The One You Feed Podcast
Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Eric Zimmer, the host of the acclaimed podcast, "The One You Feed." We had a lively conversation about all things spiritual, such a delight! We talked about how to nourish your inner life, how to connect with "your deepest," the nature and challenges of the spiritual journey, the importance of spiritual practice, and so much more.
It's just been posted and if you'd like to take a listen, here is how to access it:
The Blessings of an At-Home Retreat
A few weekends ago I gave myself the gift of presence. It was simple really. I created an at-home retreat, something many of us can do. Was it easy? Not for me. You see, despite being a deeply contemplative person, I am also a doer. I like to do things. I carry many voices inside me that remind of what I could be doing, or worse yet, what I should be doing. One of my lifelong lessons it seems is to acknowledge these pesky voices and then turn my attention elsewhere; to listen instead to the voice of my soul. The voice that says, “Nourish yourself. Rest.”
Mid-winter in Michigan is the one of the best times to go inward. There is a profound stillness that covers the landscape. Even the Great Mother Inner Ocean (Lake Michigan) still sings her comforting lullaby despite the cold. I used to think that I hated winter; I dreaded it in fact. But something happened a few years ago and my soul turned toward it. It heard a beckon call to return to the comfort of quiet--inner and outer stillness—to give myself permission to rest in it. Winter has become for me a season of spiritual self-care. And one of the ways I engage this care is by creating an at-home retreat.
Key to ensuring silence and rest for me is disconnecting from all devices. In my day-to-day life, I am too often drawn to regularly checking my phone or email, or following the next best rabbit hole of interest on the internet. On retreat, I must put my computer in a different room so I don’t see it, the same with my phone. An email autoresponder is turned on. I know my own mind and poor habits and one of the best gifts I can give myself is freedom from distraction. I often marvel at how patient the Universe must be with me to tolerate my tendency toward distraction.
Retreats, especially at-home retreats, need to be prepared ahead of time. We must inform any others with whom we share space that we are taking “time-in” and cannot be disturbed. Food and drink will need to be prepared and handy; creating a comfortable retreat space for yourself that’s ideal for rest and reflection. A chair for reading and writing unless you prefer to do it hunkered down under the covers as I do. There is nothing better than greeting the morning with prayers of “Thank You,” stealing to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, then crawling back into a warm bed with a book and my journal.
Only then, once all this orchestration has taken place, does the retreat actually begin. I don’t know about you but it always takes a little while for me to settle down inside myself, to “gentle down” as I call it, and slide into neutral. To be more receptive to the movement of the Spirit, for this is primarily what retreat time is for me: a time to let go of my own agenda, to listen, to receive, and to follow the sacred threads of what is being revealed to my deepest me—my soul.
I’ve always needed a book or two on retreat to open the door of any deeper knowing. It could be one simple phrase that reveals an entire universe of discovery. And perhaps not so much discovery as remembering—who I am in my essence, who or what the Divine is to me, and how it is working in my life, calling me deeper yet. The depths, I have come to know, are cavernous, immeasurable, spanning into Forever. But I accept the invitation and enter.
This time while on retreat the book I journeyed with was Birthing the Holy: Wisdom from Mary to Nurture Creativity and Renewal by Christine Valters Paintner. I chose it carefully, or should I say, its spirit chose me. I believe that focusing on one tract or tome, minimizing the voices in texts to a few, is key to greater attention and deepening. The “success” of one’s retreat may depend on what you have been guided to spend your time with and how. An entire suitcase of books is not necessary, and yet while on retreat elsewhere, I have witnessed attendees doing this very thing. Bringing stacks of books for fear they will miss something!
I believe the Divine doesn’t work this way, but instead meets us right where we are as we are—with little or nothing at our disposal—and perhaps this scarcity of texts and tools is best. After all, we are being invited to simply BE during this time of turning inward. The primary invitation of retreat is simply listening, being, breathing, attending to our inner movements, and trusting that we are being guided into the Great Depths that can nourish and restore us.
During my at-home retreat, I found a rhythm to my days. I read, journaled, rested, walked. I sat in silence and looked out the window—watched the snowflakes fall. I listened to gentle music and drank a lot of tea. I found myself praying more than usual which was quite lovely. Mostly, I tried to receive because I do trust the movement of the Spirit and know in my heart the gifts can be great and bounteous if we leave our personal agendas at the retreat door and humbly enter in.
I was not disappointed. In fact, this retreat felt monumental to me as if a great internal turning had taken place. I let go, I trusted, I followed Sacred breadcrumbs and was nourished by them. As the months or years go by, I will undoubtedly write more about my experience, but not now because the gifts are still being revealed, and sometimes it is best to hold these tender bestowals close to your heart. They are still warm, still fragrant, and continue to take me deeper.
I wish the same for you. May deep rest and inner nourishment be yours. May Presence reveal itself in unexpected and healing ways. May you know that you are loved.
The Soul Season of Fall
I've long believed that each season of the year holds a unique invitation for our soul life. I am blessed to live in a location where four magical seasons can be enjoyed. Right now, Autumn is calling and each day brings unexpected changes. This is one of the Soul Invitations of Fall--change. Others are letting go, trust and surrender.
All we have to do to witness this soul call in action is open our eyes to see what is unfolding before us. As the leaves of the trees turn from verdant green to bright orange, red or gold, we observe how naturally they accept and adapt to changing conditions. In time, we see them grow brittle, release from branches, and float on the wind to their next destination. Letting go, trust and surrender poignantly played out in the kaleidoscope of nature.
Today, may you take a few moments to look and listen deeply. As you gaze upon nature's beauty, consider how the current season might be calling you. What soul invitation may be yours this Autumn?
Come away with me, says Mother Nature. Live here in this place of timeless beauty and possibility. This is who you really are. Do you see yourself in my creation? The beauty that surrounds you is a reflection of the beauty within you. You are mine and I am yours. Let us enjoy and delight in one another.
Excerpted from This Sacred Moment. Subscribe here.
In 1994, when I discovered the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, I felt such relief, like I could breath again. It was his focus on slowing down, looking and listening deeply, that shifted how I perceive the world.
What did this mean for me? Looking deeply meant seeing things in their unique form and appreciating them. An example would be watching a sunset; truly seeing it in all its majesty and savoring it. Allowing its essence to touch your inner being. When we are moving too quickly and a sunset comes into view, we might say, "Oh, how pretty," and move on to the next thing. We might even check it off our mental "Good-To-Do" list—Sunset, check!
As I walk I try to bring my full presence to the experience. I want to look deeply and appreciate all that is before me. As Thich Nhat Hanh taught, "When you walk, just walk." But I also intend to savor and appreciate what I see because it enriches my connection to the world around me. If someone were to ask me where I consistently feel connected to the Sacred, I would tell them it is through nature.
As you move through your world today, how can you look deeply? Really see what is in front of you and bring your presence to it—your heartfulness and appreciation too. Notice how this makes you feel and consider how it just might be a "God wink." Or Something inviting you deeper. The Sacred is all around us if we have the eyes to perceive It and the heart to receive It.
Today, may you experience the world with Sacred Vision.
How do you care for yourself when your heart feels tender? Hurting? Sad?
We each have our ways, each one unique, just as our fingerprint is unique. It seems to me that it's not the method that matters, but the acceptance of our soul's call to tend well to ourselves when we are feeling vulnerable or unable to engage in life in the usual fashion.
I've been feeling that inner pull to silence and the quiet comfort that comes with a more gentle rhythm of my days since my dear mother passed away in March. Since then, I often find myself simply sitting, gazing out the window, resting my attention on the trees, or listening to the birds that come to our deck. But mostly, I am drawn to walking by myself. I hear a small whisper from within that says, "Just walk." It feels healing to do so.
I walk mostly in quiet places with very few people. I stop, listen to the wind in the trees, notice the chirping of birds happily building their nests, and pause by the little brook that soothes my heart with wordless babbles. So sweet.
I'm also soothed by poetry. I notice that my brain doesn't easily absorb the content of "regular" books right now. But the gentle turn of a phrase offered by a poet can land in my heart in just the right way. And that's all I need in the moment, a heart hug.
How do you extend spiritual care to yourself when your whole being longs for gentle understanding?
As I continue to sit with others as a spiritual companion (director-guide) and listen to the ponderings of their hearts, the invitation to each of us is clear: stay steady. This is not easy when the nature of the energy flowing through the universe can be picked up as fear, worry or anxiety. These emotions are not unknown to me either. I know from experience how important it is to be able to access inner stability when everything around you and in you may feel tumultuous.
I love trees. I believe trees are living, breathing beings who feel and experience life in its fullness in a unique way. I also believe that one of their highest purposes on the planet is to sustain life, including ours. Trees represent stability to me. Their roots go deep, holding them steady when the winds come and threaten to uproot them from their very core.
Years ago, I began to imagine what it would actually feel like to be a tree when life felt frightening—more rooted than topsy Turvey. I crafted this practice to help me and I featured it in my book Portable Peace. I'd like to share it with you here because in times like these we can certainly use any help we can get, especially practices, if they can predictably deliver us to a place within ourselves that feels more steady and stable. I hope you find it useful.
Breathe deep. May peace be upon you.
"Welcome Back" - A Breath Practice
I'm surprised at how often I remember the character, "Roseanna Danna", played by Gilda Radner on the TV show Saturday Night Live? Her wise-mouthed mantra was, “It’s always something!” It's true! It IS always something, something that will yank us out of any sweet spot of serenity we’ve found. Such is the nature of life as a human being.
The "something" that upsets our equanimity can be big or small, seemingly trivial or completely life-altering. As I read through headline news these days, it feels as if there are more somethings than ever before. At least that's what my anxiety prone mind tells me. In truth, life has always been difficult for humans for as long as we've inhabited the earth. Violence is ever-present and the suffering it creates as well. Sickness, old age, and death are but a blink away.
With all these somethings going on, how can we stay in touch with a more balanced state of mind, our wise and hopeful heart? For me, it always comes back to re-connecting with my breath. This breath is not just any breath but, to me, a sacred breath. Breathing in, breathing out, with "restful purposefulness" welcomes me Home.
These days, I am engaging with my breath in this welcoming way as if each breath I take actually whispers "Welcome back" into the ear of my heart. The tone of this wise voice is sweet, full of loving-kindness, ever so gentle. It comes from a part of my own self that recognizes how other parts of me have wandered too far afield and how they long for a loving embrace.
Breathing in, "Welcome back. I am glad you're here."
Breathing out, "Rest in this moment."
Breathing in, "Welcome back. You are home."
Breathing out, "Let go and simply be here now."
What words of welcome might your inner wisdom whisper into the ear of your heart?
It was 1994 and I was in the midst of a health crisis when I discovered the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Or should I say, his teachings found me. To this day I believe that his book, Peace Is Every Step, saved my life. Since then, Thay has been the wisest of teachers for me and I always keep one of his books close at hand.
"In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment."
All those years ago, I had lost my peace. In fact, I didn't know how, in the midst of a crazy busy life, peace was even possible. Chronic illness and anxiety had taken over. My life felt completely unmanageable. Yet reading Thay's words again and again created an opening and somehow, miraculously, the light broke through and healing began.
Relief poured in from the simplest of teachings:
You only have to do one thing at a time.
This teaching sounded incredulous to me. The relief it brought was remarkable and many tears flowed. This concept--doing just one thing with full and present attention—marked the beginning of my (now) nearly 30-year-journey with mindfulness.
Lately, I've been returning to one of his most well-known Gathas. It holds a potent invitation for me, for living in these times when presence for one's deep self may be difficult to access. There is so much that can pull us away from our innate peace.
Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
I understand during times that feel chaotic and uncertain, breathing out with a smile might be difficult. Even more challenging might be embracing this moment--just as it is—as a wonderful moment. But I do it anyway. You can too.
Why is this moment wonderful? Because we are awake, we are here, we are alive. What a gift it is to be alive! Thay writes:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
This morning I engaged in a lovely practice: honoring Thay's invitation to be fully present on the earth with peace in my heart, no matter what is happening in the world. I sit with a photo of one of his works of calligraphy. I randomly open the book I've chosen to any page and allow its ambient message to flow through me. Today, it was this:
I've adopted "meditation calligraphy practice" for many reasons but key among them is to stay close to Thay's wisdom even though he has made his transition from this earth. Since his passing I feel his presence and the impact of his teachings more than ever. It is as if, in his death, his essence exploded into a trillion rose petals floating through the atmosphere, showering us with loving presence and compassion. Indeed, it is a miracle to be alive, to be the recipient of this. And, hopefully, to pay the transmission forward.
May it be so for you. May Love hold us all ...
Begin Again - Morning Practice
Perhaps, like me, you do things in seasons. I'm not an avid journaler, for example, but I do engage in it when the time is right—in a certain season of life when some aspect of my life or inner being needs attention. Or while on retreat.
A spiritual practice can be like that. We may not have the self-discipline to do it everyday, but if we listen deeply to the voice of intuition, or to those subtle urgings of Spirit, we find ourselves magnetically drawn back to it. The deeper, truer part of us (soul? essence? God-self?) knows what we need to connect with That which will enable us to connect to the truth of our being.
This winter, as the snow falls and frigid temps keep me inside, I have taken to a classic spiritual practice in the early hours of the morning: devotional reading and "journaling lite." I've returned to an old classic, translated by one of our worldly wisdom guides. I read just a small section each day and sit with it, ponder it, let it roll through my heart-mind like gossamer rays of sunlight, illuminating that which needs to be seen. Then, I choose just a few words or lines to capture the wisdom of the moment and record it in the narrow spaces of a day planner. That's it.
Taking in just enough to satisfy, small bites, to savor and enjoy. For me, this is an act of Presence. Discarding the notion (and tendency) to gobble up information (even divine wisdom) and quickly swallow to call it "good." Or engaging in a spiritual practice half-heartedly so we can check it off our To-Do List. Presence, in this way, is cultivated by going slowly and taking our time; creating space for ourselves to sit and take pleasure in the process.
Presence involves a generosity to self that is not selfish by any means, but an invitation to being with ourself in simple, kindly ways that nourish wholeness.
It's not too late to begin again, to launch (or relaunch!) a gentle morning practice of Presence through gentle spiritual engagement, welcoming that which wants to make itself known to you.
Every day offers a new beginning. With the dawn, comes the opportunity to begin again. Just as the sun rises each day, creating a unique and breathtaking panorama, so can you paint a fresh and brilliant day for yourself.
A Guided Meditation
A Peaceful Pause for New Beginnings (3 min.)
Listening Ever More Deeply
I've been pondering this post for a while now. Actually, I have been in discernment for months about how to best focus my energies and heart in terms of my work in the world, my heath and well-being, my relationships and, most importantly, my relationship with the Divine. I was surprised to see that my last post here was in April!
The pandemic caused many of us to redirect our life's focus. For me, the pandemic offered a unique opportunity to get "off the road." Staying home for this extended period of time revealed some very interesting (and timely!) things. In my case, the "quieting" (as my friend Sr. Ann calls it) was just what my soul needed to get clear about my habits, as well as my heart's desires.
I don't use the word "soul" lightly here. Its use is purposeful. Being home and staying home was an act of genuine soul care for me. You see, I have been teaching and traveling—public speaking, leading programs and retreats--traveling, traveling, since 1985 when two of my three children were very young (and one was not even born yet). It feels as if I have been "on the road" forever. The pandemic helped me create space for the awareness that I am weary of traveling and have been deeply nourished by being home, and leading a more contemplative life.
I've also been a care-taking partner for two of my dear ones for the last 18 years. Yes, I am one of the "Sandwich Generation," helping to provide compassionate care and support for a parent and a child at the same time. Had this been wearying me? The pandemic affirmed my inner "yes."
But it wasn't until I gave myself the gift of genuine presence in the form of a 5-day silent retreat in June that the call to engage even more deeply with silence and solitude in my everyday life became crystal clear. This gentle week of resting in my inner being with the Sacred—walking, listening to bird song, watching the clouds move across the sky, the waves dance along the shore—all offered deep restoration. And it brought much-needed clarity.
Sunset and a moonrise along the shores of Little Traverse Bay
I spoke with my spiritual director at the retreat about this. She affirmed what my soul was saying. I have a monastic heart. I am deeply nourished by solitude and silence. I am healthier and I also serve others better when I am truly invested in my contemplative life. I require large doses of nature for grounding and restoration. She also validated the truth of what Ram Dass had told me a few years ago: "Jan, you need to be more "in" than "out."
Since the retreat, I have continued to listen deeply and to honor what I am hearing. I have continued to make discernments about how to honor my "inner monk" (as author Beverly Lanzetta speaks of it) and, at the same time, how to continue to do the work in the world that I am called to do. This fall, I will begin sharing more about this journey with you through new offerings about stillness, silence, and the contemplative life.
I will be "at home" doing this and not on the road. For now, I sense my road warrior days might be over. I turn 68-years-old this week. I'm attending my 50th high school reunion soon. Life feels fleeting and time passes so quickly. I see the end of the trail as never before. And like many others today, I want more than ever to live each day of my life with meaning and purpose; honoring true self; honoring how the Divine lives and breathes through me; engaging my desire to be of service in this world; living with Peace, with Joy. In Love with All of it.
May it be so for me. May it be so for you if this is your heart's desire too. I am glad we are journeying together.
Shalom, Peace, Om Shanti,
a calm, open-hearted space of welcome & service.
I'm glad you're here. Welcome to this space of exploration, deepening understanding & the practice of presence across traditions.
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Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.