What even IS "Spirituality"?
Yadav was born and raised in Tamil Nadu, India. He had a Hindu upbringing, but when he moved to the United States to study he started to separate himself from his family’s belief system. He was comfortable not having specific religious involvement. He didn't feel a trite religion-shaped hole in his heart. He wasn't a subplot in God's Not Dead 5.
Running had always been one of his favorite ways to spend some time alone, but he started to feel as though something peculiar was happening when he ran. He couldn't think of anything that was different physically or mentally within him, so he tried to ignore the feeling. He did not succeed. He decided to see a spiritual director.
The spiritual director encouraged him to simply uncritically notice the thoughts that came to him and his physical state the next time he went on a run, however insignificant the details may seem. Over the course of subsequent meetings, the director helped Yadav discern and articulate that the muscle memory expressed in his legs coupled with the endorphins released as he ran made him feel strongly connected to his animal self. Running outdoors with this awareness also heightened his acknowledgement of his place within an ecological system. This perspective brought him a profound sense of harmony within himself and a sense of deep belonging within the world around him. This sense of belonging was especially helpful after leaving the familiarity of his home country—something he did not think was having any effect on him.
The spiritual director used the bare bones of Yadav’s lived experience to help him see for himself that something as mundane as daily exercise had the potential to amount to more. In this example we see the ways in which spiritual health interacts with the other dimensions of wellness. But what is “spiritual health"?
The 8 generally agreed upon dimensions of wellness are:
The spiritual dimension of health is the glue that holds the other dimensions together. It asks the question of why we even bother tending to the other dimensions in the first place.
In Yadav’s case, the spiritual practice of awareness encouraged thoughtful scientific analysis of his body, and this was beneficial to his intellectual and physical health. A stronger sense of connection to his surroundings called to mind the state of his environmental and social health, and the whole experience contributed to his overall emotional health. Yadav’s spiritual exploration also brought to mind some of the difficulties he had been facing regarding his lost sense of cultural identity. Up until that point, these suppressed feelings had invisibly inhibited his occupational health.
Spirituality has been defined and redefined throughout human history, and it is now my intention to shout yet another definition to the abyss:
spir·it·u·al·i·ty /spiriCHo͞oˈalədē/ n.: the practice of deriving any amount of meaning from any event, thought, or activity
Sound vague? It’s because it is.
We can meet with any amount of people from militant atheists to militant fundamentalists, and the same question can be found at the tip of their tongues: What meaning can I derive from my life, experience, and surroundings? Even if their answer is “none,” they’ve still asked the question. For some reason the human mind deeply craves context. It is not enough for us to simply survive. We need to know we are a part of something greater, even if that “something greater” is simply our ecosystem, our families, or even, paradoxically, the understanding that we are a part of nothing greater.
So what is spirituality? Everything, and beyond.
By Rachel A. Parsons, MA
A Creative Memorial
Recently, I officiated at the memorial service for a man named Bill. Bill was a vibrant, devoted, and laughter-filled man whose absence left a chasm in the lives of those who loved him. Bill and his wife shared a love that was beyond words; indeed, the couple decided that the only phrase that came close to illustrating the immensity of their love for one another was Buzz Lightyear’s motto from the movie Toy Story: “To infinity and beyond!” That infinite love, a love that blessed all those connected with Bill, was what his wife wanted to honor through this memorial service.
Bill’s family and friends form a diverse group, one that does not share one common religious tradition or a set of established spiritual practices that might make the format of a memorial service straightforward. They hold different beliefs, and some do not believe in a higher power at all. Bill’s wife requested a memorial service that would ensure everyone felt comfortable and welcome, and for her that meant that we refrained from sharing scripture or prayers specific to any one tradition.
Without the container of a comfortable religious framework, we were called to be creative, to open ourselves up to fresh, new ways to honor both Bill and all the family members and friends gathered to celebrate his life.
We focused on the four main qualities that Bill consistently exemplified throughout his life: love, generosity, strength, and humor. Friends and family members told stories illustrating the ways Bill shared these attributes with everyone in his life. And, in between these stories, we worked together to feel, to hold, and to emanate these qualities ourselves. Together we became love, generosity, strength, and humor, sending those essences out into the world. And I offered this blessing:
May you each receive, experience, and share love wherever you go.
May you be generous with your spirit, with your gifts, and with your time so others’ lives are made better through contact with you.
May you be strengthened during each of your days to do the work and serve the purpose you are here to do.
May you all know laughter that bubbles up from deep in your soul and showers joy on all beings everywhere.
By sharing Bill’s greatest gifts with one another and with our world, may you not only honor but extend the life of this wonderful man.
And in turn may our world – a world so desperately in need – be blessed by each of you.
We ended the service with a toast to Bill, using his favorite beverage, Michelob beer. As the participants raised their glasses, we affirmed that the unique beauty of this one life would be reverberate, “To infinity and beyond!”
Imagine this: next week is your memorial service.
What four attributes of yours would we attempt to carry forth into the world after you leave?
What words of blessing would be said?
What beverage would we use to toast you?
By Amy Agape
Submission - Transforming Work
Submission! What arises in your heart and spirit when you hear that word? Resistance. Rebellion. Loss of power. It may conjure up visions of being a doormat or a weak, brainwashed follower. Yet, Godly submission is based in the goodness and loving intentions of God for each of us. It grows from the firm conviction that each one of us is a beloved child of God; blessed, loved and forgiven.
My personal journey of submission, began when a long-term prayer and dream to have my adult daughter, her husband and three young grandchildren move from California to Colorado Springs was answered. I wanted to be an involved ‘Nana’ in their everyday lives, leaving a legacy of love for them and my faith. One year later through employment circumstances, they moved to the other side of the world, South Africa. I was spinning in shock, disappointment and grief. My belief in God’s best for me and my grandchildren was in question. What was to be an 18-month move is now an absence of seven years.
Early in the process of submission, relinquishment and grief, I prayed for understanding and for new insights into God’s plan for me. Often, I allow myself to really immerse myself in the pain, the ache of what I have missed, the agony of a lost dream – never to be recovered. Although the dream was crushed, I tried to cling to God’s love for, to consciously decide to trust what I couldn’t understand and to surrender control of the situation. My anchors during this time were dear friends, a loving husband who listened to my rantings and, especially, my spiritual director.
This passage has not been a steady one; there have been moments of a tentative peace and acceptance; then out of nowhere, I’ll sink into sadness, anger and doubt. For me surrender is an ongoing resolution to trust God in these and all circumstances. Through submission and relinquishment I’m making heart space to let go of the life I had planned and live into the life I have been given.
By Gail Chamley
Last Saturday I learned the Enneagram is a fad among 20 and 30 somethings. Is the present time we are living in calling people to a deeper understanding of themselves? The Enneagram has been passed from generation to generation and now the time is right for a new generation to understand themselves in a deeper more wholistic way. One of the ways the Enneagram is changing and transforming lives is through the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP). Susan Olesek was asked to teach the Enneagram in a prison in Texas and shortly thereafter realized people in prison were hungry for this knowledge. For the past 10 years EPP has been teaching the Enneagram in the prison system in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.
In February of 2016 when I began my studies of the Enneagram in California with The Narrative Enneagram (Helen Palmer’s school) there were men and women in my classes who had been in prison and who were furthering their knowledge of the Enneagram on the outside. This was the first I heard of EPP and the amazing work they are doing. Three years later I applied to EPP to complete the Guide training, which I did in March and April of this year.
In my experience of the Enneagram this training was the first I had experienced where the Enneagram is used as a tool for transformation. I had enough knowledge about the Enneagram and I had certifications to help me qualify for the EPP training. However, I wasn’t quite prepared to experience in action the Enneagram’s healing powers of transformation.
The training was hard work. In the practicum I actually taught classes, with the help of others in the training process, in San Mateo County Jail and in San Quentin. This experience was transformative for me. The testimonies from the those incarcerated were truly amazing. The night we were at San Quentin men stood at the door waiting to be a part of the class because of its reputation around the yard. Sixty men in one room sharing stories of their past sent chills of appreciation over me.
Yes, one has to know the Enneagram; yes, one has to be a certified teacher but the yeast in all of this is a person’s willingness to open their being, to love others unconditionally, and to do the work with those in a physical prison as we all live in prisons of our own making.
Walking where Jesus walked was a trip of a lifetime. Yes, this trip was over 2000 years later but it was the time I could experience this wonder.
It was so incredible to be present to the places whose names are familiar from scripture. I guess it made it all just that more real to me, tangible. To be there where Jesus walked, where the faithful have worshiped for so many hundreds of years really was an inspiration. Dare I say that touching the 2nd Temple, walking the Via Delarosa where Jesus walked, feeling the splash from the river Jordan, being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee brought the reality of that time…into my time, my life.
A challenge was being present to the moment… which is different than just taking photos Being present to today, the blessings of THIS day, here and now is the challenge today, with memories and work to do, now.
Reflections on 2019 SDCO Conference
The 2019 SDCO Conference featuring Dr. Barbara Holmes lifted the theme, “Revive My Soul Again: Deep Connections in the Times of Crisis.” The conference began with a Cherokee morning song, Wen’ De Ya Ho, led by Clifford Berrien, a renowned drummer, who weaved contemplative offerings throughout the conference, both formally and informally. “Dr. B” as she liked to be called began the conference with a few questions, what does it mean to be revived personally and communally? How do we work through our troubles creatively, contemplatively, and with congruency? These were just a few of the questions participants would ponder as we sat in silence, chanted, performed group exercises, and eventually rose to our feet dancing (?) Yup, dancing!
By day two, an answer was offered, “there is a balm in Gilead!” This scriptural response was embedded within the context of black embodied racial history. Dr. Holmes showed how different creative mediums such as the theater of the oppressed and oral traditions can transform and bear witness as the application of healing balm to the various painful, yet seemingly unavoidable conversations about race needed across our nation. Dr. Holmes offered radical hope in an unseen future as she led participants in these kinds of conversations and activities that gave us practical ways to journey together on the contemplative path.
By Rev. Anthony C. Hill, SDCO Committee member
Winter's Icy Beauty
Even the winter’s icy fingers have beauty to offer. These glistening branches are testimony to our God’s many gracious gifts, even in the midst of a barren landscape. Sometimes I lose that wider perspective. There are times when all I can see is the lack of what is right in front of me. There is that part of me that wants the spring and summer seasons of my life to last…and last…and last. And then I’m confronted with reality, life changes. While it takes cultivation of some new skills of appreciation, there are blessings to be found wherever I look, reminders…like these sparkling, barren, branches.
Among the lessons of scripture, I am encouraged by God’s constancy. I count on that in my life also, sparkling reminders of beauty when I take time to really look…to see with the eyes of my heart. In these otherwise barren months I am offered gifts, given from God’s generous heart. With the gift of quiet I can sense God’s invitation into silence. With this new year, with Holy Silence, I return each day to my disciple reading the scripture of the day, meditation, contemplative prayer, my quiet time. Disciplines I know that nurture my spirituality that can get lost in the season of many celebrations. I love celebrations. I also know that just as my body doesn’t do well with only celebration meals of cake, my spirit needs nourishment also. For me that nourishment includes worship in community, monthly time with my spiritual director, scripture reading and study each day and an occasional spiritual boost of a special day or two of encouragement. I do count on the promise that God’s Spirit will meet me “in returning and rest”, my spiritual nourishment, day by day.
By Vickie Bailey
Walking into 2019 with a New Perspective
On January 16, 2018, I fell on black ice in my backyard and I did a lot of damage to my body; the worst damage was to the calf area on my leg. As I stood, I assumed I had just twisted my leg and therefore bruised the muscles, but on January 19th I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I drove myself to the neighborhood ER and hobbled in asking for help. The X-rays showed I had a broken fibula; I was given a boot and sent home. On January 26th, I went back to the ER and found that I had a blood clot that was moving from the break in my calf all the way up to my heart. The doctors in the room began moving very quickly and prepping me for surgery as this was a very dangerous situation and they needed to immediately treat this clot. Over the next few months, I incurred many more health issues due to the break and blood clot, but if you looked at me, you may have only noticed that I walked slower. The fibula is a non-weight bearing bone, so you do not need to have a cast. The boot that I had been wearing contributed to the clot, so I now wore nothing on the break.
Finally, in October (10 months later), I was released from all doctor supervision. I was told to go off the blood thinner medication and that my fibula had “healed”, but I still had pain shoot through my leg when I walked or pain later in the evening from “overdoing it”. I didn’t feel healed, so I made a new mantra to avoid pain: “walk slowly, take care of yourself”. Another coping strategy was thinking it was just a “bad year” for my health so I also told myself that once 2019 came, I would be out of the “bad year”. Well, in just a few weeks it will be 2019 and finally I can say goodbye to this year of bad health.
This morning, as I do every year in December, I began to prayerfully reflect on what goals I would like to set for the next year. This year however, my reflecting on 2018 led me down a different path; I realized that next year didn’t have to be about fixing me. I realized that instead of looking at what I do wrong, I could look at what I learned from 2018 and take that lesson in to 2019. I like thinking that I don’t have to look at 2018 as a year to fix or leave. I like that I can look at 2018 and ask “what did I learn from 2018?” By looking at 2018 with a different perspective, one that is kinder, I can walk into 2019 whole, not broken.
What I learned from 2018 is the best lesson I could have asked for: walk slowly and take care of yourself. For me it is just one thing but a truly big thing that impacts everything I do, the way I listen to people, the way I spend time with my family, the way I drive, eat, and finally… walk.
What did you learn about yourself in 2018? What things do you want to bring with you from 2018 and is there anything you would like to leave in 2018? Can you go into a new year without goals?
By Megan Nagel
Silence and our San Luis Pilgrimage
There was anticipation as we all gathered in St Thomas Episcopal Church in Alamosa! We had never taken this kind of step before – a Pilgrimage to San Luis to walk the Stations of the Cross in this sacred area of Colorado. We weren’t really sure what all would take place, but we were ready for what God had for us.
I had recently been feeling a bit of depletion in both my spiritual and physical life. In reading Scripture, I always found that Jesus frequently put his schedule on pause to restore and rejuvenate his spirit and soul. This is where I was, and I think all of us, as we sat around the tables at St Thomas.
After sharing around the circle of pilgrims, we seemed to all have a common theme – we wanted to glean from a pilgrimage/retreat experience what God had in store for us in restoration. Christian George writes in his book, Sacred Travels: Recovering the Ancient Practice of Pilgrimage, “Pilgrimage is a spiritual practice that reminds us of our sacred purpose – to grow closer to God.” I believe that is where we were, and we were about to take steps to grow closer to God.
Walking the beautiful and mystical almost life-size statues that Huberto Meastas had created, it didn’t take long for us to begin feeling God was talking to us through this experience. Our conversations grew quiet as we climbed the hill to the final stations that were located on top by the chapel. In the silence of our walks, God was drawing us into conversations that we had not noticed before. This journey was incredible.
Our final gathering at lunch 2 days later reflected this journey together. The responses around the table were ones of blessing, learning, hearing, inner challenge and change, and of fellowship with other pilgrims. Once you have taken this step to deliberately invest in a pilgrimage, you are not the same. God uses this kind of experience to draw you closer to God.
We also had the great privilege of meeting with 2 students who took us on a walk around San Luis – the oldest city in Colorado. We learned a lot from them about San Luis, and the surrounding area, as well as the sacredness of the land. This helped us in knowing why this area was chosen for the Stations.
I, as well as the rest of the group, went away refreshed and renewed to listen more intently and consistently to God speaking to me in my everyday walk of life.
By Mickey Cox
This fall Spiritual Direction Colorado is venturing into new territory by offering a pilgrimage to visit the Stations of the Cross in San Luis, Colorado. What is a pilgrimage? Phil Cousineau in his book The Art of Pilgrimage says, “To people the world over, pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.”
What will we find in San Luis and Southern Colorado? San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado and is predominately Hispanic, with strong ties to Spain’s religious, cultural, and artistic traditions. The adobe architecture and layout of the town are influenced by these historical and cultures traditions that shaped early communities of Southern Colorado.
We will also find The Stations of the Cross Shrine in San Luis built by the Sangre de Cristo Parish who wanted a place where members of all faiths could find consolation and peace in their lives. If you have ever been to Southern Colorado you know spiritual traditions have deep roots. The first settled of this area brought with them Spanish and Mexican traditions of communal ownership of land and water, a strong allegiance to their language and customs, and intense religious faith.
For a few days we will be immersed in this Spanish/Mexican influence as we learn about the culture, visit the workshop of the sculptor, and immerse ourselves in The Stations of the Cross. This will be a quieter, simpler way of being as we journey to this town that closes its shop doors and rolls up its sidewalks early in the evening.
How will our focus deepen? How will our attention to the path be altered? How will our journey be transformed from a most ordinary journey into a sacred journey, a pilgrimage? Each of us who journey to this most sacred spot will come away with different answers, with a different focus, with a different newness of spirit. The most common greetings on Spain’s Camino de Santiago is “Buen Camino” (Good Way/Road). I wish those taking this journey “Buen Camino!”
By Charlotte Shepic