Monday, July 5, 2010

Reflection on the living documents of our hearts and times

I just bought and started reading Henri Nouwen's new book, Spiritual Formation. It is edited posthumously by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird from Father Nouwen's other writings.

I was drawn to its title, Spiritual Formation. It takes me back to the Roman Catholic days. I rarely hear or read that word anymore. I have never run across it in the Unitarian Universalist literature.

Spiritual formation, if I am understanding Nouwen right, is the movements of the spirit from the head to the heart. Nouwen focuses on five aspects of spiritual formation: reflection, lectio divina, silence, community, and service. These aspects all seem Unitarian Universalist to me although not exclusively UU as they are shared with many other faith traditions as well.

The first aspect, is especially inspiring to me. Nouwen puts it like this, "...reflections on the living documents of our own hearts and times."

Every body's life is worth a story. What is the story which you are telling yourself about what your life is about? Usually this is unconscious. We are not consciously aware of it until we attempt to explain our experience to someone else we can be open, honest, and authentic with. A rare experience in most of our lives.

Socrates said that "an unexamined life is not worth living." How many people do you know live examined lives? They are few and far between unless they are in a 12 step program, in psychotherapy, or are people with high levels of integrity and self awareness. Most people, in my experience, don't function at this level, and without it, it is impossible to live a spiritual life.

If you will put up a false facade, and pretend to be someone you are not to please other people, you loose touch with your own heart. This is the path to hell, to become alienated from one's own soul.

Unitarian Universalists value the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, the basis search of which is the searching of one's own soul.

Where to start?

Radical honesty. At least with one self and at least with one other human being, if not with most. Can you do that? It would be a huge step in forming one's spirituality.

Does Unitarian Universalism encourage radical honesty especially when it comes to confessing one's sins? I was taught as a child to go to confession, to be honest with God by confessing my sins to a priest and to be absolved of the shame and guilt I felt because of my shortcomings. It was good for my soul. I now do this by seeing a psychotherapist once per month where I can talk about anything in a non judgmental and understanding atmosphere. I highly recommend it.

In my daily life, where it would do no further harm, I am honest and transparent with others especially about my negative and hurtful thoughts and actions. I try to make amends, to correct the harm that I have done. It is a daily practice. This has been part of my spiritual formation and continues to be.

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