To Be A Beginner

“There are only three stages to this work:

To be a beginner,

to be more of a beginner,

to only be a beginner”

Gregory Mayers, Listen to the Desert

I titled this blog many years ago, “We Are All Pilgrims” and I think it has been a good metaphor for our human journeying. Not just the physical journeys we make to outward places (like the Camino de Santiago), but to the interior places of the heart, the new landscapes we are called to explore. I suspect that is why I liked the quote I am using for this blog entry. It speaks to the mindset of a pilgrim, that is that we are always on our human journey, never arrived.

I am discovering that the cycles and seasons of life provide us with ample opportunity to work on this life principal of “always being a beginner”.

Sometimes I have sought out a new adventure in my life. In his stage of my life, I find myself often ready and open to learn and grow in my knowledge and skills. I am advancing and glad to be a beginner as I learn more and more. The trick, though, is to maintain the mindset of a beginner and remain humble, avoiding the idea “that we have this all figured out”. This type of thinking feeds my ego and can drive me to thinking and acting like “I know it all”. You can be rest assured that is not the pilgrim’s path of humility.

The other path of life that I am finding is very challenging to maintain, is in the downward cycles of life. When something happens which we did not expect. It is often an unwelcome event, like what happened to the world with the Coronavirus pandemic or maybe a sudden illness or death. In these times, we find ourselves face to face with our fears. Yet, strangely it is in these unwanted times in our lives we are called to the work of “being a beginner again”. To open our hearts and minds to this new trajectory in our lives. It is an incredibly vulnerable place to be.

One of the losses Terri and I experienced was the loss our “Church”. Gathering together at our parish home at Holy Rosary Catholic church has been a huge part of our lives for almost 40 years. In addition, I sang in the choir and our beloved choir director was let go and this important part of my life ended. It was a disorienting and difficult time.

I discovered, though, once I took on the mindset of a beginner, my spiritual trajectory of my life took flight on a new pathway. New doors began to open as I explored the Franciscan Spirituality offered through the online community and courses at The Center for Action and Contemplation. I also discovered a wonderful online community at an Irish Monastery called Abbey of the Arts. It seems I have discovered an online Spiritual community right in the middle of the pandemic! In some strange way, I have found a home again.

My Spiritual journey is continuing and I am only a beginner.

Blessings,

John

Photograph of the Month

Stark and Swirling

I love this new image I created from a winter hike to Discovery Park in Seattle. These particular trees we so unique with the linear line pattern and stark look. I created the swirling background of some knots on an old dead and dried out log in Central Washington. The contrasting lines and curves are a great match and create a very interesting and intriguing image.