Discernment in Action – an attentive, intentional posture, an inclination towards light and life
As I walk my dog each afternoon through some recently vacated land awaiting development, I find myself paying more and more attention to the path we take. The old farmhouses have been demolished and cleared away, leaving the big rural blocks with no livestock or mower to keep the grass down. We cut a winding path through this expansive meadow, where a variety of tall grasses, thistles and garden plants are quickly reclaiming the abandoned properties. It feels reassuring to bear witness to such abundant growth and attempt, in my own way, to lose myself more completely in this new landscape.
I say all this as a way of explaining how I understand the role of discernment in my life.
The daily ritual of walking the dog has become a kind of prayer for me, much like an Examen. There are few distractions in the open fields and exposure to the elements has a way of making me more present to myself and my state of mind as I tramp along.
Discernment, for me, is something that occurs gradually when time is taken to reflect on experience. It is an attentive, intentional posture, an inclination towards light and life. We are pulled onwards, upwards, down paths that may be new, but promise so much.
When I review the last few years of my life, I can see how particular choices have led to growth while others have simply reinforced comfortable patterns of behaviour – patterns that threaten to choke life rather than support it. I try to be more sensitive to the clues that offer some direction, like the faint scent of blossom or an unfamiliar birdcall, because there is rarely anything like a road sign or map directions.
This is, for me at least, how I understand discernment. In my own way, I am trying to listen, test the air, remain attentive and, only then, respond to that which is drawing me into the fullness of life.
With thanks to Michael Tod for this reflection of Discernment in Action. Michael is the Director of Ignatian Ethos and Identity at Saint Ignatius’ College Geelong.