Tending the Longing

By Rev. Elizabeth Rechter, Executive Director


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, 

Rev. Elizabeth I. Rechter Executive Director, Stillpoint

Rev. Elizabeth I. Rechter
Executive Director, Stillpoint

Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. ... Yet despite its toughness, the soul is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. ... If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently at the base of a tree, breathe with the earth, and fade into our surroundings, the wild creature we seek might put in an appearance. We may see it only briefly and only out of the corner of an eye—but the sight is a gift we will always treasure as an end in itself.
— PARKER J. PALMER, from A Hidden Wholeness, p. 58-59