Starting to teach a one-week intensive course on "Contemplative Writing," I am doing what I can to keep to this practice myself. I do it anyway -- fill several pages of a journal every morning, whatever other writing I do, and for no other audience than myself and God. I am hoping that some of the readings I've selected for my students, out of many, many that I love, will help them into this practice, which over the years has helped me to get out of my own way, perhaps out of God's way, and open myself more and more deeply to the gifts of each day. Here's a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor that sets the mood for me, going into this week, and seems rich and full of wisdom to reflect on. In An Altar in the World, she writes
In biblical terms, it is wisdom we need to live together in this world. Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails. Wise people do not have to be certain what they believe before they act. They are free to act, trusting that the practice itself will teach them what they need to know. If you are not sure what to think about washing feet, for instance, then the best way to find out is to practice washing a pair or two. If you are not sure what to believe about your neighbor's faith, then the best way to find out is to practice eating supper together. Reason can only work with the experience available to it. Wisdom atrophies if it is not walked on a regular basis.
Such wisdom is far more than information. To gain it, you need more than a brain. You need a body that gets hungry, feel splain, thrills to pleasure, craves rest. This is your physical pass into the accumulated insight of all who have preceded you on this earth. To gain wisdom, you need flesh and blood, because wisdom involves bodies--and not just human bodies, but bird bodies, tree bodies, water bodies, and celestial odies. According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, "Grow, grow."
How does one learn to see and hear such angels?
(from An Altar in the World (HarperCollins 2009), p. 88
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.