BYO”E” — Bring Your Own Experience
What makes Way of the Spirit so profound for participants? In part, it’s the approach I’ve tried to describe below. Is this for someone you know?
THE WAY OF THE SPIRIT APPROACH to retreats and spiritual growth is “experiential”. The specifics of one’s experience, character, activities, and sensibilities matter in the life of faith. Program participants bring who they are, as authentically as they are able, into each retreat, into reflection, and into dialogue with program content and each other. They also experience new spiritual practices, people, and ways of talking about their lives with God. This post offers questions or queries to help engage you (Yes, you!) experientially in reflection, right now. There are no right or wrong answers, only opportunities to notice and articulate what is real for you.
- How do you experience the Holy?
Responses to the query above are unique to each of us. Hard to talk about though. The question is not about what you believe or think about God. “How do you experience the Holy?” points toward the whens, wheres, and hows. If you’ve never reflected this way about faith, try it. You could recall places or times that touch something of the sacred for you. You could appreciate your bodily responses to situations, your “cues” that something of the Divine may be moving in you, between you and others, or beyond you. Way of the Spirit builds attentiveness to subtle intuitions and sensibilities. It strengthens invisible spiritual muscles for all situations and tasks.
- What surprises or captures your attention in the paragraph above? How could you feel invited toward something new in your faith life?
Early Quakers warned against a religion of “notions” — or faith overly-concerned with thoughts, analysis, and theological correctness. Instead, Way of the Spirit seeks to integrate the wholeness of experience in the Divine. The ordinary, or practical, and the “spiritual” weave one Reality. Thought, feeling, and embodied sensation, are all open to the possibilities of God’s continuing presence and guidance. Faithfulness extends into the workplace, use of time, money and resources, responses to violence and oppression, and into how our communities care for each other.
- What facets of your life are most and least integrated with your sense of the Holy?
Many of us have learned to ignore, dismiss, or mistrust their inner experiences of God. Way of the Spirit honors the Divine Indwelling, even claims its centrality in living one’s faith. But maybe sorting out what’s “in there” seems impossibly daunting. What is “of God” and what is “just me”? That’s why Way of the Spirit focuses first on spiritual discernment—making choices with God, as well as the processes and practices that support Spirit-centered living. Five retreats over 18 months offer extended time and space apart for intentional focus on life in the Spirit. If you’re wary of stereotypical mystical detachment from urgent societal needs, Way of the Spirit answers with discerning community to support who you are meant to be in the wider world.
- How do you discern about your inner life? What is “of God” , and what is not?
In Way of the Spirit, we also recognize that one’s experience alone is limited, not the whole story. As my teenage son used to say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” So our experiential approach is powerfully communal and mutually encouraging. We have small group sharing several times during each retreat with intentional contemplative guidelines. “Koinonia groups” have been a highlight of the program for most participants. With the prayerful support of others, we are better able to live into the fullness of who we may become, our emerging identity in Christ/God/the Holy. Communal processes offer sweet opportunities to hear of other’s experiences. They may illuminate and open our own. Our community extends into dialogue with the Christian heritage through scripture and historical examples of faith-filled lives. Those readers with a scholarly bent will recognize the promise of solid theological reflection.
- How open are you to listening to diverse faith experiences, and to putting your own experience in dialogue with others and the Christian heritage?
he serious tone above could mislead you. Sometimes it’s a challenge to speak of spiritual things with the joy that bubbles and flows during Way of the Spirit retreats. “Bring your own experience” also means participating in a radiant beloved community. We laugh, sing, affirm, and give thanks for all the ways we see and sense God at work in and through us. We celebrate new freedom and sense of wholeness. Our experiences fuel next steps in the wider world. We look back with gratitude and ahead with new confidence. Will you join us?