Whether we’re discerning between alternatives or just discerning a way forward, whatever it’s about, the first thing is always to keep the first thing the first thing. That’s our initial step of identifying our principle and foundation (p&f), or, the big ultimate “why”—as in, “Why does it matter that we discern this well?”—or the big ultimate “what”—as in, “What do we want beneath everything else?” St Ignatius of Loyola identifies this as the core human vocation: to praise and serve Gød. You might personalize it further. Either way, we’re not done with Step One simply by identifying our p&f. We need to make it our p&f actually. That’s where a concept called “indifference” comes in, but it bears explanation. Continue reading
I’ve been frequently asked since beginning my journey in spiritual direction and as a spiritual director what “discernment” is. I’ll unthinking drop it into conversation as an assumed concept, or someone will spy the cover of some book I’m buried in about discernment. Etymology, the origin of a word, can sometimes provide us a blind lead about its meaning. But in this case, I always return to the root of “discernment” for its clearest explanation. Like all good English words (and there aren’t many), it’s based in Latin: discenere (dis [apart] + cenere [to sift]), literally, “to sift apart.” Continue reading
“Never give in to the demands of Christ. Give in to the demands of your own love for him.” — Anthony De Mello, SJ
We would do anything for love. Those who have fallen in love know this. I’ve sworn it, because I’ve felt it. And though I don’t know that I’ve ever yet loved well enough for this to be entirely true, the essence of it is, for the simple fact that we are reckless in love, abandoned to it and abandoned to consequences. I’ve unashamedly made decisions and taken risks I wouldn’t have made had I not been in love—not all of them, I hope, selfish. Continue reading
I’m a complete novice to yoga, which is challenging because, like most people, I don’t like not being good at things. Worse still, it’s part of my goal as someone who lives in his head to better connect with my body—which I’m terrible at. I can’t study my way being more comfortable on the mat; I can’t brute-strength-train my way to feeling more embodied.
Much like making my beginning with spiritual direction, I find I have to adopt a posture that’s more teachable than determined, more attentive than sure and more playful than linear. Most of my life, I seek mastery; here, I practice, which includes practicing rest. Continue reading
As a young spiritual director in training, one of the common challenges I’ve encountered is finding and keeping directees. A practice I’ve inherited from my teachers is that I ask for an initial six-month commitment, which can become helpful when early conversations suddenly become challenging and uncomfortable, or when the outcomes are not immediately evident or satisfying, or when meetings become inconvenient to schedule. Still, for many reasons, not everyone is able to see that initial commitment through. In my last year and a half of training, sadly, several have simply dropped off the map. Only one directee has stayed with me to term—in fact, for almost a year. Continue reading
At the center of a wound, where we long to fill it with distraction, sensation, love, possession, whatever we have lost or lack and wish to find or recover, there is something. Yet because we are lonely or vulnerable or restless or pained, our attention is on the something that isn’t there. We spend lives looking to have things rather than not have them, to have rather than to lose: to feel complete, OK, unwanting, warm and secure. Some of us find it, fleetingly, at the end of a few glasses, or we stop thinking about it after we watch enough television, or as long as I can be held or know there is someone to hold me. We want something rather than nothing. Continue reading