I was posed an interesting question about discernment and confirmation this week after a friend watched my FB Live video on the subject. I had, in the short video, talked about looking for confirmation among one’s wisest mentors and in the place one finds the Sacred.
My friend, I’ll call her Lila, wrote and asked about times when one has an outrageous or new thing coming up in life and how others may not understand it at all. How others may disagree and try to dissuade us from our choice, no matter how well-discerned that choice is. No matter how right it really is for use to choose.
Her point is a good one.
So what is the response?
Looking for Peace
The response is that it is good to seek an underlying sense of peace.
It is not a good idea to settle on an idea when one has a frantic sense of what do I do? What do I do?! Is this right?! Is that right?! Is this right?!
It is not a good idea to settle on an idea (in everyday life) merely out of fear.
Nor is it good to respond only to a sense of wanting, of grasping, of attachment to an idea. This sense is really hard to resist, as I wrote in my boundaries post and spoke to in my video. (August 22) When you really want something, it’s hard to look for the really discerned decision.
And that’s where “prayer,” “meditation,” or “contemplation” come into play. Not perseverating on a decision (my habit), or just turning it over and over in your mind, or trying to win the mind game of making a good decision. But allowing yourself to be open to the stillness, the wisdom that is deep within you.
That wisdom may lead you to strange places. It may lead you to places of fear and apprehension: Can I do this? Will people judge me? Will I lose my friends?
And yet there also may also be a sense of excitement. I think of these as a “good” kind of fear.
These are the decisions that are hard-but-good ones. They are related to an underlying peace, an underlying sense of rightness and leading.
My first spiritual director, Paula Drass, CSJ, said that she knew she was in a good place in her prayer when her sense of the will of God and her own wisdom were indistinguishable. Now if one is of a strictly rational bent, one might say that this description is “just” someone getting in touch with her own deep knowledge of herself.
All Rivers Seek the Sea
For me, it is about attunement and alignment. I believe that my own deepest desires and wisdom carry me in a Flow that works for good. Finding those deepest desires is the hard part. And staying in attunement, like staying on pitch with my voice or with an instrument, is an exercise in constant attention. An exercise in constant intention.
That Flow is why my work comes under the umbrella of “The Way of the River.” I believe that the River leads to the Sea, and the Sea is the Great All, the place where all our interconnectedness is joined together into One.
The River is how we get there. How we steer, how we choose which tributaries to follow, at which spring to begin, what we doing when we’re stuck in an eddy or hung up on rocks. But always, always, I—and many of you—are seeking the Sea.
So to come back to discernment…
For me, discernment is about staying in that Flow, and attending to my knowledge of it. How have I learned to make good decisions? What have previous times of discernment taught me? What does the underlying peace feel like?
The more I practice, the more I seek confirmation (from both without and within), the better I become I making good decisions. Decisions that are in keeping with my good and the good of my family. These are decisions that help the people around us, the land where we are, and Earth in whom and with whom we live and move and have our being.
Ultimately, though, as my friend encouraged me to consider, it is our own Deepest, Wisest Selves (or the Divine, the Sacred, God Herself within us…) that we must trust.
The practice is learning to hear that voice.
Practice and Listening
And in terms of hearing that voice, now seems like a good time to mention two linked things. One is access to my Days of Discernment package. It is several short pages about how I “do” discernment, using sacred, secular, and Catharine-created methods.
The other is receiving my “Love Letters.” My Love Letters, a regular missive called Reflections, is something that comes to you when you sign up for the Days of Discernment. Why not check it out? Poke around among the pages of the Days of Discernment. Get a few editions of Reflections and see what you think.
Just go here and click on “Days of Discernment” on the left-hand side of the page, and you’ll get a chance to try it out.
I hope you do, and I hope to hear from you.
Thanks to “Lila,” and thanks to all of you. You have my love and my blessings.