What’s different now is that, after banging my head against the wall for a bit, I occasionally see the blessings of being thwarted. Whatever tiny openings I find release in me a fierce and focused effort and creative solutions that otherwise might not have been possible.
Faith and Imagination
In meditation, I practice releasing my grip on something I love for the sake of something I don’t yet know or trust—silence, rest, peace. I pray this exercises my capacity to welcome new loves, because I really need this ability in the real world where my attachments are so hard to relinquish. Especially when I don’t even know I’m attached.
My dreams are scriptural because they are oddly wiser than me. They know me and change me into a truer me, even when I don’t remember them.
The secret to fiction is that the writer “turns from everything to one face…to find oneself face to face with everything,” as novelist Elizabeth Bowen put it.
Ask what I’m learning in the Living School and I’ll blather incoherently, enthusiastically, and at great length about the Christian mystical tradition, the significance of contemplation, and a complete overhaul of my faith. I was doing just that at Easter dinner a few weeks ago. My father-in-law asked, and all eleven relatives at the table …
It’s as though I’d spent the first forty-five years of my life listening to (and being stirred by) great piano concerts every Sunday morning, and then one day sat down at the keyboard. I’ve no clue how to make music. But I’m learning, and as any musician knows, you learn by practicing.
Jeanne Audrey, unlike me, thrived on conflict. I remember her at the Re-Imagining Conferences in the mid-nineties, the gatherings by which feminism hit the mainline denominations like a train wreck; Jeanne Audrey sniffed out the conservative infiltrators and press reps, brought them coffee, and engaged them in lengthy, honest, and disconcertingly intimate conversations. By the end of the day they were exchanging phone numbers. Jeanne Audrey was fearsome in her ability to transform enemies into friends.
A few years ago, I set off on a journey to the heart of Christian contemplation, both in practice and with studies. I began doing Centering Prayer, a form of meditation rooted in monasticism and the teachings of the mystics, and reading works from the mystical margins of Christian tradition—St. John of the Cross, Meister …
We jam our experiences into a box and come to love that box, but the work of writing—the work of evolving—requires unpacking the box and building a new one, perhaps a bit more fitting, and then discovering a cloth bag works better, and finally realizing that all these containers are marvelous but incapable of holding the true glory which is our story.
Every story has a hidden life—a soul, if you will. How writers tend this soul significantly affects our work and our well-being. This tending is really active listening. It’s both willful, sprung from the self, and responsive, heeding that life-force beyond the story and its readership.