Tending the Longing
Well known retreat leader and author Cynthia Bourgeault opens her retreats by telling those gathered that her role is as one "tending the longing." It is a beautiful and accurate description for the work of the spiritual life.
Longing lives in each of us, deeper than thoughts and often shy. Longings are full of wisdom, tapping on us from the inside and wanting to be heard. Some would say our longings are the Holy speaking within us. St. Paul, in his letter to the spiritual community in Rome, named it the Spirit interceding with sighs too deep for words.
In a world of many words, coming at us in the form of interpretation and analysis offered every moment of the day on every topic, it is challenging to find the way to our own listening and our own deep knowing. It is easy to ignore or push away our longings. And unattended longings can lead to anxiety or worse. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "A violent life is an unheard life.”
Bourgeault is right; longing needs tending and benefits from companionship. In fact, it is essential—whether in small group listening, guided retreat, with a spiritual friend, or in a more formal relationship with a spiritual director.
On Saturday, September 16, in different locations across Southern California, Stillpoint begins the Spiritual Journey program we offer each year. It is a space for tending the longing. Once a month for eight months participants explore their spiritual lives in a small group setting, helping them recognize the ways God is present and working in their lives. It is a place to practice contemplative ways of paying attention to your life, cultivate awareness of your growing relationship with the Holy, sample varied forms of prayer and reflection, and experiment with new ways to converse about spiritual experiences in the company of other seekers.
Listening at our own depths and becoming a listening presence in the world may be the greatest gift we can be during these times.
Blessings for the Journey,