Contemplation for the Soul

Janet Zukowski

It's hard to say what my favorite part of the Formation Community was. Getting away. Being at Chiara Center. The trees. Generous listening. The reflection papers. Having solitude. Journeying together. What initially drew me to commit to the two years, and was the hardest to keep at the forefront, was "naming your desire."

What do I want?

Does it matter?

Should what I want override what you want?

Would I be happy if I got what I wanted?

Will that person get what they want?

How will they feel if they don't?

It seems like the right question and the wrong question at the same time. Not that I never make choices based on what I want — I do — but it's not really the question I've usually thought to ask first. And to be clear, it's not really about "what do I want for dinner?" (though it can start there). It's more like "what is my deepest longing?" but it tends to be a peeling back process. Sometimes the answer comes very quickly. Other times, it takes a long time to go through each layer until you think you've arrived at what is really at the heart of it. Once asked and answered, what action should follow? Many times I'm not sure, or I'm afraid to make a change, so it makes me want to not ask the question to begin with. Just let me put that off one more time...

I don't think this needs to be the end point or exercise of every spiritual practice. I think of them as personal maintenance. While not the initial intention, that hour of quiet with someone in hospice helped sustain me for two days. Reading that short prayer helped calm and focus my mind before going to sleep. Journaling helped me to be honest with myself and process the thoughts swirling in my head. Sometimes, it's just trying to really listen to the song on the radio. Spiritual practices help us to tune into our deeper longings and deeper purpose and take time to be honest with ourselves. I think to really dig deeper requires extra time and space that is easy to put off or neglected. And I really benefit from going to a different place and giving myself plenty of time, because I can distract myself with many things.

I didn't feel like the Formation Community was life-changing in any dramatic way, although it is for some. But it expanded my spiritual practice toolbox and helped me go back to some that had been long neglected. And, it was basically a reminder that intentional living does not just happen. It must be practiced. So I will keep trying and listening and responding and sometimes being a stinker. But like each January brings me renewed hope that change is possible, returning to the question and the process gives me hope that I will find the courage to live more deeply into my desires, as hokey as that may sound.

Janet Zukowski has attended Imago Dei for 5 years. You can try to judge her personality by her tendency to eat the food on her plate in proportion so she has an equal amount of each one for the last bite. Her skills are drawing personalized greeting cards and playing “Happy Birthday” on the trumpet. She is also incredibly funny.

Lindsey Mooberry