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Center for Action and Contemplation
Life as a Spiritual Journey
Life as a Spiritual Journey

Shifting Priorities

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Sometimes in the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, / We can hear the whisper in the heart / Giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.
—Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

CAC teacher Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Holmes shares how contemplative times of stillness and quiet are an integral part of the spiritual journey:

The journey of life is absolutely a sacred journey, but we don’t know that when we’re younger. We often don’t want to think about life in terms of a sacred journey, because we don’t know for certain where we came from, and we don’t know for certain where we’re going. Depending on our faith traditions, we know this by faith. We have traditions about who we are, how we got here, and where we will end up.

In the everyday maelstrom of life, however, people don’t want to think about any of that. They just want to get through their day. They want to accomplish things. They want to own things—and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when we get to the halfway point in our lives, we begin to realize that all the things that we have accumulated don’t mean a whole lot. We can’t take them with us when we die. As we age, we begin to take into account what really matters in life. Things like family, relationships, love, commitment, and service to others are what matters. When we start focusing on those things, it no longer becomes just a church phrase to say or something to do. Working with others really warms our hearts. Leading with love changes who we are.

The journey is absolutely sacred because we are not just flesh and blood. We are also spirit beings. And what other kind of journey could a spirit being take except for a spiritual journey?… I’m on the other side of fifty now, and all of my priorities have shifted. The ambition and all of the things that I was striving for don’t make a lot of sense at this point. The fulfillment comes in doing what you are led to do. In the Christian tradition, the Holy Spirit is supposed to lead you into all truth. I see the Holy Spirit as a guiding light—we’re walking by the path and there’s a lamp unto our feet that helps us to know what to do, how to do it, and to be still.  

This is where contemplation comes in. It is impossible to shift priorities if we are in a constant, busy, frenetic lifestyle. There has to be that pause, that breath, that waiting, that willingness to be still until we know. Be still and know—but the stillness doesn’t immediately lead to knowing. At first, we have to be still, and then we have to be patient until the knowing comes about.

Adapted from Barbara Holmes and Donald Bryant, “Futurism and Cosmic Rebirth,” The Cosmic We, season 4, ep. 6 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast. Available as MP3 audio and pdf transcript.

Image credit: Jeremy Bishop, Untitled (detail), Australia, 2016, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

The desert and the new sprout of spring green are part of the journey.

Story from Our Community:  

I am a newly qualified spiritual director, and I have recently hit a hard place in my own spiritual journey. I have experienced financial difficulties, and I ultimately lost my home of over 30 years. At this point in my journey, I am overwhelmed with questions. I’m beginning to understand that the questions I keep asking myself aren’t really necessary—and neither are the answers. At this point in life, I’m particularly moved by contemplative wisdom on mystery, paradox, and being grounded in the abyss.… I feel a sense of contentment knowing that the mystery of God dwells within me and is also propelling me forward towards Divine union. —John K.

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