I receive emails daily from Fr. Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation. I find these emails very helpful along my prayerful path. They teach, inspire and help guide me. Sometimes I have to admit, I get buried under my inbox. My schedule gets busy and I don't open everyone everyday.
I have learned ... don't beat myself up for not opening everyday. Sometimes I just don't have time, sometimes I have the time but just don't open it, again it is Okay. I have also learned that when I do read the emails, when I open one up and its the first in weeks, it is exactly what I need to hear. God is so good! So don't beat yourself up if you don't accomplish something you wanted to do, or don't get to the emails that are piling up in your inbox. Take a breath and click, it will be OK.
Today was one of those days. When I was able to click, I was able to read an email from CAC and not to my surprise it was amazing. Exactly what I needed to hear. So I wanted to share it with you. Maybe, just maybe it will touch your heart as well.
There is no single way to meditate. There are, however, certain acts and attitudes inherently endowed with the capacity to awaken sustained states of meditative awareness that form the infrastructure of each specific way to meditate. Here are some suggested guidelines.
With respect to the body: Sit still. Sit straight. Place your hands in a comfortable or meaningful position in your lap. Close your eyes or lower them toward the ground. Breathe slowly and naturally. With respect to your mind, be present, open, and awake, neither clinging to nor rejecting anything. And with respect to attitude, maintain nonjudgmental compassion toward yourself—as you discover yourself clinging to and rejecting everything—and nonjudgmental compassion toward others in their powerlessness that is one with yours.
Compassion is the love that recognizes and goes forth to identify with the preciousness of all that is lost and broken within ourselves and others. At first it seems as if compassionate love originates with our free decision to be as compassionate as we can be toward ourselves as we sit in meditation. As our practice deepens, we come to realize that in choosing to be compassionate, we are yielding to the compassionate nature of God flowing through us, in and as our compassion toward our self as precious in our frailty.
When we practice meditation, we are like the repentant prodigal son returning to his father’s house (see Luke 15: 11-32). By the time we begin to meditate, we have probably come to realize how foolish we have been in the past. We are sorry about the suffering our foolish ways have caused ourselves and others. We are sincerely intent on not being so foolish in the future. But like the repentant son heading home to beg for his father’s forgiveness, we are still laboring under the illusion that our wayward ways make us unworthy in the eyes of God.
The idea that our weaknesses are obstacles to God’s love is bound up with our egocentric perception of ourselves as outside God’s sustaining love. Entrenched in the ignorance of our imagined otherness from God, we set out to meditate as a way of overcoming one obstacle after another so that we might succeed in reaching God.
The ego self struggles in its efforts to sit present and awake as a way of being open to God’s presence until the ego exhausts all its own means of overcoming its inability to realize oneness with God. Then, just as all seems lost, we look up to see God running toward us with open arms. Suddenly we realize there is no place within us that is not encountered, embraced, and made whole in a love that does not even care to hear our litany of shortcomings and regrets. We are profoundly loved by God without any foundations for being loved, except divine love itself.
Gateway to Silence: Rest in God resting in me.
Reference:Adapted from James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (HarperSanFrancisco: 2004), 203, 279-282.
By: Fr. Richard Rohr
Most people have never actually met themselves. At every moment, all our lives long, we identify with our thoughts, our self-image, or our feelings. We have to find a way to get behind this view of ourselves to discover the face we had before we were born. We must discover who we are in God, who we’ve always been—long before we did anything right or anything wrong. This is the first goal of contemplation.
Imagine you are sitting on the bank of a river. Boats and ships—thoughts, feelings, and sensations—are sailing past. While the stream flows by your inner eye, name each of these vessels. For example, one of the boats could be called “my anxiety about tomorrow.” Or along comes the ship “objections to my husband” or the boat “I don’t do that well.” Every judgment that you pass is one of those boats. Take the time to give each one of them a name, and then let them move on down the river.
This can be a difficult exercise because you’re used to jumping aboard the boats—your thoughts—immediately. As soon as you own a boat and identify with it, it picks up energy. This is a practice in un-possessing, detaching, letting go. With every idea, with every image that comes into your head, say, “No, I’m not that; I don’t need that; that’s not me.”
Sometimes, a boat turns around and heads back upstream to demand your attention again. Habitual thoughts are hard to not be hooked by. Sometimes you feel the need to torpedo your boats. But don’t attack them. Don’t hate them or condemn them. This is also an exercise in nonviolence. The point is to recognize your thoughts, which are not you, and to say, “That’s not necessary; I don’t need that.” But do it very amiably. If you learn to handle your own soul tenderly and lovingly, you’ll be able to carry this same loving wisdom out into the world.
Gateway to Silence:
Reference: Adapted from Richard Rohr, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2004), 94-95.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
By: Richard Rohr
St. Francis illustrates this stage in many memorable ways. When he hears one day that the people of Assisi are calling him a saint, he invites Brother Juniper to join him in a walk through his old home town. Brother Juniper was the first simpleton (that is a compliment!), the holy fool of the original friars. Francis knew he could always trust him to understand what he was saying. Francis once said, “I wish I had a whole forest of such Junipers!”
Francis told Brother Juniper, “Let’s take off these robes, get down to our underwear, and just walk back and forth through Assisi. Then all these people who are thinking we are saints will know who we really are!” Now that’s a saint: someone who doesn’t need to be considered a saint, who can walk foolishly in his underwear the full length of Assisi.
A few years later, when people were again calling Francis a saint, he said, “Juniper, we’ve got to do it again.” This time they carried a plank into the piazza. They put it over some kind of a stone or maybe the fountain, and there they seesawed all day. They had no need to promote or protect any reputation or pious self-image.
That’s a rather constant spiritual tradition in the Eastern Church and in the Desert Fathers and Mothers, but it pretty much got lost after the 13th century Franciscans. We became more and more serious about this intense salvation thing, or you might say we took ourselves far too seriously. Moralism replaced mysticism. And this only increased after the in-house fighting of the 16th century reformations. We all needed to prove we were right. Have you noticed that people who need to prove they are right cannot laugh or smile?
When you are a “holy fool” you’ve stopped trying to look like something more than you really are. That’s when you know, as you eventually have to know, that we are all naked underneath our clothes, and we don’t need to pretend to be better than we are. I am who I am, who I am, who I am; and that creation, for some unbelievable reason, is who God loves, precisely in its uniqueness. My true identity and my deepest freedom comes from God’s infinite love for me, not from what people think of me or say about me. Both the people who praise me and those who hate me are usually doing it for the wrong reasons.
Adapted from Franciscan Mysticism (an unpublished talk)
Gateway to Silence:
I am who I am in the eyes of God, nothing more and nothing less.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
A book that for many years has been voted a must-read by spiritual directors is Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence. De Caussade was a 17th century Jesuit in France. I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes from this book.
“Every moment we live through is like an ambassador that declares the will of God to us.” There is no more infallible way to seek the will of God than moment by moment to see that what this moment offers me is the grace of God. If we did nothing more than that, de Cassaude says, we would attain the highest levels of transformation. Everything in life is to be welcomed as somehow the expression of the will of God. Your reaction to whatever happens has to be “as if” it were the will of God, or you can’t respond to it graciously. De Caussade writes, “We must accept what we very often cannot avoid, and endure with love and resignation things which could cause us weariness and disgust. This is what it means to be holy.” I think all of us shrink from his challenge because we know we can’t do it on our own. We only succeed by God’s grace now and then.
De Caussade says, “True mystics seek the real; we seek the ephemeral. They want God as God is; we want God as we imagine or would like God to be.” The greatest ally of God is what is. God can always work with what is. That is why there can be no real obstacle to union with God except our own resistance. God can and will use everything, absolutely everything, even the worst things—which is the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
De Caussade continues, “We find all that is necessary in the present moment.” Perhaps a summary sentence in his teaching is this: “If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment.” “What does this moment ask of me?” is always the right question.
Adapted from The Eternal Now—and how to be there!
Gateway to Silence:
What this moment offers is the grace of God.
Source: Fr. Richard Rohr
The First Gaze
Monday, June 30, 2014
I am just like you. My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating.
Let’s admit that we all start there. The False Self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.
The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended,” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes lots of practice.
On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” as Gerald May says, I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the False Self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before we go to bed, too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “Richard self.”
Adapted from “Contemplation and Compassion: The Second Gaze”
(article by Fr. Richard available free on CAC website)
Gateway to Silence:
May I see with eyes of compassion.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox