Consolation & Desolation: A New Path of Discernment.

“Spiritual consolation is experienced when our hearts are drawn toward God, even if this happens in circumstances that the world would regard as negative.”
— Margaret Silf

The emergence of a new year strikes many of us as a timely invitation to reevaluate our focus and priorities for the coming season. This week Kellie and I are on a personal retreat for just such a reevaluation. Most commonly that assessment leads people to set fresh goals (or resolutions) as a way of seeking better alignment with the things that matter most to us. This is a worthy enterprise, but I wonder if we might navigate the new year by considering a different path. A different way of walking and evaluating.

The old path. The way that is most known to us might best be illustrated by a tool familiar to coaches: the Wheel of Life. It's a way of evaluating our satisfaction with the different facets of our lives...which often leads us to select a new behavior that will supplement an area that ranks low on our assessment. Once we make that new behavior specific, measurable, and time-specific, then we have an actionable goal. It's a good path...but sometimes it helps to try a new way.

A new path. Of course, this might not be new at all to some of you. The terms "consolation" and "desolation" in the context of spiritual discernment go back to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th Century Spanish priest who founded the Jesuits. Ignatius calls us to pay attention to how different activities and relationships and environments affect our hearts. Are they energizing or are they draining? Do they make you feel more alive or less alive? Do they connect you with yourself or disconnect you? And most importantly of all, do they draw you closer to God or further away? These are powerful questions and worthy of spacious reflection.

This is the path I'm walking these days--evaluating just about everything I do in these terms. Potential clients, exercise and eating, managing money and time, recreation, and spiritual practices: I'm running them all through the grid of consolation and desolation. I hope you'll try it yourself. For me it's a brand new way of relating to my inner and outer world. Happy New Year!

Posted on January 13, 2015 .