On February 19, 2019, Fr. Arturo Sosa, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, released the order’s Universal Apostolic Preferences. These four preferences are intended to animate Ignatian initiatives for the next ten years. As a movement which emerges from the convergence of Ignatian spirituality and Yoga philosophy, Ignatian Yoga is significantly stimulated by these four preferences.
The fourth preference, which calls on Jesuits and Ignatian institutions to “collaborate in the care of our Common Home,” is directly inspired by Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on all people of good will to open themselves to an “ecological conversion,” which will stimulate profound shifts in seeing and being in relation to creation. Francis insists that this “ecological conversion” must impact both the intimate interiority of individuals, as well as the social systems which we inherit and inhabit.
In essence, an “ecological conversion” brings about two intertwining shifts: it enables us to more deeply sense and celebrate our embeddedness in God’s good creation, and it challenges us to more thoroughly resist those patterns of being which prevent the whole community from flourishing.
In my experience, Ignatian Yoga contributes to the process of “ecological conversion” in three key ways: it leads its participants into a deeper capacity for sensing and celebrating the goodness of creation, it confronts us with the gravity of sin, and it moves us into community.
For Francis, an “ecological conversion” necessarily inspires “gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift.” Throughout the most recent retreat in Chicago, the wisdom and disciplines of Yoga and Ignatian spirituality brought participants back to our senses. We were invited to receive our bodies as good gifts given by God, and to relate to each other and the world as sacred and gratuitous. We were encouraged to encounter God in all things.
We were additionally encouraged to more thoroughly attend to the impact of sin, which warps and distorts our relationships, and which ultimately prevents us from receiving and sharing the gifts of creation well. As Francis has it, our “three vital relationships,” with the divine, with the neighbor, and with the earth, are thoroughly ruptured, and “this rupture is sin.”
Francis emphasizes that the “ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change” is not merely an individual endeavor, but a “community conversion.” Community is the vehicle for transforming our ruptured relationality into renewed communion. In my experience, Ignatian Yoga opens a powerful space for individuals to spontaneously find ourselves in our bodies and in community. Only together can we acknowledge our brokenness, attune to our giftedness, and commit ourselves to the flourishing of all beings, human and more-than-human.