The Joy of Hanging with Other Spiritual Companions - New Contemplatives in New Orleans
I recently had the great privilege of spending 5 days in beautiful and wildly resilient New Orleans with co-conspirators (and SDI New Contemplative mates) Alison McCrary and Chelsea Forbrook. Our time together came as a breath of life-giving fresh air for all of us - what an immense support to be held in deep, spiritually-rooted community.
We spent a day canoeing and kayaking on the Louisiana Bayou, taking in the profound nourishment of water, wind, and woods. We celebrated Alison in her community’s recent (and successful) effort in ending the last Jim Crow Law in Louisiana- a 138-year-old law that was drafted to “maintain white supremacy in the state of Louisiana” by ensuring that enough Black people could continue to be convicted by non-unanimous juries to perpetuate convict leasing programs and plantation-prisons with free inmate labor. She also shared about her spiritual direction work with inmates on Louisiana’s death row, and together we dreamed into what it might look like to receive more support for herself in that work so that she could continue to do it in a sustainable way.
We also spoke much of the Enneagram, how we each uniquely express our types, and how working within that frame has helped us grow beyond self-limiting patterns and beliefs. Fortunately for us Chelsea is highly trained in this sophisticated tool for self-understanding and she answered all of our many questions. Chelsea told us about her growing spiritual direction practice, sharing that almost all of her 7 or 8 clients have come through the SDI’s Seek and Find Guide. (Shameless plug here - for all you reading this who are actively seeking new clients, looks like the Seek and Find Guide does in fact work!) The key, she said, was her website - she believes that most of the folks went to her as opposed to others listed in her area because she included her website listing in her profile.
In our time together, we shared all about what we’re currently up to, what projects we’re working on, and what inner work we’re inside of. Our days were sprinkled with moments of silence and prayer and ritual, and we all found ourselves inside of a deep and inspiring gratitude. At one point, Chelsea exclaimed, “Wow, I don’t ever want to travel without spiritual directors again!” and we all laughed - but it felt so true! What a gift to feel deeply seen and met and to share a language for meeting the Mystery ever more.
Being with these New Contemplatives reminded me of the vast array of spiritual gifts that all of us in our cohort carry, some of whom are offering a workshop at the 2019 conference in Bellevue. And it got me even more excited for our upcoming group of 11 awe-inspiring spiritual leaders and companions under 40, our current New Contemplatives cohort. Do check them out here, and come see them at this year’s conference to be a part of our increasingly intergenerational and multi-traditional community of spiritual companions, seekers, teachers, and leaders.
As I write this article, I’m reminded of what it felt like being on the water with Alison and Chelsea that morning a week ago. As we paddled through the water, making our way towards the great opening of Lake Ponchatrain - which eventually connects to the ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico - I could feel the watery network that makes up my being. I felt in my body and heart those streams of experiences that led up to that moment intersecting with what was right then and there. And I could feel the strengthening of my stream in connection with the streams of Alison and Chelsea’s and us, together with the wider-than-human world, flowing towards the sea. And that feels like what we’re up to at SDI - creating a rich network of spiritual streams, from all different kinds of people and traditions, that all flow into the greater body of spiritual companionship - the art and practice of deep and attuned listening to that which is both deeply within each of us and far beyond all of us.
Lizzie Salsich is a spiritual community builder and community organizer in her home of St. Louis, MO. She leads classes and workshops in body-based sacred practice in St. Louis and facilitates community-building retreats at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Truman State University and is trained in a variety of other contemplative and mystical practices. She completed her Spiritual Direction training through the Alcyon Center for Spiritual Living in Seal Cove, ME and is passionate about furthering the ministry of spiritual companionship. As Community Outreach and Program Development Coordinator for SDI, Lizzie manages the New Contemplatives program and is delighted to grow with SDI towards a more intergenerational, multicultural and multireligious community.