Living from the Spiritual Heart
“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God.
This summer I read some back issues of the spiritual magazine Weavings from Upper Room Publications. In a 1992 issue entitled “Contemplative Life the jewel was “Living the Day from the Heart” by Tilden Edwards, founder and former executive director of the Shalem Institute. Edwards describes his own sense of daily contemplative living and understanding which I have found to be immensely helpful in my own recent spiritual journey. He calls it calls living from the “spiritual heart.” The spiritual heart is conscious of our intimate connection with God, accepts the present moment, rejoices in what is real and knows that all is within the touch of God’s grace and love. The spiritual heart moves beyond the ego and its demands, freed for the “calling of the moment.”
The most fundamental step “towards opening our spiritual heart is to open our longing for God: our yearning for God’s fullness in us and the world, through and beyond every desire we may have.” I’d like to share the meaningful and practical ways he gives to help us place God first in our hearts and in our lives. I’ll include related verses from the Rule to show how Edwards’ ideas can help us to live the Rule that we cherish.
Awakening to God
Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Romans 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls our this charge: If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 95:8 and Prologue 8-10)
When we awaken in the morning thoughts and feelings can overtake us and send us down an anxious path. Edwards says that our first spiritual task of the day is to recall our desire for God “right through that stream of consciousness” and “consecrate ourselves then to God’s immediately present, pervasive love through all that registers in our minds.”
Beginning this practice over the summer, when I first awake I intentionally notice my thoughts and feelings and immediately open my heart to let God into the messy mix. I’m not sure exactly what I do – perhaps it’s a combination of thought, heart and a physical opening of the chest. Instead of being carried away by worries of the day—what I must do, will I have time, I dread this or that, I’m tired, I want to stay in bed or I’m ready to go, etc., etc., whatever it is—I let God into the mix. God is then able to take the power out of the negative thoughts and feelings and give peace and hope. Awakening to God saves us “from beginning the day on some seemingly autonomous track of worry and driven activity.” We begin instead with our trust that God is with us.
Remembering Our Desire for God Throughout the Day
“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere.” RB 19.1a
Edwards notes that so much inside us and in our culture separates us from our spiritual heart. To counteract this we say a prayer to remind us of God throughout the day and once again turn into God’s presence. Here is his prayer but we can use whatever is meaningful to us.
“Holy One, you know how easily I forget your radiant presence; remind me of it again and again through this day, through all my mental processing and activities; I want to be yielded to your loving truth through all things.”
I think this prayer could even be a wordless turning of the heart to God.
Cultivate Open Hopefulness
“Place your hope in God alone.” RB 4.41.
The loving truth mentioned in his prayer can come in many different and unexpected ways so our goal is to be open and available. Edwards says that a “wide-eyed, open hope frees us to be more in touch with what is of God during the day, rather than being in touch only with what we have predetermined by our too controlling and narrow expectations.”
Practice Any of the Classical Spiritual Disciplines
“Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.” RB 4.55-56
“Monastics should diligently cultivate silence at all times, but especially at night.” RB 42.1
“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.” RB 43.3
Any of the classical spiritual disciplines for attentiveness will help us remember our intention for God. Lectio divina(Holy Reading – prayer using Scripture), imaged prayer, worded prayer, icons and other art forms, carrying words of scripture through the day, the Jesus Prayer, a stone, etc., are ways he cites to again help us remember our intention to be present to and available for God.
Find Resting Places Throughout the Day
“What, dear sisters and brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.” Prologue 19-20
Edwards suggests that a “contemplative presence would give special weight to appreciative spaces during the day, times during which we commit ourselves to just being and appreciating what is given, being in communion with God and creation just as an end-in-itself love affair.” I find can be a turning once again to the ever-present God within, often for a course correction. At times like these that we “realize how far we have tried to go in taking over the day with our plans and how little we have leaned back into the source of all true activity.” And so we make what he calls “resting places,” pauses in the day where we allow God back into our sphere of the day. These “restings” can be internal and external. They can be alone or with others. I have found such resting places as I move from one activity to another—to just pause, take a breath and turn to God. He says we can even appreciate “the open spaces between our thoughts as being full of God.”
I believe that Benedict would appreciate what Dr. Edwards says in this article. Perhaps using some of his ideas we can live even more deeply preferring nothing whatever to Christ. (RB 72.11) Thanks for reading the article. I hope it helps you in your journey.
© 2011 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine