“For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible, nothing secret except to come to light.” – Mark 4:22
To discern is to be free enough to make a next best step from every possibility. Daily we give ourselves to relationships, work, service, play and leisure, the commitments we make. For some of us, God is part of the equation.
My training and formation is in classical Christian spiritual discernment. I have trained spiritual directors, and accompanied women and men for several decades who both agonize and experience delight about simple and substantial life steps. I myself walk this path. Discernment is not a decision, per se. I don’t presume to know your story or definitions of the Sacred Spirit I call God. I do know God by personal experience, I do believe God is loving, profound, creative, life-giving, a source of consolation and vision, genderless, and my hidden support. God does not fit in any box I can create, and I know less and less about God as I’ve grown older, with this exception: I know more and more that God is love. Nothing else makes sense to me, nor has relevance. I did not always feel or think this way. I am aware it is entirely possible that the G-d word has no context or meaning for you, either from your profound inquiry, a mistrust of institutions, disinterest, indifference, or a belief formed during your childhood. In fact, you may have a profound belief that G-d is distant, disconnected, and irrelevant. However, my best guess is that you are are spiritual seeker; this must hold some kernel of possibility or you would not likely be reading this post.
Discernment involves body, mind, spirit, reflection, and connection with an animating life force that desires goodness. I prefer to view a discerning person as a man or women who lives with a clear mind, tender heart, and embodied action.
How does this take place? That answer requires a book, spiritual practice, certainly more that another 150-200 words. Nonetheless, I do believe that my favored discernment path is noticing the doors that open in life, and determining if my next best step is to walk through, knowing full well that because we can do something, anything, does not mean we should, or that it is necessary. Discernment involves our best yes, not the good yes. In addition, our best yes may mean a painful no.
The three classical methods of Ignatian discernment are described as standing at a crossroads and knowing absolutely yes, this is it; or maybe, then maybe not, and a sort of see-saw (this is often my experience); or nothing at all, no sense of direction (which is actually a gift from God given most often to women.) In contrast, Vincentian discernment invites our best yes as we notice the doors that open. All forms of discernment have their time, place, and purpose.
Breathe deeply for a minute or more. Notice where you feel tension or tenderness in your body. Breath into these places. Scan your current life. Where do you seek more direction and guidance? Be willing to take several minutes and put pen to paper to write about this. Be willing to explore your discontent.
Breathe with this phrase throughout the day, or in the evening as you fall asleep:
Today I will savor in my heart … I make time to listen to my deepest desires, which provide guidance and insight.