Information from Falling Upward - A Companion Journal; Richard Rohr; Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint; 2013.
The Two Halves of Life
- Think about your childhood faith. What do you remember believing? What was important to you? How has your childhood faith changed? How do you respond to Fr. Richard's call to make your own 'discoveries of Spirit'?
- In the context of the security structures created to define tribes, loyalty, and identity, does the question, "Is that all there is?" resonate with your experience? If so, how?
- As you reflect on your life, do you see deeper meaning in your youthful life experiences than you did when they were happening? What changes do you feel called to make now that will free you up to living a larger life on behalf of the world?
- How would you define "both-and" thinking? Using Ghandi, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr,. Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela as examples, what do you think you might have to give up to be a truly both-and thinker?
- In what ways could Jesus' command to "change your mind" (Mark 1:15) affect your personal journey? Spend time thinking about the difficult situations and relationships in your life that are difficult now. How might they be challenging and inviting you to change your mind?
- Treat yourself to a slow walk through your neighborhood. Recognize the gift of life that your breath is, and take time to think about your breathing as you walk. Notice things of beauty that might never have appeared beautiful to you in the past. Notice things that you would not usually think of as special. How are you seeing them differently? Pick up a stone or stick, and let it leave its imprint on your mind and heart. Think about where this object has been through time and history. when you return home, write about your experience, and call a friend to share what you have just experienced.
- Move through the next week paying great attention to the world around you. At work, notice how inclusively people treat each other, and look for psychologically and spiritually mature behaviours. When you are waiting in line, watch for the presence or absence of patience or understanding around you. Observe families, and see if the adults show signs of compassion and empathy to the children. In your exposure to the media, watch for signs of either-or or both-and thinking. In the context of your spiritual life, listen and watch for ways that you might grow in wisdom, age, and grace. At the end of the week, make a list of your observations. What have the moments of compassion and maturity called forth from you? What about the moments that don't offer these qualities? Spend time thinking about how you could use these observations to improve the quality of your relationships and interactions.
The Hero and the Heroine's Journey
- What does "Divine DNA" (p.18) mean to you? Are you in touch with your Divine DNA? If so, how did you become aware of it? How does it affect you or motivate you to act? If you are not in touch, what can you do to make a connection? Who or what might be able to help?
- Over your life journey, when have you been called to go beyond your comfort zone, how have these challenges affected your spiritual growth? What experiences or resources do people need to make a leap of faith more conceivable for them?
- "The very first sign of the potential hero's journey is that he or she must leave home, the familiar. If you have spent many years building your particular tower of success and self-importance - your personal 'salvation project' as Thomas Merton called it - or have successfully constructed your own superior ethnic group, religion, or 'house', you won't want to leave it." Can you identify a wound in your life that has opened you to a whole new understanding? How has it shaped the person you have become? Can you identify a major dilemma or life experience that is still trying to change you? How might you invite it to do so intentionally?
- How would describe the difference between your current life situation and what Fr. Richard calls your "actual life"? Do you have a sense that there is a deeper movement beneath the surface of your everyday tasks? Can you describe what Fr. Richard calls "what you are doing while you are doing what you're doing"?
- Jesus was not a nuclear family man at all, by any common definition! What led so many saints to seek the "will of God" first and above their own? What has led so many Peace Corps workers, missionaries, and skilled people to leave their countries for difficult lands and challenges?" Make a list of those in your life who have shared with you the wisdom they have gained from their life lessons. How has their wisdom affected you? When you are given the opportunity to pass life lessons on to others, what questions would you ask of the person to help you to know what he or she needs?
- Get a long piece of paper and crayons or colored pencils. Spend time reflecting on your hero's journey thus far. Picture your life as a river and yourself as a leaf floating on that river. Begin at the far left of you paper, and draw the river of your life with your leaf following its path. As you visualize time in your life, use the drawing to illustrate changes you have experienced. Are there times when your life river becomes very shallow? Or when it is wide and deep? Are there times when your river is roiled and muddy? Or crystal clear? Does the river become very narrow, or do you approach rapids or steep waterfalls that your leaf must master? Are there times when the river's flow is calm and peaceful? Does your river sometimes twist and bend sharply? Is it straight and strong at times? Draw all those changes in the river to indicate the differences in its flow.
- Note the times when you were called on to leave home, where you were led, how it felt. Note times when you were able to sense God's presence and those when you had more difficulty doing so. As you sit with your drawing, think about where you are now on you hero's journey. Write a prayer for continued guidance and the willingness to leave home again.
- Play some music that inspires you to move. Dance if you are inclined, but even the most subtle of movements will do. Experience the places in your body where you are holding on to things that keep you from embracing a thriving existence. Breathe into those places. Invite them to your awareness. Name them here, along with the feeling they evoke, and commit to holding it in awareness.
The First Half of Life
- Write about a necessary fall that you've experienced - for example, a loss of job, reputation, self-image, a relationship, or a moral failure that you had to own up to. Did that experience teach you more about balance? About yourself? About God? What did you learn, and what more do you think you have yet learn? If you have never let yourself fall or perceived you were allowed to fall, what impact do you think that is having on your life?
- How would you define unconditional love? Name someone who loved you that way, and describe how you felt. Now name someone who offered conditional or demanding love, and describe that experience. Contrast the two and how they affected you. Do you see value for yourself in having been loved in these different ways?
- Name the loyal soldier in you. What is he or she trying to protect or obtain? Spend some time thinking about the parallels between your loyal soldier and the elder son in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son. what might your loyal soldier keep you from knowing or experiencing? What kid of ritual might you devise to discharge your loyal soldier (your career accomplishments after retirement, your military experiences after war, your full-time parental devotion after the empty nest?)? How might others play a role in that ritual? Make a journal entry after you have performed it to describe how it felt. How ill you celebrate the "death of the false self and the ... birth of the soul"?
- "The voice of our loyal soldier gets us through the first half of life safely ... to learn the sacred 'no' to ourselves that gives us dignity, identity, direction, significance, and boundaries. We must learn these lessons to get off to a good start! ... Paradoxically, your loyal soldier gives you so much security and validation that you may confuse his voice with he very voice of God." As you reflect on your life, can you identify some of the illusions that God has undone for you? Were you aware of what was happening at the time? How has your life changed as a result? Do these experiences illustrate for yo the idea that "the best word for God is actually Mystery"?
- Because the contemplative mind can accept Mystery, it can receive things just as they are and let them teach us. This week, seek out a quiet, sacred place at home or outside where you are able to sit undisturbed for a period of time. Be fully present in this sacred space for a set period of time each day. Repeat a word or phrase that holds meaning for you to settle your mind into the presence of God. If thoughts intrude, use your word or phrase to bring you back to quiet. Once this practice is part of your schedule, observe how your ability to "hold creative tensions" deepens. As you reflect on your key life experiences, ask yourself these questions that Fr. Richard poses in "Everything Belongs".
- "What is the message in this for me?
- What's the gift in this for me?
- How is God in this event?
- Where is god in this suffering?"
- Reflect on your capacity for giving and receiving love. Consider a relationship where it is difficult to give love and one where it is difficult to receive love. In the relationship where offering love is challenging, consider the story you carry that makes if difficult to love. Invite yourself to question that story. In the relationship where receiving love is challenging, consider the story that diminishes your openness, and invite yourself to question it. Hold these people in your heart during your prayer time. See them surrounded by love and you surrounded by love. Repeat this practice, and notice any urging you feel toward greater openness.
The Tragic Sense of Life
- Journal about your reaction to the statement that "life is inherently tragic". What does that mean to you? How does faith help (or not help) you deal with the contradictions of life?
- Have you sought God's compassion and forgiveness for issues in your life? Describe how it feels to embrace that forgiveness. Did the experience of seeking forgiveness move you to "trust and seek and love God" more deeply? If you have not yet allowed your self to accept God's absolute forgiveness, write a letter to God about the forgiveness you seek and ask God's help in becoming ready to receive it.
- Do you gravitate toward the "never-broken, always-applicable rules and patterns" of life? Describe how you deal with things that do not fit "the universal mold." By what methods have youbeen able to free yourself of the need to adhere to specific principles in every situation?
- Do you agree that even our sin/error has something to teach us? Could there be such a thing as "necessary transgressions" as we seem to see in the Adam and Eve story? Write about a lesson that you have learned through acknowledgment of a destructive pattern in your life.
- What does the term necessary suffering mean to you? What is an example of it in your life? Describe a time when the awareness of your connection to the big picture helped you cope with failure and loss. Does the context of your place within the larger whole help you absorb it?
- Fr. Richard writes, "Jesus had no trouble with the exceptions, whether they were prostitutes, drunkards, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, or wayward sheep. Look for the "exceptions" in you everyday life this week. Watch for your responses to those who fall outside your sense of what is normal or right or good. Invite the Christ mind to clarify your awareness and understanding. Consider how you might reach out to learn more about a person or population you have previously judged as abnormal or separate.
- Fold a large sheet of paper in half horizontally. Open in back up, and make two columns, one labeled "bad stuff: and the other "good stuff." Sit and think about your life as a tragedy. Focus on the difficult and painful events: times of loss, hopelessness, crises of faith, and suffering. List these situations in phrase form in the "bad stuff" column. Now take a short walk and invite yourself into the "Great Turn-around." As you walk, hold these difficulties in you heart. Invite an awareness of how they have served your greater good. Can you find the benevolence of difficulty? Now consider your life's greatest moments. Focus on successes, love, achievements, the times when your life has felt connected, and you were in the flow. Write these in the "good stuff" column. Do you see a correlation between your difficulties and your achievements? Do you see how in some instances, overcoming your difficulties has made the good stuff possible or how what was good at one time had to be surpassed for future good to come? Hold gratitude in your heart for what appears as good and what appears as bad.
Stumbling over the Stumbling Stone
- Fr. Richard writes, "If you are on any classic 'spiritual schedule,' some event, person, death, idea or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower." Write about a time when a situation took you beyond your resources to deal with it. Did the experience bring you to a new awareness of your capacity for surrender? Did you feel free when you realized you were not in charge of the falling?
- Write about a time in your life when failure and humiliation force you to look for answers where you would not have otherwise. Describe what you discovered.
- What does being "out of the driver's seat? or "giving up control to the Real Guide" mean to you? Have you had a strong plan in your life that eventually proved to be insufficient? Describe the significantly new self you found in reaching for the "real source, the deep well, ... the constantly flowing stream."
- When has suffering opened new spaces in your life for learning and loving? If you find this concept challenging, write out a memory of suffering, watching for any new insights you receive about these painful experiences. Write them down for future reflection.
- The goad that St. Francis learned not to kid against is defined as "the symbol of both the encouragement forward and our needless resistance to it, which only wounds us further." What do you kick against in your life? What might accepting your goad teach you? How might such acceptance help you to grow?
- In the week ahead, pay attention to your life. Use all of your senses as you observe people and events with new eyes. Pay attention to things that you may never have notice before. Look especially at faces and read what they say. As you touch others, perhaps as you shake hands, truly feel the person's grasp, sensing what these hands may have accomplished. Amid all your experiences, listen closely for the still, small voice of the Spirit within you. Speak more gently and with more humility. Notice any effect your gentleness may have. Write a prayer or a poem that describe what you have learned.
- Think back on your experiences of precious thing that you have lost and then found. Recall how you felt when you realized the loss - and when the lost item was found. Remember those inner celebrations you've experienced. Write a "lost and found story" about your life.
- Why is it easy and self-aggrandizing to "throw rocks from the outside?" What kinds of experiences - in prayer, community, service, relationships - might foster "unlocking spiritual things from inside?"
- Describe what you have observed in nature that you would call necessary suffering. Does seeing necessary suffering as part of the natural order of things have an impact on your as you observe the suffering in your own life?
- How do you use your freedom to say yes or no to spiritual growth? Are you open to exploring your own dying, stumbling, mistakes, and falling? What prevents your doing this? What difference could the willingness make in you journey?
- Describe your own experience with the "crab bucket syndrome (when you try to crawl out but others pull you back in) within your family, social network, religious community, or work environment. What affects your ability to move to the second journey? Does the voice of the collective affect your spiritual choices? Name specific situations that you perceived to hinder your forward movement. How can you change those situations?
- What does the spiritual greats' motto, "Leave home to find it," mean to you? List your favorite "homes" - your validations, securities, illusions, prejudices, or hurts. Why are they (or were they) difficult to let go? Is there a "home" you still need to leave? Write a before-and-after scenario for yourself that exemplifies your spiritual growth.
- Try to describe your false self, your roles, titles, personal images What feelings are evoked when you consider the death of your false self? What is your understanding of "the pearl of great price," and how might you reveal where it is hidden within you already?
- Sit with your Bible or another holy book. Ask the Holy Spirit for eyes to see and ears to hear the Word of God, and opoen the book randomly and begin to read. As you read, mark passages that speak to you. Use different colored highlighters to indicate how specific verses speak to different areas of your life: your family and friends, your work, worship, community activities, and so on. Look for patterns in what you mark as you read. When you are finished, review the sets of passages that are highlighted in the same color and think about where they have taken you that is new, good, and much more spacious.
- Call to mind a story or a parable about someone's falling and being redeemed. Choose someone in the story to identify with. Perhaps begin as the hero. Allow yourself to play out the role of the person. Ask whether you would have made the same choices. Feel the creative tension in the story; think about the truth it offers to you. What qualities allowed the person to fall, and what allowed the person to be redeemed? Now choose another character in the story, perhaps the foil. How are these two stories similar or different? Write in your journal about the characteristics of each that you would like to see revealed in you, and characteristics of each you would like to have redeemed in you.
Home and Homesickness
- Consider Odysseus's oar that an inland wayfarer saw as a winnowing fan. What things in your life are "chaff" or nonessential? How can you eliminate or minimize them? What things in your life are "wheat" - essentials that give deeper meaning? What can you do to emphasize those things to a greater degree?
- Make a list of times in our life when you experienced and inner restlessness, and use the list to ponder the following questions: What were the circumstances surrounding the times you felt restless? Are there common trend underlying these times? Do these point you toward an inner drive and necessity that help to reveal your true self?
- Does thinking of your soul as a homing device or inner compass that guides you toward home make sense to you? Do you think that God would plant a desire in us for what God already wants to give us?
- "The self-same moment that we find God in ourselves, we also find ourselves inside God, and this is the full homecoming,according to Teresa of Avila." Do you agree that evil is more about superficiality and blindness than about consciously malicious deeds? How have you seen that in our own life? Or in the life of others?
- Have you found that God is in the depths of everything, especially in our failings and failures? If so, can you give an example that would illustrate this idea?
- "Heaven/union/love now emerge from within us, much more than from a mere belief system or any belonging system, which largely remains on the outside of the self." What does it mean to say that the Spirit works largely in secret? Do you believe that the Spirit "keeps us connected and safe inside an already existing flow?" Can you think of some examples that would help you to explain that to others?
- Fr. Richard says, "If we go to the depths of anything, we will begin to knock upon something substantial, 'real,' and with a timeless quality to it. We will move ... to an actual inner knowing. This is especially true if we have ever (1) loved deeply, (2) accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, (3) or stood in genuine life-changing we before mystery, time, or beauty." Recall a situation when you have experienced life at a very deep level. Close your eyes, and spend several minutes recreating the situation in as much vivid detail as you can. Based on that experience, ask yourself what things in life are certain. List them, and reconsider the list every day over the week. Record your insights at the end of the week.
- Identify a "wisdom person" or "elder" whom you know who lives life in deeper communion. Conduct an interview with him or her using some questions you've written to understand his or her journey and experience. Share some about where you see yourself on your spiritual journey and seek his or her experience and reflections. Take notes on the conversation, and select ideas to integrate into your life.
Amnesia and the Big Picture
- cHow would you describe your "True Self"? What do you think it takes to discover your True Self? How has your religion served you will as teacher and guide in finding your True Self? How has it not served you well?
- If you have ever felt it necessary to perform in a "worthiness contest" (anything where the issue itself is not that important but is merely a staging event for you to prove yourself as good, acceptable, smart, competent, or superior)? What did it feel like? think about the arbitrary "rules" of the contest and how you had to perform. What did you achieve, and what, if anything, did you have to sacrifice to achieve it?
- What does the "prison-house of the false self" mean for you? What do you need to unlearn from your religious education or upbringing to free yourself from it?
- What are the "little kingdoms" you have created to replace the union with God where you cannot yet abide? How do they inhibit your experience of union with God now?
- Fr. Richard writes, "No one is in hell unless that individual himself or herself chooses a final alone-ness and separation ... It is interesting to me that the official church has never declared a single person to be in hell, not even Judas, Hitler, or Stalin." Can you see when you are choosing union, and when you are choosing separation? How might this statement alter your concepts of heaven and hell?
- Consider what you have learned and begun to question as you have read Falling Upward. Meditate on your personal definitions of False Self and True Self and your concepts of heaven and hell. Pay special attention this week to how you respond to conversations or behaviors when you are among friends, family, and strangers from the perspective of heaven and hell as being NOW. Walk through your week noticing whether you experience yourself in heaven or in hell moment by moment. Notice hoe your behaviors in these two places are different and whether others Jeto you differently when your experience is one of the other. Record your observations in your journal.
- Jesus told us to love our enemies. Are you ready for the challenge of following this commandment? Make a list of people you find challenging and those whom you believe find you challenging. During this week, explore what it would take to love these people. Then, if you are willing, concentrate on at least one person from the list. When you encounter this person, be present to him or her as love (not affection or sentiment, but open-heartedness and invitation). How does it change you to open your heart to a person you find challenging? What do you risk by doing this? What do you gain? Then try it with a few others on your list, and write about what you learn from this experience.
A Second Simplicity
- Do you see a need for an increase in inclusivity in your church or spiritual home? How about in the rest of your life? How has this changed as your spirituality has matured? Does "otherness" or newness threaten you? Why do you think it does threaten so many people? Do you feel safe with your God? Free? Loved? Trustful? Invited? If not, write about why that might be so, and who God is to you.
- As you reflect on your life, think about whether your religious tradition has or has not helped you to perceive some coherence purpose, benevolence, and direction in the universe. How has your tradition shaped your view of who God is, what the world is, and where you can expect to find beauty and joy?
- How do you understand the relationship between those who are in the first half of life and the elder Fr. Richard talks about in this chapter? How would you distinguish someone being an elder socially and an elder spiritually? How have elders in your life assisted you? Are there first-half-of-life people you know for whom you might be an elder? What might you offer to them?
- What does it mean to you that "simple meaning now suffices?" What is your understanding of the deeper happiness that comes with second-half-of-life wisdom? Have you discovered more significant meaning in your life? What adjectives would you use to describe that meaning? How would you communicate this discovery to someone else, and what would you tell them about the kinds of feelings that it evokes?
- Consider how you are like, rather than unlike, people you tend to oppose. Write a letter to someone whom you would call "other": one who is liberal or one who is conservative, one who believes in the right to abortion or one who believes it is sin, one who is gay or one who condemns homosexuality. Exprsess your insights about how you are just like that person, and try to welcome him or her into your heart. Note your responses to this process. What feelings arose in writing the letter? What biases did it reveal? Were you released from any of them in this process?
- Sit quietly today to contemplate forgiveness. Think back over your life, naming situations in which you wanted forgiveness. Now hold in your awareness those in your life whom you need to forgive. Identify instances when you have passed "sadness, absurdity, judgment, and/or futility" on to others. Hold all this in your heart, prayerfully inviting forgiveness and offering it also. Write about how it feels to forgive and to be forgiven. Write also about the circumstances you cannot release in forgiveness, and invite the Holy Spirit to hold those with you.
A Bright Sadness
- Fr. Richard talks about how in the second half of life, we notice things we share in common with others and don't need to dwell on differences. Have you noticed that too? List the things you have noticed that we all share in common. Are there more or fewer than you expected? How does this focus on things in common help you be more accepting of others' behavior and differences?
- When in your life have you needed to be considered best, superior, the only one God loves, or deserving of superior treatment? Why does such thinking need to be released to move into second half of life thinking?
- Generative people believe "their God is no longer small, punitive, or tribal." Erik Erikson defines generative people as those eager and able to generate life fromtheir abundance and for the benefit of following generations. Who do you know who is a generative person? How can you tell? Would you consider yourself to be a generative person? If not, what steps might you take to become more generative?
- Fr. Richard says that hoarding, collecting, and impressing others is of less interest to elders. Write about your own desires to hoard, possess, and collect. Do you still feel tempted to try to impress others with your things, your travels, or your life's accomplishments?
- Sit for a time and contemplate certainty. Have you noticed that you have fewer moments in your life when you are certain you are right and someone else is wrong? What has replaced your certainty? Write about a situation where you have experienced greater peace by making room for another's view of things rather than a focused attachment to being right. Now write about a situation where you have remained attached to your point of view. Notice how you feel in your body as you write about the experience of attachment. Notice how you feel in our body as you write about releasing (or being released from) your certainty. Record the sensations of each in your journal. Invite this awareness to stay with you this week as the next situation arises where your certainty gets in the way of the peace of unknowing. Write about what you experience as you hold this awareness.
- Do a solo retreat centered on the Eight Beatitudes. Prepare a space for quiet contemplation. Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 several times, looking for deeper levels of meaning on each reading. How do they apply to your life? Go back to the first one. Perhaps write after each reading, or rewrite the Beatitudes in your own words. Reread what you have written. Move into your week applying the message of the Beatitudes wherever possible. Notice which ones are more difficult for you. Consider why.
- Think about the many roles you play and have played in your life. List the personas you use most often and the rewards you receive from others by projecting them. Are the rewards of living the personas worth the sacrifice of not living as your True Self?
- Think about how you usually respond to someone who points to your faults or criticizes your actions. Are you able to see the friendship in their challenging message? What might be a helpful phrase to have in you back pocket when you face a challenging message in the future?
- Fr. Richard writes, "Spiritual maturity is largely a growth in seeing; and full seeing seems to take most of our lifetime." What do you now see in a different light than you did in the first half of life? What clues do you use to know when you might need to invite a different perspective?
- Remembering that your persona is what most people want from you and reward you for, do you notice the difficulties it causes for you and those around you? Identify what you have denied or eliminated to support your persona. Is it comforting to know that your persona or your shadow is not inherently evil? How would you say that your persona allow you to be or do evil and not know it?
- How much shadow boxing have you done as you have grown spiritually? Have you been able to actually see the shadow and its games? Describe something you have identified as a facet of your shadow. Once you named this, what happened to its power over you?
- In the week ahead, observe your responses to others. Watch for heightened reactions that may be out of proportion to the moment. As soon as you are able, write a description of the interaction as closely as you remember it. When your reaction has calmed, reread your account of the incident. With compassion, identify the part of your shadow self that was exposed at that point. Reflect on what you have discovered. Invite that piece of your shadow into your heart, and hold it here prayerfully in the coming days.
- Because the shadow so easily adopts the disguises of righteousness and piety, it can be tricky to spot. In conversations or interactions with your dear ones over the week, listen for fear that might be disguised as prudence or for control disguised as common sense. Watch for manipulation disguised as justice or for vengeance disguised as "I am doing this for your good." You don't have to try to change anything. Just bring it to your awareness ("There I go again!"), and hold it prayerfully in your heart during your contemplation time this week.
New Problems and New Directions
- Fr. Richard offers this question: "How can I honor the legitimate needs of the first half of life [being practical, efficient, and revenue generating], while creating space, vision, time, and grace for the second?" How would you respond to this question? How will you begin creating the space, vision, time, and grace needed to travel more deeply into the second half of life? Describe how holding the tension between maintaining the container and the contents is the very shape of wisdom.
- As a result of moving toward or into the second half of life, have you felt yourself moving away from groups and friendships? Describe your response to this change. What is your reaction to the concept of being happy alone? How do you respond to the idea that the cure for loneliness is actually solitude?
- Write about your understanding of dualistic (either-or) thinking. When has such thinking been useful to you? Describe your understanding of nondualistic (both-and) thinking. When has this approach been helpful to you? What do you think makes dualistic thinking insufficient for addressing love, suffering, death, God, and infinity?
- As you go through your day, try to observe examples of both dualistic and nondualistic thinking in your thought. Do you notice that both-and thinking relieves you of the need to divide or judge? Think about how both-and thinking can help you to deal with family and friends, issues at work, or political debates. How can such thinking help you to move freely from contemplation to skillful action?
- What does it mean to see "in wholes" and no longer "in parts"? What "messy parts" have youhad to delve into tot reach for wholeness? Has falling back into those parts brought you home to yourself more fully?
- Fr. Richard writes, "The human art form is in uniting fruitful activity with a contemplative stance - not one of the other, but always both at the same time." Write about what you understand this to mean. Identify and list the fruitful activities in your life. What clues do you have to point to whether they are or are not rooted in contemplation? Can you tell by the stance underlying them? How you feel when you are participating in them?
- At the end of your contemplative times this week, sit with your journal and note any urgings of your spirit. Is the silence calling you to something?
- Identify someone in your life whom you would call soulful, that is someone who reflects a sense of abundance, grace, and freedom. Notice how their calm and their peace affect those around them. Talk to this person about how he or she views conflict and what he or she does to bring calm and peace to these kinds of situations. Ask how he or she opens up options and alternatives. Can you identify any of these qualities in yourself? Have you become aware of some qualities you would like to try on? How might you live into some of these behaviors and attitudes more fully? Practice some of these in your daily life this week, and write about what happens.
- Fr.Richard says that great people come to served, not to be served. How have you come to serve? Does the list of those you serve include people other than your family and friends? How can you "give your life away"?
- Are you able to name one or two friends who have been a true mirror for you? If so, write a note to the friend expressing your thanks and explaining why you are so grateful. If your one true mirror has been the accepting gaze of God, write a prayer of thanksgiving for that gift.
- How does mirroring work? How were you mirrored as a child? How are you being mirrored in adulthood? List the many relational, professional, emotional, and physical falls. Next to each entry write what happens following that fall. In retrospect, do you see a bouncing upward after those falls? if so, describe what that was like and how you changed.
- Notice the times in the fallings you listed in the previous reflection where the problem was within the solution. If you place yourself inside some of Jesus' parables, do you see your life experiences in a different light? As you reflect on your life, think about which of your major problems blossomed and became your solutions.
- Fr. Richard writes, "Like any true mirror, the gaze of God receives us exactly as we are, without judgment or distortion, subtraction or addition. Such perfect receiving is what transforms us." What feelings does this statement evoke? Have there been times when you've felt this perfect receiving from God? If so, have you seen its power to transform you? If not, try to identify what is blocking you from opening this gift from God.
- Read about or watch a movie on the life of Helen Keller. Observe how and when she moves from first to second half of life. Reflect on why and how she may have found life's joy and how she developed the generativity for others for which she is famous. How does Helen Keller's example inspire you to find new ways to serve others? Write a letter to yourself as the person who has come through your falling-apart life experiences. Even if you are in the midst of them now, embrace the viewpoint of the one who has fallen upward. In the process, finally let go of whatever difficulties you have been lamenting. Be both compassionate and completely honest. Spell out what you need to let go of and write about how that letting go will affect you and others. Write about the fact that "pain in life is part of the deal." Offer the letter to God as you prayer for healing.