Pause! A key relationship skill

Our first impulse is likely to be self-aware, at least; self-centered, perhaps; self-protective, likely; selfish, at worst. Love, by contrast, is other-centered. Love doesn’t come naturally, and rarely first. It takes a pause to get there. I don’t often re-post others’ writings, but I think Richard Rohr (with whom I’m not always on the same page) describes this reality well as “The Second Gaze” in the following post.

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The Second Gaze Friday, January 1, 2021 New Year’s Day 

Contemplation happens to everyone. It happens in moments when we are open, undefended, and immediately present. — Gerald May 

Even after fifty years of practicing contemplation, my immediate response to most situations includes attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating. A good New Year’s practice for us would be to admit that that most of us start there. The false self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything. 

On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Most of the time I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the separate self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on some form of daily prayer; in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before-we-go-to-bed prayer would be a good idea too! Otherwise, we can assume that we will fall right back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile smaller self. 

The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How does my self-image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads to an implosion of self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended” can we immediately (or at least more quickly) stand with and for the other, and for the moment. 

It has taken me much of my life to begin to get to the second gaze. By nature, I have a critical mind and a demanding heart, and I am impatient. (I’m a One on the Enneagram!) These are both my gifts and my curses, as you might expect. Yet I cannot have one without the other, it seems. I cannot risk losing touch with either my angels or my demons. They are both good teachers. The practice of solitude and silence allows them both, and leads to the second gaze. The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of divine intimacy is really all I have, and all I have to give, even though I don’t always do it. 

In the second gaze, critical thinking and compassion are finally coming together. It is well worth waiting for, because only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully. It sees itself, the other, and even God with God’s own eyes, the eyes of compassion, which always move us to act for peace and justice. But it does not reject the necessary clarity of critical thinking, either. Normally, we start with dualistic thinking, and then move toward nondual for an enlightened response. As always, both/and! 

Richard Rohr 

How to Pray for Those with Whom We Disagree

Sometimes it’s hard to pray for people, especially if we disagree with them, think they’re wrong, or consider them an enemy. We read Jesus’ words, “Love for your enemy and pray those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44) and wonder how to do that. Below is a method.

The beginning of love is other-centeredness. Step one is to understand another’s heart, mind, circumstances, and needs. Ask God for that understanding. Pray in light of what you’ve come to understand. Pray for them, Jesus said (not against them).

Total Person Filter:   What is going on for them?

Emotionally

Physically

Intellectually

Socially

Spiritually

Basic Psychological Needs filter: What are their human needs? 

Security

Love

Recognition 

New Experiences

Freedom from guilt and shame

Concept from The Lifestyle of Healthy Leaders: Integrating Spiritual Formation and Leadership Development, by Dr. Charles Miller (also titled: The Spiritual Formation of Leaders), summarized here by Doug Burford. 

Factors of Well-Being -a daily tracking chart

Following is a chart of factors that typically contribute to feelings of well-being as compared to stress, anxiety, worry, and depression. It provides a good start to identifying what factors contribute to our well-being, and what deficits may lead to feeling bad. The chart can also be helpful in caring for others (children, elders, even spouses), who have their own ups and downs, and may need our help improving some of these factors.

Instructions below (chart’s back side) give more factor details. 

 

Well-Being Factors ChartWell-Being Factors Chart INSTRUCTIONS

 

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Fear

Coronavirus / COVID-19. Scary. 

But what place has fear in our lives? 

The military conducted experiments to see if fear could be eradicated from the human response mechanism. Answer? No. Warranted fear is necessary; it keeps us alive. There are things that can harm or kill us; situations that put us at risk. These should be feared, eliminated, defeated, or protected against. A serious virus deadly to at-risk groups is one of them. 

Unwarranted fear or unrelenting anxiety only keeps us worried. It’s debilitating with no  protective benefit. It fears fear. 

Scripture speaks of fear—both of appropriately targeted fear and of wasteful worry and anxiety. It begins with  the “fear of” (reverence for) God. In Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 14:26,27, and Proverbs 19:23 we are reminded that God is the beginning of  wisdom; the source of life; our shelter; and our peace. 

The difference between fear and reverence is that fear rightly motivates us to run from what can harm us; reverence invites us to take shelter in He who is powerfully for us even in the midst of what is frightening. The biblical figure, Job, who endured bruising hardship and suffering said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). 

 Jesus invites us to take shelter in Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is perfectly fitted and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)  

The Apostle Paul, who endured hostile opposition, false accusation, pursuit, beatings, imprisonment, stoning, and being left for dead, wrote:  “…be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7) 

So, yes, we are wise to fear what should be feared; let us protect ourselves and others in the ways God has enabled us to do so. And let us revere and trust in the  Lord who loves and motivates courageous love, for “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7) 

Let us run from what can harm us, and run to Him who  wills to comfort, help, and save us. Then,May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)