The Spiritual Practice of Visioning
Rev. Dr. Joan Steadman, Senior Minister at Oakland Center for Spiritual Living in 2008, had been taught by Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, Founder of Agape International Center and author of Life Visioning. Dr. Michael is an open inlet and outlet for divine expression all the time. He’s always visioning. That’s not true for most of us, so he developed a structure that enables the rest of us to stop and listen to God who is always speaking.
Rev. Joan learned visioning, which is what this practice is called, from Rev. Michael and she required anyone who wanted to start a new ministry at Oakland Center to vision, to use Rev. Michael’s visioning structure, for 6 months. After that, they develop a vision and mission statement.
A group of us wanted to have a prison ministry at Oakland Center, so we met in the library to vision.Through this spiritual practice, we were to move beyond our personal ideas and opinions and open our hearts and minds to God’s ideas. A church member more experienced in visioning came each week and led us.
Steps in Visioning
First we would be still and meditate on love. When we were deeply immersed and rooted in love, the first question would be asked:“What is God’s highest vision for the prison ministry at Oakland Center for Spiritual Living?” People can use this method for anything, even for life direction, health, healed relationships or abundance. We focused on the desired prison ministry.
After the question is asked, everyone sits in silence and notices what comes up in their minds. It could be one or more images, or words, sounds or physical sensations. Some people, like me, wrote down whatever came to them right then. Others waited until the end. After a good long pause, the second question is asked.
“What must I become to empower this vision? What must I be?” A quiet period followed this question as well. Some people write down what came to them. Others waited. Then came the third question.
“What must I release? What must I let go of that no longer serves me? What limited thought or limited being?”
The fourth question is — “What must I embrace? What must I receive or accept for the vision to be fulfilled?”
Last of all we ask, “Is there anything else? Is there anything else I need to know?” For a long time, to my delight, I would receive a poem in answer to this question.
Following all the questions is a quiet time when everyone writes whatever had come to them. Then the group shares what had come through. We listen respecfully without commenting on what each person shares. It is common for more than one person to see the same thing in response to a question.
Dr. Michael has said that the most important is the reply to the question “What must I become?” It is the inner change in each participant that brings the vision to manifestation.
The maddening result is a landmark along the way
For well grounded, practical people, this practice is maddening because it’s not logical and does not result in a clear list of things to do. Answers to the first question — “What is God’s highest idea,” for instance — is likely to be unrelated images and thoughts.
One experience showed me how these unrelated images can show up in life and confirm that we’re on the right path. I was preparing to lead a group event one time in a big hall we have at Oakland Center. Someone had brought a dozen roses to be placed in the center of a large circle of chairs.
Suddenly, the vase of roses made me stop moving chairs. Wow! Hadn’t I seen that exact bouquet in a visioning session for the activity I was leading? After the event was finished, I rushed home and pulled out my visioning notebooks. There it was in my notes: the dozen red roses. It was a landmark confirming that I was acting in harmony with the vision.
After the 6 months of visioning for the prison ministry, the group did not want to create a vision and mission statement. It was too corporate, they said and refused. We continued visioning. Different members of the group would present ieas of what we could do as the prison ministry but the others always disagreed, so we continued visioning.
The welcome breakthrough
One day, a member who was particularly resistant to creating a mission and vision statement had a big realization. She was a member of a 12-step group. They were able to choose what the group should do because of the guidance of the group’s vision and mission statement. After that, she was willing to help develop such guidelines for the prison ministry. An experienced church member came and helped us do this last step so that our vision-born prison ministry could begin at last.
To read more by Aikya, click here.