I write a great deal about William Glasser, sure enough, but I would not want to imply that I’ve only been inspired by him and nobody else. For example, another person I have been inspired by has been Dr, Gerald May. He was a co-founder of a spiritual direction institute called “Shalem.” I attended this school for two years, upon which I became certified in Spiritual Direction. I first met him, interestingly enough, on a ward at a psychiatric hospital called Spring Grove, near Baltimore.
Gerry was a psychiatrist and that was a good place to practice. But he moved on, due to his passion for spiritual growth. Part of his “moving on” ended in a number of spiritual books he authored, such as “Will and Spirit,” “Care of Mind, Care of Spirit,” and “Addiction and Grace.” I read his book, “Will and Spirit,” while in the Shalem program. In this book Gerry places emphasis on being willing, rather than willful. Being willing becomes the best way to experience the Grace of God, in turn gently ushering one toward an attitude of surrendering to God. I cannot force myself to surrender. That is being willful. I cannot force God to do anything. But I can open my heart, by wanting to, by being willing to gently notice the Presence of God around and within. Let me share with you a section of a paper that I wrote for Gerry May while in his class.
“In retrospect, I know that when I began offering spiritual direction that I had no real method to follow, which caused me to simply follow my own instincts. As initial attempts go, some of my instincts were good and some were not. I found that I sometimes allowed myself to become a ‘problem solver’ by my directees in order to deal with current ills that they were experiencing. I allowed this state of affairs as I believed at the time that various issues needed to arise and be dealt with first, i.e. solved, before any in depth searching into prayer and God could take place. The possibility at least that this was a mistaken notion occurred to me when I noticed that the “problems” were not being solved. With this realization, the next step was to let my problem solving tendency fall away, upon which I noticed a distinct change in the relationship. In one specific relationship, I directly posed the question to my directee of what was being sought, God or a concrete answer to her problems. She admitted that later, but added that she did not feel that an answer was directly forthcoming. It frustrated her, especially that she believed that this problem (her current life situation) prevented her from developing a close relationship with God, which was why she gave such a high priority to finding a solution. It occurred to me that I had intensified her attachment to the schema by participating in the “search” for a solution. As a result of this insight, I posed another question to her as to how God could be found by her ‘within’ her situation. Could she allow God to be with her in her problems? She said ‘yes’ and for the first time since our initial meeting we discussed only God.”
The above account could be seen as a paradigm perhaps as to how we move through our lives, wanting God and yet simultaneously becoming distracted by just about everything else, in many cases confusing our attachments with God, Himself. By the gentle noticing displayed in my quote of my paper above, intending to be willing rather than willful, our growth with and within God’s Presence manifests with His in turn gentle Grace.
Dr. Gerald May died from cancer. He died as he lived, smiling and peaceful, surrendered to God, willing to allow God to be God, and to act in all things according to His Will. Rest in peace!
Peace, Fr. Walter