Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Different Kind of Spiritual Practice

As a spiritual director, I have spiritual disciplines  that help me to grow in my relationship with God.  Prayer, ritual, retreats and reading spiritual books have been some of my practices  over the years.  At this time in my life I realize that I have been given a rare opportunity for spiritual deepening in the act of driving my twelve  and thirteen year old granddaughters, Addie and Reagan,  to and from volleyball practice.  For the past two months I have been taking  them two or three times a week and have had opportunities to practice what the Buddhists call “Maitri”  - lovingkindness – in very practical ways.

First I get to practice patience.  I am patient with them as they sometimes arrive slowly to the car and in a grumpy mood. I have learned about waiting peacefully and trusting that this will pass as I am present to them.   

Then there is the practice of silence. After  the cursory question – how was school or how was practice –  it is best if I am silent.  Similarly to when I sit on the porch and watch the birds and squirrels, if I am silent, their real life will start to emerge. Sometimes after about three minutes they start to talk about  deeper issues and I learn about struggles with the coach or other teammates.  Sometimes I hear about academic problems or what is going on in the family.  Or it may be a funny story from school.  For me, it is all about paying attention and not getting in the way. 

There is a kind of   letting go that is part of our relationship.   I may occasionally suggest a solution to a problem but for the most part I can ask the open ended question: “what do you think you should do?”  In a way that I never could as a mom.

And occasionally  when I am with them, I experience what I would call flow and almost a mystical unity that is beyond words. It often happens when we listen to the radio and sing Adele together or even Justin Bieber.

This is not to suggest that this is all sweetness and light.  There are times in which I practice detachment  and have learned to  deflect when sisterly bickering starts to emerge.   I will tell them that we need to listen to music now and if that doesn’t stop their  arguing , I silence them with NPR.  

Pema Chodren writes: “Being able to appreciate, being able to look closely, being able to open our minds – this is the core of maitri.   I definitely appreciate the blessing of being with Reagan and Addie and growing in my own practice of “maitri.”

What is ironic is that their mother, my daughter, texts me that I “rock” because I so willingly drive them.  What none of them realize is that spending dedicated time with these girls gives me a special window into their lives as I glimpse their  courage, beauty, and resilience as they negotiate the trials and triumphs of middle school.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Step Along the Way

       Yesterday was a big day for me.  We celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Wellstreams Program with a luncheon, program and silent auction.  I chaired the event and so was involved in every aspect of the day.  As it was evolving  over the course of the year, I kept wondering how I got myself into all of this leadership and activity again.  But yesterday really made it all worthwhile. It is exciting to be part of a team that slowly imagines an event and brings it to fruition.

       One of the great blessings of retirement is that I get to do everything these days with margins - which really translates to time.  I get to have time to prepare, time to travel, time to appreciate and time to savor.   When I was in parish ministry, a day like this would be sandwiched in the middle of work and family responsibilities - sermons, hospital visits, administrative details, being with grandchildren, social events.  That was life then and that was the schedule.  I know that most working people with families have similar kinds of lives.  There are these times when we go from event to event to event and we scarcely get a chance to breathe. Let alone rest and reflect and savor.

       But this morning I savor the blessings of this experience. Yesterday just felt like we were in the flow.  I had gotten up early and wrote what I was going to say as "emcee" of the event and found quotes and words that just matched was I was feeling.  I literally started the day skimming the book The Living Water about the beginnings of the spirituality network and Wellstreams. What was clear was that I was the recipient of the inspiration and hard work of many who came before.  These were people  - like me - who had a hunger for the spiritual life and came together to first form an organization - "The Spirituality Network" to address the thirst for the God of life.  And then later began a training program in spiritual direction in the mid 90's . And that program changed my life and the lives of many people over the past twenty years.

     Now I realize  it was a gift to be able to remember, celebrate and give something back yesterday.  Sister Carol Ann was the first chair person of the Education Formation Committee in the beginning and still serves as director of Wellstreams. She helped us yesterday to look back at our history and gave  us to  a reading from the funeral of Oscar Romero that literally brought me to tears. It reminds me of what I believe when I am my most healthy  - that I am called  do the work that God places before me and then let go and trust that somehow it will be enough for now.  I want to be one of many who is streaming out in a life of thanksgiving and compassion.

A Future Not Our Own
It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's
grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.