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.