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.
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.
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.)
I was digging through some files today and found a series of videos I created a few years back on "Peaceful Transitions." Ironically, perhaps this work is even more valuable today for we are all living in a time of profound transition.
What is familiar is gone. What is new is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, likely unwanted. The future is not unforeseeable with things as they are and everything feels uncertain. Transitions can be rough.
In times of transition, I believe our contemplative (spiritual) practices can hold us. They can provide comfort and insight. Staying faithful to them can feel as if we are holding on to the tiller of our boat as we navigate the stormy seas of life just a little more firmly. These practices keep us steady. They are also a powerful way to hold presence for ourselves.
Today, I'd like to share one of the videos from this series. I introduce a favorite contemplative practice--Lectio Divina (modified version). In this video, I use a poem for our reflection, and one that can bring an invitation to look deeply into the nature of any personal transition we might be experiencing. I hope you find this practice meaningful.
(The poem cited is featured below.)
Poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez - "Oceans"
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
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.