Today twelve of us completed an hour of sacred yoga, and then most of us stayed for a Trust Circle, with a period of silence and then soulful reflections on a piece of sacred poetry. Next we offered a meditation group for employees in a local hospital. Tonight we will provide a centering prayer and faith-sharing time in the home of one of our members. This is a typical day in the School for Contemplative Living.
We offer opportunities for group transformation. People engage in a variety of contemplative practices as their path to personal transformation, doing so in the safe company of other spiritual seekers. What makes such vulnerable experience safe? We practice a simple form of lovingkindness: no judgment.
How can people practice not-judging each other in a culture that thrives on verbally attacking the religion, politics, gender, nationality, race, and even sexual orientation of others? In our groups we begin by practicing the presence of God. And Presence starts our personal transformation into our best selves, as we sit or stand or walk or stretch in the Great Love. I don’t mean any of us are somehow morally perfect, or even perfect at loving. Far from it. But we are in the process of our own transformation–heading in the right direction at least.
Then we create safety by vulnerably sharing our self-discoveries, including our weaknesses, failures, and struggles. We never say what we think about each other. We tell about our own spiritual journeys. We practice humility. We experience the decrease of the ego’s power and the increase of the soul’s power.
During today’s Trust Circle I was able to experience what happens repeatedly in our many groups around town each week: I found joy in being accepted just as I am. We reflected on “Thanks, Robert Frost,” a poem by David Ray, followed by a written response from Parker Palmer. I was especially moved to remember how much joy I now find in practicing humility, sharing some of my humus with others, and discovering again that other people like that. It seems to help them relax and be drawn into sharing some of their own humus. (Note that I do not mean hummus, which would probably taste good but that’s not that point).
Personal transformation happens in our groups through the sharing of our humus, our vulnerable humanity, our delicious imperfections. The changes in the form of who we are also come through sharing discoveries of what has been life-giving and what has been life-draining. The growth also comes through making decisions about how we will craft a more soulful life. And I believe all of this starts with the practice of the presence of God.
So wherever you are as you read these lines, I invite you to join, or form, your own contemplative group. Invite people who want to practice the presence of God, and who are not content to just talk about their religious beliefs. Studying books is fine, we all do that, but thoughts about books are not transformational. Practice is.