of meditation, a regular study rhythm as I intentionally fill my mind with a contemplative and mystical approach to life and a regular compassionate practice towards myself and others. Looking back over the last fifty years since I first heard Paul’s prayer, I can see a gradual strengthening of my spiritual muscle yet know I still have a lot of room for growth. I feel like I’m just beginning. I’m awake, but still lying in bed.

Love and prayers for the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Waiting

I’ve missed writing for the past few weeks. I’d think about it, but I just couldn’t do it. Usually, I write from what speaks to me during the week. It is one more way I have of reflecting on life. But ‘life’ has been turbulent the last month partly with an expected, but unexpected wedding that was quickly planned and executed (quite brilliantly by the couple), but also with four relational bumps that caused me to slow down and do some serious reflection. My days have been filled with much wedding delight, but my heart has been more tender as I find my way through the bumps. Maybe that’s okay.

I believe that I am here on earth to learn and grow spiritually. That’s the core of life, so I see all the circumstances of life as providing lessons for my soul growth. I know if I change, the world changes and that’s my major contribution to making this a kinder world. But the lessons – some are easier than others! This last month had some harder lessons for me, ones that took me to a deeper place in that hidden part of me I don’t really know; ones, that like some math courses I did in high school, required me to call in a tutor to help. I think I wrote a bit about it before I stopped. I was invited to look again at both my wounded child and my adaptive child. I thought I’d done all that work, but then something happens, and I realize there is still more healing needed for that little one, and that older child also needs to be released from duty.

Something is shifting. And I’m held in a waiting place. I’m not in charge of the shift. I bought my ticket for the rollercoaster ride. I’ve said ‘Yes’ again and again to learning life’s lessons. I’ve got my seat for the ride, but now I wait. When will the train take off? How will we twist and turn? When will we land? Where will we land? Who will I be then? I don’t know the answers. I’m waiting and trusting.

Sue Monk Kidd’s book ‘When the Heart Waits’ has been a supportive read this month. She recounts her story of a mid-life change. I could have read it when she wrote it in 1990 as I was in a change then. I could have read it when the next change came about 2000. Now here I am again twenty years later, waiting my way through another change. Waiting. Waiting. Listening. Trusting.

I’ll write when I can. Always happy to have a note from you Gentle Reader. I haven’t heard much from you either this month so perhaps you’re in the waiting room with me!

Love and prayers for the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion with The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

The 215

I’m sad this week, appalled too, and wondering how to respond.

The news of the unmarked graves of 215 children at a residential school in Kamloops cuts deeply into my privileged white heart. I grew up in Canada and wasn’t taught about First Nations culture or government policy to both assimilate and annihilate through residential schools. But I can’t blame just the educational system. I began to hear the dark story in 1990’s as the Anglican Church made an apology and began raising funds for compensation and healing initiatives, and yet I didn’t inform myself. It was only from 2010 onwards, through Contemplative Fire encouragement and some Companions on the Way I met within our community that I began to learn. I’ve been a slow learner and in that I recognize my own culpability in this dark piece of Canadian history.

This week I’m also pondering Mark 3.20-35 for a reflection in a local church on Sunday. I wrote the sermon several weeks ago and find it so appropriate for today. It’s the story where Jesus’ family and the teachers of the law don’t like him, put all sorts of expectations on him, want him to have particular beliefs. They try to jam him into a box and he simply won’t fit.

When I look back, I see those who colonized Canada doing the same thing; not seeing the indigenous people for who they are, not learning their ways, their faith but only seeing them through their British and French white eyes, with their own expectations and beliefs. And then those of us who followed the first arrivals, perpetuated that seeing or that not-seeing. Sure we can say that’s human nature, that’s the way of empires around the world, but that doesn’t work for me. That doesn’t touch those 215 unnamed children who ended up in an unmarked grave. What were their lives like? What were their final minutes?  And we know there are more, scattered across our country, more graves, more unmarked graves with children in them.

I’m grieved that so many of the residential schools were run by churches, staffed by people who claim to be Christian, to follow Jesus. My heart is sad.

How can this be? What are my next steps? What are yours?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation  

Walls

Walls – they come in all sorts of shapes, lengths and materials, serving so many different purposes: containing flowers, guarding countries, separating neighbours, organizing farms, guiding cars, blocking noise…… Just now on TV is a show about Irish stone walls. Everywhere today I’m finding walls!

Tonight, on the drive home while listening to a podcast on the fall of ancient empires, I heard this gem that I want to share with you. Right near the end of their empire the Sumerians built a wall to protect one of their cities. There was an ocean on one side, rivers on two sides and so they thought a wall could be the final protection. Sure, lots of ancient cities or empires have been protected by walls. Like most of those walls, the Sumerian one failed too. The author said so simply…..”Walls only work as long as there is a garrison sustaining them.” That was it. I heard the truth, but not in the historical context.

Walls aren’t only outside are they? We have walls inside that divide our life into different roles and help both organize and protect us. Often, they are useful for they allow us to function in the rough and tumble of life, but they have limits. They also keep us from feeling deeply or seeing clearly or making wise choices.

Lately I’ve been thinking about a wall inside me. Truthfully, lately I’ve been feeling that wall. When I was away on retreat I began to chat with Jesus and dear Mother Mary, the Undoer of Knots, about the wall. I gave consent for them to dismantle it. In effect I told the garrison that has guarded my wall to stand down, dismissed them, sent them back home. I trust Jesus and Mary to dismantle the wall in their own slow and loving way.

I’ve known about my interior wall for many years. One of my earliest oil paintings was of a stone wall in the French countryside. When it was completed, and I sat back to consider it I realized I needed to paint another picture with the wall coming down. I am attracted to walls in nature, yet I couldn’t allow my art to express only the starkness and containment of a wall. I needed to paint, to express the wall coming down. I’ve kept those pictures and often reflected on them, feeling the openness and female power of the second image.

When I heard those words on the drive home tonight, I knew again the presence of Spirit at work in my life. I wanted to acknowledge the garrison that protected me most of my life, and once again send them home, and give consent to Jesus to do the dismantling work. It’s time for that wall crumble. I feel secure enough to stand in the world without that wall.

Walls. They have a place. But there is also a time to let them come down. God doesn’t violate us, but waits for our ask, our whole-hearted ask, longs for it. Are you in touch with any of your walls? What might be the invitation for you?

Behind the interior wall is the goodness that is in my heart and yours. Our wonderful internal, eternal beauty and light glows. Time for walls to come down. What would it be like to give consent to Jesus, to trust him to send the garrison home and begin the slow and loving crumble of the wall?

It’s a journey, not easy, never dull, always heading home.

Love and prayers for the journey

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Full yet Quiet

My week has been woven with wonderful conversations of depth and meaning as people search to find their path or keep walking faithfully.

Those conversations are some of my favourite bits of life.

It’s been a full week yet a quiet one. Usually I write about something I’ve been mulling over all week yet this week I’ve simply moved along from one conversation to the next feeling engaged and content.

One moment caught my attention this morning. Maybe you recognize it. I woke and as I lay in bed I felt some sadness. I noted it. A half hour later when I was at my desk with my current study book open before me I was happy. I noted it. Then I noted how emotions move through like weather systems. That image had been in one of my conversations this week and here I was seeing it so clearly. Emotions and thoughts move through us. They aren’t us but move through us.

My current weather system is a warm summer evening – happy, content, full and quiet. What’s your weather today?

Love and prayers

Anne

The Never-ending Easter

This is a question for those of you who still have a foot in churchland or maybe it’s for those of you who have left church. —-

Why is there so much focus on the forty days of Lent and not on the fifty days of Easter? During Lent, liturgical churches that I attended or in which I served would offer study groups, extra prayer time or retreats. A lot of attention was paid to the purging of our ways, and being aware of our brokenness as we prepared for Easter. Easter happened and there was a party. Alleluias return to the liturgy, trumpets appear and flowers fill the sanctuary. Then, in the liturgical calendar, fifty days of Easter follow till Pentecost is celebrated. I can’t recall a church I attended or in which I served that gave much focus to the celebration of new life that the Risen Christ gives us. Have you known church communities that kept the Easter party going for fifty days? I’d love to hear their stories.

Last week I was on a silent, but teaching retreat, with the theme ‘Celebrating Life’. One of the beauties of a zoom retreat was that I could ask a question without talking. That was so good! I asked the leader my Easter question and he got very still and then began to talk. He’s been a priest sixty years and has seen a thing or too. He too knew the problem. As he spoke some of the cloud around my question began to disappear.

As human beings we often orient to the negative rather than positive. We brush off happy stories but will let someone wallow in sorrow or grief giving it more time than someone who shares a success story. Books have been written on that orientation! Lent trumps Easter. At least since the Enlightenment (which did anything but bring light….) believers in the church have grown in doubting the reality and power of the supernatural. Intellect over intuition. Many people who attend Easter services don’t really believe that Jesus came back from the dead. We can believe we are selfish, but doubt that Jesus is still alive. We’ve become cultural Christians. Again, Lent trumps Easter.  If we doubt the supernatural power of Easter, we’re not going to hear the power of his message that he’s come to give us new life and that we will do more than he has done as a healer and manifesting God in the world. There is no way we can celebrate the new life if we don’t know the transforming power of the Risen Christ in our lives and most of us don’t. We don’t even feel comfortable talking about our lack of transformative experiences. It’s still okay to be in church and gossip, complain, be competitive, worry etc. Lots of things I know Jesus told us he was here in which to show us a new way. Lent trumps Easter.

I know this is a much bigger issue than one short blog, but thanks for reading this far. My retreat week was awesome. I came home, refreshed, renewed, knowing again the reality of Christ in my life and yours. I’m moving in the never-ending Easter dance.

Imagine with me churches around the world celebrating the fifty days of Easter as one big ongoing family dinner party to which the whole word is invited. The Whole World. The doors are flung open, the kitchens are bustling, and love is being spread as we welcome all to the banquet. A never-ending Easter celebration of new life.

What might you celebrate today?

Love and prayers

 Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Spiritual Practice of Solitude

‘Ah, solitude! That’s so sweet, isn’t it?’, whispered the priest as he passed by in the kitchen of the retreat centre. I had snuck in the back door to collect a few items from the fridge to take back to the Hermitage. He knew what I was doing. He knew that I wasn’t at the retreat centre with the group but was on my own in a cabin about a fifteen-minute walk across the farm fields that surrounded the centre. He knew I was not just in silence, but in solitude. And yes, I agree with him, it was and is sweet to me.

For almost thirty years I’ve taken time regularly in solitude. Four years ago, it was clear to me that two practices that feed my spirit are regular, significant times in both nature and solitude. I now live nestled on a mountainside and feel well fed by nature. I still seek solitude.

Solitude isn’t just being alone. It’s not living alone nor is it spending time in my cabin where I read, write, meditate and hangout. The Spiritual Practice of Solitude is like peeling an onion….or like undressing. When I enter solitude, I’m intentionally leaving aside things that comfort, entertain, teach, or distract me. Seems simple, but it’s not.

In solitude, I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t even want to be with people. Even the priest whispering to me as he passed, was speaking into my solitude. Each person carries an energy field so to be with someone is to open myself, not only to their words if we speak, but to their energy flow. When I enter solitude, I really desire to not encounter anyone else, not to experience their energy, or their words.

Books have energy and words too. I’m careful what books I bring into solitude and often have found I don’t even look at them. Once I settle, I become much more selective about what I will read. Sacred texts are often where I settle. Sometimes some spiritual books have been helpful, but I let the Spirit I encounter within solitude guide me.

Phone is turned off. Netflix – gone! Food becomes simple. Exercise is usually apart of my routine – walking, swimming, chipping golf balls have all been practices for me over the years. Some simple art often comes with me.

Once I enter solitude the layers start to peel away. It takes awhile for the voices to disappear. Sometimes I feel like a whole crowd of people have joined me on retreat. Eventually they leave and I’m on my own. Sometimes the inner whispers have pulled me into despair. I have had many hours of struggle as I sought my way through them. I have known many moments of unbridled sweetness too. Being with both the fears and the sweetness has strengthened my spirit. I’m more in touch with my core being, sometimes called our True Self, that child of God place, deep within. I arrive at a deeper vulnerability, nakedness. I am who I AM. The Living God is alive for me.

Today I’m beginning a week of solitude. If you think of me, pray for me. I’m not sure if I’ll post a blog next week. Sometimes I write on retreat, sometimes I don’t. If you’re interested, posted in Mystic in Motion in 2017 are reflections from my prolonged time on sabbath leave when I spent three separate weeks in solitude.  

What are the spiritual practices that nourish your spirit?

What is it like for you to enter solitude?

See you again, sometime when I re-appear, ready to speak again.

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada (Founder)

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Pathway of Peace

I spent some time this week clearing part of a trail near our home. I think I’ve mentioned it to you before. It’s a new trail that follows a creek up the mountainside. We’ve placed a few benches along the trail to give people a place to rest, to be in the forest, to encourage their gaze into the depths of trees and to hear the gurgle of the nearby creek. We’ve decided to clear parts of the trail of old debris, tidy up the forest a bit. I know it’s not a garden, nor do I want it to be, yet bringing some order to tiny parts of it feels alright to me. We cut away dead ferns, tossed dry branches and cleared the way to see and hear the creek. I loved the time wading through the creek to clear the debris. It feels so good play in the forest. I come home exhilarated. It seems I’m getting drunk on the goodness of the forest energy.

The affirmation I’ve been sitting with this week has also felt good. I’m a child of God. I walk with the Prince of Peace on a pathway of peace as we create a community of peace. We use divinely guided wisdom and will power to clear the path of peace. We walk together strongly and lovingly as we create a community of peace.

Last week’s blog on ‘The Power of Choice’, this week’s trail work and the peace affirmation, all fit together. What does it mean to work with Jesus to clear a pathway of peace? What’s the debris that needs to be tossed? What’s no longer to be tolerated? What needs to be cut away? What needs to be brought into focus? What needs to be newly planted?

First, a decision to walk with the Prince of Peace. He will be my companion, daily, moment by moment I turn to him. I am walking with him, and together, we are walking a Pathway of Peace. So, second will be to use that as my plum line and anchor in my life. I will keep peace within myself. It is my ground, my anchor. When interior waters get murky, it’s time to retreat to make sure I’m realigned with the Prince of Peace. If I’m not aligned with him, our teamwork of creating a Community of Peace will be murky too.

(There’s a pause here as the day continues.)

I’ve just returned to my desk from a conversation with a villager about reconciliation with First Nations. How can we live here calling everything by colonial names? I live in Lions Bay, named for ‘The Lions’, two mountains above the village, yet long before the British arrived and named them ‘The Lions’ they were known as ‘The Sisters’ and carry a story of peace and brotherhood.

Haven’t we roared like lions long enough? Don’t we need to learn more about living peacefully with ourselves, our families, our communities, our global companions, our Earth? But how do you change a community and government to re-name something? How do you change deep cultural ways of independence and dominance? Despite the peace of my week there are a lot of questions brewing within me. Maybe because of the peace there is room for deep questions.

Are you drawn to the Pathway of Peace? What would you need to join or increase your commitment to walk the Pathway of Peace?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member with Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living

Power of Thoughts

‘Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely … think about these things.’ ‘Take all thoughts captive to Christ.’ ‘Keep in step with the Spirit.’ All of those are verses from scripture that I’ve learnt over the years. Lately they’re becoming more real to me. That first one is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It was the verse my high school chose as it’s foundation, so as a teenager I memorized it. Now, a long way from my teens, I’m grateful for the foundation it laid in my life.

For years I didn’t follow that spiritual wisdom. I listened to voices within myself that told me I was wrong, bad, dark, selfish, insufficient and not good enough. What a crowd would yell at me!  And I know too that I spoke words that were aggressive, hurtful, demeaning, critical, and negative. I know there were moments of kindness and wisdom, but that spiritual energy, of consciously drawing on goodness, wasn’t directing my life.

I just finished reading Thomas King’s new novel, ‘Indians on Vacation’ where his hero Blackbird has a host of people who live inside him making suggestions to him on how to live. They represent the voices of self-loathing, fear, depression, despair and pride. His wife has given each voice a name, so we get to watch Eugene, Kitty and the others nag Blackbird during the day. At first, I didn’t like making those voices so familiar by naming them, but gradually I began to find some wisdom in the naming. Then I started to listen again to the voices within me. I relaxed a bit and thought that I too could name some persistent voices and in doing that, actually disarm them. I could put them in their place. I’ll decide whether to sit and have coffee with them or not. I’ll decide whether to listen to them or not. Yes, I’ll decide. I love the power of choice.

I don’t want to listen to Nelly the Nag who loves to repeat things, or Freddie the Fixer who is full of ideas for other people’s lives or Judge Judy or Speedy Gonzales who loves to interrupt! No, I don’t want to hang out with them or listen to them. I want to be aware of my thoughts, mindful of them, draw them close to Christ who is within me and follow the pathway in which Spirit leads me, a pathway of kindness, compassion, gentleness and hope. I love having the power of being able chose how to live. I will turn my attention to what is helpful, true, honest, pure, kind, and generous. I will think about these things. Yeah high school who tried to show me a pathway!

What do you think about? Who whispers suggestions in your ear? What do you think about naming the voices within?

Love and prayers

Anne

Mystic in Motion

Companion on the Way with Contemplative Fire

Contemplative Fire Canada, Founder

Companion on The Rivendell Way

Society Member of Shalem Institute for Contemplative Living