Category Archives: Spiritual Practice

Insight and Exercises that nurture our inner light, deepen our connection with life and God, sharpen our spiritual sensitivities and motivate us to work for the good of all.

Labyrinth Walk tomorrow

If you’ve been hanging around Quest Christian Community you will have probably heard me rave about the Labyrinth as a tool for prayer and meditation. Tomorrow, March 26, St. George’s Anglican Church (on Church Street at the end of Carlisle in St. Catharines) is hosting a labyrinth walk from 9:30am-12pm. It is located in their gym which you can access from the back parking lot off of Raymond. Look for a very small sign on a door that says ‘labyrinth’. Finding it might feel like a maze, but remember the labyrinth is NOT a maze, but a single path that winds it’s way to the center and then back out. Check out www.veriditas.org for more information on what the labyrinth is and guidelines for walking it. Take some time to explore this ancient form of prayer.

What I have learned from my experiences on the labyrinth:

Every walk is different. In some ways I hesitate to share my experiences because of the fact that every person’s experience is so different and because one of the biggest barriers to walking the labyrinth can be expectations of what the experience will hold. So…remembering that this represents my very personal experience and is in no way a formula for walking I will share…..

Basically the walk is characterized by the way in, the center and the way out. Sometimes I take a particular issue/problem/concern with me on the walk and in the walking practice surrender and openness to the movement of the Divine. I usually find that the walk in to the center is a time for noting the thoughts that have been crowding my mind or lying in wait below the surface. I have found the safety of the path – not needing to make decisions about where to walk, comforting and purposeful, the twists and turns representing my experience of life. Usually by the time I reach the center I feel open and ready to sit in the Presence of the Divine and receive whatever is meant for me to receive. Sometimes a new level of stillness greets me, sometimes an insight, sometimes nothing, sometimes a strong sense of Presence and Love. The walk out is often a time of empowerment and clarity. I like to journal immediately afterward to remember the prayers, thoughts, insights that have come to me during the walk.

If you get a chance to try it out, please share your experiences!

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Reflections on love and connection

We lit the love candle tonight at Collective, the fourth in the series of advent. I love the practice of lighting advent candles in our faith community and in our home. It is an intentional way of slowing down the season and invites us into a reflective posture to contemplate and rediscover the longing and fulfillment of the Christmas story and what it means for us today. The stories around the birth begin the illustration of the unusual, countercultural, boundary breaking way of life that Jesus would lead and invite us into. It fits with the tone of the prophets throughout the Old Testament who were always ‘swimming upstream’ culturally. Choosing to follow the way of Jesus in our place and time puts us in line with this tradition of the unusual and countercultural. At least we are invited into that – I think it is just as astounding today as it was then to take the posture of Mary and say, ‘Let it be as you have said’, and let the Spirit have it’s way with us. One aspect that makes the Jesus way so countercultural is that it is concerned with the inner life of a person without regard for the outer circumstances. It seems to me that it is a rare thing in our society to find people who have the time or inclination to really see and care about a person’s heart without their external appearance or situation getting in the way. This is a huge challenge for me.

As we are making connections with family and friends this holiday, slow down enough to listen to a person’s heart, particularly if they are someone who you find it hard to be around. What would happen in our more challenging relationships if we could cut through the external habits and mannerisms that put us off or frustrate us and pay attention to what is happening inside? What if we let the Spirit have it’s way with us?

Love yourself, love others, love God.

Still on the lookout for Joy!

Sunday night I gave you a list of a number of things that I love and watch for at Christmas time that make me think that Love really was born at Christmas and that this is a special time of year (despite the heavy push of commercialism to wreck it). 

As I’ve gone through this week I’ve added a couple.  I’m wondering if you’re seeing things too.  Feel free to add what you’re seeing to my list. 

Makin’ a list:

–          Unusual clusters of shoppers – Father’s and Daughters, Mother’s and sons, brothers and sisters

–          The shoppers who you KNOW have not entered a shopping center since last Christmas and look out of place but are doing it for Love!

–          Salvation Army Kettles

–          Added yesterday…school choirs singing in the mall

Gratitude Practices

We have been focusing on gratitude in these 6 weeks before Thanksgiving. What are your gratitude stories and experiences? Here are some of the prayers we have been using for your own reference and personal use.

From all that distracts us from the beauty of life

Lead us into gratitude

From all that frustrates us with dissatisfaction

Lead us into gratitude

From all that drives us to feel less than enough

Lead us into gratitude

From all that tempts us to take life for granted

Lead us into gratitude


There is a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time for gratitude….

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The Art Of Believing

As a leader of an unconventional faith community this is a question I get asked a lot. What are your core beliefs?

This is an important question but it is often a loaded question from someone who is really trying to categorize and label me to determine whether they need to fix and convert me. I am often apprehensive to answer this question until I can decipher the real motive for inquiring. Another reason I am hesitant to answer this question is because my core beliefs are not static things like rocks – they are fluid, dynamic and evolving – like relationships. My core beliefs are not the same today as they were five years ago and I assume they will be different again five years from now. I certainly hope so. If our beliefs do not change at all over time that means we are either not learning, growing or experiencing anything new. Or more likely we have created a Great Psychological Divide, separating our life reality from the inner sanctum of things we hold onto as our bedrock beliefs. I see this type of spiritual split personality all the time.

I understand the oft expressed concern over constantly shifting beliefs and convictions. I agree it is not healthy to be tossed to and fro with every cultural shift and philosophical trend that blows our way. However, I believe it is just as dangerous to ignore anything (say contemporary scientific thought for example) that does not affirm or fit one’s core beliefs.

The art (and science) of believing is hard work if it is to be done meaningfully. It is not blindly holding onto things we were taught to be true when we were 8 years old. It is actively engaging with life, knowledge, experience, and other people’s perspectives, repeatedly returning to the task of rewriting the best description of reality we can muster while simultaneously acknowledging how limited our view of the big picture really is. This is not for the lazy or faint of heart. Nor should it be attempted alone in my opinion. Sifting through the wheat and chaff of assumed “truths” is best accomplished in conversation with community. In my experience, sorting through the mysteries of life with other people you trust and feel safe with is the healthiest and most rewarding way to examine and test one’s beliefs.

One skilled in the art of believing does not just focus on what she believes. Knowing what we believe is important but understanding why, when and how we believe is even more important because these shape what we believe. For example, being aware of when I first believed something (during my formative years for instance) and exploring how this impacts why I still believe it is absolutely essential to constructing an authentic, free and mindful belief system as opposed to adopting a set of beliefs I was “brainwashed” into. This does not necessarily mean I reject something simply because it was handed to me at a vulnerable age – it just means being aware of this fact and taking it into consideration as I discern why I believe what I believe.

I have done a lot of reading, writing and teaching on awareness and its central role in a healthy and mature spirituality. One of the keys to awareness is understanding none of us see reality as it is – we see reality as we are. Everyone has a lens through which they see the world and that lens colours and distorts reality. As Soren Kierkegaard said “The jaundiced see everything yellow.” None of us are completely objective with anything (a referee’s call in a sports game , Biblical interpretation, political issues, etc.). We see what we want to see or have been conditioned to see. (A common example: most Christians assume the Bible records three wise men visiting baby Jesus when the Bible never mentions how many wise men there were. Being exposed to countless nativity plays, movies, and songs that portray three wise men has conditioned us to believe there were three.) Recognizing our conditioning and the fact that it is a constant factor in the process of our truth discernment brings humility and a greater desire to seek out truth as opposed to convincing ourselves and everybody else that we have already found it.

There is an ancient proverb that says “trust the man who is looking for the truth not the man who has found it.” If we are genuine seekers of truth we will not be afraid to question things we have held sacred for most of our lives. In fact I believe we will begin to see that our questioning is just as sacred as our believing. This is key to the art of believing. As the great theologian Paul Tillich said “It is in our doubt we find faith, for faith without doubt is static.”

I believe sitting down every year and wrestling to articulate and put into words what one believes is a very good exercise. I do not affirm laziness and carelessness when it comes to faith. Just because it is a difficult and never ending task does not mean there is little or no value in doing it. One could say the same thing about doing household chores! We need to constantly clean house when it comes to our belief systems – they get dusty and cluttered. Some of us are pack rats when it comes to beliefs and we need to learn how to throw things out!

My suggestions for doing this periodical revisiting of one’s core beliefs would be: 1) it happens no more than once a year and no less than once every three years,  2) we consult others (community) during and/or after we are finished this exercise, and 3) we not only ask ourselves what we believe but why, when and how we believe.

Here are a few questions to wrestle with in writing (re-writing) one’s core beliefs:

  • Why do I believe this?
  • Has my experience of reality this year affirmed this belief or brought it into question?
  • When did I first believe this to be true?
  • Have any of my beliefs evolved since I last did this exercise?
  • Have I read any books or dialogued with anyone that has a different perspective on this over the past year?
  • Are things like sentimentality, fear, loyalty, or laziness preventing me from thinking critically about some of these beliefs?
  • Am I aware of how I might have been conditioned to believe these things?

Posted by Troy Watson

Levels Of Spiritual Development

Levels of Spiritual Development

Taken From Richard Rohr’s “Naked Now” Appendix One

One of the more important breakthroughs in understanding why some people seem to get it – whatever “it” is – while many do not get it or even oppose or distort it – is due to the fact that every person is limited to the level of spiritual development they find themselves in. Thomas Acquinas puts it this way “whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.”

Whatever you teach or receive will be heard on at least eight to ten levels, according to the inner, psychological, and spiritual maturity of the listener.

In my experience we move from level 1 to level 9. (Note: this is only a teaching tool; real life is much more subtle.)

1. My body and self image are who I am.

Leads to dominance of security, safety and defense needs.

2. My external behaviour is who I am.

Needs to look good and to hide or disguise the contrary evidence from others. I become so practiced at this game that the evidence is hidden from myself too. This submergence of shadow is very common among conservatives.

3. My thoughts/feelings are who I am.

Development of intellect and will to have better thoughts and feelings and also control them so others do not know, and so, finally, that I do not see their self-serving and shadowy character myself. This education as a substitute for transformation is very common among liberals and the educated.

**Normally a major defeat, shock or humiliation must be suffered and passed through to go beyond this stage.

4. My deeper intuitions and felt knowledge in my body are who I am.

This is such a breakthrough and so informative and helpful that many become stymied at this level. Leads to individualism, self-absorption and inner work as a substitute for any real encounter with other-ness.

5. My shadow self is who I am.

The dark night. My weakness comes to overwhelm me, as I face myself in my raw, unvarnished, uncivilized state.  Without guidance, grace, and prayer, most go running back to previous identities. Time is of the essence here.

6. I am empty and powerless.

Gods Waiting Room. Almost any attempt to save the self by any superior behaviour, technique, morality, positive role, or religious devotion will lead to regression. All you can do is wait and ask and trust. Here is where you learn faith and discover that darkness is the much better teacher. God is about to become real.

7. I am much more than who I thought I was.

Death of the false self, birth of the True Self. But because you are not at home yet here, it will first of all feel like a void, even if a wonderful void. “Luminous darkness” as John of the Cross would call it.

8. I and the Father are One.

Henceforth there is only God, or as Teresa says, “One knows God in oneself and knows oneself in God.” All else is seen as a passing ego possession, and I do not need to protect it, promote it, or prove it – to anyone.

9. I am who I am.

Just me. Warts and all, it is enough to be human, no window dressing necessary. This is the most radical critique of religion possible, because now you know religion is just a finger pointing to the moon but not the moon itself. There is no need to appear to be anything but who I really am. Fully detached from self-image and living in God’s image of you – which includes and loves the good and the bad. The serenity and freedom of the saints. Total non-duality.