This post might be characterized as something akin to “inside baseball.” If you’re participating in the Life Skills discussion, don’t feel compelled to read it. This is just FYI IYI (if you’re interested.) This is the context that shapes what we’re doing, and how, and why.
The overarching and suggested goal in our weeks together is that group members become aware of, informed about, and sympathetic to a list of traditional “spiritual practices” or disciplines–especially those practices that most of us have never been taught–or are learning only recently. Learning and doing a practice to the point where it becomes a skill is the penultimate goal. The ultimate goal of learning such skills is growth in living a life of compassion and justice (“loving well”). (Mt. 22:38-40)
The mastery of these practices (disciplines, habits, routines, rhythms) will create certain corresponding life “skills.” Developing even one of the skills will be liberating and transformative. Each group member is encouraged, over the course of our weeks together, to chose one new practice (a potential new life skill) to be employed long after the class is completed. (Really developing one skill will be much better than dabbling in 5-10 different practices.)
These life skills (disciplines, practices, habits, routines), when ultimately adopted and integrated into a person’s life will lead to a life characterized (1) by more often “being with God”–not just “doing for God” or “doing it without God”–(2) by personal flourishing, (3) by growing in love for God and others (compassion and justice), and ultimately, (4) by making God’s loving, redemptive presence known on the earth.
To these ends, each group member is encouraged (1) to attend and participate in the weekly meetings whenever possible, and (2) in any case, to make a habit of reading one reading from Wisdom from the Margins on a daily basis. (This could involve the corresponding calendar day’s reading, or one of the readings that will be provided from the book for background to the weekly lesson. Doing this will become a sort of healthy daily practice in itself, and will greatly supplement everything that is explored in our discussion times. My suggestion is that you pick a time and place, and begin to make this a habit. Another suggested practice is (3) to do what’s called an “Examen” at the very end of the day. A simple version simply involves looking back over your day, and asking yourself what brought you life, and what drained you of life. These few moments of mindful listening to your emotions, when practiced regularly, create an opening for God to guide you. It’s very simple. Very revealing. Very brief. Even so, it can become another anchor in your day when you purposely, if briefly, create space for being with God.
An individual who adopts the daily reading habit, the Examen habit, and just one other skill during our 16 weeks together, will be on the way to measurable life-change, and will have achieved my dream for those who join in these discussions!
Life Skills Discussion Weekly Plan
Here is the most recent (reordered and tweaked) weekly plan for our Life Skills discussions, which began February 1, 2022. (If you’re not involved and would perhaps like to be, please contact me at email@example.com.)
Loving well (private & public)
Here are examples of what the classes are like: