living school

Travel through the 4-corners

First day of school jitters.  With so many kids (and teachers!) starting school—whether it is a new year or a new school altogether, there is a powerful energy of possibility combined with a touch of nervousness in the air.  We certainly felt it in our house as the kids headed off to high school on Monday, and today I am experiencing that feeling more acutely than usual.

I’m writing this on Wednesday, my first day of an intensive two-year academic program called the Living School, which begins this afternoon.  A program of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM, the Living School provides students the opportunity to deepen their engagements with their truest selves and with the world.  A combination of rigorous study and contemplative practices, we spend time in several short intensives—I’ll be back home on Saturday—featuring lectures and small groups, and then our learning continues through online modules, reading and a commitment to spiritual practices throughout the two years.

One of the promises we make in ordination is to continue throughout our ministry making intentional learning a priority. I was drawn to this particular offering in part because of the three amazing teachers—Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley—who serve as our faculty.  Each has inspired me over the past few years, and I am eager to learn more from them about ways to awaken more and more to “the pattern of reality—God’s loving presence with and in all things.”

I went through the rather intense application process last fall and was accepted this past January, but that was a long time ago now! When I’ve mentioned it to various people recently, I’ve occasionally referred to it as the Wisdom school—in part because it draws from the perennial tradition, lifting up and learning from wisdom wherever it is found—and in part because the three faculty are some of the truly wisest people I know.   However, I’m grateful that it is actually called the Living School, as I most definitely want to learn how to live life more abundantly rather than having some expectation that I’m somehow ‘getting wise!’  What a relief!

In fact, the orientation letter reminded us that the whole school is based on the underlying worldview of a “spirituality of imperfection.”  By practicing patience with our own and others’ imperfection, we are developing the ability to live life “undefended,” something hard for our egos to take.  The promise, however, is that as we practice this way of living, we will find ourselves living more and more from our Divine Self rather than our old ego self.  While that sounds like an inspiring goal, it feels more than a little scary as well—and I have to say, my ego isn’t all that thrilled with the prospect.  Even the piece of paper we get at the end isn’t actually worth anything!

They call learning to live this way a commitment to live contemplatively in the midst of our ordinary lives. To many of us, that may seem odd, but James Finley says it really comes down to this:
How am I to learn to live
in a more daily, abiding awareness
of the inherent holiness of the life that I am living?
Isn’t that what most of us yearn for deep down? To live, really live, this one life that we are given? It is my hope that my engagement with the Living School will assist me in my commitment to ongoing growth and transformation in God, to living my life with greater awareness, joy and increased union with all that is.  In addition, I hope that I will find faithful ways to share with you the adventure of learning, growing and transforming along the way.  I ask you to pray for me, as I pray for you always.

Hope to see you Sunday!