By Steve Matthews, FaithXSenior Missional Consultant
People with high levels of personal mastery…
…cannot afford to choose between reason and intuition, or head and heart,
any more than they would choose to walk on one leg or see with one eye.
For the past two weeks, I have been on the road, learning from and talking to some amazing people in Churchland – people who care deeply and who want to see congregations and their neighborhoods/communities flourish. What a gift! One thing becoming ever more clear in these 14 days is that the process of redeveloping communities in this day and age takes a deep investment in hearing lots of perspectives – a listening that evokes the power of our intellect and the richness of our hearts in discernment with others.
Head. Heart. Discernment in the community. Each of these gifts is important, and when they are brought together into our collective wisdom, we can look at our reality with compassion and possibility. In the process, our former assumptions are tested, and we shift our understanding of where are called to go next and with whom.
Peter Senge is co-author of the book Presence, a book about change and learning. Consider this quote from Presence.
Seeing freshly starts with stopping our habitual ways of thinking and perceiving. According to cognitive scientist Francisco Varela, developing the capacity for this sort of stopping involves “suspension, removing ourselves from the habitual stream [of thought].” Varela called suspension the first basic “gesture” in enhancing awareness. As the noted physicist David Bohm used to say, “Normally, our thoughts have us rather than we having them.”(3) Suspending does not require destroying our existing mental models of reality–which would be impossible even if we tried–or ignoring them. Rather, it entails what Bohm called “hanging our assumptions in front of us.”(4) By doing so, we begin to notice our thoughts and mental models as the workings of our mind. And as we become aware of our thoughts, they begin to have less influence on what we see.
Suspension allows us to “see our seeing.”
In our faith communities, how often do we gather to “see our seeing”? Most of the time it seems we just keep doing the same things while praying for breakthroughs or divine revelations. What if instead we are being called to slow down, to let go, to listen, to explore with genuine curiosity the Spirit’s work in our midst? What activity or practice needs to be suspended so that we might see our communal reality more clearly?
At FaithX we get busy too and we can keep moving to the next task or opportunity, but we intend to listen along the way – listen to our fellow consultants, listen to the communities we accompany, listen to the way the changing world is being revealed to us in data and discerning the best next steps for the communities we feel called to serve. We invite you to join us, keep us honest, help us test our assumptions, and help us see who we are becoming so that together we can bring about more just, faithful, and equitable communities.
For more information about our work, contact us at [email protected].