This essay by SGTI co-founder Jan Lundy is currently being featured on
the Spiritual Directors International blog.
Our spiritual health is intrinsically tied to the well-being of others.
It’s true, isn’t it? We feel the best (body, mind, heart and soul) when we know that those we love are doing well. When our dear ones are having difficulties, naturally their plight weighs upon us. If we are spiritually healthy and well adjusted, we’ll hope that they will be free of struggle. We hold this hope because we are self-aware, mindful, and in touch with just how difficult it is to be a human being.
Bringing others into our experience of prayer or meditation is a powerful practice. When we first embark on the spiritual path... (Read more)
by Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
Is there an experience that you have had that you haven’t explored as a spiritual guide for yourself? What are some of the questions you could ask yourself as you explore the depths of your inner world? How might they help you create meaning?
I recently spent some time in South Africa, and as is the case with nearly anything I do, I witnessed the land and her people with the lens of an interreligious and interspiritual companion. As a spiritual guide, I am writing this reflection to re-live some beautiful moments in South Africa. As I journeyed across the land, I was not always aware of the interior land that was unexplored without reflective-reflexive expression. In other words, I want to be a spiritual companion for myself.
At the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg (originally named Egoli or Gauteng, meaning the place of gold, by the first Africans), I read a quote in one of the exhibits from Nelson Mandela. He said, "The cell is an ideal place to know yourself. People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones, such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity, and an absence of variety. You learn to look into yourself.” Though I cannot fully comprehend Mandela’s 27 years in prison, it is with his pursuit of goodness that I write this piece.
My reflective expression (I chose one experience for the purposes of this blog): What did I feel as I biked through sewage, surrounded by tin "houses" in Soweto? What did I notice in my body as I learned that there are vacant apartments (for the past 8 years!) since Jacob Zuma changed Mandela's vision of offering free housing? What was my response to the children's memorial site that explained how, in 1976, 11-18 year old students stood up to their oppressors? Who am I in relation to the mothers and sons, the sisters and grandfathers? And, to quote spiritual director, Kaye Twining, who do I now know myself to be after such an experience?
Throughout the bike tour in Soweto, I felt deep grief, sadness, fear, surprise, amazement, respect. My sadness and grief were felt in my stomach; I felt surprise and amazement in my heart. I got choked up at the memorial site with the famous picture of Hector Petersen after he was shot. And yet, what were the other names of those peaceful protestors who also were shot or injured? At times, I had a difficult time feeling connected to the people of Soweto. I tried to notice when I wavered between pity and compassion, when I felt sorry for them or practiced loving kindness. As I ponder the experience and look back on photographs, I can embrace our common humanity while honoring their historical and cultural context. This is not easy! But, it is my way forward if I am going to have a reflexive expression fueled by compassionate action.
Here at SGTI, we've just completed the second Residential Institute for our 18 mos. certificate program for interfaith/interspiritual guidance. Key to our learning about how to hold presence for and engage in sacred listening with people of any and all religious, spiritual and secular philosophies is interfaith immersion.
We maintain that it is not enough to engage in "book learning" about traditions other than our own to keep our hearts open and our listening skills fluid. It is not enough to have speakers come to talk about various traditions either. In order to build and maintain interfaith and interspiritual understanding, we need hands-on experience--immersion.
While in Chicago this week, we had two interfaith immersion experiences: at the Bahai House of Worship of North America in Wilmette, IL, and IMAN—the InnerCity Muslim Action Network located on the south side of the city. At each site, we had the unique opportunity to participate in religious services and to speak one on one with members of each tradition. At IMAN we also shared a meal which is always one of our hopes with any immersion experience.
Our students were especially touched by their experience at IMAN. They rated it as perhaps their favorite experience so far. This is likely because our students are deeply caring individuals whose hearts are social justice oriented. We learned about IMAN's community outreach efforts: a low cost/free family health clinic, the Beloved Community Ceramics Studio, behavioral health counseling services and "Green Re-Entry." "Through Green ReEntry, IMAN provides transitional housing, life skills education, and sustainable construction training for formerly incarcerated citizens in Chicago."
When we connect this way--heart to heart—interfaith merges with interspiritual and we learn just how similar we all are, especially within the context of spiritual values. Our practices and rituals may sometimes feel different, yet, we are able to connect on a deeper level by cultivating appreciative knowledge, one of the other core principles of our unique SGTI curriculum.
At IMAN, there was the call to prayer in Arabic, a "sermon/message" on gratefulness, and a felt sense of sitting on holy ground with one another, Muslim and non-Muslim, to experience the Sacred. The women students of SGTI were warmly greeted and spent time after the Friday prayer service with the physician's assistant of their health clinic. Her joy of service was evident and contagious. And inspiring!
Why interfaith immersion? Because by engaging in this way, we become deeply aware of how much alike we are. We all want to be happy, to feel safe and free, to do meaningful work, and to worship in our own way. And because, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding and goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age."
If you are wanting to cultivate presence and compassion in your life, here are 6 apps (out of the 1300+ that are out there these days) that promote mindfulness. According to wildmind.org, mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience. Amy Saltzman writes that mindfulness is paying attention here and now, with kindness and curiosity, so that we can choose our behavior. Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and without judgment. Mindfulness cultivates calm, peace, and relaxation, all of which help us to lead happy lives.
1) Stop, Breathe, Think - https://www.stopbreathethink.com/ - offers 5 minute meditations that support mindful breathing and broadening the mind. They give 10% of their profits to Tools for Peace, a non-profit that helps at-risk youth.
2) Insight Timer - https://insighttimer.com/ - offers more than 8000 free guided meditations and provides meditations in 25 languages.
3) Simple Habit - https://www.simplehabit.com/ - an app for busy people that offers over 1000 meditations that last 5 minutes.
4) Calm App - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/calm/id571800810?mt=8 - provides guided meditations between 3 – 25 minutes in length. In addition, it features
* Daily Calm: a new 10-minute program added daily to help ease you into the day or unwind with before bed
* 60+ Sleep Stories: adult bedtime stories guaranteed to lull you to sleep
* 7 day and 21 programs for both beginner and advanced users
* Breathing exercises to relax
* Exclusive music engineered to help you focus, relax or sleep
* Unguided timed meditation
* Open-ended meditation
* 30+ soothing nature sounds and scenes to use during meditation, yoga or to help you sleep
5) Take a Break! - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/take-a-break-meditations-for-stress-relief/id453857236?mt=8 - provides you with step-by-step voice instructions. You can choose a work break relaxation (7 mins.) or a stress relief meditation (13 mins.) and listen with or without music or nature sounds.
6) Mindfulness Daily - http://www.mindfulnessdailyapp.com/ - is an app for busy people that helps you nourish a practice lasting a few minutes.
Whether you use an app or not, we hope that you find mindfulness practices that bring you relaxation, rest, and peace at any time of day, in any context.
Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
In our module on Islam, one of our students, Peter Marnocha, shared a reflective expression that integrated his own tradition and offering companionship to people of different religious/spiritual/ethical traditions. You will see how he incorporates the major practices of Islam with questions that a spiritual guide might ask a seeker.
If you are a seeker, you may be asked these questions by your spiritual guide. If you are a spiritual companion, these are great questions that really get to the heart of the matter.
Questions for seekers in the spirit of the Five Pillars of Islam:
Testament of Faith: The proclamation that there is no god but God. How do you affirm this in your own belief system? How do you describe the entity or energy that is much greater than the human species.
Prayer: Prayer is formal worship. In what ways do you pray? How are you 'constant in prayer' and what does this mean to you?
Charity: In what ways do you give of yourself and resources in a humble and sincere way? How do you accomplish this selfless service without looking for praise or reward?
Fasting: What are the practices that you take time for to observe moments or days that are sacred to you? How do you practice compassion and generosity? Assuming that you are willing to practice non-attachment, how is this expressed in your life? To what extent are you willing to endure the process of self-transformation?
Pilgrimage: Pilgrimage is a journey of shared experiences and unity. How might you travel alone or with others to experience the oneness of all things and Nature?"
We live in challenging times, divisive times. How do we keep faith and hope alive? How do we continue to believe in the power of good? In the love and reconciliation of which each person is capable?
SGTI co-founder, Jan Lundy, believes it is "important it is that we help one another reorient toward the good, the higher emotion, the life-affirming virtues that we carry within us, especially during challenging times."
Read her essay originally published by Spiritual Directors International here:
In our training of spiritual guides at SGTI, one of the core principles that we hope to invite from our students is mutual appreciation. As we explore the world's religious traditions, spiritual expressions and cultural contexts, it is important that our mind sets reflect openness; our hearts be warm and hospitable. Mutual appreciation sprouts from this fertile soil and is essential for good spiritual guidance to take place.
In one of the recent "Universal Wisdoms" we send out to our list of subscribers, we spoke of mutual appreciation. Here is the text that was sent:
"In their book, The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew—Three Women Search for Understanding, co-author Priscilla Warner, a Jew, speaks about an encounter with her rabbi, Jeffrey.
We then offered Reflection Questions for our subscribers to ponder:
1. Does the distinction between 'tolerance' and 'mutual appreciation' resonate with you?
2. Take a few moments to reflect on a time when you were tolerant of another. How did this feel? Now reflect upon an incident in which mutual appreciation was experienced. How did this feel?
Perhaps, you would like to take a few moments to reflect on these, too. And, of course, you can always subscribe to "Universal Wisdom" yourself and receive these thought-provoking messages in your Inbox each week. We hope they will guide you on your interfaith journey.
You can find information on this free subscription service here.
In August of 2017, SGTI's first cohort met in Chicago, Illinois, to experience its first Residential Institute. We've just posted slide shows from this stellar, interspiritual experience. They present a more in-depth look at our training, Interfaith Immersion experiences, along with Cultural Appreciation, and contemplative practice opportunities. Enjoy!
SGTI Co-director, Jan Lundy, has had a new essay published at the Spiritual Directors International blog. "One Golden Rule to Guide Them All."
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance across traditions.
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