During the process you did a lot of depth tending of your own soul. Say something about how that happened for you.
Interpersonal challenges in the work with staff, small groups, and individual supervision was a place of major growth for me. The challenge for me was consistently in the direction of being more engaged, more direct, and more honest in holding myself and others accountable.
“Accountability” is frequently talked about in organizations, but I experienced it becoming a reality for me in the internship. Our ways of giving feedback to one another on staff and to interns got consistently clearer and more defined. This rubbed against my habitual defense mechanisms of withdrawal and avoidance. As a staff we were often engaged in difficult and sensitive evaluations about the participation of interns in the program – discernments that involved their life dreams, shadow sides, hidden assumptions as well as our own as staff. These situations frequently brought me to the cutting edge of my own self-awareness and growth in freedom.
And then there was email… Since staff members were widespread geographically the corporate work of the staff frequently took place through email. We often asked for help and feedback from one another on difficult discernment issues. Putting questions, concerns and feedback into writing took time and energy, but it was worth it.
and Sandra Lommasson reacting to the surprise news that the graduating
internship class 2013 has established The Luke Fund for those
preparing to become spiritual directors.
Jim, turning now to Bread of Life as a whole, what has been most important to you in the work of organization and in your connection to it?
I see some of the same principles we used in forming spiritual directors present in the larger mission of Bread of Life. Spirit in the Arts resonates with the internship focus on creativity as core to spiritual practice. The creative dimensions of our being help ground the spiritual life so that it is not just a mental thing or a silent, solitary pursuit, but something that engages us at the level of feeling, imagination, body, intuition, and will to move out. I see that in the availability of art studio space for folks in the neighborhood as well as in the focus of many of the workshops that BOL offers.
Also very important is the conscious choice to locate Bread of Life in a challenged neighborhood economically and to make spiritual and creative work and practices available to people who wouldn’t have access otherwise. I have found that relating to people who do not share the same life world I move in is a continuing source of challenge and creativity in itself. I feel that the challenge to include people who would ordinarily be left out or overlooked keeps Bread of Life alive and growing.
The important place Contemplative Dialogue had in the internship has been a growing dimension of the larger mission of Bread of Life as well – discovering and practicing better ways of engaging one another in interactions is a cutting edge aspect of what it means to be an institution today. This parallels in some ways what I was saying about the neighborhood. There’s something very important about continually inviting what has been left out or unsaid to come forward for expression in a group. This extends beyond personal wholeness to neighborhood wholeness and social wholeness.
Formation at Bread of Life is not just for spiritual direction but for
dialogue and transformation in all aspects of life.
a huge need in our time for a holding container of integrity –
cocoon – for people’s spiritual and psychological transformation.
are not many places where you can get that
kind of sustained formation
for which many people hunger.
What Bread of Life does goes beyond the people who come for
own formation. It forms people to offer that same gift
I believe that the totality of what Bread of Life does
the level of the surrounding community--something like
yeast works in dough.
We are having a conversation now about what the ‘charism’ of Bread of Life might be. Any thoughts?
The word “charism” means a particular gift given by the Spirit. One gift that weaves through everything we’ve been discussing is the contemplative attitude. In the internship we defined it as fostering a sense of deep listening and deep seeing, or a taking a “long loving look at the real.” We first look and listen to our lives with a focus on where the invitations to growth and transformation are taking place. Then we ask how we can respond to or cooperate with the movements of the Spirit. Contemplation is not just something you do alone in your room – it’s also listening for the currents of spirit in another person’s story, in a neighborhood, in one’s imaginative life and dreams, and in our institutions.
Bringing contemplation intentionally into the realm of dialogue, interpersonal relationships, institutions, and listening for the soul through art is a key to what Bread of Life is about. It acknowledges that there are transformative processes already at work in each of these areas. Cultivating a contemplative attitude allows us to connect to and respond to those movements.
What I especially value in this way of understanding the contemplative attitude is that it is ‘at home’ as much in a contentious meeting as in a quiet church. It’s ‘at home’ in the political and economic struggles in the neighborhood as well as in listening in silence for the Spirit at a retreat center. At the core is this deep listening and responding to the whole of life.