I was struggling to read the board in 4th grade when my teacher, Mrs. Rebold, suggested that I might need glasses. In the end I did need glasses, and what a difference it made! I hadn’t realized all that I was missing, like the distinctness of leaves on trees—wow! Seeing well is not something I take for granted. Throughout my life, I have had various tools to help me see better—glasses, contacts, surgery—and with each improvement I go through a cycle of struggle, denial, awakening and, finally, increased clarity.
I know that seeing is also more than physical reactions and can easily be affected by my mental and emotional state. When I’m tired, lonely or ill, I see things in a different light; often infused with discouragement. When things are going well, by contrast, I can see even challenging things through a lens of hope. There really isn’t such a thing as “just the facts, ma’am” because our interior maturity, depth, and wisdom so influences how we see and the meaning we create as a result. I’ve known people with no physical sight, who possessed the ability to see clearly and deeply what is truly important.
Jesus spoke a great deal about seeing. He healed people who were blind, but he also challenged those who had physical sight to see with deeper vision. In Mark’s gospel, frustrated by those who fail to grasp this deeper way of seeing, Jesus says to the disciples: Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? And immediately afterward he heals a blind man, but at first the man can only see in part. But the story continues,and the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
I love this story. Following this way of Jesus is more than simply going about our lives content with our current way of seeing. Jesus, and wisdom teachers from other traditions, invite, cajole and encourage us to awaken to what is real, to see as God sees, to see with the eyes of the heart. It begins first by recognizing our blindness. Too often we don’t recognize that we don’t see clearly or as God sees. Blinded by the allure of power, possessions, prestige and the illusion of control, we think what we see is all there is. Very often we begin to realize there is so much more only when something we took for granted is threatened or lost, when things fall apart.
Perhaps you’ve always known there was more, a sense that has been confirmed by fleeting moments of clarity. Perhaps you’re just waking up to this awareness, this desire to see from the eyes of your heart, your true self—although you have trouble even putting words to what you mean by that or its implications in your life. Perhaps you only know that something you thought was essential is slipping away from you, and you desperately desire your faith to help you in what feels like a free-fall. Then again it may be that none of this sounds like you, but you cannot shake the feeling that you want more in your life.
Seeing as Jesus does is, ultimately, a gift we receive, not something we achieve or acquire. Paradoxically, it is also already fully present and available to all of us. We are invited to awaken to what is already present by putting ourselves in the place of compassionately seeing our own blindness and intentionally opening ourselves to this larger frame. This is what religion sets out to do, although it often falls short. By using a variety of tools designed to show the limitations of our current frame—no small feat!—we begin experiencing an infinitely larger one and discover what that might mean in our actual, every day, lived lives. Remember Jesus comes that we might have life, and have it abundantly—this life, the one you’re living right now!
Oddly enough, learning to see from the heart begins with a commitment to deep listening. While this impulse led to my participation in the two-year Living School, we at St. Simon’s have been cultivating this deeper listening within our community over the past few years and are committed to fostering this practice within our community. While our culture values busyness, accumulation and skating on the surface, wisdom invites us to make space and time for deep listening.
To what are we listening? To the movement of the Spirit in the midst of our ordinary lives in the following ways:
Listening to our life—life speaks, sometimes loudly or uncomfortably. A few circles will be gathering around our responses to life experiences: Sharing Grief, Falling Upward, and Exploring Men’s Spirituality.
Listening to wisdom—throughout time, voices of wisdom have invited us see from a bigger perspective. Reflect on the tradition received in new ways and ponder together what that might mean within our own lives—Rediscovering our Grounding, Seasons of the Spirit, and Immortal Diamond Circle.
Listening to others— listening deeply to the experience of those different from us expands what we think we know. Throughout the Bible, it is the voice of the other that opens us to new ways of seeing—Way of the Circle, Other Voices—our Going Deeper theme and Awakening to Life Retreat Day.
Listening through spiritual practices—another time-honored way of expanding our vision is by engaging in practices that short-circuit our habits and typical frames—Centering Prayer, Breathing Meditation, and Lectio Divina.
This Sunday, the new Seasons brochure will highlight these and other parish offerings, and there will be more on our website and in future All Parish News emails as well. I hope you’ll choose to participate in one of these ways of supporting your own desire to see clearly, from the eyes of your heart, that you may live abundantly.
Hope to see you Sunday!