Beginning Again

Has there been a time when you did something important for a while? Then, because of other things you needed to do, you stopped doing it? Sometime later, you began to do it once again, and realized how important it actually was to you?

E-merging. In January 2010, I began this blog. I wrote about topics of spirituality, daily life, and social justice that emerged from my own spiritual practice and reflection. Through E-merging, it was my hope that others would be inspired to reflect on these topics and gain new insights for their own growth and the development.

After a six-month hiatus, I am now writing once again. Over the last six months, I came to understand that regular writing is important for my own spiritual practice. I realized that it’s for the good of my soul to write regularly.

Writing is important for me in that it helps me to put into words, the thoughts, feelings, and experiences which stir within me. Writing provides insight and understanding into things that are often clouded in the experience of meditation and prayer. Writing brings ruminations from my inner self and draws them out so that they become more comprehensible for me.

As I start the process of blogging once again as a spiritual practice, a passage from one of my favorite writers in the Christian tradition, Teresa of Avila, comes to mind. In The Book of Her Life, the sixteenth century mystic wrote:

“This path to self-knowledge must never be abandoned, nor is there on this journey a soul so much a giant that it has no need to return often to the stage of an infant and a suckling…There is no stage of prayer so sublime that it isn’t necessary to return often to the beginning.”

Teresa points out a very important lesson: no matter what kind of mystical experience a person may have had, or the respect a person has earned as a teacher, or despite any other measure of spiritual growth, all of us need to return again to our beginnings. We each must return to the simple practices which constitute prayer and meditation, for these are the fundamental tools necessary for developing the spiritual aspect of our lives.

As I begin writing again, I hope that these simple reflections on the spiritual dimension of life will bring clarity for my own journey, and offer inspiration to you on your journey.

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Consider: is there something that was helpful that you used to do that nurtured the spiritual dimension of your life? Is it time to begin that practice again?

© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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Time for a Change

2007. Nine years ago. It doesn’t seem like that long ago.

I was spending several days at a retreat center in Tucson, Arizona where I was a presenter at a spiritual direction training program. Having some time before my next presentation, I placed a call to my mother who lived near Johnstown, PA. She was distressed. Overnight, she had suffered something like a small stroke which left her without vision in one eye. It was the only eye in which she had vision. I contacted my brother who got her to her ophthalmologist. But it was too late. She was blind.

In 2007, I became a full-time care giver for my mother. We moved to St. Louis, where my partner would study in a graduate program. My life changed radically. I would remain at home, not leaving for more than two or three hours at a time, maintaining vigilant care for my mother. In St. Louis, I had no social or professional network and little time to build one.

It was in this context that I began to consider networking by way of social media. I joined Facebook and began a blog. These were things I could do from home. It took a few months, but I slowly gained an understanding of how social media and virtual networking were different from developing a professional network in a more traditional sense. By the end of 2009, I made the decision to take the next step and launch a web site and blog and to use both Twitter and Facebook for networking.

In January 2010, my weekly blog on spirituality, e-merging, was launched. Each week for the last six years I’ve posted reflections on themes of spirituality, daily life, and social justice. Readers were invited to subscribe to these weekly postings and to comment. With the help of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the traffic to the web site grew. Some months, the web site had between 3500 and 4000 unique visitors. My Twitter follower grew as well to over 16,000 followers. To be honest, I never dreamed that what started as a way to cope with the isolation I experienced as a care-giver would grow to be something so extensive.

My life has changed over the last nine years. While I’ve grown used to being more of a home-body than I was in my earlier life, and while I find writing to be very fulfilling, I find myself drawn to some other projects today. As a psychologist and professor, I am interested in conducting further research on people’s experience of spirituality. I also am interested in writing some longer pieces more suitable for magazine publication.

Starting in 2016, I concluded that in order to engage in some of the things I feel drawn to as a writer and researcher, I need to rearrange my time to accommodate new endeavors. Therefore, I am cutting back on the weekly publication of postings on e-merging. Over the next few months, as I find myself inspired, I will make occasional postings. Perhaps some time later, I’ll return to weekly postings. But my energy will focus on other writing projects — some of which will surely be shared on the blog, e-merging.

I appreciate that so many people have been part of the journey over these last several years. Whether I’ve met you or not, during the times of isolation it was very helpful to see that others connected with me through my written work. It’s been a rich blessing.

© 2016, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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2016: A Year to Move Beyond Fear

I’m well aware that I’m a white man of a certain age. Like other white men in my age group in the United States, I know that because of my age it would be difficult for me to find full time employment if I left my current job. I also know that many white men my age who have lost full time employment have drained their savings to maintain their families. They’ve also experienced more health related issues and died from premature death. None of those are imagined fears. They are very real.

As 2015 unfolded, in the United States, there proved to be more mass shootings than days. While there has been great concern about “would be” Islamic terrorists since the San Bernardino shooting, far more common are the shootings by white Christian terrorists. Remember that it was white Christian terrorists who killed innocent people at a Planned Parenthood facilty and who participated in Bible study at a Charleston, SC church before gunning down those present. Whether in a movie theater, a school, or office building, a person in the United States could easily become a victim of a mass shooting. This fear is also very real.

I live in a state which passed what’s commonly referred to as a “guns everywhere” law. Georgia residents with a license to carry firearms can bring guns into any setting except certain government buildings and specific churches with a policy to restrict guns on the premises for religious reasons. While no statistics are available on the number of firearms deaths in Georgia since the law was passed in 2014, the last year for which I could find statistics (2013) listed Georgia well above the national average for gun related fatalities. Two or three times a month, gunshots can be heard in my middle class neighborhood. I’m aware that I could easily fall victim to a stray bullet even though I refuse to own a gun. This is another fear that is very real to me.

As I look to 2016, I recognize that there are many things to fear. If I went on with this list of fears, I could include anxieties over health and healthcare, financial stability, and the well-being of our families and communities. But as a person of faith, as a follower of the teaching of Jesus, I refuse to let my fears overwhelm me. Instead, I recall the words of Jesus, recorded in gospels attributed to Mark and to Luke: “Fear is useless! What is needed is trust.” (Mark 5:36; Luke 8:50)

When I bought my home five years ago in Atlanta, I recognized some of the things that were important to me about the neighborhood. My home is three blocks from a grocery store. It’s less than a mile to a freeway. The neighborhood is very quiet and full of trees. Behind my home is a wooded area and stream. Those were things that supported my decision to purchase this house. What I’ve come to learn about my neighborhood (and appreciate a great deal) is how diverse it is. My neighborhood is racially mixed, multi-generational, with families that are traditional as well as lesbian and gay households. Part of our diversity I appreciate is the high number of Muslim neighbors, including the imam from the local mosque. What’s striking is that in all of our diversity, we have a friendly neighborhood where people generally look out for one another. When neighbors have died, collections have been taken for a memorial gift for the family. In autumn and spring, we spend a Saturday cleaning up the neighborhood (because of the lack of such services by our local government). We even party together on occasion.

While the media, some elected officials, and certain political candidates do their best to prey on our fears — particularly the fears shared by white people of my age group — I recall the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As an older white guy living in a neighborhood like mine, I know that there is nothing to fear from people different from myself. We work together for the common good by maintaining a neighborhood watch, cleaning up random debris, and supporting the seniors who live alone.

As I consider the fears I listed regarding safety, violence, financial stability, and other concerns of day to day life, I recognize that all of them are the result of government policies meant to create wealth for the privileged few. Because these fears are created to manipulate the general public, my New Year’s resolution is not to give into them. Instead, at the start of 2016, I commit myself to strive to overcome the pervasive fears by doing what I can to challenge the fear mongers: to support political candidates with well-reasoned positions, to write and call elected officials to advocate for change better social policy, and to champion organizations and causes that work for the common good.

Indeed, fear is useless. What is needed is trust. Fundamentally, I trust that people can bring positive change in society when we work together. I trust that we can hold government officials and the media accountable if our voices are united. Ultimately, I trust that goodness will prevail over the social ills we face for the benefit of future generations. It is my fondest hope that others will join me in working to overcome the fears we all experience by working for a better tomorrow. Together, we can have a happy new year.

© 2015, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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