Richard Rhor's daily meditations 

Richard Rohr, OFM, (born 1943) is an American author, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

He was ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in 1970. He has been called "one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world."

Meditations@cac.org

Summary: Week Forty-two

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace

Part One

October 18 - October 23, 2020

 

I believe Thomas Keating showed great courage in heeding the call of the Second Vatican Council, “opening the windows” of the monastery, and offering Centering Prayer to the world. (Sunday)

 

In this season of planetary upheaval, Thomas Keating’s courageous spiritual work has deep wisdom to offer us as we begin to wrap our collective hearts around what is required next. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Monday)

 

Silence is not absence, but presence. It is a “something,” not a nothing. It has substantiality, heft, force. You can lean into it, and it leans back. It meets you; it holds you up. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Tuesday)

 

God co-inheres and interpenetrates everything, the ocean-in-drop and drop-in-ocean, constantly exchanging in a dance of endless fecundity. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Wednesday)

 

For most of us—including for Thomas Keating—the sense of joyful, flowing oneness doesn’t just “happen.” It comes at the end of a painful season of stripping and purification that has classically been called “the dark night of the spirit.” —Cynthia Bourgeault (Thursday)

 

Even with great practice, most of us will only glimpse or abide in our True Self for moments at a time while we are alive, but mystics seem to finally and fully abide there, which I hope encourages us to keep going. (Friday)

 

Practice: Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer is simply sitting in silence, open to God's love and our love for God. Today, CAC Living School faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault provides a brief overview of the Centering Prayer practice.

 

    It is preferable to find a quiet place to sit comfortably where you will be undisturbed for the period of time you are setting aside for your centering prayer. That said, you can still proceed with your practice even if the environment and conditions are not ideal.

    

    There are a variety of meditation benches, cushions and sitting accessories widely available, but sitting upright in a standard chair is perfectly fine.

    

    The prescribed daily practice is a minimum of two 20-minute sits. If at all possible this amount is most recommended to start and maintain a dedicated practice. A timer or nearby clock is helpful to time the sitting period.

    

    An aid to help in returning to the essence of the practice is to select and use a sacred word or short phrase that can act as a placeholder or symbol for your intention.

    

    Aiming to stay relaxed but attentive, close your eyes, and start your practice period rooting in your basic intention of open availability to God.

    

    Each time you notice yourself becoming absorbed in a thought, and without making a problem of your distraction, gently release your attention from the thought and inwardly say your sacred word. Your sacred word is not constantly repeated like a mantra, but only used as much as required to bring yourself back into alignment with your original intention.

    

    In the context of this practice, a thought is defined as anything that brings your attention to a focal point. This could be an idea, vision, memory, emotion, or dwelling upon a physical sensation. If it captures your attention, it’s considered a thought, and by letting go you are renewing your intention and consent for “God’s presence and action within.”

    

    As you continue in the prayer period and thoughts inevitably arise, use your sacred word to gently and quickly clear your mental debris, and to return to open awareness and availability.

    

    When the allotted time is up, slowly open your eyes. Without rushing, take a few minutes to allow yourself to come back to your usual state of consciousness.

    

    If planning longer periods of sitting, many find a very slow meditative walk after each 20 minutes or so helps to keep the body more comfortable and alert.

 

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Method and Practice of Centering Prayer, The Wisdom Way of Knowing at https://wisdomwayofknowing.org/resource-directory/centering-prayer/

 

For Further Study:

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, foreword by Thomas Keating (Cowley Publications: 2004).

 

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala: 2016).

 

Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice, https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

 

Thomas Keating, Divine Therapy and Addiction: Centering Prayer and the Twelve Steps, with Tom S., interviewer (Lantern Publishing and Media: 2020, ©2009).

 

Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, 20th anniversary ed. (Continuum: 2006).

 

Thomas Keating, The Secret Embrace, artist Charlotte M. Frieze (Temple Rock Company: 2018). A limited number of copies available at https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/product/thomas-keating-the-secret-embrace/

 

Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015).

 

Spirituality, Contemplation, and Transformation: Writings on Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating and others (Lantern Books: 2008).

 

 

Summary: Week Forty-one

What Do We Do with Evil?

October 11 - October 16, 2020

We don’t seem to understand what evil is, how it operates, or what we can do, personally or collectively, to reduce its power over us and its impact on our world. (Sunday)

For Paul, sin is not primarily individual fault, but the negative matrix out of which both evil and enlightenment arise. (Monday)

Both Thomas Aquinas and C. S. Lewis taught that the triumph of evil depends entirely on disguise. Our egos must see it as some form of goodness and virtue so that we can buy into it. (Tuesday)

Paul’s “powers” and “principalities” are almost certainly his premodern words for what we would now call corporations, institutions, nation-states, and organizations that demand our full allegiance and thus become idolatrous. (Wednesday)

Jesus’ social program, as far as I can see, is a quiet refusal to participate in almost all external power structures or domination systems. (Thursday)

Universal solidarity is the important lesson, not private salvation. (Friday)

Practice: From Place to Ground

As long as we are preoccupied with the sins of “the flesh,” those things we’ve done, said, and gotten wrong over the course of our lives, we will never find the courage to face the larger problems of “the world” and “the devil.” This gentle meditation exercise by mindfulness teacher Rhonda V. Magee invites us to connect with ourselves, our ancestors, our neighbors, and our common humanity. From that place of solidarity, we may be able to imagine our collective salvation and to work towards it.

Taking a position for a meditation practice, whether seated, standing, or lying down, bring your awareness to the position of the body in this moment. Feel the connection between the body and the ground. Take a few moments to ground yourself intentionally in the here and now. With a few very deep breaths, imagine the flow of the breath extending through the height of your body, from head to toe, and through the width of your body, from side to side.

On an in-breath, begin deepening awareness of who you really are.

Call to mind your connection to your parents, and through them, as best you can, your grandparents, and the great-grandparents whose names you know or do not know. And so on.

What do you know about your own ancestral heritage? What do you not know? . . .

What parts [of this story] have been hidden, denied, buried, or left out?

Breathe in, examining what you know and do not know about these aspects of your place in the social world. . . .

Now consider the actual community in which you live. For now, think of this as one aspect of your “place” in the world. Consider the fact that every person in that community is a member of a broad, rich lineage within human history. And see how those differences pale in comparison to the things the communities’ members share in common

Take a moment to consider the ways that different histories reflect common experience as human beings.

Think of the peace and cooperation that silently exist in your community, to whatever degree they exist, and the ways in which your life has benefited from thousands of moments of participating in a community that practices “getting along.”

Now breathe in and out, feeling the deeper ground of your existence, and that which you share with us, with the rest of the world. Allow the awareness of your common humanity to infuse your sense of your place in the world in this very moment.

On the next in-breath, call to mind what you know about some one particular aspect of your lineage. And on the next out-breath, release what you know, and sense into the common experience of breathing that all human beings share.

Continue this cycle, breathing and alternately considering aspects of your place in the world and the deeper ground of your human existence, all held by the ocean of awareness.

When you’re ready, gently bring yourself back into simply sitting and breathing. Transition out of the meditation with gentle kindness.

Rhonda V. Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness (TarcherPerigee: 2019), 59–61.

Image credit: Black Cross, New Mexico (detail), Georgia O’Keefe, 1929, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. www.artic.edu

For Further Study:

Walter Brueggemann, Tenacious Solidarity: Biblical Provocations on Race, Religion, Climate, and the Economy, ed. Davis Hankins (Fortress Press: 2018).

John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now (HarperSanFrancisco: 2007)

Richard Rohr, St. Paul: The Misunderstood Mystic (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), CD, MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), CD, MP3 download.

Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with Evil? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CAC Publishing: 2019).

Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, 25th anniversary ed. (Fortress Press: 2017, 1992).

Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (Doubleday: 1998).

St. Francis:

A Message for Our Times

October 4 - October 9, 2020

St. Francis stands as one who made the way of Jesus credible and concrete, both for those called to formal religious life and for men and women living in the ordinary world. —Robert Ellsberg (Sunday)

Humans and the creaturely world have as their vocation the duty to support and complete one another, not to compete against and destroy one another. —Michael Perry (Monday)

Creation itself was Francis’ primary cathedral, which then drove him back into the needs of the city, a pattern very similar to Jesus’ own movement between desert solitude (contemplation) and small-town healing ministry (action). (Tuesday)

Francis and Clare were not so much prophets by what they said as in the radical, system-critiquing way that they lived their lives. (Wednesday)

When we agree to live simply, we put ourselves outside of others’ ability to buy us off, reward us falsely, or control us by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain of anything. (Thursday)

We must move to the laboratory where all radical change can occur—inside of our very mind, heart, and the cells of our body. I call it the laboratory of contemplative practice, which rewires our inner life and confirms in the soul a kind of “emotional sobriety.” (Friday)

Practice: Two Practices with Animals

Who could ever express the deep affection Francis bore for all things that belong to God? Or . . . tell of the sweet tenderness he enjoyed while contemplating in creatures the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator? —Thomas of Celano

Francis of Assisi is known for his love for animals, but too often the stories become overly romanticized or even magical in their thinking. The truth of Francis’ respect for animals is far more profound than mere “birdbath Franciscanism” lets on. Everything was a mirror for Francis. What he saw in the natural world, in the sky, in animals, and even plants was a reflection of God’s glory. His first biographer, Thomas of Celano, writes about how Francis was constantly praising creatures for giving God glory just by their very existence. They could simply be and be themselves. Eventually, nature mirrored back the same message to Francis himself: He could just be and be himself in all of his freedom and joy and poverty. Today’s contemplative practice from biologist Rupert Sheldrake invites us to share a “mirroring” experience with the animal world so that we might have a glimpse of the reality that Francis lived throughout his life.

Be Present with an Animal

If a cat is purring while you stroke it, be completely present to the stroking and the purring—rather than stroking distractedly while having a conversation or watching TV. The cat is present; become present with it.

Or listen to a bird singing. I live in England, and my favourite birdsong is that of blackbirds singing in the spring and early summer. I listen to their songs, which change every time they sing. Often I hear another blackbird respond: they interact with each other and reply to each other’s tunes and variations. They are present to each other. We can be present through listening. Wherever you live, you will be able to find birds singing. . . .

Get to Know Another Species

If you keep a cat, dog, horse, parrot, budgerigar, rabbit, hamster, ferret, lizard, goldfish, stick insect, or another kind of animal, you are already getting to know another species. If you have, or have had, more than one cat, dog, horse, or other animal, you will also know that each animal is different. Each expresses its unique individuality within the context of its species’ instincts.

If you do not have a companion animal, or even if you do, you can get to know a wild species by observing individuals that live near you—like birds in your garden or in a nearby park—watching and listening to them, perhaps feeding them, relating to them throughout the year. Or you can raise caterpillars or tadpoles and witness their transformation into butterflies, moths, or frogs.

The better you know your chosen kind of animal, the more you will appreciate its way of being, its form of life. You will feel connected to a world much wider than your human concerns, and with which you share a common source.

 

Rupert Sheldrake, Ways to Go Beyond and Why They Work: Seven Spiritual Practices for a Scientific Age (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2019), 71–72.

Epigraph: The Life of Saint Francis, chapter 29. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, The Saint, ed. Regis J. Armstrong, J. Wayne Hellmann, William J. Short (New City Press: 1999), 250.

For Further Study:

Leonardo Boff, Francis of Rome & Francis of Assisi: A New Spring in the Church, trans. Dinah Livingstone (Orbis Books: 2014).

Robert Ellsberg, The Franciscan Saints (Franciscan Media: 2017).

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, trans. Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady (Paulist Press: 1982).

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, The Saint, ed. Regis J. Armstrong, J. Wayne Hellmann, William J. Short (New City Press: 1999).

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, The Founder, ed. Regis J. Armstrong, J. Wayne Hellmann, William J. Short (New City Press: 2000).

Pope Francis, The Spirit of Saint Francis: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis, ed. Alicia von Stamwitz (Franciscan Media: 2015).

Dawn M. Nothwehr, Ecological Footprints: An Essential Franciscan Guide for Faith and Sustainable Living (Liturgical Press: 2012).

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014).

Richard Rohr, The Franciscan Way: Beyond the Bird Bath (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), online course.

Richard Rohr, In the Footsteps of Francis: Awakening to Creation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CD, MP3 download.

Summary: Week Thirty-nine

Mystics and the Margins

September 27 - October 2, 2020

 

Many saints, mystics, and everyday people take their place in the grand scheme of God by living on the edge of the inside. (Sunday)

We’ve tended to soften Jesus’ conflict with the system, or the established powers, but Jesus’ ministry took place on the margins! (Monday)

Desert spirituality is characterized by the pursuit of abundant simplicity—simplicity grounded in the possession of little—and the abundance of God’s presence. —Laura Swan, O.S.B. (Tuesday)

Grounded in the natural world, Celtic Christianity saw God as a deep kind of listening and speaking presence. (Wednesday)

The beguines instigated a seismic shift in the province of the imagination, bringing their embodied experience of God and their spiritual journey into a broadened and deepened inner realm. —Laura Swan, O.S.B. (Thursday)

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continually return. —Thomas R. Kelly (Friday)

 

Practice: The Folly of Fear

Not all mystical traditions have practices that are “serious.” Some of the teaching stories of Sufism, the mystical arm of Islam, feature the wise fool Mulla Nasrudin. The Sufis use the humorous stories of Nasrudin's adventures as an opportunity for contemplative practice. Like one of Jesus’ parables, a Nasrudin story can work on many levels, from presenting a simple premise to initiating profound understanding. We hope you enjoy the following Nasrudin tale about a Sufi dervish (practitioner) who encounters Mulla Nasrudin.

 

Nasrudin was walking along a lonely road one moonlit night when he heard a snore, somewhere, it seemed, underfoot. Suddenly he was afraid, and was about to run when he tripped over a dervish lying in a cell which he had dug for himself, partly underground.

 

“Who are you?” stammered the Mulla.

“I am a dervish, and this is my contemplation place.”

“You will have to let me share it. Your snore frightened me out of my wits, and I cannot go any further tonight.”

“Take the other end of this blanket, then,” said the dervish without enthusiasm, “and lie down here. Please be quiet, because I am keeping a vigil.”. . .

Nasrudin fell asleep for a time. Then he woke up, very thirsty.

“I am thirsty,” he told the dervish.

“Then go back down the road, where there is a stream.”

“No, I am still afraid.”

“I shall go for you, then,” said the dervish. After all, to provide water is a sacred obligation in the East.

“No—don’t go. I shall be afraid all by myself.”

“Take this knife to defend yourself with,” said the dervish.

While he was away, Nasrudin frightened himself still more, working himself up into a lather of anxiety, which he tried to counter by imagining how he would attack any fiend who threatened him.

Presently the dervish returned.

“Keep your distance, or I’ll kill you!” said Nasrudin.

“But I am the dervish,” said the dervish.

“I don’t care who you are—you may be a fiend in disguise. Besides, you have your head and eyebrows shaved!” The dervishes of that Order shave the head and eyebrows.

“But I have come to bring you water! Don’t you remember—you are thirsty!”

“Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with me, fiend!”

“But that is my cell you are occupying!”

“That’s hard luck for you, isn’t it? You’ll just have to find another one.”

“I suppose so,” said the dervish, “but I am sure I don’t know what to make of all this.”

“I can tell you one thing,” said Nasrudin, “and that is that fear is multidirectional.”

“It certainly seems to be stronger than thirst, or sanity, or other people’s property,” said the dervish

“And you don’t have to have it yourself in order to suffer from it!” said Nasrudin.

 

Idries Shah, The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin (Simon and Schuster: 1966), 60, 62.

 

For Further Study:

Mary C. Earle and Sylvia Maddox, Holy Companions: Spiritual Practices from the Celtic Saints (Morehouse Publishing: 2004).

 

James Finley, Turning to the Mystics (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), podcast.

 

Thomas R. Kelly, A Testament of Devotion (HarperSan Francisco: 1992, ©1941).

 

J. Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation (Jossey-Bass: 2008).

 

Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014).

 

Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley, Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate: Seeing God in All Things (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

 

Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women (Paulist Press: 2001).

 

Summary: Week Thirty-eight

Interspiritual Mysticism

September 20 - September 25, 2020

 

The loving and universal scope of Jesus Christ provides us with a model of how to recognize and celebrate truth on the many different paths to God. (Sunday)

 

The proof that you are a mature Christian is that you can see Christ everywhere else. (Monday)

 

We are asked not only to tolerate the other, but also to actively engage the love that transmutes the lead of ignorance and hatred into the gold of authentic connection. —Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

 

Not only do many young people believe that there is one underlying reality at the foundation of all major world religions but they are also convinced that different traditions and their unique approaches to God complement each other. —Adam Bucko (Wednesday)

 

I had long been familiar with the mystical tradition of the West, but I felt the need of something more which the East alone could give; above all the sense of the presence of God in nature and the soul. —Bede Griffiths (Thursday)

 

One of the greatest needs of humanity today is to transcend the cultural limitations of the great religions and to find a wisdom, a philosophy, which can reconcile their differences and reveal the unity which underlies all their diversities. —Bede Griffiths (Friday)

 

Practice: God In My Breath

 

Anthony de Mello (1931–1987) was an East Indian Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, writer, and public speaker. He was beloved for his ability to use stories to teach the spiritual truths of both the East and West. He taught that:

 

Prayer, love, spirituality, and religion are about ridding yourself of illusions. When religion brings that about, that’s wonderful, wonderful! When it deviates from that, it is an illness, a plague to be avoided. Once illusions have been abandoned, the heart is unobstructed, and love takes hold. That’s when happiness occurs. That’s when change takes place. Only then will you know who God is. [1]

 

In the practice below, De Mello invites us to cultivate an awareness of our breathing as a way to deepen our connection to the divine.

 

Close your eyes and practice the awareness of body sensations for a while . . .

 

Then come to the awareness of your breathing . . . and stay with this awareness for a few minutes . . .

 

I want you to reflect now that this air that you are breathing in is charged with the power and the presence of God . . .  Think of the air as of an immense ocean that surrounds you . . . an ocean heavily colored with God’s presence and God’s being . . . While you draw the air into your lungs you are drawing God in . . .

 

Be aware that you are drawing in the power and presence of God each time you breathe in . . . Stay in this awareness as long as you can . . .

 

Notice what you feel when you become conscious that you are drawing God in with each breath you take . . .

 

There is a variation to this exercise. Another reflection, this one borrowed from the mentality of the Hebrews as we find them in the Bible. For them a human’s breath was life. When people died God took their breath away; that is what made them die. If someone lived it was because God kept putting [God’s] breath, God’s “spirit” into this person. It was the presence of this Spirit of God that kept the person alive.

 

While you breathe in, be conscious of God’s Spirit coming into you . . . Fill your lungs with the divine energy God brings . . .

 

While you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out all your impurities . . . your fears . . . your negative feelings . . .

 

Imagine you see your whole body becoming radiant and alive through this process of breathing in God’s life-giving Spirit and breathing out all your impurities . . .

 

Stay with this awareness as long as you can without distractions . . .

 

[1] Anthony De Mello, Walking on Water (Crossroad Publishing: 1998), vii.

 

Anthony De Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (Image: 1978, 1984), 36‒37. Note: Minor edits made to incorporate gender-inclusive language.

 

For Further Study:

 

Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, Occupy Spirituality: A Radical Vision for a New Generation (North Atlantic Books: 2013).

 

Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change, ed. Justine Afra Huxley (Jessica Kingsley Publishers: 2019).

 

Bede Griffiths: Essential Writings, ed. Thomas Matus (Orbis Books: 2004).

 

Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019).

 

Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Monkfish Book Publishing: 2012).

 

Wayne Teasdale, Bede Griffiths: An Introduction to His Interspiritual Thought (SkyLight Paths: 2003).

 

Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religious Traditions (New World Library: 1999).

 

 

Center for Action and Contemplation

Some simple but urgent guidance to get us through these next months.

I awoke on Saturday, September 19, with three sources in my mind for guidance: Etty Hillesum (1914 – 1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in the concentration camp than we are suffering now; Psalm 62, which must have been written in a time of a major oppression of the Jewish people; and the Irish Poet, W.B.Yeats (1965 – 1939), who wrote his “Second Coming” during the horrors of the World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

These three sources form the core of my invitation. Read each one slowly as your first practice. Let us begin with Etty:

    There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.

    —Etty Hillesum, Westerbork transit camp

Note her second-person usage, talking to “You, God” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence with her, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering.

Then, the perennial classic wisdom of the Psalms:

    In God alone is my soul at rest.

    God is the source of my hope.

    In God I find shelter, my rock, and my safety.

    Men are but a puff of wind,

    Men who think themselves important are a delusion.

    Put them on a scale,

    They are gone in a puff of wind.

    —Psalm 62:5–9

What could it mean to find rest like this in a world such as ours? Every day more and more people are facing the catastrophe of extreme weather. The neurotic news cycle is increasingly driven by a single narcissistic leader whose words and deeds incite hatred, sow discord, and amplify the daily chaos. The pandemic that seems to be returning in waves continues to wreak suffering and disorder with no end in sight, and there is no guarantee of the future in an economy designed to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and those subsisting at the margins of society.

It’s no wonder the mental and emotional health among a large portion of the American population is in tangible decline! We have wholesale abandoned any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation; we now recognize we are living with the catastrophic results of several centuries of what philosophers call nihilism or post-modernism (nothing means anything, there are no universal patterns).

We are without doubt in an apocalyptic time (the Latin word apocalypsis refers to an urgent unveiling of an ultimate state of affairs). Yeats’ oft-quoted poem “The Second Coming” then feels like a direct prophecy. See if you do not agree:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre

    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity.

Somehow our occupation and vocation as believers in this sad time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. If contemplation means anything, it means that we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins the election or who is on the Supreme Court. We cannot abide in such a place for any length of time or it will become our prison.

God cannot abide with us in a place of fear.

God cannot abide with us in a place of ill will or hatred.

God cannot abide with us inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim.

God cannot abide with us in an endless flow of online punditry and analysis.

God cannot speak inside of so much angry noise and conscious deceit.

God cannot be found when all sides are so far from “the Falconer.”

God cannot be born except in a womb of Love.

So offer God that womb.

Stand as a sentry at the door of your senses for these coming months, so “the blood-dimmed tide” cannot make its way into your soul.

If you allow it for too long, it will become who you are, and you will no longer have natural access to the “really deep well” that Etty Hillesum returned to so often and that held so much vitality and freedom for her.

If you will allow, I recommend for your spiritual practice for the next four months that you impose a moratorium on exactly how much news you are subject to—hopefully not more than an hour a day of television, social media, internet news, magazine and newspaper commentary, and/or political discussions. It will only tear you apart and pull you into the dualistic world of opinion and counter-opinion, not Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger place.

Instead, I suggest that you use this time for some form of public service, volunteerism, mystical reading from the masters, prayer—or, preferably, all of the above.

        You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all.

        And the world—with you as a stable center—has nothing to lose.

        And everything to gain

Richard Rohr, September 19, 2020

 

Summary: Week Thirty-seven

Wounded Healers

September 13 - September 18, 2020

 

When we can trust that God is in the suffering, our wounds become sacred wounds and the actual and ordinary life journey becomes itself the godly journey. (Sunday)

 

Until there has been a journey through suffering, I don’t believe that we have true healing authority, or the ability to lead anybody anyplace new. (Monday)

 

Despite the oppressive and ungodly forces applied against them, African Americans forged a spirituality that encouraged hope and sustained faith, which enabled them to build communities of love and trust. —Diana L. Hayes (Tuesday)

 

When you risk sharing what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not invade you or abandon you, you can discover within yourself what Jesus called the pearl of great price, your invincible preciousness in the midst of your fragility. —James Finley (Wednesday)

 

Healing is learning to love the wound because love draws us into relationship with it instead of avoiding feeling the discomfort. —Lama Rod Owens (Thursday)

 

Being wounded, suffering, and dying are the quickest and most sure paths to truly living. (Friday)

 

Practice: Upon Thy Altar

Psychotherapist Carl Jung believed wounded healers developed insight and resilience from their experiences which enabled the emergence of transformation to occur. African American philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman (1900–1981) was a living example of such insight for this week’s Practice. With tenderness and pastoral concern, he reminds us that one of the most important aspects of healing is the process of offering our wounding to God. We invite you to take several slow, deep breaths to settle your body and calm your mind; then read Thurman’s words slowly and contemplatively, either voiced or within the silence of your heart.

 

Our Little Lives

 

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!

The quietness in Thy Temple of Silence again and again rebuffs us:

For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting

And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Thy Spirit.

For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts—

The confusion is so manifest, there is no starting place to take hold.

For some the evils of the world tear down all concentrations

And scatter the focus of the high resolves.

 

    War and the threat of war has covered us with heavy shadows,

    Making the days big with forebodings—

    The nights crowded with frenzied dreams and restless churnings.

    We do not know how to do what we know to do.

    We do not know how to be what we know to be.

 

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!

Brood over our spirits, Our Father,

Blow upon whatever dream Thou hast for us

That there may glow once again upon our hearths

The light from Thy altar.

Pour out upon us whatever our spirits need of shock, of lift, of release

That we may find strength for these days—

Courage and hope for tomorrow.

In confidence we rest in Thy sustaining grace

Which makes possible triumph in defeat, gain in loss, and love in hate.

We rejoice this day to say:

Our little lives, our big problems—these we place upon Thy altar!

 

Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press: ©1953, 1981), 83‒84.

 

For Further Study:

 

James Finley and Alana Levandoski, Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path (Cantus Productions: 2016), CD.

 

Diana L. Hayes, Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2012).

 

Henry J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, 2nd ed. (Image Doubleday: 2010. ©1972).

 

Richard Rohr, The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), MP3 download.

 

Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014).

 

Richard Rohr, “The Trap of Perfectionism: Two Needed Vulnerabilities,” “Perfection,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2016).

 

Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah, PhD,

Summary: Week Thirty-six

Restorative Justice

September 6 - September 11, 2020

 

Our best self wants to restore relationships, and not just blame or punish. This is the “economy of grace” and an operative idea of restorative justice. (Sunday)

 

Jesus, who represents God, usually transforms people at the moments when they most hate themselves, when they most feel shame or guilt, or want to punish themselves. (Monday)

 

Restorative justice requires, at minimum, that we address the harms and needs of those harmed, hold those causing harm accountable to “put right” those harms, and involve both of these parties as well as relevant communities in this process. —Howard Zehr (Tuesday)

 

Restorative justice is a justice that seeks not to punish, but to heal. —Fania E. Davis (Wednesday)

 

When human beings admit to one another “the exact nature of our wrongs,” as the Twelve Steps recommend, we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides. (Thursday)

 

My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. —Bryan Stevenson (Friday)

 

Practice: A Restorative Way of Life

I believe the intent of the sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church is restorative justice—returning the individual to God, to their faith community, and to their best selves. Asking people to “confess” what they have gotten wrong in their relationships is an important first step, although sadly, it became the one we clergy focused on. True repair and restoration take much more than a bit of penance and a handful of Hail Marys, not that those aren’t fine places to start. I hope that we Christians will find the courage to take the example of Jesus seriously and think about how we can make all the justice we seek restorative, especially for the “least of these.”

 

Howard Zehr, whose work we shared earlier this week, has written some of the foundational texts on restorative justice, including Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times. In the 25th anniversary edition of this text, Zehr includes practices to help us live restorative justice as a way of life.

 

Ten Ways to Live Restoratively

    Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.

    

    Try to be aware of the impact—potential as well as actual—of your actions on others and the environment.

    

    When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm—even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.

    

    Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

    

    Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

    

    View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.

    

    Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

    

    Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.

    

    Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.

    

    Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism [and other examples of systemic and intersectional injustice].

 

Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times (Herald Press: ©1990, 2015), 257—258.

 

For Further Study:

 

The Big Book of Restorative Justice: Four Classic Justice and Peacebuilding Books in One Volume (Good Books: 2015). Collected titles: Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice; Kay Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Processes; Allan MacRae and Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Family Group Conferences; Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, The Little Book of Victim Offender Conferencing.

 

Fania E. Davis, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation (Good Books: 2019).

 

Elaine Enns and Ched Myers, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume 2: Diverse Christian Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books: 2009).

 

Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways, ed. Wanda D. McCaslin (Living Justice Press: 2005).

 

Ched Myers and Elaine Enns, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume 1: New Testament Reflections on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books: 2009).

 

Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011).

 

Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018).

 

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel and Grau: 2014).

 

Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice: Revised and Updated (Good Books: 2015).

 

Summary: Week Thirty-five

True Self/Separate Self

August 30 - September 4, 2020

 

Your True Self is a little tiny flame of this Universal Reality that is Life itself, Consciousness itself, Being itself, Love itself, Light and Fire itself, God’s very self. (Sunday)

 

Thinking creates the separate self, the ego self, the insecure self. The God-given contemplative mind, on the other hand, recognizes the God Self, the Christ Self, the True Self of abundance and deep inner security. (Monday)

 

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy. —Thomas Merton (Tuesday)

 

Only our True Self lives forever and is truly free in this world. (Wednesday)

 

The consistent practice of contemplation helps to uncover our true reality, essential Self, or fundamental “I.” (Thursday)

 

Awakening—which in Jesus’ teaching really boils down to the capacity to perceive and act in accordance with the higher laws of the Kingdom of Heaven—is a matter of piercing through the charade of the smaller self to develop a stable connection with the greater Self. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Friday)

 

Practice: Lectio Divina

 

Lectio divina (Latin for sacred reading) is a contemplative way of reading, praying, and taking a long, loving look at Scripture or some other text. In lectio divina, God teaches us to listen for and seek God’s presence in silence. The text for this lectio practice is from my book The Universal Christ:

 

“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else.” [1]

 

    With the first reading, allow yourself to settle into the exercise and familiarize yourself with the words. Read the text out loud, very slowly and clearly. Pause for a breath or two before moving on.

    

    For the second reading, listen from a centered heart space and notice any word or phrase that stands out to you.

    

    After a few moments of silence, read the text a third time, reflecting on how this word or phrase is connected to your current life experience. Take a minute to linger over this word or phrase, to focus on it until it engages your body, your heart, your awareness of the physical [and unseen] world around you.

 

    You may want to speak a response aloud or write something in your journal.

    

    For the final reading, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced, inviting the infinite wisdom of God to support you in places of unknowing, confusion, desire, or hope.

 

Leading in with the quotation below, practice a contemplative sit. You may wish to set a timer or digital prayer bell for 5, 10, or 20 minutes, so that you know when to finish.

 

Seat yourself in a quiet area. Once you are settled, read the passage aloud again:

 

“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else.”

 

    Notice any tightness in your shoulders and neck and allow any tension in your muscles to relax.

    

    Allow your back to rest in an aligned, neutral position.

    

    Ground yourself and allow your breathing to settle. Then read the following aloud:

 

    I am not trying to “achieve” anything. (Pause) There are no goals. (Pause) I am simply becoming aware of this moment. (Pause) Becoming aware of my presence in this moment. (Pause) As I notice any distractions, thoughts, judgments, decisions, ideas that cross my mind, I let them go for now (Pause), focusing instead on my moment-by-moment experience of being present to What Is. (Pause) God’s Presence. (Pause) The Larger Field. (Pause) En Cristo. (Pause)

    

    Ring a prayer bell to indicate that the contemplative sit has begun.

 

[1] Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 33.

 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: Companion Guide for Groups (CAC Publishing: 2019), 23–24, 25, 172.

 

For Further Study:

 

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (Cowley Publications: 2004)

 

James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God through Awareness of the True Self (Ave Maria Press: 1978)

 

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Paperbook: 2007, ©1961)

 

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (Crossroad Publishing: 1999, 2003)

 

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013)

Summary: Week Thirty-four

Order, Disorder, Reorder:

Part Three

August 23 - August 28, 2020

 

To arrive at the Reorder stage, we must endure, learn from, and include the Disorder stage, transcending the first naïve Order—but also still including it! (Sunday)

 

I was always being moved toward greater differentiation and larger viewpoints, and simultaneously toward a greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. (Monday)

 

The final stage of birthing labor is the most dangerous stage, and the most painful. . . . The medical term is “transition.” Transition feels like dying but it is the stage that precedes the birth of new life. —Valarie Kaur (Tuesday)

 

God dreams of a time when love and mutual respect will bind humanity together, and the profound beauty of creation will be treasured. —Jim Antal (Wednesday)

 

We are one, and our wars and racial divisions cannot defeat the wholeness that lies just below the horizon of human awareness. —Barbara Holmes (Thursday)

 

Only the whole self is ever ready for the whole God, so Reorder always involves moving beyond the dualistic mind toward a more spacious, contemplative knowing. (Friday)

 

Practice: The Welcoming Prayer

 

Only in the final Reorder stage can darkness and light coexist, can paradox be okay. We are finally at home in the only world that ever existed. This is true and contemplative knowing.

 

I’d like to offer you a form of contemplation—a practice of accepting paradox and holding the tension of contradictions—called “The Welcoming Prayer.”

 

First, identify a hurt or an offense in your life. Remember the feelings you first experienced with this hurt and feel them the way you first felt them. Notice how this shows up in your body. Paying attention to your body’s sensations keeps you from jumping into the mind and its dualistic games of good/bad, win/lose, either/or.

 

After you can identify the hurt and feel it in your body, welcome it. Stop fighting it. Stop splitting and blaming. Welcome the grief. Welcome the anger. It’s hard to do, but for some reason, when we name it, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin.

 

Don’t lose presence to the moment. Any kind of analysis will lead you back into attachment to your ego self. The reason a bird sitting on a hot wire is not electrocuted is quite simply because it does not touch the ground to give the electricity a pathway. Hold the creative tension, but don’t ground it by thinking about it, critiquing it, or analyzing it.

 

When you’re able to welcome your own pain, you will, in some way, feel the pain of the whole world. This is what it means to be human—and, also, what it means to be divine. You can hold this immense pain because you too are being held by the very One who went through this process on the Cross. Jesus held all the pain of the world, at least symbolically or archetypally; though the world had come to hate him, he refused to hate it back.

 

Now, hand all of this pain—yours and the world’s—over to God. Let it go. Ask for the grace of forgiveness for the person who hurt you, for the event that offended you, for the reality of suffering in each life.

 

I can’t promise the pain will leave easily or quickly. To forgive is not to forget. But letting go frees up a great amount of soul-energy that liberates a level of life you didn’t know existed. It leads you to your True Self.

 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 6 (Sounds True: 2010), CD; and

 

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (Crossroad: 1999, 2003), 159.

 

Image credit: Garden of Wish Fulfilment (detail), Arshile Gorki, 1944, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon Portugal.

For Further Study:

 

Jim Antal, Climate Church, Climate World: How People of Faith Must Work for Change (Rowman & Littlefield: 2018).

 

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020).

 

Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020).

 

Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011).

 

Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern (Franciscan Media: 2020).

 

Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, ed. Leah D. Schade and Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Rowman & Littlefield: 2019).