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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Gleanings from a Spiritual Retreat

Today I attended an Annual Spiritual Retreat sponsored by the Westminster Retirement Communities in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The retreat was held at a conference center near the banks of Manatee River not far from Ellenton (about 30 miles to the east of St. Petersburg).  It is my understanding that ideas from the following book were used in discussion: Soulful Aging: Ministry Through the Stages of Adulthood by Henry Simmons and Jane Wilson.

The concept discussed was that one's spiritual journey is characterized by stages of transition and stability.  For example, about two years ago I retired.  This meant that I underwent some loss and grieving (like crying at the going-away party).  The following year I sold my house and moved into a retirement community.  It was not easy to downsize and part with long cherished items.  Granted enough time, I will proceed through additional transition periods--from being active and relatively independent to periods of greater dependency accompanied by increasing physical and perhaps mental decline, and finally of hospice care or whatever is required before the arrival of death.

Periods of transition (the closing and opening of chapters) are followed by periods of relative stability.  In periods of relative stability, we are to self-examine by asking three questions: 1) Who am I? [Can I define with assurance who I am?] 2) Who am I called to be with? [Can I map out my relational ties with others?] 3) What am I called to do/be? [Do I understand my mission as tailored to meet this stage of my life?] (numbered questions from conference handout).

I found the discussion very helpful and full of realism. But it strikes me at once that this conceptualization of maturation's challenges is for all ages. For example, the college student--or the recently married--or those with a new job could easily find this analytical structure an advantage.  Likewise, if one is given the assignment to write a biography or autobiography, what better way to begin than by analyzing the subject's life as a series of transitions (chapters) followed by periods of relative stability in which "Who am I?" "Who am I called to be with?" and "What am I called to do/be?" are thoughtfully treated.

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