Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Discovering the Roots of Your Own Spirituality: Going Deeper, Session 1

Discovering the Roots of Your Own Spirituality

Going Deeper into Session 1

Special Note:  Feel free to share comments in the box indicated directly on the blog below.  If you have trouble posting, simply send the comments to and I will be sure they are shared with the group.

During the first session, we lit a chalice and read a poem by an anonymous author about “knowing”.  Here it is:

I who know, and do not know that I know:
Let me be whole
Let me be awake.

I who have known, but do not know:
Let me once more see
The beginning of it all.

I who do not wish to know,
But still say that I wish to know:
Let me be guided
To safety and light.

I who do not know,
And know that I do not know:
Let me, through this knowledge, know.

I who do not know, but think that I know:
Set me free
From the confusion
Of that ignorance.

(Anonymous Islamic Prayer)

I often use this above work as a capstone to all my non-fiction writing, to remind myself and others that there are many faces to the act of knowing and that they all contain both shadow and light.

What to know more about the Unitarian Universalist chalice and why we light it?  Go to:

Q:  Are there things you “know” that might hinder you on your spiritual path?  Can you begin to name them?

After introductions, we began to wrestle with what the words “spirituality” and “religion” and “theology” brought up for us.  For instance, the word religion made us think of things like institutions, creeds, dogmas, scriptures and paid religious professional.  Spirituality called to mind the individual, a felt rather than thought sense of being, as well as experiential and physical modes of being.  Theology was about philosophy and “thinking” or explaining the divine.

Words became important here: how do we talk about something for eight weeks in such a way that honors the idea that no words will be able to wholly help us “know” what another is feeling as they face this tender, experiential and relatively individualistic part of themselves?  We'll be playing with the idea of  "translation" from one jargon set to another, and finding ways that effectively communicate our own experiences to others.

Q:  What words do you use to define ultimate reality, the divine, God, etc?  Does your choice of words change when you interact with certain people in your community?  Why or why not?

We also briefly worked with the idea that spiritual experiences must precede belief, dogma and creed.  In other words, a belief without an experience to hang it on will feel false, shallow, abstract.

Q:  Do you buy this idea?  Or are there instances where a belief “crafted” the bowl for the experience to take place in? In other words, is it possible that a belief pre-disposed us to "find" thus making us feel justified and more secure in that belief?  Think about this a little bit. What are the ramifications to either way of approaching your spiritual life?  Does this have to be an "either/or" scenario???

After a short break, we formed a circle and did a moving exercise to help us see the diversity of “beliefs” we were coming together with.  From the edge of the circle, you were to take three steps in toward the center if you strongly believed a statement, one step in if you sort of believed it or you stayed put if it didn’t resonate with you at all.   Here are the set of questions that were asked: 

a.      I think of the divine as process and paradox
b.      I don’t believe the divine is a useful concept
c.       The divine has many faces, each appropriate to a time and culture
d.      I am part and parcel of the divine (Emerson)
e.      We work too hard at our spiritual life nowadays
f.        We need discipline in order to be spiritual practitioners
g.      Belief should come before experience, in order to have a bowl for that experience
h.      Experience must precede belief, otherwise belief is a rote thing
i.        Institutional religion is helpful on the spiritual quest
j.        Institutional religion is behind a great deal of what is wrong with the world
k.       I am spiritual, not religious
l.        I think there is a place for religious traditions but we need to use discernment and logic to glean what is useful.

When we re-gathered, we talked about how it felt to “take a stand” on a belief statement and how being “with the crowd” felt safe and good, being alone a little more edgy.

Q:  For visual learners, as you read the list above would your reaction to any of the statements have changed between today and Sunday?  Do you have questions you’d love to see answered in a “group” like this?

We finished the session with a poem exercise.  The facilitator dealt out four tarot cards to each person and then, the participants were asked to number their sheet down one side:

1. picture description
2. linking line
3. picture description
4. linking line
5. picture description
6. linking line
7. picture description
8. Capstone statement

For each odd number, the person was to choose a card and write a brief description of what they saw.  Then laying the cards aside, they created “linking” sentences for each of the even numbers and a cap for line eight.  The poems were supposed to show the movement of the unconscious within them, and the fact that humans tend to make meaning when presented with disparate bits of information.  That meaning is often a wonderful snapshot of “where” the person is emotionally and subconsciously. 

Q: Try this exercise again at home with four random pictures off the internet.  Then write a small journal entry about what came up for you and what you are observing in yourself.

This week, we’re exploring passages from Cynthia Bourgeault’s Wisdom Way of Knowing, Shunryu Suzuki’s Not Always So, and Adyshanti’s The Way of Liberation.

The readings are interesting texts if you want to begin to understand the changes we are beginning to see in this culture, changes that make many of us claim we are “spiritual” and not “religious” or place the word “none” when asked what religion we belong to.  They will also begin to give us a sense of the tremendous scope of spiritual practices, many from within the world’s religious traditions, institutions that can both nurture and shadow the work of spiritual unfolding. Our job is to tease out what works within our lives, and to shine a light of deep listening into the many voices of our world.

The best way to work with each week's text is to practice personal discernment.  Questions might look like this:

Q:  What parts of this text do I resonate with?  Why?  What parts make me uncomfortable?  Why is this discomfort arising?

Q:  What practices or ways of being in the world would I like to try?  How might I integrate them into my day?

Q:  What assumptions did I make before I read this sample?   Were the assumptions “right on” or do I have to alter my spiritual paradigm?

Q:  What questions would I ask this author if I had a chance to do so?  Where or how might I find those answers for myself?

I look forward to seeing you all next time, Sunday, February 16th from 12:30-2 PM in the lower level of the Poulsbo Library. 

Blessings and Namaste,
Kimberly Beyer-Nelson


  1. Here is the place where you can comment! Have fun!

  2. "Very interesting! I like exercises that help us think 'outside' the box or..........way down deep inside the box. :)) I'll check in now and then. Good luck on this. It's a great project." Email from Barbara S.

  3. Delightful group of people doing this work, too, and incredibly diverse in their views and upbringing and movements forward into Spirit. I'm really blessed to be on the journey with them...