Conversations

Listening to our Lives: Spiritual Direction

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Bookstores and libraries are perennial favourites of mine. 

Almost twenty five years ago I was in Oregon to visit my Aunt and Uncle. Gracious and generous people, they took me on a little trip to visit a favourite bookstore of theirs in Portland. Powell’s City of Books. Oh my goodness! 

We barely scratched the surface, but I left with a few books. 

In the process my Uncle shared his love for Frederick Buechner’s non-fiction works with me by quoting from memory the passage that follows.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

These words have danced inside me over and over and over again. 

I want to listen to my life. The parts that are glorious and beautiful. And also the parts that are tender and shy and angry and tight. The moments of triumph over fear, emotional paralysis, awkward kindness and snotty blubbering are all spaces for questions and clarity and grace.

They have so much to share with me. So much to seed in me.

As I listen to my life, having a companion and a community has helped me to not get stuck.

I want to listen to my life. I want to have my life listened to in safety by people who can help me wind through the pathways and not get lost. And I want to listen with you to your life too, if you will invite me in!

Clarity. Healing. Transformation. 

Those are the things that are coming for me through the long work of being companioned by a Spiritual Director who has given me set aside time to listen, to question, to support and to offer a compassionate presence. 

Through the years I have had a number of official Spiritual Directors. I have also had many spiritual conversation partners. And the abundant gift of teachers in the form of those who sought me out as a Spiritual Companion, Guide or Director.

The process of listening to our lives and finding where the spaces of joy and sorrow, boredom and pain, lead us is a gift! 

Everyday there are pieces of life that can be gathered up. And as we collect those pieces in conversation with another, they can be placed together towards energy, peace, wholeness and healing.

Healing and transformation have come for me through the process of listening to my life in Spiritual Direction. 

Spiritual direction is a sacred space for listening to our lives. With attentiveness and skill, in an environment of compassion and non-judgement, we can become people who are free to be our truest selves.

Becoming our truest selves! 

Our world, our communities and our families need us! 

Deeply loved. In process. Present. Becoming our truest selves.

Listening with you,

Jennifer

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As you think about your most recent day, are there any parts of it that draw your attention? Were there strong emotions or repeated thoughts? Were there glimmers of peace, flickers of sadness, flares of anger?

What stories have you encountered lately that are touching you?

How do you process the experiences of your days?

Have you ever seen a Spiritual Director (Companion, Guide)? What was that like for you?

Removing the burs...

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“Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past.” Richard Rohr

The other day a dear friend texted me and welcomed me into a conversation that has been stirring within me ever since. The idea that forgiveness is not to let another person off the hook for what they have done. Or even to let myself off the hook for what I have done.

Forgiveness is to let go of the what ifs and the blame and recrimination and let the past rest.

It makes me wonder what I might do if I allowed hope and vision to be for the future rather than using them up on the past…?

For some time burs have been my physical image for the work of forgiveness. Removing burs from my shoe laces and fleece jacket sleeves requires attention and focus. I take off one bur at a time and put it carefully into the garbage so that I do not seed more burs.

So with the forgiveness conversation and the image of burs dancing inside, I headed out to my children’s summer camp for a fall retreat with some folks from our local faith community. We took along our fluffy, (formerly) white dog who snuffled around in the leaves and brush and found the most prickly burs I have yet touched. It was almost as though he was a magnet for these prickly seeds.

Trying to pull these burs from his fur was painful for the fingers, uncomfortable for the dog and a pretty constant reminder of the work that it is to let go my hope for a different past.

Yes, it is work. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would rather be doing something — almost anything — else.

Yet, having removed the burs and contained them in the safety of the garbage, those same burs did not come back to hurt the dog or me again.

We managed to find new burs every time we went outside.

That might also speak to the truth that having let go of the hope for a different or better past in one part of our lives, we may have to let it go again, and again, and again. With the way that I have been living, it would not surprise me if I have let my un-forgiveness, blame and hurt seed many generations of plants with prickly seeds that have yet to be found, removed and let go.

Having conversation partners from spiritual companions, through to a Spiritual Director, and ultimately conversation with the Divine Family, makes this forgiveness process do-able.

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What does it mean to you to forgive?

Where are you at in the process of forgiveness and healing? Where would you like to be?

Does Richard Rohr’s definition of forgiveness stir something inside you? Does it bring a feeling of release? Or does it ignite more questions?

What might it look like in your life to do the work of forgiveness in small, burr-sized pieces?

Who will you invite into a conversation about your ideas and feelings?