This week my attention has been focused on how on-going growth and integration is basic to the monastic life. Benedictine life asks that we “learn everyday of our lives” and that learning is not just about intellectual knowledge. In her book, Seeking Life, Esther de Waal notes that Benedict is always addressing the whole self – body, mind and spirit. Benedict tells us in the Prologue that we must “prepare our hearts and bodies.” So as we seek to open ourselves more deeply to God during Lent, we might attend to each aspect of our person as de Waal suggests.
How am I attending to my physical self? Am I getting enough exercise, eating balanced meals? How am I attending to my senses? As a way of attending to my senses this spring, I decided to take a drawing fundamentals class. An artist told me some years ago that drawing is about seeing. I want to learn to see God in the beauty around me. Learning how to draw is helping me to see. In the first class as we were practicing shading, the instructor said, “You need to learn to see the light.” Now there is an appropriate metaphor for the spiritual journey! As I practice shading simple forms, I am learning to notice light that I hadn’t seen before. This also awakens my spiritual senses to be attentive to ways that God shines around me.
How am I attending to my intellectual life? Benedict asks that each monk read a book during Lent as a way of adding some additional study to one’s life. In April’s Living in Community newsletter, a couple of us sisters will share something that we are reading currently.
How am I attending to my prayer life? Has it become routine for me? How is God calling me into a deeper experience of the divine presence? My image of God has been changing over the course of the past several years. This is sometimes uncomfortable and even distressing as my familiar ways of relating to God don’t “work” anymore. Change is never easy, but God wants to draw us deeper into Mystery. Can we let go of the familiar and move into the unknown?
How am I attending to the imagination? Poetry, photography, art or music can awaken our imagination and attune us to the power of symbol. Doing lectio divina with Scripture can also help nurture this aspect of our being.
Of course, these practices are not just for Lent but are for everyday of our lives as we seek to live our baptismal commitment as Christians.
What practices help you to learn everyday of your life? Please share your thoughts with us below.
I volunteer at a local hospice and went to see a client at an assisted living facility. As I entered, another resident was sitting at a table. There was something compelling about this woman who I had never spoken to before. She spoke to me saying that she always chooses the far chair to sit in even though it is more difficult for her to get to. I was in a hurry but some unknown “force” made me want to sit down a moment to speak with this woman. She spoke of the beautiful sunshine reflections she saw on the new green leaves on the tree outside the window. I put my head close to hers and saw what she saw. She spoke of the extreme beauty of our world and of how most people don’t take the time to look at their surroundings. She said that’s what keeps her going. She spoke of God’s beauty like the views outside her window were original paintings. I felt somehow that God was there, yesterday, and felt blessed to have met this woman and spoken to her. I thanked her for sharing, and have been thinking of what she said
ever since. I don’t even know her name.
What a beautiful experience, Cheryal. It seems like a “burning bush” occasion. You stopped even though you were in a hurry and had an experience of the holy through this woman’s eyes! You were indeed blest!
Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m going to spend a little extra time just wondering at creation this weekend. The weather is turning toward spring.