It’s the kind of comment that isn’t made on my blog very often. I think that’s why it captivated my attention. As I thought about it, I hadn’t received one like it in the past. In response to one of my recent blog postings, a reader commented: “Let’s talk about laboring together in the vineyard of spiritual writing.”
What made this comment a bit different from others is that typically people respond to my blog postings with a comment about what I wrote. Of course, there are those who probably didn’t actually read what I wrote and post a comment about what they want to say. Sometimes those comments are a kind of self-promotion. But this comment stood alone. It asked about something that wasn’t in my blog at all. So, I gave it some thought.
My immediate response was, “Sure. We can go there.” But then as I began to consider the statement, I wondered what I was being asked to address. After reflecting for a couple of days, it occurred to me that it is probably worth exploring my own experience of writing as a spiritual practice. It’s because writing truly is a spiritual practice for me that I use a weekly blog as a kind of discipline to make sure that I write.
Have you ever looked for a definition of “spiritual practice?” When I Googled, “definition of spiritual practice,” I found that most entries were examples of spiritual practices. I even found some that began with statements like, “There are lots of definitions of a spiritual practice.” Those entries also proceeded to give examples of spiritual practices and make recommendations for “the best” spiritual practices. Surprisingly, Wikipedia provided the clearest definition of a spiritual practice that I could find: “A spiritual practice … is the regular or full-time performance of actions and activities undertaken for the purpose of cultivating spiritual development.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritual_practice
Writing is one of the spiritual practices in which I engage. It’s contemplative, thoughtful, and expressive. Writing takes me out of my own self awareness and enables me to connect with things beyond my daily sense of self, including ideas, other people, and God. Writing also enables me to sort out my inner experience drawing me to greater clarity both in heart and mind.
When I write my weekly blog, I typically begin toward the end of the week – on Thursday or Friday. The first stage is a kind of rumination and meditation. I consider various things that have occupied me, things I’ve felt deeply, experiences I’ve had, and thoughts that have occurred to me. In this rumination, I allow some idea or topic to grow. By Sunday, I’m organizing thoughts and often writing out some of them. On Monday, I begin to draft a piece. Over Monday and Tuesday, the blog posting is drafted and revised several times. Usually, some parts are very clear to me while others are confused. Wednesday morning, I often complete the final draft and hope I’ve not left too much work for my editor. Then on Wednesday, I email the piece to my editor who corrects for typos, punctuation, and so forth. Sometimes there are problems with organization that my editor notes as well. Later in the day, I get the piece back and complete the edits. Thursday morning is typically when the new blog posting is sent to my web master who loads the blog to the site and sets up the auto delivery via email. Then the process begins again.
Those are the steps of my process. What’s difficult to account for is the spiritual dimension of the process. Throughout the writing and editing, there are countless pauses and moments of reflection. There’s a kind of rhythm of engaging with the writing and stepping back to center myself and reflect. I can’t rush the moments of clarity that enable me to write. Instead, I need to allow them to come as they do. In this rhythm, I find myself becoming more inwardly aligned and balanced. It’s as though I move from a fog to clarity for a brief time, then back to the fog.
Ultimately, my experience of writing as a spiritual practice is that the process is much like life. It’s the same rhythm of moving from the fog to clarity in successive ways. Only what happens with writing several times in the course of an hour is a process that’s elongated over years when living one’s life. By engaging in writing, I am better prepared for the back and forth nature of life as I consider the ways the course of life has brought me out of fog into moments of clarity.
The discipline of writing each week also leads to greater clarity of thought. I need to be sure that my ruminations are developed sufficiently for others to read and understand. What’s more challenging is finding the words to express what I experience at the heart level: that sense of clarity and alignment which occurs in the writing process. As it occurs, this heartfelt experience is palpable for me. Yet, encapsulating it in words is very challenging. It’s often lost in the attempt.
It’s often like that with other spiritual experiences or processes. I experience something very similar in meditation and prayer. While the experience is deep and rich, it fades when I attempt to encapsulate it in words.
I’ve maintained a weekly blog for five years. I’ve been asked from time to time if I will continue. I expect that I will. But my reason for continuing is not because the blog is widely read. Instead, the process of writing the blog has become a dependable spiritual practice for me. It wasn’t a practice I set out to establish. But it’s become part of my life.
While the topics I address do vary widely and my postings are not limited to specific spiritual beliefs or practices, the blog is titled well for me: I write about spirituality as it is emerging in my life. Part of that emergence is the process of writing itself. It’s a great gift. For that, I am grateful.
© 2015, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.