The Spiritual Quest: Letting Go of “How”

2013-10-26 17.20.51

By Stephanie  Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of their Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.

The future lays heavily about the house these days. My son just started his junior year in high school and my daughter is in her senior year in college. But the question of what to do with life doesn’t just hang around the kids’ hearts. We adults wear it too.

I was reading Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening the other day. He wrote about the struggles of a teenager trying to figure out what to be and the tension between what the self, society, and family think is best.

He writes, “It is not about being a poet or a florist….It is about the true vitality that waits beneath all occupations for us to tap into, if we can discover what we love. If you feel energy and excitement…you are probably near your God-given nature. Joy in what we do is not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health.”

I read this to my son this morning in light of him seriously contemplating how he wants to live his life.

As someone closer to middle age (!), I too contemplate how to live my God-given truth regardless of what my “shoulds” yell, regardless of what society may push. For me it is more of a scraping back of the layers to remember. For the children, perhaps it is more of a parting of the grasses.

Either way, the refrain sings clearly: What is your passion? What makes you feel alive? What is God calling you to do? What seed did Spirit place in you from the beginning?

I can get stuck in the “how.” Sometimes, I find I get in my own way. I end up working so hard at trying to do the fixing myself that I forget about Grace.

As Nepo says, “When  I lose my focus on what really matters, I fall….Without troubling yourself with how, step with your heart into the field of this growth.”

I read this and let it sink in. Yes.

It’s about making the shift from trying to do something to be more ____ (fill in the blank) to just being that way. To stop seeing oneself as working at it and instead be it.

How do you break the habit of not speaking your truth, for example. Then I realize you just step into the place with God, and be someone who speaks your truth.

It’s amazing what can happen when I get out of my own way and Spirit takes over.

What is your experience?

November 11, 2013 by Shalem Institute 4 Comments
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Donna M White
Donna M White
10 years ago

Something to ponder over the weekend (on breaks from our homework of course!). Enjoy the free time that the weekend often brings to us. Best. Donna

10 years ago

Your post is so timely. I know what brings me joy and the situations that others seem to pick up on that joy (photography, writing, nature, discussing the Gospel, leading small spiritual groups). And I know what feels so against the flow for me that it is pure drudgery, though it’s a large part of my job and is something objectively good that helps others – managing logistics for donations drives. Time, perhaps, to live into the flow and let go of what is not my gift or my call. Thank you for an inspiring post.

Michael Willett Newheart

You write, ” . . . I forget about Grace.”

Is that your daughter? 😉

Michael Willett Newheart

As penance (or perpetuation), I include a poem about grace I published several years ago, based on John 1:1-18:

How about a grace-full poem?

in my flesh
which is sometimes
but sometimes
in a word
it relaxes and
breathes easier

in others’ flesh
who hug
and handshake
my flesh
and speak
gracious words
to me




Our mission is to nurture contemplative living and leadership.


In 2025, Shalem will be a dynamic and inclusive community, empowered by the Spirit, where seekers engage in transformation of themselves, their communities, and the world through spiritual growth, deep connection, and courageous action.