Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cherishing the ordinary

Artist: Mikhail Natarevich

I've emphasized the following principle before on this blog. It bears pondering again from another writer's point of view:
The great lesson from the true mystics . . . is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's back yard.
— Abraham H. Maslow in Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A kind of taking stock

Artist: Paul Gauguin

I have recently come across some material about the spiritual teacher, Robert Benson. Here's something he said that speaks to me.
Sometimes letting go of a spiritual practice can be as important as adding a new one. Sometimes reshaping one to account for a new set of circumstances is needed. Sometimes there is a hole in our spiritual practice that must be filled, and we can tell it because we are beginning to run on empty.

No one knows those things unless they have a rule, formal or informal, and unless they stop to look at it from time to time and make note of what is to be found there.
Many of the people I've talked to over the years are convinced that in cultivating a spiritual and interior life we are required to take on new practices. I really like Benson's outlook here about sometimes needing to do just the opposite.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love and pain

Artist: Dmitri Minaevich Sinodi-Popov

I'm offering you something very brief today. It's by Ralph Waldo Emerson and I think it is profoundly focused and powerful. I plan to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on it because I think there's a lot being said here - a lot:

The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.


Psalm 33 chanted

Oh, dear people. This is so pure, precise and very, very lovely:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Contemplation and solitude

"Hermit Woman"
Artist: Wojciech Gerson

Here is definitely one of my favorite sayings from the Desert Mothers:
Amma Syncletica said, "There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town; they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one's mind while living in a crowd; and it is possible for those who are solitaries to live in the crowd of their own thoughts."
This saying is one I rely upon when people remark to to me, "Funny; you don't look like a hermit."

I tend to answer, "When I look like a hermit, nobody sees me."

More to the point, however, is that the value of solitude is more in one's state of mind than whether one is literally (physically) around other people or not.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Looking within

Artist: Edwin Harris

The following was included in the email newsletter of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Including an "examen of consciousness" in one's daily routine is something I was taught in the convent. It's really a very powerful (and soothing) practice:
The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God's presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God's hand at work in our whole experience.

The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily-at noon and at the end of the day. It's a habit that Jesuits, and many other Christians, practice to this day.

This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.

1. Become aware of God's presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Look toward tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Becoming more fully human

In case anyone is not familiar with the works of Walter Wink, you can find out more about him right here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Our challenge

Artist: Nicholas Roerich

I was very influenced by Fr. John Main starting about twenty years ago or so. He was very much a major player in the revival of meditative practices in contemplative Christianity. Here's something he said that I like very much:
“...Our challenge as Christians is not to try to covert people around us to our way of belief but to love them, to be ourselves living incarnations of what we believe, to live what we believe and to love what we believe.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Walk slowly, smile, drink tea

Artist: Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here's something that I think is really quite lovely and wise:
“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”
It's by the marvelous Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another comforter

Take the time to listen to this, please, and let yourself be uplifted and consoled. It's only two minutes and ten seconds long!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

With the heart of anyone in need

Artist: László Mednyánszky
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Dorothy Day has been one of my personal heroes for many, many years now. Here's something she said that is so very pertinent today:

Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts. But now it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving it to Christ.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The need to give

The other day, I came across a book published in 1946 called Peace of Mind by Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman. It was given to my mother by her aunt Freida for Christmas of 1948. My mom would have been pregnant with me at the time.

Here's an excerpt:
The primary joy of life is acceptance, approval, the sense of appreciation and companionship of our human comrades. Many people do not understand that the need for fellowship is really as deep as the need for food, and so they go throughout life accepting many substitutes for genuine, warm, simple relatedness....

There comes a time in the development of every ego when it must love its neighbors or become a twisted and stunted personality. The normal mature man and woman has with him a surplus "urge to give."
Man's restless yearning to give something of himself, whether it be a physical child or a spiritual child - the child of his mind - a bridge, a poem, a song, an invention, a cure of disease - is the true answer to all cynics and pessimists who maintain that man is total selfishness.
I think I'm going to read the whole book. It's dated, yes. But it seems to contain a lot of wisdom.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Under the weather...

So sorry for the lack of posting. I'm down with a really bad cold, I'm sorry to say, and will be back to normal posting when I'm feeling a bit better.

Take care, everyone!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

God and the human mind

I think both of these by W. Tozer are worthy of considerable reflection:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
If God gives you a watch, are you honoring Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch?