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Pathways to Serenity
Philip St. Romain, M. S. , D. Min.
Stephen T. Palmer, C. SS. R.
Provincial, St. Louis Province
Monsignor Maurice F. Byrne
Assistant Chancellor, Archdiocese of St. Louis
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 88-80664
Copyright 1988, Liguori Publications
Printed in U. S. A.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted without the written permission of Philip St. Romain. 4101 N. Edgemoor. Wichita, KS 67220.
Excerpts taken from the NEW AMERICAN BIBLE with the
- page numbers for pdf version -
Experiencing serenity. Enemies of serenity. My search for a spirituality. Structure of this book. Acknowledgments.
PART ONE:Functions of Consciousness and Human Growth
1. Functions of Consciousness: (p. 9)
Definitions. Enumerations. Relationships. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
2. The Ego ( p. 12)
Role of the Ego in consciousness. Primary human needs (physical and psychological) and the Ego. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
3. The Small Self ( p. 15)
Definition. Fear and selfishness. Results seen in way needs are met. Small self as human sinfulness. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
4. The Christ Self (p. 18)
Definition. Love and human needs-fulfillment. Conversion. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
5. Stages of Spiritual Growth (p. 21)
Description of eight common Ego States. Ego States directed toward love or selfishness. Complexity of human nature. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
6. Spirituality and Personal Growth (p. 25)
Personal growth: movement through Ego States in love; Cosmic State: apex of growth. Roles of religion and psychology in growth and social considerations. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
PART TWO: Spiritual Living Skills
7. A Basic Approach to Spirituality ( p. 29)
Spirituality: an approach to focusing consciousness in Christ. Simple and complex approaches. A basic approach emphasizing: prayer, honesty, awareness and benevolence, and inventory. Importance of spiritual living skills. Necessity of practice.
8. Right Actions (p. 32)
Relationship between morality and spirituality. Right actions: those which build up community. Wrong actions: those which tear down community. A list of generally recognized wrong actions. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Reflection/Discussion
9. Right Desires (p. 35)
Right desires: those which lead to right actions. Disciplining wrong desires through renunciation. Cultivating benevolent desires. Practicing these skills.
10. Right Use of Feelings (p. 39)
Role of feelings in consciousness. Three steps: accept them; express them appropriately; learn from them. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
11. Right Beliefs (p. 43)
Pivotal role of beliefs in consciousness. Programming your biocomputers. Right beliefs: those which lead to healthy feelings, desires, behaviors. A list of right beliefs about God,
human nature, and the meaning of life. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
12. Right Values (p. 47)
Values: beliefs about the manner in which needs are met. Right values: those that help to meet needs in a loving way. Christian meaning of temperance, humility, prudence, justice, and fortitude. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
13. Right Awareness (p. 52)
Awareness: the focus of attention. Types of awareness. Development of awareness: reconciling with the past; facing the future; living in the present. Reflection/Discussion
14. Right Discernment (p. 58)
Definition: Choosing God's will among options. Based on certain assumptions. General guidelines. Reflection/Discussion Questions.
15. Spirituality and Grace (p. 62)
True definition of spirituality. Living skills for lay spirituality. Role of grace in transformation.
PART THREE: Appendixes
Appendix One (p. 65)
Other Helpful Spiritual Practices
Appendix Two (p. 77)
New Pathways Spirituality: What It Is and How to Live It
Appendix Three (p. 79)
Pathways Spirituality. Its Psycho-spiritual Dynamics
Appendix Four (p. 80)
Pathways Support Group
Appendix Five (p. 82)
Notes on Christian Cosmic Consciousness
Suggested Reading (p. 85)
The one word which impresses me as the most desirable state of
being is serenity. It is true that joy and happiness are also
wonderful experiences, but it is doubtful that even these states have
any meaning without serenity. The experience of serenity seems rather
difficult to describe. I have often asked individuals in groups and
workshops to specify their experiences of serenity, and, as might be
expected, they report peace of mind as a frst characteristic. Many
also mention a sense of being completely at ease with themselves in
life. Some express an experience of unity with all creation and all
of time; others say it is a feeling that all is well with the
universe. Webster's defnition of the word serene seems to summarize
their responses: serene, adj. “Clear and free of storms or
unpleasant change; shining bright and steady; marked by utter
Despite the obvious desirability of the state of serenity, most of the people I know do not claim to experience serenity more than 50 percent of the time. Many have even come to doubt that they will ever experience serenity in this life! Just as there is general agreement concerning the experience of serenity, so, too, have these groups readily acknowledged the primary enemies of serenity. At the top of the list is fear -- of death, of rejection by others, of the future, of economic failure, of the nuclear arms race, of suffering, of the loss of loved ones, and so forth. Most agree that fear and serenity cannot coexist for very long. Next on the list is a link between resentment and guilt -- toward anyone and anything. Resentment, guilt, and fear seem to feed on each other, producing great misery in human lives. Other enemies of serenity are envy, low self-worth, sickness, unemployment, intoxication from mood-changing chemicals, stress -- in short: matters of emotional pain. Where there is emotional pain, it is difficult to fnd serenity.
It is encouraging to me that serenity is a very frm promise which Christ guarantees his followers (see John 14: 27). He also promises persecution in John 15: 20, but it is understood that the persecution of the world cannot negate his peace, which surpasses all understanding. How sad that so few Christians experience the confirmation of this promise more than 50 percent of the time! Why should this be?
My own belief, which forms the basis of this book, is that people do not experience the peace of Christ because they do not live fully in the Kingdom of God. They have not completely surrendered themselves to God, and consequently they experience emotional pain and selfish desires. This relationship between emotional pain and selfishness has become increasingly clear to me through my years of ministry as a counselor and teacher. Because people experience emotional pain, they naturally view the world through self-protective lenses. But this only leads to selfish behavior, which in turn adds more emotional pain to their inner turmoil. And so they plod along in pain and defensive self- interest, their hearts all the while longing for the serenity which they were created to experience as their "normal" state of being. What is needed today is a spirituality which can help people to break out of this addictive cycle of emotional pain and selfishness and refocus completely on Kingdom living. Outlining such a spirituality is the concern of this book.
My Search for a Spirituality
Since 1973, I have searched throughout the Church for a balanced approach to fellowship with Jesus Christ. My adult search began with the Cursillo Movement, which was succeeded by the Charismatic Renewal. These two movements opened my spiritual eyes and taught me to pray, but after awhile I seemed to lose balance; I felt my growth in several areas was being stirred. I next approached the great spiritualities in the Church (Jesuit, Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican, Redemptorist, among others). Having opted for marriage and fatherhood, I could not participate fully in the life of these communities. I could (and did) pray and study with them; I also attended retreats with these communities and went so far as to join a lay branch of one of them. Fruitful though these experiences were, I inevitably found it too strained a task to transplant these glorious spiritualities into the realm of the laity.
For a few years I floundered, persisting in prayer, Eucharist, and study, but I found no real spirituality to which I could commit myself completely. I participated in Scripture study groups, the RENEW Program, and joined various kinds of Church committees, but my growth seemed out of focus. All of these experiences were very helpful in different ways, and I highly recommend them all. But what was lacking was a spirituality -- a structured approach to growth -- to help me recognize and affirm the good in these activities while also pointing out other areas of growth.
Because of my work with substance abusers, I inevitably became familiar with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here, it seemed to me, was what I had been looking for. In the Twelve Steps I discovered a process for ongoing growth and an overarching structure to help me understand the meaning of my different growth experiences. I rejoiced in the lessons of the Twelve Steps and came to believe that these Steps just might provide the guidance which others like myself had been seeking. I wrote of what I learned in Becoming a New Person: Twelve Steps to Christian Growth published by Liguori Publications, 1984. These Steps continue to inform and direct my response to Jesus Christ. They also form an important backdrop to this book and are referred to in several places as disciplines for transformation. After living out and studying the Twelve Steps for several years, I began to wonder just why the Steps were so effective. Why did they work so well? Although A. A. and other groups discourage such questioning -- because the Steps are more a matter of the heart than of the head -- I nonetheless wanted to understand. Surely there was nothing magical about these Steps. They seemed to represent basic movements in the spiritual life which are present in most of the great spiritualities of the Church.
Curiously, it was not until I began studying Buddhism and Zen that I came to see just why the Twelve Steps were so helpful. In the frst place, most people working the Twelve Steps did so as members of a support group. This in itself is conducive to healing. Twelve Step groups allow people living in pain to meet others like themselves and so begin to form community. When a person walks into a Twelve Step group, he or she is essentially saying: "I'm screwed up, brothers and sisters, and I need you to help me get well." But the Twelve Steps don't just leave people wallowing in pain; they also provide a process for moving out of pain and selfishness to high-level wellness. It is no wonder that authors of such stature as M. Scott Peck have called Twelve Step groups the most important spiritual happening of the twentieth century.
I began to wonder if helping people move beyond pain was not also something the Church should be about. What does the Church provide for people to help them break out of the emotional pain caused by the selfishness of sin? My general impression is that most lay people (and many religious, too) lack a spirituality which helps them to move beyond pain toward healing and transformation in Christ.
To be sure, there is a great flurry of activity in the Church today -- prayer meetings, Bible studies, collaborative ministry efforts, faith-sharing groups, and so forth. But what is being offered to help people put all this together? And what is being done to help people move beyond pain and selfshness? It seems that the sacrament of Penance with its new emphasis on reconciliation is still not suffcient in itself to meet this need. My conviction, here, is that a Church which does not speak to people in their pain is a Church which is shunning the Cross and so will become irrelevant for many.
I like the two essential ingredients behind the success of Twelve Step groups: (1) They provide an environment where people can come together in their pain, and (2) they offer a spirituality to help people move beyond pain. These two ingredients, I believe, are essential for any quality transformation. Unhappily, I fnd most Christian communities to be extremely defcient in both areas. The best example of a program that offers a safe environment where pains can be discussed is in a faith-sharing group like RENEW. But the heavy emphasis on Scripture, theological discussion, and "storytelling" in this and other similar groups keeps people at a safe distance from sharing their crosses with one another. Also, they do not provide a plan like the Twelve Steps to help people in these groups move beyond their pain to serenity.
At frst I thought a solution to this need would be to form Christian Twelve-Step groups. I soon learned, however, that the Twelve Steps do not transplant very well outside of their communities of recovery. As a process for overcoming compulsive behaviors, they are unsurpassed. But as a spirituality for non- addicted "healthy" folk, they are diffcult to grasp. I have also come to see that the Steps are lacking in several important areas which I believe to be essential for an authentic and holistic spirituality -- areas such as the right use of feelings, discernment, and interpersonal skills. Given these diffculties in using the Twelve Steps, I began to see that other pathways will be needed to help people come to serenity.
Structure of This Book
What I shall attempt to do in this book is to outline a spirituality which, like the Twelve Steps, can help anyone to move beyond emotional pain and selfshness to a life of serenity centered in Christ. For this to happen there is a need to grow in seven spiritual living skill areas, which are presented in Part Two of this book. This approach represents a synthesis of basic psychological, ethical, and mystical principles, which mutually support one another. It incorporates principles found in the Twelve Steps, Christian Zen, and most of the great religious spiritualities of the Church. But remember: An effective spirituality is only one-half of the equation for transformation; the other half is a support community in which participants use these principles. I have utilized this approach in my own support group and have found that it works very well.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One describes the framework within which human growth unfolds by examining the interaction between the activities of consciousness, human needs, Ego-States, and morality. This section helps to identify just what, precisely, a spirituality is supposed to do: namely, transform the whole of human consciousness in Christ. Part Two picks up this theme by presenting the seven spiritual living skills which enable people to focus their lives completely in Christ. Part Two also includes reflection on the relationship between spiritual living skills and grace. Part Three contains fve appendixes. One consists of a series of helpful spiritual practices. Two and Three provide abbreviated summaries of the principles for growth which underpin this work. Four outlines a format for a support group to use this approach -- a dream which moves me deeply. Five presents notes on Christian Cosmic Consciousness -- a topic about which there is much interest these days. Finally, a Suggested Reading section provides an annotated list of books that I have found helpful in formulating this spirituality.
This book represents a summary of so many different experiences that it would be impossible to acknowledge them all. As the description of my own search for a spirituality noted, a primary influence has been the Twelve Steps of self-help groups. My good friend, Benny McArdle, deserves the credit here for pointing me toward the Twelve Step groups. Another friend, Herman Schluter, who coordinates Evangelization efforts for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, has agonized with me many times over how something like Twelve Step groups might work in a Christian setting. Members of my own Christian support group helped in different ways to formulate this structure. My "New Perspectives" support group friends also helped me to appreciate the role of imagination in transformation. A retreat on Zen by Father Ben Wren, S. J. , enabled me to view spirituality from an Eastern perspective, and to deepen my experience of contemplative prayer. John S. Sylvest, who has been one of my spiritual sounding boards through the years, provided helpful feedback on the manuscript, as did Father John Edmonds, S. T. My wife, Lisa, has hung in there with me through spiritual dark nights and meanderings; her common sense feedback has been most helpful.
Finally, I wish to thank my three children for providing the catalyst leading to my confrontation with my immense selfshness. They, more than anyone else, have forced me to deal with my own Shadow issues, and to struggle to put together a spirituality which would keep me one-half step ahead of despair. The fruit of this struggle has been most surprising -- a new, childlike state of consciousness similar in many respects to that which they already enjoy as a matter of course.
Ignorance of the functioning of consciousness prevents people from
growing. What, then, is consciousness, and how does it work?
Consciousness, according to Webster, is "awareness, especially of something within oneself; the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought." Most philosophers would agree with this.
Consciousness has to do with awareness and the objects with which awareness is concerned. In contrast is the unconscious realm of the psyche. Little is known about the contents of the unconscious until they are revealed in dreams or other energies and symbols which emerge into consciousness for assimilation. This points up the fact that consciousness is the responsible realm of the psyche. It is in consciousness that the Ego, or "Self in awareness," resides. Such words as "me" or "I" or "mine" usually refer to the Ego.
The functions of consciousness can be described as follows:
1. Perceiving notes what comes into consciousness; it includes data from the senses, memory, intuition, and imagination.
2. Considering evaluates data in the light of beliefs and values.
3. Feeling reacts emotionally to data perceived and evaluated.
4. Deciding reviews alternatives presented and makes a choice.
5. Behaving acts on the above decision.
The relationship between each of these functions of consciousness is demonstrated in the following fgure.
In reflecting on the above Figure, two points need to be remembered. First, this outline does not attempt to demonstrate the metaphysical alignments of the functions of the psyche. There does not seem to be very much general agreement among the various experts on this subject. This leads to the second point. The Figure attempts to demonstrate only the general (not absolute) relationships between the functions of consciousness. In that sense, it can be a helpful guide for pointing out specifc areas where changes need to take place.
To demonstrate the relationships outlined on this fgure, reflect on a story told by Father John Powell in his book, The Christian Vision. A man came home drunk one night, only to observe a 35-foot snake on his lawn. He became frightened, so he got a hoe and began chopping away. The next morning, he discovered that he'd chopped his garden hose into pieces.
Note the following points:
This example describing the functions of consciousness points out
the tremendous freedom which exists at the level of beliefs and
decisions. The man was free to interpret the meaning of the snake
event in a number of ways; he was also free to choose between a
number of options for expressing his fear. It is true that
conditioned thinking and decision-making habits (not to mention his
drunkenness) probably restricted his experience of freedom, and this
is a real problem. But the possibility of growing out of conditioned
responses will be noted throughout this book.
A fnal observation has to do with perception. Since everything begins with perception, it is necessary to see things as they really are. Perceiving reality as it is requires openness and receptivity; the perceiver needs clear glasses, not tinted lenses. Such clarity of vision is another important aspect of spiritual growth, as will be seen.
1. Discuss Webster's defnition of consciousness and reflect especially on the meaning of the word volition.
2. Do you always see things as they really are?
3. Figure One demonstrates the
relationship between the different functions of consciousness. Reflect on how they influence your spiritual growth.
How many times have you heard people say, "The trouble with
'so-and-so' is he/she has too big an Ego?" Most people would be
insulted if told that they had an Ego. That is because the common
usage of this term is still heavily influenced by religion -- in
particular, mysticism -- which tends to use the term Ego in reference
to narcissism and selfshness. (This meaning of the term will be
treated in the next chapter.) Among behavioral scientists, however,
Ego is not a pejorative term. Ego refers to the volitional and
organizational center of consciousness; it is not moral or immoral.
Indeed, it is only because of the Ego that people can choose to do
good or bad. Many times the primary role of counseling is to
strengthen a hurting and fractured Ego so that it can begin to make
choices in behalf of the good of the whole organism. This central
role of the Ego in consciousness is demonstrated below.
The two general attitudes of the Ego are, "I am," and "I want." These two attitudes bring about a sense of personal energy and identity -- a sense of self (although the Ego is not the whole self but only the self in the here and now). The "I am" attitude, which is simple awareness, may be directed toward any of the functions or anything within their sphere. For example, the Ego might note, "I am feeling tired," noting its connection with feelings, or "I am reviewing my options," as when making a decision. When directing its gaze outside the psyche through the sensate functions, the Ego awareness might say, "I am enjoying the smell of this flower and I see how its petals are a beautiful shade of lavender!" In this case, the flower, which enjoys an existence independent of the human psyche, has nonetheless been brought into the psyche through the Ego's employment of the sensate function.
While Ego-awareness ("I am") is a relatively uncomplicated state, Ego-desiring ("I want") is another matter altogether. What the Ego desires generally has to do with the fulfllment of human needs. If you are thirsty, this need breaks into the awareness of the Ego and attempts to stimulate the Ego to make a decision to bring water into the body. No problem there: You have a simple bodily need whose fulfllment the Ego is capable of attaining (provided the resources exist). Other needs such as food, shelter, sleep, and warm clothing are also obvious concerns of the Ego. To neglect these concerns is to jeopardize bodily health.
In addition to physical needs, the Ego is also concerned with psychological gratifcation. The four most common areas of psychological concern are esteem, status, security (which is physical as well), and power. You can survive physically without gratifying these needs, but life will surely be less meaningful (a factor which will ultimately lessen physical stamina). Although both Ego-awareness and Ego-desiring are concerned with a myriad of different issues throughout each day, their primary concerns seem to be directed in fve directions, one, physical, the others, psychological:
1. Will-to-pleasure is concerned with the gratifcation of bodily needs and wants. Pleasure, in this sense, is the emotional reward for the gratifcation of bodily needs and wants.
2. Will-to-esteem refers to self-estimation and includes the manner in which you meet your emotional needs (acceptance, affrmation, validation)> Without a healthy self-concept, you become vulnerable to a vast array of emotional and physical ailments.
3. Will-to-security constitutes your perception of the trustworthiness of reality -- your physical, social, spiritual, and inner reality. If you do not attain a basic sense of security, life will be a fearful prospect.
4. Will-to-status denotes how you think others perceive you and how you meet your need for a sense of belonging. You need to know that other people value you in some way and that you are important to them.
5. Will-to-power indicates your experience of freedom and control. If you feel unfree and powerless, you can become despondent. Conversely, the conviction that you can direct your own life in such a manner as to meet your needs leads to hope.
Each of these fve Ego orientations is unique in its own right: Each has its own agenda. It is not uncommon, however, to fnd them blending with one another to produce complicated life goals. The will-to-status, for example, might be linked with economic prosperity (a security concern); power and wealth often go together, as do esteem and status. The peculiar blendings of Ego orientations are unique for every person, but keeping the fve primary orientations in mind can help you to sort through your own volitional issues.
1. Reflect on the differences between
the common and the philosophical usage of the term Ego. 2. What are the two general
attitudes of the Ego?
3. What are the physical needs of
the human person? What are the psychological needs? Discuss them.
Did you ever take classes on how to repair lawn mower engines? The
instructor teaches the various parts of the engine, shows you how
they were put together, and explains the contribution of each to the
working of the whole system. If he is a good teacher, he will not
only teach you about the parts but he will also give you the big
picture of the relationships of the parts to the whole. You will come
to understand how each part helps the engine to operate, and this
relational knowledge will enable you to see the engine as a dynamic
system rather than a mere collection of parts.
Human consciousness is also a great and powerful engine that you must learn to direct. It, too, has its many parts, and studying how these parts work together as a dynamic system is one of the most important lessons you can learn. Part One of this book described the operations of consciousness as perceiving, thinking (considering), feeling, and willing (deciding) -- all of which produce behavior. The general movements of consciousness were described as various Ego States responsive to fear and separateness (the small self) or love and unity (the Christ self). But Part One provided only a general sketch of the parts and movements of consciousness. This section and the next will attempt to fll in many of the details, but by no means all. The best that can be done is to provide an "Owner's Manual" of sorts that will enable you to better understand how your consciousness can be directed toward the realization of deeper levels of serenity.
The function of consciousness in the area of spirituality can be compared to the training undergone by long-distance runners. Your preparation to run in a marathon involves far more than simply jogging around each day. You must eat and sleep properly, wear the proper clothing and shoes, condition the muscles through stretch exercises, and so forth. Likewise, following Jesus will involve special training for each of the functions of consciousness. It is the goal of this section to describe the kind of spiritual training that is necessary to bring all of consciousness into the Christ life.
According to many, the skills necessary for living a spiritual life should be simplicity itself."All you need to do is love God and neighbor!" many people say. Others maintain that all that is necessary is to turn your life over to Christ and to let the Holy Spirit show the way. It is hard to argue with these approaches because, basically, they are correct. Also, the point is well-taken that the Scriptures emphasize faith in Jesus -- and not in a particular spirituality -- as the primary means for securing salvation. Indeed, Jesus refers to himself as the way to the Father (see John 14:6).
Yet there is no denying the existence of scriptural teachings concerning spiritual living skills. The early Church may well have regarded the risen Christ as the focus of salvation, but surrendering the functions of consciousness was another matter altogether. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, is as exhaustive a summary of spiritual living skills as will be found anywhere. That you must follow Jesus is obvious; the real question is how are you to do it -- which is the primary concern of this section.
There is an urgent cry among God's people for a spirituality that enables them to grow in the fullness of Christian maturity. Here are some suggestions for a basic approach to spiritual growth one that cannot be taken out of the context of all that follows in this section. It is being introduced at this point so that those who attempt to live this method will better appreciate all that follows.
This basic approach to spiritual growth emphasizes these disciplines: daily prayer; awareness, honesty, benevolence; and daily inventory. Here is a brief examination of these factors.
Daily prayer: Very little progress can be made in your spiritual journey without prayer. In fact, most people eventually discover that all their spiritual living skills are a direct result of their prayer.
What kind of prayer should you make?
You should practice the kind of prayer that has its focus in God, letting God love you while surrendering yourself to his will. This is the language used in Step 11 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it is also the formula in the Lord's Prayer. Prayer which has its focus in God enables you to experience the frst of Jesus' two great commandments: to love the Lord with your whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength. It is prayer that helps you to recognize the difference between your own will-to-self and your will-to-God. Learning to bring your own will into conformity with your will-to-God (or, rather, God's will-to- human) is the primary focus of spiritual growth, and prayer is your greatest ally in doing so.
Awareness, honesty, benevolence: These virtues are absolutely necessary for a basic approach to spirituality. They fulfll the second of Christ's two great commandments, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Living in awareness means that you stay attuned to whatever it is you're doing. In short, you learn to live consciously instead of unconsciously. This awareness is accepted in a spirit of honesty, meaning that you acknowledge (at least to yourself) your perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and desires. Self-awareness of this sort leads to self-knowledge, a virtue that bears good fruit of its own. But awareness and honesty would be intolerable without benevolence, which means a compassionate regard for yourself, other people, and all of creation.
Each of these three virtues -- awareness, honesty, and benevolence -- must necessarily be normed by the other two. Honesty and awareness without benevolence can be cruel and destructive; honesty and benevolence without awareness can be shallow and na#l#Rve; awareness and benevolence without honesty can be cheap and flattering. All three lived out together in a person of prayer will manifest to the world a beautiful example of human nature as it was intended to be.
Daily inventory: This third discipline requires that you take a few minutes at the end of each day to prayerfully reflect on how you have lived your day. You affrm the good you have done, and you honestly note the games you have played and the selfshness you have displayed. This is the time to ask for God's forgiveness and formulate strategies for dealing with areas of weakness. Those familiar with Redemptorist spirituality will recognize this as the examination of conscience held at the end of each day; in Twelve Step spirituality, this is Step 10. And in a similar vein, the focusing techniques of Dr. Eugene Gendlin make for a rich, holistic inventory.
Basic spirituality, then, requires daily prayer, living each day in awareness, honesty, and benevolence, and daily inventory. That these practices will produce spiritual growth there can be no doubt. And anyone who undertakes this basic approach will come to better appreciate the discussion of spiritual living skills that follow in the chapters ahead.
To learn these spiritual living skills, it is suggested that you work with one chapter each week and then repeat the process the following week. During your daily inventory, pay close attention to how you have practiced the skills you are studying that particular week. In doing this weekly and daily study, you will eventually form healthy habits based on the spiritual living skills.
If this recipe for growth sounds like hard work, then know that it is! It takes daily effort to move completely out of negative awareness. Yet is it not so that anything worthwhile in life generally requires struggle? The three essentials of change are: motivation, knowledge of skill areas, and practice. Your emotional pain and hunger for growth should provide ample motivation to change; this book outlines the necessary skills needed for growth; and the third ingredient -- practice -- depends entirely on you.
Practice, practice, practice: this is the secret of lasting growth."No pain, no gain," reads another slogan seen frequently these days. What holds true for growth in other areas of life (athletics, relationships, career, and so forth) applies also for the cultivation of the Christ self. It is through practice and prayer that you create good soil in your hearts that enables the spirit of God to convert you into people of serenity.
The next seven chapters of this book will treat the actual living skills necessary for true growth in spirituality.
1. Reflect on the frst six chapters of this book to make sure you understand the functions of consciousness.
2. Discuss the relationship between the functions of consciousness and your spiritual growth.
3. Why is the commandment to love God and neighbor not enough in itself to reach full Christian maturity?
4. Discuss the three disciplines so necessary for spiritual growth.
What It Is
1. All persons have needs, and all persons seek to meet them. The most common ones are the physical (needs of the body) and psychological (esteem, security, status, and power).
2. Human consciousness is primarily oriented toward the gratifcation of wants/needs. Consciousness consists of your ability to perceive, think, feel, desire, and decide. The Ego is the volitional center of consciousness.
3. The manner in which you meet your needs makes you either more selfsh/separate/fragmented/fearful, or more loving/united/whole/fearless.
4. Spiritual living skills enable you to meet your needs in a loving manner because they focus the functions of consciousness in the will of God.
These skills include the following:
How to Live It
1.Pray in the mornings -- at least 20 minutes. Place emphasis on surrender to God.
2. Live your daily life in honesty, awareness, and benevolence. "Do what you're doing in truth and love."
3. Make a consciousness examen for 15 minutes in evening. Start with prayer. Examine your day. What did you do? How did you feel? What do your feelings teach you about beliefs/motives? Affirm the good, ask pardon for failures. In imagination, re-live troublesome situations. See and feel yourself acting in a loving manner, using the necessary living skills.
Thank God for the day and rest assured of God's love for you.
1. Gathering: Allow about 10 minutes for people to settle in; have refreshments, books, and handouts ready.
2. Prayer: This may simply be a song, followed by quiet; psalms, liturgy of the hours, and other prayer forms also work well; charismatic groups may simply opt for spontaneous prayer (5-10 minutes).
3. Scripture: Read one or two Scripture passages for the coming Sunday; alternative passages may also be used (5 minutes).
4. Study or Sharing Time: This is the main body of the meeting. It is suggested that meetings occasionally feature a teaching (study), but that sharing be the group staple (30-45 minutes).
A. Share group questions:
B. Study times might include the following:
5. Prayer: This provides time to pray for one
another's needs. Join hands, make a circle, voice petitions and
thanksgiving aloud. Conclude with the Lord's Prayer or Glory Be.
6. Business: Here announcements are made about future meetings, dues, newsletters, and so forth.
7. Refreshments and fellowship.
Parishes and other communities seeking workshops and training in Pathways spiritual principles and/or support group formation may request help. See http://shalomplace.com for contact information.