Category Archives: Spiritual Direction
That all of nature is interconnected is a given. The symbiosis of pollinators and flowers, aspen groves, climate and weather, and gravity and planets remind us that what affects one affects all.
That no person is an island is equally obvious. We are interconnected in thousands of ways. Others are typically responsible for growing our food, generating our power, fixing our broken bodies, and teaching our children. None of us is gifted enough, wise enough, talented enough, or skilled enough to be independent. We grow emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually in connection with others. We need each other for physical survival and emotional wellbeing. There are tasks too big to be accomplished alone. I may perhaps provide some assistance to a homeless person or two; but united, we could, if we really cared, eliminate homelessness.
It is good and essential to care for, respect, and nurture the natural world and one another. United we stand, divided we fall. E pluribus unum.
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
On the other hand, there is a negative kind of need. When need becomes neediness, codependence, clinginess, a sense that I am not whole without a particular other, it is counterproductive and harmful. The essential distinction between healthy interconnectedness and dysfunctional dependence lies in the source of life.
There is, in my view, only one ultimate source of life and love, and that is God. God is perfect love, the author of life, the source and destination of all that is eternally and essentially good. When I am connected to that source, drawing my deepest need for love, light, life, truth and wellbeing from God, I can in healthy ways love nature, others, and myself. The connectedness to others and nature flows altruistically from me. It produces a sense of deep peace and wholeness; whereas, if I am trying to suck life and love out of a sense of codependent neediness, I will always feel drained, manipulated, and underappreciated.
A telos, a destination of concerted contemplative prayer is to bring us to a place where God is all we need, our singular source of unconditional love and life, where, ultimately, God is the only one we couldn’t live without. We will know we are approaching that destination when we discover growing empathy and compassion within us for all other people, for all living things, for all of creation – an empathy accompanied by deep grounded peace.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the more we relax and let go, the closer we become to others. The less we strive, the more our relationships thrive. The less we cling in neediness, the more we can love in wholeness. The less we “need” someone in the negative sense, the more we can mutually enjoy them.
Contemplative prayer opens our hearts, expands our beings, so that the divine life-affirming love can flow untrammeled into us and out of us to others.
 John Donne, MEDITATION XVII Devotions upon Emergent Occasions