Set the World on Fire

“Set the World on Fire” – The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J., Ph.D.

Graduation Day!! I had looked forward to that day since my very first class at Loyola and what a glorious day it was! Sharing that celebration with so many of my classmates added to the joy. Even with such great emotions there was also a sense of uncertainty. What happens next?

President Brian F. Linnane had a suggestion: Set the world on fire!

He made this statement during his closing remarks and those words still resonate with me. As graduating students our time at Loyola has been an incredible and enlightening experience. Yet if it only remains an experience, a moment in time, then I believe that we have not fully embraced what has been taught. We went through this experience so that we could change ourselves and also assist others in the process of positive change. Whatever theory you use, from CBT to Adlerian, positive change for the client is the goal. Well your client is the world and it is in need of some positive change!

Many of us will move on to different parts of the country and in some cases, even the world. I hope that we resolve to do our part to make the world a better place. It may sound like a cliche’ or a song lyric, but that is the goal. It may be through an incredible counseling session with a client or sharing an encouraging word with a stranger. Whatever the case, know that, as graduates, we are being sent out into the world to make a change. And I am confident that we will. (You can contact Dr. Ralph Piedmont for the exact probability within one standard deviation, but trust me it is high!) We have endured reading the equivalent of the Library of Congress, we have used United Nations level cooperation to make group presentations, we have written papers of biblical proportions, and have meticulously prepared APA citations. In addition to all of that, we have also completed years of clinical internships. And we have not only survived; we have thrived.

The world needs our hope, our faith, our service and our presence. It has been my honor to have shared this journey with you, my fellow classmates. I have been enlightened by your conversations and encouraged by your lives. You are truly wonderful and exceptional and I am excited about the great impact that you will have on others. So to echo the words of President Linnane: Set the world on fire!

To Withdraw and Draw Inward

by Andrea Noel

Spiritual retreat’s offer us an opportunity to withdraw from the routine of our busy lives, inviting us to go within and bring focus to the heart and soul. A spiritual retreat should help us create depth, space, time for prayer, and grounding. Every retreat is distinct and finding the right one that works for you takes intention. When selecting a retreat, you could consider the following.

  • What are you looking for in a retreat:
  1. Context and content
  2. Facilitators/retreat leaders
  3. Location and accommodation
  4. Schedule and duration
  5. Cost

Context identifies the set of circumstances surrounding the retreat, i.e. is it a group or personal retreat; Yoga or Church retreat; all-male or all-female retreat. Content relates to the focus of the retreat. What will you learn while on retreat? Is this particular area relevant to your spiritual needs at this time? It is also important to know who will lead your retreat. What credentials, experience, or learning does a particular individual, or individuals, hold in a specific area to help facilitate creating depth, integrity, and focus during the retreat?

Location and accommodation represent where the retreat will take place and where you will stay if over-night lodging is needed? Also, how do the accommodations contribute to the theme and feel of the retreat? Schedule and duration are important aspects to consider because it can greatly influence the cost of the retreat. The selected date for the retreat could also impact the entire retreat experience. For example, if you are at a retreat center with beautiful outdoor landscapes and you want to enjoy the open outdoors you would need to be mindful of the weather when scheduling your retreat.

Finally, you should consider the costs associated with the retreat. Retreats can range from $50-$500 not including travel costs. Set a comfortable budget for your retreat, including the retreat, accommodations, food, and travel costs. Do not correlate costs with the value of a retreat. You can go on a $20 retreat and leave rejuvenated and transformed. You can also spend $2000 and leave unmoved and frustrated. Being on retreat is less about how much you spend and where you are, it is more about your spiritual intent and the purpose of the retreat.

Here are a few of my favorite retreat centers in the Washington Metropolitan Area:

Dayspring Silent Retreat Center, Germantown Maryland

http://www.dayspringretreat.org/

Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center, Marriotsville Maryland http://rccbonsecours.com/home.html

Yogaville, Buckingham Virginia

http://www.yogaville.org/

The Shambhala Center, Washington DC

http://dc.shambhala.org/

The Belfry, Lexington Virginia

http://bellfry.org/

Another great resource for finding retreats nationally and internationally is www.retreatfinder.com

 

 

Change

by Nicole Snyder

Change is a part of life.  Weather changes.  Last week it was warm and dry, this week it is cold and rainy.  Seasons change.  Summer is gone and fall is here with its red, orange, and yellow leaves.  A new moon gives way to a full moon.  Days are becoming shorter, with a little less sunlight each day.  These changes become a part of the rhythm of my life.  Changes that are predictable.  Changes that I look forward to.

There are also changes as a result of choice.  Some choices change my life in minor ways and others send ripples through my life in dramatic ways.  My most recent life altering choice was to leave my home in Portland, Oregon, pack my stuff into a trailer, and drive 4,500 miles in order to attend the Pastoral Counseling program.  This change, no matter its impact and therefore challenges, was by choice.  As a result, the stress associated with all the changes in my life is, in many ways, expected.  I also have expectations of when all of these major changes will become routine and when the sense of change will decrease.  Like a large rock thrown into a pond, I can count on the ripples eventually dissipating.

Then there are changes that are neither predictable nor by choice.  These changes have spun my world, shattered expectations, and caused me to lie broken on the floor in pieces.  I could never have predicted their appearance and I often cannot predict when the ripples will dissipate.  Yet these unexpected changes have also been the changes from which I have risen stronger, leaving behind in the ashes the parts of me I no longer need.

Since arriving in Maryland, my choice like Pandora’s box has quickly transformed into unexpected change.  My knee jerk reaction is to resist, minimize, and deny what the change is allowing me to learn about myself.  I have to actively work at resisting these urges and instead embrace this tidal wave of change as a window of opportunity for healing.  I have learned the hard way over the years that embracing change is the best way forward, but it has been highly inconvenient.  Lying in pieces on the floor does not go well with being in graduate school.  Despite the inconvenience, I attempt to be grateful for my inward desire to be whole, for the opportunity to heal, and my strength to continually change.

My faith (both in myself and the metaphysical) is what I hold onto in the midst of change.   Change is what I hope to be all about, changing myself, and helping others find the change they want for themselves.  It is why I have chosen this career field.  Change is terrifying, but it is also inspiring.  May the changes before us inspire us.

How does Meditation influence the development of the Mind, Body, & Spirit: Five Reasons to Join a New Research Group

Meditation and Human Development Research Team Openings

meditationMeditation has long been a divisive conversation in interfaith discussions. There are some who believe meditation opens the mind and spirit to be present with the Divine, and others that believe it opens a person to opposing forces. As researchers, we are exploring the questions surrounding meditation and other centering practices; questions about the influence meditation and prayer have on development.

If you have interest in this topic, an experience to share, or more research questions, I wanted to let you know that we are starting a new research group here in the pastoral counseling department. The Meditation and Human Development Research Team we will be opening up the discussion to investigate meaningful questions about meditation.

Meditation and Human Development

This research group is devoted to understanding how meditation (and similar practices such as contemplative prayer) influences the development of mind, body and spirit. The goals of the group are to secure grant funding to support the research and subsequent peer reviewed publication and presentation of data investigating how meditation influences our lives and how it can be used to better the lives of clients who seek help in counseling. Students who are interested in becoming a part of the research team should submit a resume or curriculum vitae to Jesse Fox, Ph.D., at jfox1@loyola.edu.

Top Five Reasons to join this group:

  1. CONTRIBUTE to the research and development that is changing the social sciences understanding of spirituality and centering prayer.
  2. INSPIRE These ground floor discussions on the emergent research topic of mediation may just inspire your research as we cultivate ours.
  3. EXPERIENCE Be a part of a lively discussion, academic debates, and developing research
  4. ACQUISITION new skills, as the team is exploring grant funding, writing, and proposals.
  5. LEARN about applying for grant funding, writing a research proposal, and study outcomes

Hope-FULL


Psychologist Irvin Yalom stated that one of the most important agents of change that the therapist can use to assist the client is the instillation of hope.

While I am not an expert in the process, I did want to share a few lessons that I have learned that hopefully will be of benefit to you.

 

We instill hope, not install it

We are not the therapy versions of the Best Buy Geek Squad. We don’t install hope, like they would install high-definition television sets. During the counseling sessions we strive to “instill” hope. Instilling is defined as the process of “gradually but firmly establishing”. In therapy we try to “gradually but firmly” connect the client to the hope that is already inside them. It took hope for the client to even come to the counseling session. So they already have the hope, we just have to help them increase it.

We bring the belief of hope with us

Even though we don’t install hope, we do bring the belief that the client has hope inside them, which can be built upon. We bring the hope that the time spent in counseling will bring about a positive result. We bring the hope that we have been educated and prepared to journey with our clients through whatever challenges life has given them.

We hope in God

As great as our clinical skills may be, I personally believe that God is in the room as well. And that other person is God. I recognize that everyone may not embrace this hope and I understand that. When I feel lost in session, (and even when I don’t), I try to stay constantly aware that God is in the room and His love and grace are present as well. I also have hope that His love for the client, (and for me), is operating even more than my clinical skills and techniques. This is not to absolve me of being prepared, present and focused in session, but it is a sense or comfort.

Also as the semester begins, realize that hope is for you too! There may be times when you will feel that you are losing hope yourself. It may be after an unfruitful session with a client or after getting a bad grade. It may even be when the rest of your life intrudes and you are started to feel overwhelmed. When that happens remember this anonymous quote, “When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time”.

From Here to There

Someone is praying me to another path.

My path at Loyola has ended its long loving curve in my life. Finding my way here was an adventure in miracles. Most of those miracles occurred behind my back and without my permission yet that didn’t stop me from grabbing the opportunities  and reaping the rewards.

One of those rewards has been this cozy little relationship with Meaning Making. When the call for writers went out, I fell all over myself sending in my submission. When Betsy Davis asked me to take over the role of editor, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. My idea of heaven is to sit, read, talk, and write endlessly about spirituality, God, religion, faith, humans, love, and Jesus, and never stir from my laptop.

It was almost a relationship of disordered affection. What else could be more important than writing about what is meaningful in life and how to make meaning, especially during times when it appears that events are meaningless? As a pastoral counselor, I was learning to help people find what Viktor Frankl called their “will to meaning.” Frankl believed, as I do, that when humans reach for more than who they believe they are and find their meaning, they become who they truly are. I was deliriously happy to find my meaning in reading and writing.

Fortunately, my comfort zone was often challenged in the presence of other blog writers. People like Vernon, Glenda, JoAnn, Andrea, and Kate made my editorial life a dream while writing about what compels us to grow, what drives us to find meaning, and what humbles us in our humanity. In them, I found myself. In finding myself, I realized that I have to do more than mouth the witty words and write the pretty paragraphs. I have to live the lessons.

Just as I am compassionate and caring with others, I have to be the same for me. And, yet, I have learned that, no, it’s not all about me. We are the manifestations of the Divine Spirit come to physical life here on planet earth. On my journey here at Loyola, I have learned that I am seeking that which I already am. I found all of me here.

And now I am taking me out there.

Namaste.

The Power of Release: Getting Rid of “Stuff”

Several years ago, I never missed an episode of Clean House starring comedienne Niecy Nash.  Ms. Nash helped homeowners recognize the benefit of parting with excess and useless possessions. She endowed them with a modern, efficient, and attractive living space which more closely reflected their personalities and lifestyles.

As counselors, we have similar roles in our clients’ lives. We facilitate their examination and assessment of thoughts, relationships, emotions, and actions which contribute negatively to their growth. Consequently, healing can begin when toxic issues are replaced by healthier lifestyles, nurturing support systems, and a more resourceful, positive sense of self.

But what happens when we are the ones who need to take stock of our lives? What if our workload is too demanding or our dance card is too full? Are we ready and willing to offload some of our activities to enjoy a more balanced lifestyle? That was my reality as I prepared to return to the classroom in just over two weeks. I realized that it was time to apply a Clean House intervention and rid myself of excess and useless activities that I had accumulated.

Letting go is not easy, especially when the relationship seems to be both harmless and enjoyable. The tendency is to hold on and try to make it work. This is akin to hoarding. The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduces hoarding as a distinct disorder. While hoarding usually refers to objects, if we were to focus on the “distress” factor, we may see similarities in a lifestyle that keeps us tired, under-performing, and unbalanced.

How do we determine which activities we wish to continue or suspend?  In my case, I asked the question, is it purposeful? Does this activity contribute in a meaningful way to my lifestyle or goals?  Can I allocate the time I spend on it to something more important or necessary?  I tried to respond objectively to determine what I would keep and what I would let go, and although in some cases it was heart-wrenching to release an activity, I realized that it was necessary.

When I finally decided what should be eliminated, it was liberating, and I experienced a discharge of tension that I had not previously felt. This reflected Eckhart Tolle’s statement that “sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” I can now look forward to enjoying a sense of balance as I allocate my time to meaningful and purposeful projects, and focus on excellence in fewer goals, rather than mediocrity in many.

Can We “Rule-Out” the Dream?

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” –
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

 

To be extremely transparent, this has probably been the hardest blog post for me to write. I have started, stopped, reconsidered, rewrote, and second-guessed almost every word. The topic is so sensitive, and the possibility of being misunderstood is so great, even attempting to grasp it with one blog entry seems impossible.

To say nothing would be negligent with the Trayvon Martin murder trial verdict just a few weeks in the past and the commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington and the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech given by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King literally days away. Can we definitely say one way or the other that as a society we judge people by the “content of their character and not the color of their skin”? I think there can be some consensus that we are not in that place yet.

Can we “rule-out” that the dream that Dr. King talked about will ever come to fruition? I don’t have enough information to make that diagnosis. I am hopeful that in the future months and years, our nation will take strides to listen to each other and not make the erroneous assumption that we have arrived in a “post-racial” utopia that does not presently exist.

It starts with less talking and more listening. It continues with people being less concerned with being right and more concerned about being compassionate. It is realizing that I can’t really put myself “in your shoes.” I have to listen to you and hear you when you tell me what wearing your shoes is like. It starts with something as simple as looking at each and every person and giving them the respect of being an individual regardless of their differences.

In less than a month, we will be back in classrooms with our fellow classmates. I encourage you to have the tough conversations and ask, respectfully, the questions that may be sensitive. That is how we will grow as individuals and as a society.

Why should this even be a concern for counselors? It is a consideration because the client sitting across from you or in your counseling group or your colleague or friend has a dream, too.  That dream may be a part of the American Dream, a part of the dream of equality or another dream entirely. Listening to, respecting, and even advocating for their dream may be the help that they need from you.

 

The Call of Inspiration

by Andrea Noel

What are you inspired to do? What is that thing inside your soul that you must do, create, be, write, or share with the world? What is that thing that just will not go away no matter how much you try to rationalize why it is silly, not wise, or not best? It is silly for you to quit your job to play the bass full-time. It is not wise for you to leave corporate America to teach 12th grade science in an urban community. It is not best to take six months leave to spend time taking care of an ailing friend. It’s just insane, ludicrous even!

Inspiration is spirit-based rather than head-based, no matter how many times you logically think about that thing you have an intuitive urge or wild passion for, it will never make complete sense. With inspiration there is paradox and mystery; transformation and energy; direction and provision. Inspiration is a force to be reckoned with. It is magnetic, dynamic, progressive, and creative.

When you get inspired follow it wherever it leads and trust that wherever it takes you is exactly where your heart needs to be. Inspiration helps you see clearer, gives you true direction and brings you closer to spirit and your higher self.

You may question whether you have felt inspired before. I boldly proclaim that you have! Slow down and center yourself. Begin listening for the still, small voice inside you and it can uncover your inspiration in all of its grandeur and glory. You are never too young or not young to be inspired.

Feel your wellspring of energy, see the untapped possibilities, and take one step forward. Dare to fly! Dare to believe! Dare to be inspired! Dare to inspire the world!

The Apple of God’s Eye

By Andrea A Noel (c) 2008

 

Seeking Silence

“What you seek is seeking you.”
Rumi

Silence calls to me.

There’s an oxymoron for you.

Here’s another one: Thomas Keating says that silence is “God’s first language.”

I automatically equate language with the spoken word and this is a mistake on my part. Language occurs in so many different ways such as body movement, facial expression, feelings. Sound is not required.

Noise is easy to find in the world. Noise happens with constant abandon. I have nothing against noise. It is very necessary. Birds call to each other to find their way. A baby cries in the night to signal to mother a need to feed. Without noise, we would not hear the approaching car, the cell phone ringing, or the announcement that our dinner order is ready. Noise helps us survive. But we need silence to distinguish between the various noises in our lives to give them meaning. If we did not have those precious seconds of silence, life would just be one huge cacophony of sound and nothing would make sense.  

The Quakers believe that God speaks to us in silence. Their unprogrammed worship is conducted in silence – they gather in communal stillness. No one speaks unless he or she feels moved to do so by God.

I am seeking some spontaneous silence . . . a time where noise falls away and makes room for the voice of God. Usually, that only occurs during a power outage and that just aggravates people.

When I sought out a way to learn to speak God’s first language – silence – I found Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is reminiscent of meditation. One chooses or asks the Holy Spirit for a sacred word as the focus of intention to consent to God’s presence. When distracted by thoughts (which also include feelings and body sensations) while in prayer, I return to the word to return to the place within me where God and I reside.

In his book, Manifesting God, Thomas Keating makes the important distinction that God is not separate from us. God is within us at all times and it is up to us to create this space, this fourth dimension within ourselves, where we can constantly communicate and live in the presence of God.

The call is not a noise or a sound. It is an urging, a pulling, a beckoning . . . like home waiting in the distance with a candle flickering in the window.