Whenever I was nearby the Washington National Cathedral,
I would stop and pay a visit. Architecturally, it was built in the
English Gothic style. There's a grandeur there, what with its
beautiful stained glass windows--one in which is placed a
moon-stone brought back by one of the astronauts. And
outside there's a beautiful garden where I would go and
just bask amongst the trees and flowers and simply relax.
Not knowing it back then, but the cathedral quietly turned me
onto yet another path in my journey. One day, as I was leaving,
I spotted an announcement about the Shalem Institute for
Spiritual Formation. It was an ecumenical spiritual community
then connected with the Washington National Cathedral. The
founders were Tilden Edwards, a priest, and Gerald May who
was a psychologist. The institute offered an entire program on
"spiritual direction." I didn't go into this, but I did participate in
some workshops presented by Gerald May.
Again, so many years have passed by that I find it difficult to
related accurately the specifics that Dr. May conveyed in these
workshops, but what has stuck in my mind is his emphasis
that we are *incarnated* beings. As he put in one of his fine
books, "Humans are physical beings. We are incarnated.
The live of our bodies and minds is both an expression of
and a prerequisite for our growth as souls."
This inspired me to consider how my sensate side might be
such an expression when it comes to enhancing my soul.
Doing so, I was rather surprised.
It would seem that I had long combined creativity and beauty
with my sensate side. Over the years, close to home, I invested
a lot of effort enjoying interior design and landscaping. Colors
were very important to me. The combinations of leather, rugs,
objects of art were significant. I also built gardens.
Music, too, fed my sensate side. Often at concerts my body
would be nearly thrilled by glorious music. Indeed, let me hear
Beethoven's "Egmont" and I can almost guarantee an energy
burst, like lightening bolts, shooting out of my head.
I found, also, that travel complimented the sensate in me. I had
been in some wonderfully exotic places--whether Egypt, whether
Brazil, whether Hawaii, whether Alaska. Riding a camel (that
seemed as tall as a skyscraper) aside the Pyramids resides
keenly in my memory. Lounging poolside in Rio de Janerio,
watching paragliders in the distance, jumping off jungle-green
mountains, and drifting down to the beach, walking in the mists,
amongst triple rainbows, or standing on glaciers where the cold
penetrated all through my body--all these experiences somehow
are always with me, all have helped forge my soul in unknown
and wonderful ways.
The appreciation of Beauty is not only the purview of poets and
artists, but such is significant among monastics as well.