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Grounded in Trust

Guest Author: 
Therese Taylor-Stinson

On Saturday, January 30, 2010, the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Bethesda, Maryland, held a contemplative leadership day. There were 20-25 of us in attendance on what turned out to be a very snowy Saturday on the next-to-last day in January.

Among our discussions on the qualities of contemplative leadership, I was given insight that the goal of the spiritual life is to someday let go of spiritual practices and disciplines we use to ground ourselves on the journey, and to have prayer become as our breath--part of our very being, infused into our total awareness. In the afternoon, our discussion shifted to the counter-cultural nature of contemplative leadership, and we partnered with another person to flesh out the resistance felt when we become too focused on our agendas against the counter-culture or when we allow ourselves to be grounded in our contemplative practice despite the resistance. Physically, there was much strain felt in the muscles as we focused our agendas symbolically with our arms outstretched against the resistance of our partner's hands pushing downward on our limbs. However, when we later grounded our focus into our feet and relaxed our upper resistance, though there was still resistance, it did not have the same strain on the muscles. And what about our peripheral vision, we were asked. Well, when doggedly focused on our agendas in the expression of our outstretched arms, our peripheral visions were cut off. We were not aware of those around us and how they may be affected by our focus. However, when grounding ourselves in our feet, our vision opened, as the muscles in our arms became full and more relaxed.

What does this mean when we are working with others on a project where there is resistance from within the team, or when we are going through the motions of loving acceptance and peace with others, although deep inside, we do not like members of our team or just one other with whom we have to work? Well, I've been there, and I believe the effort to show a stance of acceptance and love, even when at odds with the facts of our inner state, is indeed a spiritual practice, just as much as any discipline of prayer. Though our head does not connect immediately to our heart, our intent is to live the practice until we can let go and join the two without effort. Meanwhile, in the practice, we ground ourselves in Trust that a Infinite Mystery knows us deeply and cares for our well being. That is the shift that changes the resistance in practicing contemplative leadership. When our focus is doggedly set on just pretending to love against the resistance of our inner truth, we are worn down and discouraged. However, when we ground ourselves in Trust, the resistance is shifted. Our focus is now on practicing our deepest values in the hope of someday joining head and heart, and we are grounded in our Sacred Trust of the outcome brought forth by a loving and faithful Presence beyond ourselves.

"We are leaders at the point of our gifts, and we are followers at the point of others' gifts." ~Ann Dean, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation
"Power without love leads to oppression. Love without power lead to sentimentality." ~Richard Rohr
"We are torn loose from earthly attachments and ambitions (contemptus mundi). And we are quickened to a Divine but painful concern for the world -- amor mundi. [God] plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chains of attachment. And [God] hurls the world into our hearts, where we and [God] together carry it in infinitely tender love. ~Thomas Kelly
"Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness." ~Rumi

SDI member, Therese Taylor-Stinson 


John Thomas's picture
Submitted by John Thomas (not verified) on

This is the best description of Trust, in its practical form, as I have ever read.

June Fitzgerald's picture

Contemplation & Contemplative Leadership are so needed in our world today. Thank you for sharing your learnings & insights. It is so timely.
Can you imagine the energy and the change that could be possible if these were included in the "Recovery" Initiatives for our nation & the world?! Imagine! Now that would be transformational. Wow!

Judy McPhie's picture
Submitted by Judy McPhie (not verified) on

Therese - That sounded wonderful - I think our leadership would benefit by undergoing a similar experience. In fact, probably the whole congregation.
Thanks for sending this to me.

Mary Kay Glazer's picture
Submitted by Mary Kay Glazer (not verified) on

Thank you for sharing this. Good things to reflect on, and helpful in my thinking and praying about resistance, which I think is often a good thing in our relationship with each other and with God. This adds new perspective

Mary Kay

Margee Iddings's picture
Submitted by Margee Iddings (not verified) on

Therese -

What a marvelous insight! Thanks for sharing it.


Ann Dean's picture
Submitted by Ann Dean (not verified) on

Very nice, Therese. We had a good day, didn't we? It's always good to be with you... I'm glad it was fruitful for you.


Leah's picture

Therese, It's lovely to read your insights into contemplative leadership. Thank you so much for sharing. I want to give credit to Shalem Institute's wonderful Program Director Ann Dean for the quote, "We are all leaders at the point of our gifts. And we are followers at the point of others' gift." We are looking forward to further explorations of contemplative leadership through our programs, conversations, and lived experiences. Blessings on your journey!

Derrick Miliner's picture
Submitted by Derrick Miliner (not verified) on

Trust that a Infinite Mystery knows us deeply and cares for our well being.

If we trust, we will believe and hope God is leading us. As the Holy Spirit leads the conscience of the group, then you are receptive to others leadership.

Derrick Miliner

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