As noted earlier,
the traditional spiritual disciplines can be grouped into the mental and practical disciplines. We looked at the first of
the mental disciplines, which was described as paying attention. This discipline was essentially a matter of letting go of
some of the filters that we impose on our senses and allowing a richer and deeper awareness of ourselves and the world around
us as a result. Other terms that are often used when speaking of paying attention are contemplation and mindfulness.
mental discipline among the spiritual disciplines is often called by different names. It is described as the discipline of
insight. Others describe it as discernment or reflection. What ever name is given to it, the discipline rests upon the practiced
awareness that is the fruit of mindfulness. The disciplines of insight-discernment-reflection offer the opportunity to study
the stream of our experience without assuming a specific conceptual framework that limits our experience. These disciplines
lead to “knowledge” of God that is intuitive and not conceptual, it is an experiential awareness. We see our pettiness
and virtue in the light of the Holy Spirit, without self-created illusions to hide behind.
is a classic image for describing spirituality. It is seen as a sacred journey with a beginning and an end. The end of our
journey is communion with God for all eternity. We set our eyes on the glorious horizon toward which we journey but we are
people with a history; and knowledge of that history is an important means of moving effectively toward our goal.
contain both an old and New Testament. A large part of both Testaments describes the history of the People of God; both the
Hebrew and Christian communities. Part of the wisdom to be gained from reading and studying scripture is the lessons to be
learned from the experience of these people on their faith journey. Not only is there wisdom to be gained but the experiences
recorded in Scripture shaped these people as a community into the Jewish and Christian communities we know today.
describes Venus as arising from the mind of Jupiter fully formed. This image is captured in the painting by Botacelli, Venus on the Half Shell. This archetypal woman came into being in the full bloom of
her physical beauty with no history. In a very real sense she was crippled. While the goddess of beauty and sexual desire,
she was not a person. There was no substance to her because she lacked the life experience, with its joys and sorrows that
shape us into the persons we have become.
is not uncommon for people to have very poor memories of their past. It has been my experience working on a Diocesan marriage
tribunal to encounter people who have almost no memory of their life prior to age 11 or 12. Others may have only the vaguest
memory of large chunks of their adult life, usually in relationship to a poor marriage. These gaps in a person’s memory
often reflect the memory of experiences that were traumatic and repressed by the subconscious as a psychological defense mechanism.
The person whose memories begin with age 11 or 12 came from a home in which there was a violent and alcoholic father. Childhood
was robbed from this person both in the trauma endured and quite literally in the lack of memories of childhood. The women
who couldn’t remember much about marriages that occurred only a few years ago are often victims of emotional and physical
abuse as well.
you wake up one morning to discover that you are on a journey. This journey obviously has been underway for some time, given
the wear and tear of your traveling equipment and the conversation of your traveling companions. However, you have no memory
of why you began the journey, of the distance traveled, or of the challenges overcome to bring you to this point in the journey.
From your traveling companions you can figure out the destination. As you face even the most rudimentary obstacles on the
journey you seem to flounder, to the surprise of your companions who speak of you easily overcoming similar obstacles in the
We find ourselves
in a similar situation as the forgetful pilgrim if we are unable to draw upon the vast resources of experience that are part
of who we are. The lack of significant memories suggests that we have been wounded and that the wound is still in need of
healing. Certainly we rely on God’s grace to bring about the needed healing but there are things that can be done to
facilitate that healing. If the loss of memories is significant, psychological counseling and treatment may be appropriate.
If our memories are there but do not speak to us clearly, the practices of journaling and autobiography may be helpful. We
will consider these practices later in the course.