For me, spiritual renewal can best be understood as two pairs of dyads.
One dyad is play and pray.
I am equally and unequivocally dedicated to each of these—and in some cases I cannot separate the two.
Play encompasses many of the common forms: dinner with friends, movies, Royals’ games, spending time with family. Fly fishing and playing Bridge are two other ways that I like to have fun.
Pray includes the teaching and practice of Insight Meditation for over 25 years. I also do some forms of Christian contemplative prayer, as well as affirmation, denial and being in the Silence ala Unity’s teachings. I function as a spiritual director, which I believe is an active form of prayer. Other active prayer forms include tai chi and Sufi dancing. With these, the practice of pray and play seem to intersect.
For me, fly fishing can be an active form of prayer. One of my favorite literary quotes is from Norman MacLean in his book, A River Runs Through It.
In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing…. Our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.
That makes perfect sense to me!
The other dyad is solitude and community, both of which are equally important to me.
To me, solitude means time for meditation, reading, writing, cooking, relaxing, being at home and being in nature. Sometimes I like to fish alone; sometimes not.
Community can take many forms. It can mean being with friends and with family or participating in some of my spiritual communities such as my insight meditation sangha, my Unity community or my Ridhwan school family. Attending retreats and connecting online with prayer partners are also part of my community experience.
In recent times my concept of both community and prayer have taken a wider and more active meaning.
Two primary reasons for this:
One is my discovery of the New Contemplative movement, which is not a formal community but rather a movement in spirit and soul that is manifesting in a wide variety of ways with many people in various spiritual traditions.
This movement might best be described with this excerpt from The New Monasticism by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko:
We have found many people today are feeling the same deep calling as the monks of old, a calling to complete commitment to the transformative journey, yet…they do not find themselves drawn to a monastery, or to celibacy, or to disengagement from the world. They instead feel a radical urge to live out this calling in the world….
This is a journey that takes us into the fullness of our humanity, allowing divinity to flower within us.
I delivered a presentation on the New Contemplative Movement at Unity Institute’s Lyceum in April, 2015.
Another form of my community is nascent, yet developing rapidly.
I know of no singular name for this but it is a movement precipitated by the current political situation, and since the November 2016 election it has been calling me to some form of action. After my feelings of shock, dismay, anger and grief, I found myself left with a deep resolve to engage some form of conscious action.
The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer kept ringing in my ears: Silence in the face of evil is itself evil…. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. (This is in reference to the rising of Hitler and the Nazi Movement in the 1930s.)
This call to action intersects with my contemplative desire to be in the world and remain in deep self-integrity. My credo is described by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words:
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
I don’t know exactly what that looks like for me, but at the date of this writing I have scheduled two insight meditation retreats that I am naming: Mindfulness in Action: Conscious Living in a Very Crazy World.
The focus will be on how to engage the ideals of the New Contemplative Movement in a way that is mindful, intentional, compassionate and effective in today’s world. In developing this retreat I will draw upon the wisdom of Jesus, the Buddha, Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela and Bishop Tutu, as well as from my own understanding of the evolution of consciousness as it is unfolding at this moment in our human history.
It’s all a work in progress; as are we; as is the universe.