“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More on Maps: What's Your Internal Landscape Look Like?

I just read this piece, "What Does Your Spiritual Geography Look Like?" by Carol Howard Merritt, over at Christian Century. The full article is worth a read. It'll take 5 minutes. Do it, and then come back!

I've been thinking about maps and landscapes lately and this section caught my attention:

Fall surrounds us, reminding me of all the transitions happening within me. Just as I’ve come to appreciate how seasons transform the land, I’ve also become aware of my internal landscape. The two seem bound together in many ways.

When I see those bare limbs, I think of the times when my work turns inward. We all have periods of fruitfulness and other months when we can hardly create. My father died a few months ago, and I noticed a lot of those empty days in the wake of his passing. I looked back on the hours, wondering what I actually accomplished.

But driving through Pennsylvania, I’m reminded that I should have appreciated the internal work. In our culture, we relentlessly measure productivity, but we don’t allow space for those seasons when hidden roots grow deeper. We don’t always trust those times when the limbs remain desolate. I didn’t honor the days of beautiful stillness enough.
This line, especially, sticks with me: "In our culture, we relentlessly measure productivity, but we don't allow space for those seasons when hidden roots grow deeper." 

I've been thinking about this in terms of "expansive time," time when there is no pressing issue, no huge "to do lists," no calls to return, no things to produce. I long for more "expansive time," flow time, time to let my heart and spirit settle, time to hear the whisper of the Holy, time to just be in the world, time for roots to grow deep...time to process, integrate and make sense of grief and loss and change.

My spiritual director (as well as another good colleague), invited me to take five minutes out of every hour in the day (or at least some of those hours!), to step into "expansive time," to settle into my internal landscape, to take some deep breaths. And in that time, to reflect on where the Holy, or joy, or meaning, have shown up in the past hour. To take note of those things, to hold them intentionally. And to be honest if the Holy, or joy, or meaning haven't showed up...and how I might invite them to show up in the next hour.

It's a hard practice to engage in - I like to be productive, after all! - but it's beginning to change the landscape of my day and of my heart. It slows me down and invites me to consider a whole other world, right there in front of me, inside of me.  


Arif Mamdani said...

a few thoughts:

1) what's a "spiritual director?" and where does one engage such a person?

2) Your post seems loosely related to Myth #4 in this blog from Harvard Business Review

3) I've been playing with integrating a similar break practice into my work routine. Two parts here: part one is using the pomodoro technique - work for 25 minutes, break for five, every 4 work intervals, take a longer break. Part two: in my breaks, I do metta meditation. When I'm disciplined about it, it's quite remarkable.

Justin Schroeder said...

Hi Arif,

1) A spiritual director is usually an ordained minister, or deeply grounded person of faith, whose ministry is to journey with others...to walk with them in their faith journey...to ask questions and share what they're observing and witnessing. The spiritual director I work with listens quite well, and then often asks just the right question, or reframes things in just the right way. He helps me pay attention to the movement of God in my life and ministry.

2) I'll check that out.

3) Thanks for sharing this!

Justin Schroeder said...

...And as far as engaging a spiritual director, I can recommend several folks to you, if you're interested.

Arif Mamdani said...

Thanks! I'd like to talk more about that. We can add it to the growing list for next time we talk!