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Contemplation

Guest Post by Brian Plachta: How to Find Flow and Jumpstart Your Spiritual Life

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Mysticism, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

When our car battery loses power, we often take out the jumper cables, open the hood, and jumpstart the battery to give it new life.  It’s the same thing with our spiritual lives—occasionally we need to step back, open the hood on our lives, and see if our spiritual life needs a jumpstart too.

A tool we can use to evaluate our spiritual lives is what I call Finding Flow.

Years ago, while studying to become a spiritual director, as part of the coursework, we learned about saints and spiritual masters, including Saint Benedict. Benedict, a fifth-century monk who started the first monastery, wanted to give his monks a template for finding balance between daily work and prayer (ora et labora). He called it a Rule of Life.

The monks had to create an individual Rule which became their guiding principle, a framework for finding inner peace and balance in their daily lives. Today, we might call it a personal mission statement.

As part of our three years of spiritual direction classes, we were tasked with the assignment to create our Rule of Life. As I pondered, I looked to the spiritual giants we studied. I noted how each man and woman—Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Julian of Norwich, Saint Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, and others—had four common characteristics that shaped their lives.

  • First, they took daily time for solitude, to be alone with God—time to meditate and listen.

  • Second, they read the scriptures and the work of spiritual teachers to learn wisdom.

  • Third, they surrounded themselves with people who inspired them to grow.

  • Finally, they discovered their unique talents and gifts and used them in life-giving ways for themselves and others.

I shaped my Rule of Life around the ancient wisdom of Benedict and the other spiritual masters. The following became my Rule, the guiding principle we can use to evaluate our lives so we can find deeper inner peace and balance:

  • Solitude: establishing rituals to spend daily “quiet time” to deepen our relationship with God

  • Spiritual reading: delving into books that teach and inspire

  • Community: surrounding ourselves with people who nudge us to grow

  • Contemplative Action: discovering our unique gifts and talents and using them to make the world a better place

When put into regular practice, these guideposts form healthy habits that help us experience abiding joy. We can take Benedict’s wisdom, even if we’re not monks, and find unique ways to translate it into modern life. We can look at our lives through the lens of these guideposts to find balance. Wholeness.

For shorthand, I call this  Rule of Life, “finding flow.” Flow means being one with the Divine Spirit who opens our hearts, allowing us to experience inner peace, balance, and wholeness.

Finding flow involves adopting spiritual practices to exercise our souls, just like going to the gym or taking daily walks to help maintain strong healthy bodies.

Consider taking time to look at each of the above four pillars to assess your spiritual life. Check your spiritual battery by giving each of the four a ranking from 1-10 to discover which ones are full and which ones need your attention.

When all four guideposts are fully charged, it’s amazing how God deepens our relationship with him as he invites us daily to find flow.

Brian J. Plachta is a writer, spiritual director, and teacher. He writes a weekly reflection called Simple Wisdom for Everyday Living he sends out via email each Monday. You can receive his weekly reflection and also get a free copy of his book, Life’s Toolbox—Blueprints Included by visiting his website:

http://www.brianplachta.net/home.htm

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Living within the Flow

By | Ahimsa, Asking the Question, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Current Issues, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Nonviolence, Saying the Unsayable, Social Justice | No Comments

To live in the world with wisdom and compassion is the true vocation of every human being. Living with wisdom and compassion, within Big Mind and Big Heart, is indeed a practice. For me now this practice asks of me to live generously. And this truly is my growing edge at this time, to live within and from that mind and heart within me that is non-seeking and non-grasping.

I sense that Jesus exemplified this way of living. He was the embodiment of the mind and heart of the Father whose generosity sustains us moment to moment, a constant flowing forth of God’s own life, given for us as our very existence. This is the example that I realize I need to return to as a reminder of how to be human, which in essence is to be like God to others.

To the extent that I am grasping, my participation in this flowing forth from God of pure generosity is stifled. When I become a taker, but not a giver, what is meant to flow into and out of myself is blocked. Where in this is the fullness of life received and passed on to others?

The small self is hardly up to the task of living within this flow. When we live from our small self, our tendency is to count the cost, to be very cautious. We would like to earn much, gather much, and store it into barns for the future. In doing so, we build a dam in the river, and too many dams eventually destroy any flowing forth at all, so that those who live at the headwaters store the abundance of the water, and those below receive a trickle. Fear, mistrust, anger, envy, resentment abound at every level. This is what happens when we are all living from our small self.

There is risk, then, in living within this flow. It takes faith to give of oneself, whether this giving be in the form of one’s time, talent, or treasure. When we open the spillway of our dam, we must face our fear that we will be the only one doing so and that we will end up with a drained reservoir; taken advantage of, considered a fool and a sucker by ourselves and others.

Yet, the saints tell us that this Living Water takes many forms which can only be experienced when we take the risk of opening the spillway. In essence, we are invited to experience in a personal way how Living Water will reveal its fullness to us. We are invited to participate in an adventure.

As it stands, I have yet to learn all there is to learn about living within this flow, of really participating in it and living the adventure of it, of allowing God to surprise me with God’s own endless generosity.

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Mercy

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Current Issues, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Nonviolence, Saying the Unsayable, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

Our concept of mercy changes
As our image of God changes.

First, there are the gods who
Remain aloof, separate from us, who reward
And punish us whimsically in storm, in drought,
In famine, in plenty. We never know, we can only
Hope to win their favor, that they show mercy
In plenty.

Then there is the God who reaches out to us,
God’s chosen. If we the chosen follow the Law,
Offer placating sacrifice, extend mercy to others,
Mercy will be given to us. If we fail in any of these
Requirements, favor will be withheld. In its place
We will be punished. We plead for forgiveness,
for mercy as restoration of relationship.

Then there are those who experience a much larger God.
A God who is merciful to God’s chosen even when
They fail to live up to what is expected.
When the chosen deserve punishment and expect it,
God responds by embracing them, taking them back
Time and again.

And then an even much larger God is experienced as extending
Mercy to everyone in this same way, moving out beyond
The chosen in an all-inclusive embrace. And this mercy
Is once again freely given, even when the whole world
Is deserving of punishment and expects it.

Then there is the God who lives among us
As one of us. Whose very Presence in our midst
Bespeaks mercy. We see in the eyes of God a mirror
Which reflects back to us only love. And we call such mercy
God’s loving compassion. We experience a constant
Flow of unearned forgiveness. We realize that God doesn’t
Even judge us.

And then the mystics experience that God’s ground
Is our ground, and our ground is God’s ground.
And that is true for all of Creation which is the incarnation
Of the Word of God, the Christ, and that there never was
any separation between God and the Christ and never can be.
We have only to awake to our reality in God.
We are as Meister Eckhart says, The generosity of God.
And this is true whether we acknowledge it or not.

When we awake to this Reality, we can in truth lay claim
To what has always been True. In this sense grace,
God’s life freely given, replaces any need for mercy.
God is Graceful to all, even before time existed.

How?

By | Asking the Question, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Poetry, Saying the Unsayable, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

How could it come to this?
This not wanting to be good
For anybody.
(Not a meanness)
Just a wanting to leave
The stage
Where goodness merits applause.
And the critics
Hold your fate in the palm
Of their hand,
Where one slip could end it all
And there goes the train
Leaving the station without you.

Makes one feel important
When all is going well.
Salvation  a morality play,
All hanging on for dear life
To the script.

Where’s the wildness?

(Not a sowing of more oats)
Mainly the freedom
To walk away
From the confines
of the organization,

toward the One who deals
only in unabashed love,
whose Beauty keeps ambushing me,
revealing infinite mutual longing.

To stop refusing
Such generosity
that doesn’t care to hear
that I deserve only banishment
to the servants’ quarters,
when all this Love wants is
to put a ring on my finger,
sandals on my feet, cover me
with a royal robe,

And nothing else seems
To matter– except to
welcome me home.”

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The Fading Shine of the Golden Ring

By | Asking the Question, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Nature, Poetry, Saying the Unsayable, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

This path I have walked,
My life
Has been circling round
Back to
Fearful, clinging places,
More like promises of brambles.

I labeled the lessons a nuisance,
failed them
Cursed my fate.
Hard lessons,
More like crucifixions.

My faith
In the golden ring
Has worn deep the path
I have trod.

At least now
I am heading toward the precipice
Overlooking a fiery inferno
To receive it.

God help me–

To walk away divorced.
This time wanting only the true bride,
The one my soul has always
Yearned for.

Ringing the Bell and Hiding in the Bushes

By | Asking the Question, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Poetry, Saying the Unsayable, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

If nothing else, what is called religion
ought to be teaching us to be attentive to those
border crossings of the Trickster who lives within us.
We ought to be alerted to our being
Sons and daughters of a Pure Generosity
Who can’t wait to come to us as Spirit and Light,
As Living Water, as Bread, and who
surprises us, often when we least expect it,
leaves a cornucopia of spiritual food on the doorstep
rings the bell and hides in the bushes.
We ought to be alerted, so when this happens,
we can say with clarity we have been visited
by the Divine Grocer and Artist of the Beautiful,
who gives us this bread and living water,
Spirit, and Light, and often
crouches smiling as we stand on the step
gazing out, hoping for a glimpse
of the One we knew would come.
If religion does this right
we will be glad,
that our Lover is out and about,
and can’t stop thinking of us.

While Moving Along

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Natural World, Nature, Poetry, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

As I move along in time and space
Sometimes I get stuck
Or maybe I’m just lingering
before circling back
To pick up something missed
Or undo something done,
if that were ever possible.
Or to try again and this time embrace
Or let go more gracefully.
To own something stuffed away back then
And to carry forward, no shoulds or oughts
or have tos this time.

To look more closely
at what was once forbidden
To skip some beats
While humming old tunes
To laugh out loud at the absurd
when before told to be silent.

I keep picking up my old tracks
Taking longer strides
Or shorter ones, depending on something
different now. A little
out of sync,
while smiling at the first time passer.

This returning, never quite the same,
spiraling higher, dipping deeper–
I’m casting myself
and flying over a stream
before lighting once again on the moving water,
wondering at being devoured,
Yet, knowing I am tethered to a line
of infinite length and unbreakable.

We Are What We Seek

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Current Issues, Mysticism, Natural World, Nature, Nonviolence, Poetry, Social Justice, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

Why do we stand outside the temple
wondering what prayers will open the gates?
We have only to say, “Please, open.”
And what is inside will be revealed.

No need to travel to Rome,
Or visit a hundred churches.
The key is in our pocket.
We are what we seek.

Does the divine spend the day
looking around for divinity?
Why would we spend the day any differently?
God sees God everywhere.
Time to look in the mirror
and see God.

Shadow Boxing

By | Ahimsa, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Current Issues, Mysticism, Nonviolence, Poetry, Spirituality, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

While the rest of the floor is spotless.
There is yet a bit of a mess in the kitchen.

It is possible, I am afraid, to “awaken,”
To become a guru,
And while chanting “Om”
Be oblivious to what’s under the stove
and refrigerator.

Sometimes monsters appear in night time dreams.
Hard to sweep them away.

Better to befriend the spirits within,
that will not be thrown out.
Too much demands to be heard,
Taken back, owned.

Some will say, “We are not our resentment;
nor are we other than our resentment.”
That’s wisdom hard to fathom.
But unless we get this, it will always be
the others who are resentful. Others angry.

And we, of course, are fine,
Righteous and upstanding,
Maybe even a guru.
Even though
the monsters don’t go away,
And the kitchen begins to smell.

Border Crossings

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Mysticism, Natural World, Nature, Poetry, Social Justice, Spirituality | No Comments

As you go about your work
Look around you.
Here, the trees are flames.
The sky filled with the sound of geese.
Stirrings of autumn.
All this beauty.

But you can stop anywhere,
Attentive

One day you might find yourself
asking, What happened?
Who touched me?

And taking a step in any direction,
Find the divine running toward you,
Already having crossed the border
A hundred times without your knowing.

When we awaken,
we will see;
Not knowing,
we just go on our way.