This time of year makes me think of my own teachers and how they have affected my understanding of
awe and wonder. I hope that this year’s teachers, whoever and wherever they are, will encourage and
value whatever awe and wonder their students or they themselves experience.
I hope that we all will have more transcendent experiences, exceptional experiences that are really
impossible to put into words and will remember what such experiences feel like. For me, this means
moving out of our small selves into our larger selves which are part of a different sort of time which is
sometimes called ‘God’s time’ or ‘Kairos time.’
Some of my teachers made me aware that transcendent experiences are large, the way joy and love are
large. One of these teachers was my teacher of spiritual direction, Donald Grayston. Don began The
Jubilee Program in Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Formation, a training program for people who feel
called to be soul friends or spiritual directors. As he told us, ‘Good teachers teach themselves.’ I think
he meant that they teach us what the teacher’s own life is like. Don was my spiritual director as well as
my teacher and he, with gentle humility, showed me what his life was like.
I graduated from the Toronto jubilee Program in 1994. In the years from 1990 till 1994, Don allowed me
to write whatever I had in my heart for the many assignments in the course, as long as I made good use
of the assigned reading material.
I was grieving. My father, eldest brother and mother all had died, one at a time, in the period just
before I began the course with Don. I graduated from Emmanuel College, University of Toronto, with a
Master of Divinity degree in 1991. The spaciousness with which I was allowed to write those papers for
Don was one of the best gifts I have ever received.
Don had no favorites among his students. He treated all of us with respect and tried to give us what we
needed to become the best versions of ourselves. ‘Spacious’ is perhaps my favourite descriptive word
for the transcendence I experienced in writing those papers. For me, transcendence means that we get
out of our own way, out of our smaller ego-selves and into our larger-selves, which choose to reach for
heaven and stretch joyfully. ‘Lightness’ and ‘light’ are involved but so is thoughtful reading and
understanding. It is creative spaciousness.
Don was a learned teacher, a scholar and an Anglican priest. He was the most important and most well
educated soul friend I have ever been privileged to work with. He defined what the terms meant to me.
Don wrote at least two books of memoir and many learned scholarly papers which were published. He
wrote and spoke about social justice issues in ways that mattered. He was a beloved teacher and
mentor to many.
About five years before his death in 2017, Don wrote what he called, ‘A Heart Will.’ I believe that he
sent this out to all his students, or as many of us as he could find. I keep my copy close to me. He calls
what he has written ‘insights.’ These are the words he sent to us with his ‘Heart Will.’
‘I bequeath them to you now, dear friends, at the end of my life, in the hope that they may shed
some useful light on your path. As I do so, I send them out with profound gratitude for the help
you have given me as I have walked my own path. Love, Don Grayston.’
I believe he would bequeath these insights to any people who want to become the best versions of
themselves. I think he would be glad I am sharing them with you.
All Don’s insights in the ‘Heart Will’ are wonderful but my favourite is: #3. Include and Transcend.
The gist of it is : ‘… I include my Christian identity in a larger spiritual identity which permits me, with
Thomas Merton as a tremendous model, to encounter others primarily as human beings rather than
persons identified in a limiting sense with their traditions of origin.’ (A Heart Will,’ by Donald Edward
I cannot tell you how many times this insight bequeathed by Don has enabled me to transcend myself to
be someone larger and wiser than I otherwise might be. It is a very light-filled and spacious insight.
Don encouraged me to write poems and also to work at getting them published. A few months before
he died I showed him, ‘The Way Things Are is Large,’ in Poems for the Journey, on page 19 and ‘There is
an Opening, a Door,’ on page 25. He was supportive and thanked me for sharing with him.
All good things to you as the school year begins and always.