I've admired the work and philosophy of Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, for a long time now. With great heartfulness, she consistently reminds us how important it is to listen to one another. She writes:
"Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us. When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden."
As a spiritual guide, I know what Dr. Remen says is true. Genuine listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person.
The other day, when I read this passage yet again, I was struck by how, in the spirit of good self-care and self-compassion, we could change the orientation of her words to acknowledge how important it also is to listen to ourselves—to our inner voice. Consider this shift in language:
"Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes within ourselves. When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within us. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden."
This word play touches a chord of recognition in me. You?
How often do we ignore our inner wisdom? How often do we silence the parts of ourselves that need to speak? To be seen and heard? If we take our healing journey seriously, it is vital that we listen to "the still small voice" within us and pay it heed. It knows things! It can know what's best for us on the deepest level. It has something important to say about our well-being.
Again, in the spirit of healing it might whisper, "Slow down, you're pushing yourself too hard." Or, "Stop saying that you "should" do those things, especially to please others?" Or, "You are good enough, just as you are." If we desire to feel more whole—at home within ourselves—then we simply must offer listening presence to ourselves, just as we would to others. And offer a hospitable welcome to all the parts of ourselves that need a warm and loving home. Nobody wants to feel homeless.
It's November, and as I pondered what to write here, it came to me how grateful I am for the practice of gratefulness! A thanks-filled mind and heart have been an important part of my journey to live more gently with myself. Why? Because it takes so much energy to maintain the opposite.
When we're focused on what is going wrong in our lives—or how much we wish our lives were different—a great deal of energy is expended. Negativity, or living in lack, can be exhausting. Over the years, I've found there's a better way...
Today's blog post is an excerpt from the Introduction of my book, "Thank You" Is My Prayer. Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart. The words speak for themselves. I hope they touch your heart this November!
A spiritual practice is a unique opportunity to experience sacred time and space; to remove ourselves from the distractions and noise of a too busy world, and to remember our spiritual connection. Spiritual practices, properly cultivated, help us access all of the virtues of the Spirit: inner calm, joy, compassion, and gratitude.
Our inner landscape can shift dramatically when we have the diligence to root our spiritual practice in the cultivation of just one virtue of the Spirit. Focusing our intention and attention on just one thing allows us to deepen our understanding and experience of it. This deeper experience reveals previously hidden truths, even, a truer reality. Gratitude can be this one focal point, and, in Eckhart-like fashion, it can be enough. I know this from my own experience and from gathering up the success stories of similar seekers.
For many years, I was not particularly attuned to the generosity of the Divine One and the natural abundance available to us on a day-to-day basis. In fact, when I discovered gratitude as a spiritual practice, I was at a low point in my life. I was stressed, sick and overwhelmed. I had no clarity about how to reverse my situation. A friend suggested the daily gratitude practice espoused by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, Simple Abundance. I chortled at her premise that recording five things you were grateful for each day could transform your life. But I gave the practice a go. I was desperate for inner change.
I vividly recall the day I chose to begin the practice. I was lying in bed in the wee hours of the morning. Five things, I thought to myself. Just five. And this is what I came up with: Birds singing outside my window, the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen, the sounds of my children’s laughter in the next room. Wait, I thought to myself, that’s only three. Despite earnest effort, a trio of “Gratitudes” was all I could come up with. Heaven knows why (after that failed beginning) I stuck with the practice, but I did. By week’s end, I was up to five Gratitudes, and I was feeling noticeably better.
What I realized was that by “looking for the good”, my way of perceiving the world was changed. Instead of focusing on what was wrong or missing in my life, I began to see with the eyes of my heart. And what I saw when I looked was a cornucopia of things that did not cost money or require effort. Things that helped me acknowledge the generosity of the Creator, particularly through nature. Things that were beautiful, timeless and true. Surprisingly, at the end of one month of gratitude practice, I felt truly happy again. Hallelujah! I believe the same can hold true for any of us.
With an ongoing practice of thankfulness (one that has now spanned twenty years), I’ve witnessed how gratitude gives rise to all of the virtues of the Spirit. A grateful heart is a joyous heart because there is nothing perceived as lacking. A grateful heart is a peaceful heart because we are satisfied with what is here, now, with life just as it is. A grateful heart is a loving heart because we are supremely aware of how fortunate we are to be givers and receivers of love, both human and Divine.
With intention, attention and practice over time, gratitude delivers us into the arms of Presence: a profound awareness that the Divine is always here, within us and around us, showering us with invitations to look more deeply and to see the inherent blessings in everything. Even when life is difficult, blessings are present.
Excerpted from "Thank You" Is My Prayer. Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart, available in our online store.
©2016, Janice L. Lundy. Heart to Heart Press
After eight weeks of in and out travel (and pretty much living out of a suitcase), I'm home and getting back into a routine that honors my contemplative nature and needs. And though I have plenty to catch up on, including caring for our house, my body, and my work life, this segment I wrote for Living Gently with Myself is the focus of my efforts as I "regroup." I hope you enjoy and find it helpful ... wherever you are.
When I wrote my first book Coming Home to Ourselves, I was living a completely unbalanced life, which I set out to correct. I created a system whereby I would spend an allotted amount of time each day on each part of my personal triad: body, mind, and spirit. I theorized that by doing so I would get my life back in balance. Much to my surprise, my theory, put into practice, worked. One year after I implemented it, I felt great and my health returned. My life did feel more balanced.
Yet, walking the beach one year later, realized I was not completely at ease within myself. I felt unsettled much of the time and was not sure why. That afternoon, as I lay on the beach, relaxing, soaking up some sun while my children were occupied elsewhere, I found myself drawn to read a new book I’d picked up featuring the poetry of the 12thcentury Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi was madly in love with God.
As I read, listening to the waves lap upon the shore, I felt internal waves of peace and love wash through me, carrying me into what I can only call a unitive experience, a genuine feeling of oneness. Of belonging. Of deep connection to the God of my understanding, which, ironically, was very limited at the time.
In that moment, an awareness whooshed in (dare I call it grace?) that I was still living “upside down.” I was working too hard at getting my life just right by focusing on balance; trying to do all the right things for myself—body, mind and spirit. I experienced a new knowing that life, ultimately, was not about balance at all, but about harmony.
Balance, by its very nature, is impossible. Nothing is ever in perfect balance. I often assure myself of this by visualizing a teeter totter. The plank on which we sit is never completely parallel to the ground, it’s always tipped a bit, one way or the other; more up than down, more down than up.
The words of Rumi I read were not about balance and getting our lives just right, but about spiritual living, heeding the voice of the soul. When we can listen in thus way, he said, the soul points us toward the One. We are divine creatures in human form and we are most happy when we are living in harmony with the Creator, the Beloved, as Rumi called it. I knew in my bones that what he said was true, because in that moment, lying in the sun on a hot August day, I came to realize I was supremely happy feeling connected to Source.
From that day forward, I shifted my daily focus to take care of my spiritual life first, and then my body-mind second. The “balancing act” approach to life suddenly felt like striving and was deeply unsatisfying. I experienced a shift when I addressed my spiritual connection first. Everything in life seemed to fall into place as a result of this. Prioritizing my relationship with the Sacred through various spiritual practices enabled me to feel harmonious within myself, and at ease with all aspects of my life. The same can be true for any of us.
Putting your spiritual life first is a game changer. In fact, when you do, you will realize there is no “game” at all, just a beautiful Flow and you are part of That.
Is your inner life a priority or does it play second fiddle to attending to all of the responsibilities of your daily life?
© 2018, Janice L. Lundy
Excerpted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook.
Heart to Heart Press
Since completing my new book, Living Gently with Yourself, I'm a bit low on words—at least the handwritten kind—so I thought I'd post this short video which speaks rather than writes what's on my mind. I hope it supports what's in your heart.
In 2008, my book Your Truest Self, was released by Sorin Books. When it made its way out into the big wide world, I felt tenuous about it. This was my most visible attempt yet to share what I had come to know was true about the nature of the spiritual journey. The book offered 12 Transformation Truths that could guide and enable women to live more peaceful, confident and open-hearted lives.
The first chapter alone, "I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making," felt especially risky, because in it I wrote about my non-traditional approach to the spiritual life. I had often described myself as "having Christian roots and Buddhist wings." But there was more, so much more that I was not ready, nor confident enough to share about the wondrously, unique way I had met up with, welcomed, and integrated the Divine into my heart and life. This was an interspiritual journey of grand proportions, and one I was certain would banish me from certain circles once I revealed it.
It's time for the next step for me. And a new story. In fact, one month ago a spiritual friend said to me, "When are you going to write your memoir? People need to know this stuff." Hmmmm, I thought, perhaps someday. It still feels risky to go "out on a limb" in Shirley MacLaine fashion.
What I do know is this. It is time for me to speak up again about "The Heart of the Matter", at least in my view when it comes to our spiritual journeys, thus the focus of this blog. As well as the focus of a new online offering I'm getting ready to launch soon. It's an interspiritual dive into Perennial Wisdom as a time tested trail we can follow to access the deepest truths about how to live.
I'm starting the conversation about this here on my blog, sharing scraps of a not-yet-written memoir to lend support to what feels like a sea change: a growing number of people globally who long to experience the Sacred in their own unique way. And to do as Rabbi Rami Shapiro attests, "work for the spiritual liberation of humankind."
I am not alone in this holy purpose. According to the Pew Foundation and their survey of America's changing religious landscape, a growing number of individuals do not identify with traditional religion:
• 22% claim to be "unaffiliated"
• 15.8% are "nothing in particular"
• 4% are agnostic
• 3% are atheist
Additionally, the Pew Research Center reports that as many as 40% of millennials do not consider themselves to be religious.
This is the "sea change" of which I speak. And it is swelling, not just in America, but all over the globe. Many seekers are out to sea, untethered from tradition, or have "one toe in the pond." Others are rooted in a religious tradition but "want more," as one friend said it recently. There is a longing for a heartfelt spiritual connection but after much searching, they haven't found their "perfect fit." Then there are those who appear to be "spiritual but not religious" or claim "spiritual independence." And what about those who see a deep connection between the beautiful truths at the heart of each of the world's religions ("Perennial Wisdom"), but are frustrated that they do not see these values played out in the world at large?
So, this is where I find myself this September, 2017, eager to bring this conversation to the forefront and, most importantly, provide "temenos space" ("safe place" or "sanctuary" in Greek) for people to explore their inner lives, including all of the confusion or conflict they may feel about religion and spirituality at this point in our cultural evolution.
There is a new story to be written and I hope you will join me for the writing of it. Your voice matters and I treasure your contribution to this conversation.
Where do you find yourself in this changing religious landscape?
My new blog post for Spiritual Directors International:
It was my 18-month old daughter who deepened my experience of wonder. As soon as she could toddle, her chubby little legs carried her outside to explore the big, wide world.
I can still see her in my mind’s eye, crouching down in the grass to point her tiny finger at any number of nature’s surprises: ants busily building a house, fragments of a pale blue robin’s egg, the delicate tapestry of Queen Anne’s Lace. “Look, Mama,” she would say, “isn’t it pretty? Come see!” And she would continue to crouch and wait until I did the same. Every waking moment of her day, all she wanted to do was go outside to explore nature’s handiwork. This little soul lived in a world of wonder. (Continue reading here)
It was J.R. Tolkien wrote "All who wander are not lost." It's a line from the poem "All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter" written for The Lord of the Rings.
It's a fitting statement because, according to the 2015 Pew Report survey on religion, 23% of all Americans claim to be "unaffiliated." 35% of Americans under 30 are unaffiliated. It seems many of us are doing a lot of wandering these days!
Additionally, the Pew survey projects that this number is on the rise, so much so that their previous projections for 2015 came in low. According to author Elizabeth Drescher, author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America's Nones, "Clearly, Nones are the overachievers of the US religious landscape."
I can relate.
In a recent blog post for Spiritual Directors International, I pondered my "wide and deep journey" and my passion for the search. I also made a plea for us to be cautious about how we label those who are not attached to religious institutions or communities, especially those who are seeking "outside the box" for a spirituality that rings true for them.
Wanderers? Yes. Lost? Not usually. Having a thrilled time searching for what matters most and how to live an authentic spiritual life may be more like it.
Here is my post. I hope you find it supportive of your own wanderings.
If you were raised in the Christian tradition, you are familiar with Lent. And depending on your family of origin, perhaps you honored Lent in a particular way.
The German mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote,
“If the only prayer you ever offer is
‘Thank you,’ that will suffice.”
So often our prayers are supplications.
We ask Spirit for things, people, opportunities.
Our needs naturally bring us to the act of prayer.
Yet, prayers of gratitude, of thankfulness, are important acts
that deepen the connection between ourselves and Spirit.
To offer a heartfelt, “Thank you, God!”
delivers us to the realm of unseen abundance.
We view life as blessed and fruitful instead of scarce;
we begin to live from a place of fullness in our lives.
We are and have enough.
From "Thank You" Is My Prayer: Reflections, Prayers and Blessings for a Grateful Heart
This was the topic of a recent morning message (sermon) I delivered at the Unity Center for Spiritual Growth in Ada, MI. They were kind enough to record the service, including my talk, and I am happy to share it with you here.
The title, "Who Do You Think You Are?" speaks to the nature of our true identity and if we are in touch with that or not. As "divine-humans" we have an obligation, I believe, to uncover all the virtues of the spirit that reside within us—often hidden—and bring them to the light of day. We do this for self-knowledge, which leads to God realization, which contributes to the beauty and well-being of the world.
I invite you to listen in.
You will hear the Guided Meditation, "My True Identity Is Spirit" at the 26.14 mark.
And the sermon at the 31.36 mark
Enjoy and be blessed!
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we are meant to live.
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Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.