Selah is a Hebrew word found repeatedly in the book of Psalms. It is an untranslatable word, but it is typically thought to mean “pause” or “rest” for the purpose of reflection.
What does the Selah Center do?
The purpose of the Selah Center is to experiment with various types of communal expressions within the world through active forms of meditation, contemplation, and inter-religious dialogue. We understand that worldviews are highly diverse, divergent, and fluid. With this in mind, all of our practices are focused on living Otherwise than we are used to living. So often, in our Western-capitalistic society, we are focused solely on ourselves and consuming those things we desire. After we are done consuming, we move on. Our religious and spiritual expressions also tend to be based on the capitalistic model of consumption. The Selah Center seeks to alter this perception of reality in order to teach ourselves vulnerability and hospitality to ourselves and those around us. Rather than consuming, we must (re)learn the sacred art of letting go.
It is through letting go and learning to be powerless that we begin truly to engage our own spiritual journeys. As Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, writes, “When a person is on a serious inner journey to his or her own powerlessness and is also in immediate contact with the powerless men and women of the world, then community will result” (1991, p. 38). We offer the intentional creation of pluriform communal expressions by humbling and teaching ourselves that we must gain a vision of community that reaches beyond ourselves. Rather than coming to community, consuming what we need, and moving on, we desire to learn to contribute to the life of community through the outward expressions of love, justice, compassion, and charity.
The vision of the Selah Center is a daily practice of Lenten awareness. We believe that Lent is primarily about letting go of the desires in our lives that harm us and embracing those things that bring us, and the world, Life Abundant. The main desire that is so detrimental to one’s spirituality in the West is typically the desire for accumulation, addition, and consumption. Thus, we seek to learn communal ways of letting go of the compulsion to be successful, the compulsion to be right, and the compulsion to be powerful and always in control (Rohr, 1991). These desires arise from an intense place of fear that we usually carry with us all of our lives. We are afraid of failure, being wrong, and being out of control. Yet, it is only by facing our fears together, learning to live with those fears in new ways, healing our wounds in community, and learning to live Otherwise that we may truly begin our spiritual journey together within a community of hope, grace, and justice for our world.
We are usually so governed by our own emotions, and we must learn to stop suppressing those emotions. We must learn to identify our emotions and observe them in order to begin to heal. Healthy communal expressions often form out of a wound within society itself, and it is our intention to identify with those wounds in order to begin the process of healing together; thereby, allowing our “selves” to flow from these wounds and to participate in healing with the world around us. By reaching out to our local communities, partnering with local artists, individuals, and groups, and practicing askesis, the Selah Center strives to change our “selves” in order to effect the global community in positive ways through the artful cultivation of life together as an expression of grace and compassion.
What is “askesis?”
Askesis is a Greek term that has a complex philosophical and theological history. Askesis connotes the active practice and training of the mind and body. It originally meant the training of the body for physical competition, but it has come to us through the Christian tradition to be known as asceticism. The term asceticism has a negative connotation today, but we seek to revive the more positive meaning of askesis. Far from referring to extreme forms of asceticism, askesis is about enriching our lives and learning to live with more freedom. Askesis means the active and intentional practice of (re)forming and transforming our lives. We have all been conditioned by society to accept the reality of our situations, but through askesis, we attempt to alter our perceptions of reality in order to live more fully in the present and transform our worldviews.
Askesis carries the meaning of caring for the self. The care of the self is a centuries old art that we have lost in our busy, materialistic driven society. Askesis as a care of the self reminds us that we must be intentional with our time and space with the purpose of transforming our lives through the ways in which we choose to live. Living is an art form, and we must choose to cultivate that art through a care of the self in order to (re)form our lives into works of art.
Askesis requires discipline, and it is also a process of healing whereby we come to a healthier and fuller understanding of ourselves and the ways in which we interact with the world around us. All of the offerings of the Selah Center are intentional practices of askesis through which we might become more than we are. We “work” on ourselves so that we may artfully participate with the world around us in intentional acts of love, justice, compassion, charity, and mercy.
Why is the intentional creation of time and space so important?
As we are typically so busy and consumed with “doing” things and “accomplishing” tasks in our everyday lives, it is important to create sacred time and sacred space in order to give ourselves moments to reflect on our lives and rest from the busyness of society. These times and spaces do not create themselves, however, and we must be intentional and creative by setting aside spaces and times that are different, or Other, from normal time and normal space.
The Otherness of sacred time and sacred space serves to take us out of the constructs imposed upon us by culture and society thereby allowing us to transcend normal time and normal space. In so doing, we are able to reflect on our own lives as consecrated by the Divine Mystery of Life. The intentional participation with sacred time and sacred space also allows us to prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies for the illumination and Divine Breath flowing from God that can bring opportunities for growth, healing, and transformation. We tend to forget that we must prepare ourselves to receive inspiration and revelation from God, and we must (re)tune our minds and hearts in order to hear and receive the grace and peace offered to us freely. In short, sacred time and sacred space helps us to sift through all of the clutter of our lives and get back in tune with the natural and Divine Rhythms of Life Abundant that give our sense of “self” meaning and resonance.
Are the Selah Center and the DHBC community the same thing?
The Selah Center is a part of the DHBC community, but it is a separate entity within the church itself. The Selah Center is an experimental community with the purpose of studying and practicing active meditation and inter-religious dialogue, and it is supported by the DHBC community. The Selah Center and the DHBC community partner together to bring peace and justice to Atlanta and the global community.
Do I have to join the church in order to participate in Selah Center activities?
The purpose of the Selah Center is not to force anyone to join anything. It is our hope that we join together and participate in communal expressions of faith and healing in order to grow together and cultivate our lives through intentional action and active meditation and dialogue. All are welcome and free to come and go as they please without membership or allegiance to any particular creed or worldview. Wherever you are on your path, you are welcome at the Selah Center.