I think I have spent a good portion of my life living out what I call "cookbook spirituality." Essentially, this approach to spirituality meant that I acquired and read spiritual books-and, I have to confess, I still have a stack of books that I acquired and haven't read. In fact, I'm certain my library of spiritual books would impress you, and if we whipped out our Kindles, I bet you'd be even more impressed.
But I realized a few years ago that, just like reading cookbooks doesn't make you a better cook, reading spiritual books doesn't necessarily deepen your spiritual journey. Having more ideas about God or the Spirit doesn't necessarily translate into a deep encounter with the divine in daily life.
Here's what I know does work--especially for us men.
First, get out in nature. It's the first place where you can encounter something bigger than yourself. If, like me, you spend a lot of time in a city, find a place where you can simply observe life. And if you need to read a book, I can strongly recommend Belden Lane's Backpacking with the Saints.
Second, learn how to be a better listener. Have a daily practice of just listening to all the sounds around you. In a world filled with noise, listening is a skill we could all learn to improve. In a typical conversation, we are listening 45% of the time. However, we are distracted 75% of that time and the average attention span is 22 seconds. We immediately forget half of what we have heard in a conversation and retain only 20% a few hours later. So if we miss this much in conversation, how much are we really missing in what God is trying to tell us?
Third, we know that men can be profoundly impacted by ritual. If you have participated in a ritual with other men, you know what I mean here. And, on a more personal level, we can create daily rituals for ourselves that bring us back to a connection with the divine.
Fourth, we know that men deepen their spirituality in community with other men. Furthermore, we now know that when men sit in Council, something deeper opens. Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening, speaks of this kind of listening, and speaking, from the heart: "There's something beyond technique when two or more people are deeply listening to each other. It is an awareness that not only are we present to each other, we are present to something that is spiritual, holy, sacred." We know men are transformed by connecting in this way with other men through Council.
So yes, we need books, and we need to be in nature, practice sacred listening, and participate in ritual and Council. Building on a strong foundation given to us by Fr. Richard Rohr, the Illuman community continues to provide men with ways to develop and deepen a life- giving, masculine spirituality. I know I really needed this work to help me move beyond my "cookbook spirituality."
If you are ready to experience what we have to offer, we invite you to join one of our local groups (see our Regions page for more information) or consider attending our Soularize retreat