July 20, 2021
On the spiritual journey, it helps to remember that we are created to be spiritual beings as well as human doings. Life isn’t all about what we produce. It also involves who we are becoming, and if we believe we are made in the image of Something Bigger than us, of a holy Other, of God, than what we are becoming is Love.
Of course, being made in the image of Love is not what the world proclaims or helps assist us to attain. Too often we hear we are to be #1, the best, the only, and that our own needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s. If you know of any religious traditions that teach that, please inform me because I don’t find that heresy in the world religions with which I am familiar. Listening to those voices that deny Love is detrimental to our spirit and to life all around us.
So, for those of us on a prayer journey, to whom or what do we give our attention? In last week’s blog, I began a three-part series on the liturgical hour of “Prime,” or morning prayer, when we begin our day. In referring to Brother David Steindl-Rast’s book, Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, I used his analogy of morning prayer being similar to the “Stop, look, go” that a parent teaches a child when learning to cross the street. Last week’s post explored the richness of stopping to be with God before we start our day and the monastic vow of stability. The next step is to look, or listen, which involves the monastic vow of conversion.
What is conversion? It seems the Christian tradition has hijacked the term to mean being converted to a believer in Christ. But conversion in the monastic and contemplative sense has a much fuller, deeper meaning. In her book, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, Christine Valters Painter writes that conversion includes stepping “into the unknown space between our egos and our deepest longings.” It is the place where we set ego aside and take that leap of faith, where surprises happen and mysteries become clearer, where change and transformation are birthed, not because of what the world is shouting but because of what the breath of the Spirit is breathing in us and inviting us to look at. After we stop to be with God, then we look and listen. We have to be careful about which direction we choose and which voices we pay heed to.
Brother David encourages us to use our senses in prayer as we look at what is around us, outside our windows, in our rooms, across the street, or in our laps, which is usually my tabby cat. While looking, we listen as the Holy Spirit helps us design the day ahead. What are our priorities? What is God possibly calling us to attend to? Who is being placed on our hearts? Where will our creative work fit into this day? What within the upcoming day is truly life-giving and worth our time? Reflecting prayerfully on the day ahead, we may be surprised by something that calls for our attention that we didn’t expect, or we may decide that what we had planned to do earlier has now become different. The way we move into our day—mindfully not absently–says something about the conversion and transformation that we are allowing in our very lives.
With looking/listening in mind, we might consider these questions with holy curiosity:
- How much of our ego is tied to what we produce?
- Is it difficult for us to let go of our plans in order to discern God’s invitations for the day?
- In what areas of our life might we need to grow in cultivating compassion for ourselves, our choices, and our desires so that we can be open to surprise and change?
If even for a few moments, stop a moment to be with God, to let God look at you with love, just as you are. Then look around you, use your senses, and listen, as the monastics say, “with the ears of your heart.” Then will you be ready to go, our step for next week.
Loving and patient Creator, every single day holds a multitude of surprises and mysteries. Often we miss them because we are so intent on following our well laid-out plans and accomplishing something, anything, that somehow proves our worth. Give us the grace, we ask, to be open to surprise, to practice flexibility, and to discern what is truly life-giving and what brings us the fruit of your joy. May it be so. Walking with you on the journey ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org
When the wind blows across your skin, listen
for the voice of an ancestor
guiding you toward your dream.
When you catch the glimpse of silver
dancing across the waves, listen
for the ancient secret that directs your path.
Listen to the way the breeze forms grooves
in the sand and learn about the symmetry
of your own life.
Listen to the way the pelican
rides on the currents or glides
across a cloudless sky, inviting you
to let go.
Listen to the hibiscus when it
unfurls its orange petals to receive
the Light, holding its breath at its own glory
and be amazed at each bright word
Listen to your own heartbeat,
what it calls you to remember
and listen for the One
seeking that same heart.
Listen and become the sacred vessel
that treasures each sound it’s given
with reverent wonder.
© Rosemary McMahan
6 thoughts on ““Looking” on the Prayer Path”
What a wonderful way to start my day. Thank you.
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Thank you for reading!
“Listening” has become a life-long journey for me, one that I stumble on daily. Sometimes I think I’m “listening impaired”. Your holy curiosity questions are so important. May God help me in my journey. Thank you for this holy post. Chris🙏
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Yes, tough questions that I am spending some time with.
Love the weaving of this poem into truth and wisdom. Thank you.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read it.