Spiritual Practice: Walking

 

walking

How can something as simple as walking be a spiritual practice? Actually, any kind of exercise: walking, running, or hiking, can be a spiritual practice when it is done without the distractions of talking or music, and when done with intention to listening to the Spirit, nature, and the wisdom of the body.

Or, to put it another way, In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, the author says, “The wisdom of the spirit often comes through the wisdom of the body.”

Too often in the west we separate the body, mind and spirit from each other. But, in the Hebrew culture the idea of a SOUL has all three linked together. We separate them to our own detriment. How many people do you know that have allowed their bodies to atrophy and then become unhealthy of mind and spirit as well? Or students in medical school who are so focused on learning that they forget to eat, or walk outside in the sunshine, only to resemble the cadavers they study. We can even become unbalanced spiritually; I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “She is so heavenly minded she is no earthly good.” Walking can help us balance our souls.

I understand this can be harder if you live in a big city. But all cities have parks or marinas. You might need to have headphones on to block some of the noise, or even stream something instrumental to help you clear the external noise away.

For me, walking my dog for 25 to 45 minutes helps get me out of the house, and even though I live in a desert, I can observe the beauty of that landscape. How many Biblical stories happened in deserts? There is much to learn even there.

Man walking in trees

But, as you know, I’m also a tree hugger and I try to drive up to the trees at least once a month to fill my soul with green beauty. God often speaks to me through nature, but only if I get out long enough to let my thoughts settle and then turn my inner ears to really listen. I don’t have huge revelations every day, but moving my body regularly is a great way to make sure my soul stays in balance.

Have you found that exercise helps strengthen your soul? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

Photo Credits: Walking,  Walking in Trees

Spiritual Practice: The Enneagram

Enneagram-2

When first exposed to the Enneagram, many think it is just another personality test, like the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator. They might find an online test and take it, looking at the nine Enneagram numbers and trying to decide which one they are.

But the Enneagram is much deeper than that. It is an ancient tool for helping you distinguish your true self from your false self or your “shadow side.” I’ve been learning from the Enneagram for the last ten years and I still feel like a novice. So, full disclosure: you will not be finding your Enneagram number by reading this blog. But, I hope to give you a slight overview and point you in the direction of how to do so and I want to encourage you to investigate the Enneagram for yourself.  It is worth the work because the Enneagram is a truly life-changing tool of personal and spiritual growth.

The Overview: The diagram of the Enneagram can be the first thing that turns people away, especially Christians. For us, it looks too similar to a pentagram. But, it’s good to know that the spiritual mothers and fathers of our faith have been using this tool for centuries and that the diagram is made of interlocking triangles is NOT a satanic symbol.

There are many levels to understanding the Enneagram, but here are a few:

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  1. Finding your number
  2. Understanding that that number is not prescriptive but descriptive; it is a starting point from which to grow. Your Enneagram number has a light side (grace) and a shadow side. Often when you have a hard time finding your number, it is the shadow side that is the tell. We DO NOT like to be confronted with our own shadow. But, as we acknowledge this side of who we are, we can bring it into the light, ask God to heal us and become more self-aware when we are operating from our shadow. The goal is not condemnation; the goal is healing, health, and love.
  3. Each number has a number to either side. For instance, number 9 is bracketed by number 8 and number 1. Most of us lean into the attributes of one of those side numbers or “wings.” But both wings are important to understand.
  4. There are also numbers we “go to” when we are stressed or when we are happy. These are important to know and to either cultivate or avoid.
  5. The numbers are in a set of three that have some commonalities 1,9,8 are called the “gut” triad. 2,3,4 are called the “heart triad,” and 5,6 and 7 are called the “head triad.” These triads have some common strengths and pitfalls.

Obviously, there is a lot to know about the Enneagram, and this overview won’t leave you feeling like you understand what it’s all about. So, lest you feel overwhelmed, let me tell you one story about how understanding the enneagram helped change my life.

When I first learned that my Enneagram number was Two, the “helper,” I was so distraught about seeing my shadow side that I spent a week on the floor crying in despair. I didn’t want to believe that I had a bossy side. My husband, however, lovingly pointed out instances when my desire to be “helpful,” became overbearing, when I was helping others who weren’t asking for help. Once, when we were on a stressful trip, and I started ordering everyone’s food for them. This was not helpful. Seeing this tendency in myself has helped me to grow; now I catch myself more often or feel it coming on and can stop myself by repeating, “They haven’t asked for help,” or “This is not my responsibility.”

On the other side, when a two is happy, we go to the high side of the number four, which is creative and romantic. When I realized this, I understood that I had not made any room in my life for creatively. I used to be involved in theater but found that it took too many hours out of my life. That is when I decided to set aside one day a week to create, to write. And ten years later, I’ve published nine books, with two other manuscripts awaiting a publishing home. That’s eleven books in ten years, all because I realized I needed to give room for creativity in my life. Thank you Enneagram wisdom!

Check it Out!

So, what is the best way to begin this great work? The simplest and most straightforward book I’ve read on the subject is called: The Essential Enneagram

What’s great about this little book is that it really helps you get through steps 1-5 listed above. That being said, it is helpful to do this with a friend. My husband and I read this book together and we tried to come up with an archetype of someone we knew who exemplified each number. That helped us get a handle on each number, which helped us find our own. Think of this book as “dating the enneagram;” try on different numbers and see what fits.

Now, if you’re ready to go deeper, here are some other helpful book to take you there.

Hot off the press:

Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram, by Alice Fryling (Author)

I just finished Alice’s book. She is a Christian mentor from my youth and this is an excellent guide with good stories and Bible Study reflections for each number.

The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth, by Christopher L. Heuertz  (Author), Richard Rohr (Foreword)

I pre-ordered this one as Chris is someone who, along with his wife Phileena, leads the Gravity Center for contemplative activism. Time with them inspired my most recent book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening, which touches briefly on the Enneagram. I can’t wait to read this book as I respect Chris and his spirituality a great deal.

And, for those who are ready to go in greater depth, these authors have several books to help:

Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

Another way to learn about the Enneagram is through a retreat or seminar, which is how I got my first taste. You can google “Enneagram training near me,” and see what you can find.

I hope you join me in this grand adventure as we bring our shadows into the light and find grace there to heal us. Let me know about your journey with the Enneagram.

Photo Credit: Colored Enneagram

Black and White Enneagram

Spiritual Practice: Reading

books

Sometimes the best spiritual practices are the ones that we don’t even notice because we do them naturally. Reading is like that for me, although I was a reluctant reader as a child. One day my best friend, Julia, introduced me to “horse books.” It was all I needed to become a lifelong lover of reading!

Fast forward twenty years and I had moved with my new husband to Reno, Nevada and it was like moving from a spiritual ocean in California to a spiritual (as well as physical) desert. Before, I had an abundance of older men and women who were mentors to me, but in Reno, those folks were hard to come by. So, I fell into being mentored through books. Hundreds of fantastic authors were right at my fingertips, and reading as a spiritual discipline is a practice I continue today.

Asking me for a favorite book is like asking me who is my favorite child, Instead, I’ll just mention the non-fiction books I’ve been reading in the last few months that have been spiritually significant to me:

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama.         

     

This book is put together from a week of interviews where the two men, in their eighties, sit together and talk about joy. It is fun (especially on audio) because you get a sense of their personalities as well as their profound spiritual depth. This depth has sprung from lives of suffering, and yet their pain has somehow blossomed into incredible joy for both men. In the back of the book, many examples of spiritual practices are listed for you to try (and you know I like that!).

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, by Henri Nouwen.

I may have mentioned this in two blogs already so I won’t belabor the point except to say, READ IT! It is easy to read but hard to live out. It is based on Rembrandt’s painting of the story of the prodigal son from the Bible and it is deeply moving.

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr.

Richard is not an easy read, more like a seven-course meal than fast food, but worth the time. Thankfully our spirituality grows and changes over time and God just continues to get bigger and more inclusive. This little book gives me words for what is happening to me and it tells me I’m not alone.

The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle.

This is another book that gives words to my experience. Phyllis says that every 500 years, God has a ‘yard sale.’ All the old religious systems are tossed out to make way for a new move of the spirit. She shares the history and the cultural factors in each 500-year shift and points out why our current faith and culture are in such turmoil now. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s good news folks! Again, not a light read but worth the effort.

Lastly, what am I reading right now?

Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling.

I will do an entire blog on the Enneagram as a spiritual practice next time, but let’s just say that if you are interested in learning more about this ancient tool that will give you incredible insight into your true and false self, and help you grow toward your true self, this is the book for you. It is easy to read, full of helpful stories, and demonstrates great insight.

So, pick any book that promises you spiritual growth and dig in. You might not agree with all of it, but the exercise of thinking through deep topics, will stretch your spiritual muscles and help you grow.

As always, if you are interested in a FICTION book to help you grow spiritually, please check out my latest book. “The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.”

Until next time, let me know what you’re reading! Jacci

Bookcase Photo Credit