Spiritual Practice: Looking for God’s Light

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All of the world’s major religions share the idea of divine light. In a Christian worldview, the Bible is full of references to light. Jesus said, “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Matthew 5:16 The Message

The founder of the Quakers, George Fox spoke of, “reliance on the inward light” and how everyone should listen for the still small voice of God within them1.

St. Teresa of Avila, speaks of the soul as a crystal castle in which God dwells. It is described as, “In the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory, the greatest splendour, illuminating and beautifying them all.”2

Thomas Merton said, “We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through all the time…in people and things and nature and events.”3

The problem is, we forget to look for this divine light in ourselves and in others. We get so busy that we forget to stop “doing” and start “being.” Finding the balance between those two ideas is the idea of living with a contemplative orientation and a life of compassionate action.

Thankfully our western culture is once again waking up to this need, as John Phillip Newell writes, “Regardless of our particular vocation, age, stage of life, marital status, and family commitments, we are invited to find balance — between being and doing, between inner awareness and outward engagement – that will lead to a fuller fruiting of our lives and relationships.”4

Where do we begin to regain our balance? This blog is committed to easily accessible spiritual practices to help with just that. Find one that speaks to you and start there. I often remind myself of the inner light on my way to work by praying “God that I will have your eyes today. That I will walk in your light and look for that of you in the others I meet today.” This gets my eyes off myself and prepares me to walk in peace and unity with others. Can you imagine the change in the world if we could stay in that orientation?

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I’ll leave you with a meditation by John O’Donohue that someone shared with me yesterday. The first line alone is worthy of contemplation.

Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you from all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

Let me know how you keep the balance of doing and being in your busy life.

Photo Credit, Top light, Bottom light

  1. Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, and Policy. ABC-CLIO. 2004. (pg. 615) 
  2. Interior Castle, St. Theresa of Avila (pg. 2)
  3. Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer, (pg. 84)
  4. John Phillip Newell, The Rebirthing of God, Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings. (60)
  5. John O’Donohue (author of To Bless the Space Between Us)


Interested in more help with Spiritual Practices? Check out my new novel, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.

#MeToo – My story

 

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I am married to the most loving man. Last night, when he scanned page after page of Facebook and saw all the women saying, “Me Too,” adding their stories of abuse and rape to the swelling narrative, he wept. That is our hope for all men, for all people, because men have also been raped and abused. Our hope is for broken hearts, and awareness that leads to change.

No one is telling their story because it is fun; it is not fun to share your humiliation, and trust me when I say it is humiliating.  People are telling their stories because the world needs to change. Our children and grandchildren need to grow up in a safer world than the one we did. We need a world where it’s okay to tell if someone hurts you and your friends, family, and those in power will stand with you and say, “I believe you. Let me help.”

No one ever did that for me, mostly because I didn’t tell. I didn’t tell because I grew up in a culture that believed women were created for men’s pleasure, like a nice brandy or a good cigar, and it was normal to be treated as such. Later, when I worked with college students, I began to tell my story as a rape survivor, because, as a therapist, I heard over and over the stories of women who’d been molested as children and were still trying to make sense of it. I learned that the telling of the story is the key to healing and to empowerment for change.

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But still when I saw the #metoo hashtag, I posted the obligatory “me too” and that was it. Why should I continue to rehash the past? But last night as I lay in bed, and all my own stories started to bubble up, I realized that this is not about me. It’s about my granddaughters and changing the world for them. So, it is with that hope that I add my voice to the voices of brave women and men who are speaking out. Ours are the voices of change.

– When I was 14, my friend and I were in San Francisco, waiting to cross a street when we were propositioned by a middle-aged man wearing a suit. We were mostly confused and raced away when the light changed.

– When I was sixteen I was driving down a mountain pass at night and a 16-wheeler kept flashing its lights at me. I thought there must be a problem with my car so I pulled over at the nearest pull-out leaving space for a quick exit and he pulled in next to me. I rolled down my window and he rolled down his. “Is there something wrong with my car?” I shouted.

“No,” he said.

“Then why were you flashing your lights at me?”

He just gave me a leering smile and raised his eyebrows. I took off.

– When I was 17 my much older boss raped me one night after work. He was a man I trusted and liked. I thought we were friends. At that time in history, rapists were said to be men that hid in bushes, and there was no understanding of friendship rape or date rape. So, I didn’t tell anyone for four years, because I thought it was my fault. I shouldn’t have stayed after work for that drink to celebrate a special occasion. The PTSD from that event has taken years to work though.

– When I was twenty-two I was jogging down the street when a car pulled over ahead of me. I thought maybe the guy had car trouble as he flagged me over. I stopped several feet away from his car at the passenger window to look in; he was masturbating.  By then I’d grown used to being treated this way. I was shaken but mostly felt dirty and angry as I jogged away.

I could never count the number of times someone grabbed my butt, or catcalled me or made lewd comments. In fact, I was recently working with a lucid 80-year-old man who tried to grab my butt as I walked by. When I told him it was inappropriate, he innocently asked, “Why?”

Why indeed sir, why indeed. This was the soup I was cooked in. This is why there is a #metoo hashtag. It’s time for a change. We need a society where girls and boys can be safe. Where men and women can respect, honor and stand up for one another. That is why I’m telling my story. It’s easy to be aghast the way girls and women are treated in other countries and I believe in fighting for them. But it is obvious that we also need to start at home.

If you want to tell your #metoo story here, I’d be honored to hear it. If you don’t, I understand and will hold you in my heart.

Believe Photo: Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv

Spiritual Practice: Thin Places

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Have you ever encountered a place where heaven/God felt particularly near? I think of these as “thin” places. For me, I feel that groves of giant redwood trees are thin places where the Holy feels practically near. I’ve had the same experience sitting on a rock while ocean waves crash around me. I’ve also felt it at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting I visited once — the definite sense that God was present.

That’s not to say that other places are “thick,” or that God is not always near; it’s just that there are times or places that seem to draw us into the presence of the Holy.

John Phillip Newell, in his book, “The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle For New Beginnings,” speaks of the Island of Iona, Scotland, “Iona and other sacred sites of pilgrimage, and healing throughout the world, are like sacraments or living icons through which we glimpse the Light that is present everywhere.”
Why is it important to seek out thin places? The world can be a hard place. As I write this, we have experienced one of the roughest summers I can remember: hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, mass shootings and fires have ravaged our world. If we are called to be people of light to a dark and hurting world, then how are we to replenish the light within us that gets drained away by this kind of rampant despair?

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I believe we need to go to places of light to do so. Many find these, “soul recharging stations,” in churches, in fellowship with friends, in prayer, and in compassionate action. I’d also like to encourage you to take a bit of a pilgrimage to a thin place, outside of your normal experience. Get out in nature, hug a tree, listen to the wind. The Creator would love to speak to you through creation. I promise it will recharge your soul battery!

Have you found places that are particularly “thin” for you?” I’d love to hear about them.

*If you enjoyed this blog please check out my new book, The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening. It is available now for pre-order in paperback!