On an Inner Journey

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A spiritual journey—a process of paying attention to what is within, what touches our spirits, what brings us life—can take many forms but each journey, while unique, has some comment elements. In this reflection, a woman who is a Roman Catholic nun, as well as a clinical psychologist, shares something of her journey. Her early years in religious life were oriented to external conformity to rules and regulations, guidelines created to foster a spiritual life. Lacking any sense of an inner life, the structure was oppressive, not formative. In a second period of formation, some of Thomas Merton’s works were transformative for her and shifted her consciousness of what the meaning of an inner life was about. Inner journeys are not separate from one’s “outer life” and the search for meaning became prominent for her when she began working in a psychiatric day-treatment program, leading groups on spirituality with adults who suffer with serious mental illness. These men and women expanded her notion of what it means to “be spiritual” and enabled her to find new life by paying attention to all that touches one’s spirit. This reflection illustrates a journey that moves from extrinsic religion to intrinsic religion, aided by wise guides and those with whom we work. Mindfulness, paying attention to one’s body, to the ways life brings us peace, joy, connection, challenges from unexpected places, and the value of external structure, all are elements that are crucial for an inner journey.

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