Q & A: Naked Spirituality Exercises?
I probably should have written - "Exercises for Naked Spirituality?"
Here's the Q:
Thank you for all your contribution to my life and the lives of many God seeking people. I would like to make one comment and ask one question.
I was very impressed and grateful for your talks at Greenbelt, UK last year, and especially impressed during the Q&A after your talk on "Christian Identity in a Multi-faith Context". Unfortunately the recording of the session from Greenbelt has the question but not the response and answer which most inspired me. You talked very powerfully about our need to be 'open handed' Christians in our conversations with people of other faiths not 'closed fisted' protagonists. The questioner mentioned the John 14 passage "I am the way, the truth, the life; no one comes to the father except through me" and suggested that, contrary to what you had been saying, Jesus was here very aggressively and dualistically making clear distinctions between "us" and "them". You very graciously, open handedly (literally) said that you would love to talk more, but that you disagreed profoundly with his understanding of this passage, and went on to very briefly explain why.
When you paused for a moment, many people in the auditorium began to applaud your reply. This horrified me, as they seemed to be doing precisely what you had just said that we shouldn't do. Here is my point, to your credit you held up your hand to them, indicating that they should stop immediately, and this simple, yet profound action was evidently not lost on the audience. I am sure many others like me were immensely grateful that your had so naturally practiced what you were preaching. I hope that those who applauded were suitably ashamed at having so profoundly missed your point altogether. Thank you so much for your very real and practical integrity.
Now to my question. I have been very greatly helped and challenged by "Naked Spirituality" and am using aspects of it in conversations I have with other people. I have tried to search the resources provided for the book, which again appear very helpful, but not quite what I'm looking for. I am a trained spiritual director and in my supervision group come across many Ignation trained directors. Ignatius evidently spent a lot of time observing people and their relationship with God and developed his exercises to help people in their discernment of God's will, purpose and direction for them. I am not Ignation trained, probably more celtic/soul friend/anamcara based, certainly emerging but also recognising the incredible depth of spirituality available to us from generations past (loved "Generous Orthodoxy" and NKoC). So my question is: do you have any material or thoughts about developing a scheme of exercises similar to Ignatius that could be used in a spiritual direction context to help people grow in their faith journey? I ask this because whilst I recognise the significance of group (community) work, 1-on-1 spiritual director/directee relationships can also be deeply significant for growth.
Hope there is something you have to offer along these lines and looking forward to hearing from you.
Here's the R:
Thanks so much for your note. First, I've been on the receiving end of those awkward applauses, where people side with one party and shame/reject the other, and I don't want to put others in that situation. It's not easy to express gracious disagreement - without creating an in-group and out-group ... it's far easier to create either fake/superficial agreement or ungracious disagreement. I still struggle to do this well, so I'm glad there was a day at Greenbelt last year where it went well, because I'm sure there have been many when it didn't. Your encouragement is appreciated. BTW - that session I shared last year is central to my upcoming book - Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?
It's such an important subject - I'm not sure if our former presidential candidate's recent comments made the news over there, but there is a terribly ugly and uninformed religious hostility spreading like a smoldering fire through the Christian community here.
On Naked Spirituality, I'm so glad it's proving helpful. I've been approached by several people who are developing supplementary resources.
- A gifted yoga and tai chi instructor, for example, has developed a beautiful set of body movements to work with the twelve simple words..
- Some fascinating work is being done with youth based on the book. A brilliant youth worker developed an instrument to help kids locate themselves in the four stages and then uses that framework for spiritual direction. (This is easily transferable to adults.)
- Someone has been using a set of twelve prayer beads to work through the twelve words
I hope to be making links to these resources available soon. If you develop anything, let me know! I'm grateful for collaboration like this ...