Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Dream Behind the Dream

In a certain way, my dream for a pilgrimage to Brittany in France is symbolic of a deeper dream, the dream behind the dream, if you will. I've written at other times on this blog about the idea of a contemplative vocation for "ordinary" people, that is, those who are not formal religious (priests, monks, nuns, etc...). There is a book by Marsha Sinetar on this topic that I've read a number of times, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics. The contemplative life can be difficult to define, so what is particularly helpful about this book is that Sinetar interviewed a wide spectrum of people who identify with this idea of the ordinary monk or mystic. We can see the common thread of the contemplative spirit flowing through their unique stories.

Through their anecdotes of spiritual awakening, we get a picture of the various ways that people have managed to carve out a life centered in prayer, meditation, and reflection, a life that is simplified and pared down in such a way as to allow for a focus on deepening spirituality and a self-actualizing authenticity. This requires a drawing away from the world to a certain extent, allowing a person to develop inner serenity and his or her God-given gifts and talents in order to be able to better serve the world in positive ways.

Last night I finished reading another book by Sinetar, Sometimes, Enough Is Enough, in which she further explores the "casual contemplative" life. What the title refers to is the reality that sometimes we have to fight the outward resistance to such a way of life, because it might seem crazy to other people. We have to learn to set boundaries and protect the time and space that we need in order to make union with the Divine the foundation of our lives. We must have those times carved out in each day for activities that nourish the spiritual life, which typically include contemplative prayer, meditation, the reading of Scripture and other sacred/spiritual texts, and perhaps a physical practice that coincides, such as yoga, pilates, walking in nature, gardening, or dance.

The contemplative soul may also have artistic work that he or she is, or longs to be, passionately engaged in. This might include poetry or other writing, painting, wood working, glass blowing, knitting, musical composition, and the like. Some casual contemplatives have chosen to relocate to very rural areas where they can have more quiet and a higher degree of isolation from the busyness of modern life. Others continue to be very active in the world and bring the peace and authenticity of the reflective life to whatever field they work in.

So much of what I have been writing about lately is tied to this contemplative calling. Letting go of perfectionism and the need for the approval of other people is key to my spiritual healing and progress on the path to an authentic, joyful life. The result may or may not be specifically a trip to Brittany. It is the spiritual pilgrimage which is important and necessary. Often a physical pilgrimage will manifest as well. What I know for sure is that clearing the clutter in my life is the first step. Contemplative domesticity, as I have newly subtitled this blog, is my theme for 2017!

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