Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Spiritual-Existential Intelligence

As Stephen Covey says, “spiritual/existential intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the others”.

In this sense, I could say that the development of this intelligence is the main purpose of our formation program at Lavigerie House. But now, in practical terms, how are we trying to actualize the spiritual/existential intelligence?

First of all, in developing our capacity of self-awareness, we are invited to know what we believe and value in life. We are invited to express/articulate our motivations. What does move me/us to be here? Every semester we engage in personal and communal evaluations. We are also guided by a community project from the beginning of the year. Each student is accompanied by a spiritual director, a chaplain, and by his community-mates.

Another very important element in the actualization of the spiritual/existential intelligence is the development of a quality of presence to oneself and one another, to be mindful, to live first and foremost in the here and now. For that, we have half an hour of personal meditation in our Chapel every day. The visibility of our intention is very relevant. We also meet daily for Laudes, Vespers and the Eucharist. Each week, we have three occasions to explore different ways of meditation and prayer. For example, on Monday mornings, we were exposed to the following ways of meditation: Ignatian imagination, Taize meditation, meditation in nature, body/earth awareness, drumming and dancing meditation, breathing meditation, the “tired man” meditation, etc... On Many Thursdays, we have praise and worship prayers where we express through dancing and singing our joy in following Jesus Christ. Finally on Sundays, each team is invited to present the theme of the week in any creative way.

Another dimension of spiritual/existential intelligence is called holism. Recently we began exploring how we are actualizing different intelligences in our formation program, and how different dimensions of our formation are interconnected. The goal is to develop a capacity of seeing in larger patterns. We are also exploring different community dynamics, like team encounters, monthly students meetings, personal group initiatives of different groups in the house (per year, per nationality...). The goal is to strengthen the quality of relationships, as we develop a sense of belonging and identity in being a Missionary of Africa.

Our purpose of being here is to grow in compassion towards ourselves, to one another and to the whole world. We sense our interconnectedness with the whole creation. For that purpose our program provides several occasions during the year where one can experience in faith God’s compassion. Indeed compassion is intelligent. 

Part of the spiritual/existential intelligence is the celebration of diversity. We come from 20 different ethnical backgrounds and 7 nationalities. We live together in spite of all our differences as we focus our attention to what bring us together: our love in Jesus Christ. Thus, we create one culture; a culture in Christ where our diversity becomes a gift and source of amazement. We have our monthly socio-cultural evenings as well as an inter-congregational cultural gathering at the Philosophy centre.

Another dimension in our formation program is the development of the capacity of being critical; standing out against the crowd to have one’s own convictions. The studies in Philosophy and Social Sciences help the students to develop a critical mind. In that sense, the students develop the tendency of asking fundamental “why?” questions. Through courses like Critical Thinking and Conflict Transformation, they are invited to understand things in depth, searching for root causes.

A fundamental quality of spiritual intelligence is a sense of humility: being aware of one’s true place in the world. Our living together challenges constantly our sense of humility.

In line with visual-spatial intelligence, spiritual/existential intelligence tries to stand back from any given situation so as to see the bigger picture. Our monthly recollections and yearly retreats are quite helpful in the vocational discernment process of our students. In our daily meditations, we develop the capacity to look at ourselves and the world through God’s eyes.

Life is difficult, thus spiritual/existential intelligence allows us to learn and grow from mistakes, setbacks, and suffering. We learn to forgive and to start afresh.

Finally, the main purpose of our being here is to discern God’s call for each one of us in our lives. A sense of vocation is the cornerstone of a life that is taken, blessed, broken and given. These four movements of our Christian intelligence is a transformative one. Formation that is not transformation is deformation.

Yago Abeledo, M.Afr.