Sunday, January 29, 2012

Something about self-pity

Artist: Henri d Toulouse-Lautrec

One of my Facebook friends posted the following today by Inayat Khan. I do think it is a very insightful observation:
"If one studies one's surroundings one finds that those who are happy are so because they have less thought of self. If they are unhappy it is because they think of themselves too much. A person is more bearable when he thinks less of himself. And a person is unbearable when he is always thinking of himself. There are many miseries in life, but the greatest misery is self-pity."
Now, I want to hasten to add that self-pity is not the same as self-compassion. It's very important that we have compassion for ourselves because (among other reasons) if we don't, we are likely to project that lack of compassion onto others.

Self-pity is not only unattractive, it is profoundly dis-empowering.

When you think about it, Jesus was never given to self-pity. But he certainly had compassion on himself as well as on others.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spiritual practice idea

Artist: Georg Friedrich Kersting

My goodness. I have actually done this (and it is a work in progress). I didn't realize before that Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended the practice:
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”
I have benefited hugely from my little collection, by the way. I really do urge everyone to try it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The power of empathy

Artist: Alexej Kondratjewitsch Sawrassow

All right. The following is actually a Zen koan but just think about it for a while and I think it will come to you why I put it here.
One day Chao-chou fell down in the snow and called out, "Help me up! Help me up!" A monk came and lay down beside him Chao-chou got up and went away.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The big problem with self-righteousness

Artist: Nicolas Poussin

The late William Sloane Coffin was (and still is) one of my heroes in life. Here's something he said that I'm not sure I ever came across before today:
The temptation to moralize is strong; it is emotionally satisfying to have enemies rather than problems, to seek out culprits rather than flaws in the system. God knows it is emotionally satisfying to be righteous with that righteousness that nourishes itself on the blood of sinners. But God also knows that what is emotionally satisfying can be spiritually devastating.
Yes, it is spiritually devastating to judge others and, more than that, to justify judging others. Oh, certainly we can be intensely provoked at times. I suppose what really matters is if, upon recognizing how judgmental we have become, we are grieved by that state of affairs or whether we are determined to continue feeling smug and gratified.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Radiating from one center

Artist: Henri Rousseau

For what it's worth, this really resonates with me:
Mystics report that every bit of the world radiates from one center - every cricket, every grain of dust, every dream, every image, everything under the sun or beyond the sun, all art and myth and wildness.  If they are right, then we have no more important task than to seek that center.
-- Scott Russell Sanders

Friday, January 20, 2012

The delicacy of Christ

Artist: Albert Edelfelt

I know I post a lot about silence on this blog. I want to mention here that a person does not have to have an aptitude or preference for long periods of silence to benefit from the principle so beautifully honored in the quotation below.  Just a minute or so of intentional silence from time to time makes a huge difference in a person's life. Please trust me on this one!
"It is only in identifying with Christ, it is only by plunging into the great silence of God within myself, that I can love and identify with others. It is by listening to the great silence of God, and having this strange, passive dialogue in which I become aware of the silence which is the speech of God--it is only by listening to this that I am able to speak to my brother. It is only by listening to this silence that I can acquire the ingenuity of love, the delicacy of Christ in my human relationships. In this silence I become identified with Christ, I acquire a listening heart."

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Artist: Caspar David Friedrich

Here is a passage from a book by Terence Grant entitled The Silence of Unknowing. I think he's saying something terribly important here. Our collective lack of comprehension regarding how fundamentally connected we are is directly responsible for the prevailing belief that we can only succeed through competition and hostility.
Christ is the vine, we are the branches. We labor under the delusion that we are isolated from other people. The consequences are fear, suspicion and conflict--all of which are destroying our world today. Imagine what would happen if people were to drop this fantasy of separateness. What if even just the Christians were to let go of this delusion? What if we were to move beyond our little, separate self to discover our true Self, this shining sun that each of us is? There would be a revolution.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Something about purpose

Artist: Fritz von Uhde

I'm quite certain I've posted the following before but I'm not sure where. I think it is utterly true and worthy of ongoing reflection:
"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Making friends with silence

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes I think that the loveliest, wisest, most generous thing we can do for ourselves is to make friends with silence. I see much suffering taking place within and also surrounding those unfortunates who cannot tolerate the depth and richness of experience with true silence. Here are a few thoughts and observations:
Silence is exhilarating at first - as noise is - but there is a sweetness to silence outlasting exhilaration, akin to the sweetness of listening and the velvet of sleep.- Edward Hoagland
Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary.- Peter Minard
Silence is as deep as eternity; speech, shallow as time. - Thomas Carlyle
Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment. - Henry David Thoreau
And then, of course, there is my favorite (and this has been said by many but it was first told me by Bishop Mark Dyer):

"Silence is the language of God; anything else is a bad translation."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Twelfth Night reflections

From an essay by Dan Clendenin:
As I think about Epiphany, the disclosure or unveiling of the birth of Christ in all its multi-faceted dimensions, it is clear to me that the experience of disclosure is a life long journey. It is an always unfinished task. The issues of exclusion and power above are only the tip of the iceberg. Every day we ask the Lord to reveal, to unveil to us, aspects of our lives that the Christ Child claims—work, money, family, use of our time, friendships, and on and on. We pray that he would remove the scales from our spiritual eyes so that by some miracle we understand our own lives in the same manner that He does, as far as that is possible for fallen human beings.
(Image above from Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Receptivity to the Christ

Artist: Donatello

Is this not, perhaps, what we mean at Christmas time when we ask Christ to be born in us?
We cannot make the Kingdom of God happen, but we can put out leaves as it draws near. We can be kind to each other. We can be kind to ourselves. We can drive back the darkness a little. We can make green places within ourselves and among ourselves where God can make his Kingdom happen.