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Guest Author: 
Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC

 

 
Editor's note:  SDI's next spiritual journey unfolds in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico in May. As Valerie will be leading the retreat, I asked her to briefly try to capture the essence (and the opportunity) this remarkable area presents. Karen Lee Erlichman, DMin, LCSW, will co-lead the retreat with Valerie.

Sacred, spiritual, deeply inspirational places have voices. They say:  ‘Pause, notice,  breathe.’ They pull us out of mundane preoccupations and into timelessness, awe, and wonder.  Sometimes they are stripped down, elemental landscapes, where we feel an immediate connection with the land and with Spirit.  From time immemorial, people have journeyed to these places to pray, to be, to be transformed from the inside out.

I came to Ghost Ranch, 21,000 acres of wilderness in northern New Mexico, in the United States, in the summer of 1978.  I tooled around Albuquerque on the back of my boyfriend’s motorcycle, exploring Santa Fe, Taos, and surroundings and came upon the red rocks and the painted desert of Ghost Ranch made famous by the iconic American painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.   The ranch touched a spark, something inexpressible within me.  I remember feeling an internal shift and stripping away of everything except the land, an intimacy with nature—down to bare essentials.

Guest Author: 
Jance L Lundy, DMin

 

"And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love."
~William Blake

 

 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Did you know that the "Golden Rule" is found in many of the world's wisdom traditions? And because it is, we are invited to regard it not just as religious dogma, but deep and lasting perennial wisdom. Here are some of  the various ways it is expressed:

Bahai: Blessed are those who prefer others before themselves.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Islam: No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself.

Jainism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and in grief, regard all creatures as you would your own self.

Judaism: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.

Sikkhism: Be not estranged from one another for God dwells in every heart.

Zoroastrianism: Human nature is good only when it does not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. 

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.

Aren't these beautiful expressions?

Religious historian and scholar, Karen Armstrong (A History of God), points out in her TED talk of 2008,

Guest Author: 
Jeanette Banashak, Phd, EdD

No matter how, where, when, or by whom we were raised, scholars agree that there are 5 emotions that we all have in common: enjoyment, sadness, disgust, fear, and anger. As a spiritual guide, I am constantly looking and listening for clues that help me understand what a seeker is feeling. At the same time, I am listening for clues in myself that let me know what I am feeling.

This self-listening and self-awareness grows as I learn which emotions and conscious feelings I am experiencing in any given moment.

Guest Author: 
Imam Jamal Rahman

A question I am often asked is, "What is a Sufi?" Sufis are Muslims who emphasize essence over form and substance over appearance in their spiritual practices.

If the institution of religion can be compared to a cup and the water in it is the spiritual message, Sufis lament that we spend too much time polishing the outside of the cup and neglect to drink the water.

They do subscribe to outer rituals, but are mostly eager to do the inner work. They aspire to taste and live the essence of their faith. To give an example of the Sufi approach to teachings, a conservative Islamic theologian might say that a Muslim who does not perform the five cycles of daily prayers will suffer punishment in the hereafter. A Sufi teacher, on the other hand, will liken prayers to attendance at celestial banquets. A practitioner who fails to pray is missing out on the joy of the feast. That loss is the punishment.

Guest Author: 
Steven Crandell

 

Try following these steps.

Let me know how it goes for you in the comments.

  1. Cultivate stillness.
  2. In that stillness acknowledge whatever pain, hurt, doubt, vulnerability, fear or other negativity you feel.
  3. Watch yourself and notice if you fall deeper into shadow by judging/blaming yourself or others - but do not judge your judging. Simply accept it. If possible, say aloud what you acknowledge. For example, "I know I am feeling vulnerable/anger/fearful because ... I feel I failed at work, or my spouse yelled at me, or my child wouldn't follow my instructions" -- whatever expresses your present feeling.
  4.  Discern. Use the same patience you would offer a person you companion -- witness what truth arises.
  5.  Consider asking this shadow self to dance, so you might know it better ... and then, when you are ready, let go of this shadow and end the dance.
  6.  If appropriate, say thanks for the dance, even though (and especially) you will be thanking whatever negativity you acknowledged.
  7.  Discern over the irony that it is often easier to release what you have first acknowledged and held.
Guest Author: 
Janice L, Lundy, DMin

 

In recent months, Spiritual Directors International has provided much for us to think about in terms of “Welcoming the Stranger". When I hold this invitation in my heart, the passage that Rumi offered to us in the 13th century still rings true:  Indeed, each “one” who crosses our path is nobody other than a unique and marvelously made manifestation of the divine. Who knows what opportunities for growth might come from our meeting?

And, yet, my heart also knows that on a deeper level we are not strangers at all. This knowing comes when I am able to connect with someone on an “interspiritual” level. What do I mean by this?

In his landmark work, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Traditions, Br. Wayne Teasdale explained interspirituality as “the sharing of ultimate experience across traditions.”

Guest Author: 
Elizabeth Kelly

I keep the above quote from Douglas Steere, the Quaker, in my office, and I read it before every meeting I have, especially with directees.  (It comes from his book, On Listening to Another).

The first time I ever read this line in school for spiritual direction, I copied it by hand and sent it to my best friend with a note that said, “This is what you do for me; you listen me.”

I hope you all have friends like that, someone who listens you. 

When I was living in Alaska, I worked for a think tank called Commonwealth North. (In case you’re wondering, I was a note-taker, not a thinker.) The year I worked with them, they were meeting to discuss the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. A series of experts in anthropology, sociology, economics, public policy, wildlife preservation, and the like met with the group each week to discuss the impact of this legislation, which in part, meant that Alaska would never have reservations like the rest of the lower 48. It’s an interesting system and not without its own serious problems. But I’ll never forget one sociologist who visited our group to speak about some of the common practices of the various Native American cultures in Alaska.

He told us that in some indigenous populations, when one of the tribe suffered a particular trauma, the whole tribe would be gathered together in a circle, and the person who had suffered the trauma was invited to share his or her experience with the first person in the circle. When they were finished, they moved on to the next, and then the next, and the next, just as long as it took. They went around the circle telling their story—until they were finished, until they were listened through the trauma.

Guest Author: 
Lauren Santerre

I currently work part-time as a chaplain for Silverado Hospice in Houston, Texas. I am thirty-six years old, spunky on most days, and often a surprising face for my clients. (I think most people expect an older, male minister for a hospice chaplain.) I regularly wear sparkly Keds and red lipstick which is not necessarily what a family expects to see when they hear the chaplain is coming by for her first visit. Often I am asked how I got “to be a chaplain” for hospice. I smile when a client or a family member asks me this question because below the surface I sense that they do not quite understand why I am doing this work or maybe they even think I am not qualified.

In 2003, I began having daily headaches. These headaches escalated into migraines. They still do. For fourteen years I have battled chronic pain that varies in severity and regularity. I went from being an avid athlete who regularly engaged in volleyball, spinning, hiking, swimming, and running to being incapacitated by my body. I have had days where I cannot even lean over to load the dishwasher. I have had weeks where I can barely move from my bed. Rarely do I have a day without a headache or pressure in my head. This change started when when I was twenty-two years old. I have tried, what feels like, every treatment and medicine possible. Currently my headaches are managed, and I have a team of both Western medical and holistic care practitioners that help me to function in life.

Unfortunately, I am not alone. In fact, the numbers are staggering. In 2015, the U.S. National Instititute of Health reported that 25 million Americans suffer from pain every day, while 40 million face intermittent severe pain. Another survey estimated the number of chronic pain sufferers at 1.5 billion worldwide.

Guest Author: 
Janice L. Lundy, DMin

 

When it comes to accessing inner calm, my "go to" practice has always been connecting with my breath. As a young yoga student, I was amazed at the power of breath to take my mind off current stressors and into bodily ease. Even with that, I had a sense that "something" was missing when it came to a breath practice.

Lamaze classes in my 20s and 30s helped me understand that physical and emotional well-being is restored with an out-breath. It wasn't about breathing in (as in, "Just take a deep breath," sage advice from well-meaning others in a moment of distress), but releasing the pent-up carbon dioxide in our lungs that caused tension. I remember very well the "he-he" panting breathing method used in natural childbirth classes. Another addition to my breath practice, but still feeling incomplete.

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