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Contemplation

Rocking Chair

By | Asking the Question, Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Natural World, Poetry, Spirituality, War, Wisdom/Compassion | No Comments

I am one who likes sit and dream
Or hold a child while I read to her.
I have supposed only a mother might invent a rocking chair,
To meet the need to lull a child to sleep
In an easy gentle way.
Who made this chair?
It was long ago, that I know.
Did he work long hours in a factory
with mullioned windows and dim light?
Did he take time to rock a child to sleep at night?
This chair has been with me many years.
I was the lucky one to find it
On the third floor of a Salvation Army store.
The leather seat, then torn and dusty,
is now repaired with autumn-colored plaid
To match the golden oak.
I have read my children many books in this chair
Rocked them to sleep in my arms.
That has made my life and theirs
Something worth living.

Surrender Dorothy

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

The wicked witch skywriting on her broom–
Surrender Dorothy–
Hardly seems aware
Of the Love that wants to
carry her above the cloudy horizon,
The Love that Loves her preciousness while
Adorned as she is in her black dress
And pointed hat
And her own feeble power,
The One who Loves the splendor of her crooked teeth,
Sees her shining soul in the depths of
Her own hell
And cannot wait until she lands
In order to embrace her.

Remind Me to Remember

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

My life is full of worries, turmoil and strife. Just yesterday when I was trying to put up a new TV antenna, I had to interrupt the work to the hardware store. I left my ladder up and the wind blew it down and damaged some shingles on the garage roof; so I have been fretting about that, even though the damage is very minor. Still it will take some precious time to replace or patch the shingle(s), and now the roof is not perfect anymore, just like a car that gets its first scratch. Trying to live with perfection in a very imperfect and finite world is a great problem for me, and it causes me no little amount of frustration. I get frustrated with the way things are, with others, and most of all with myself.

Yet in the midst of it all, I try to remember my true connection to the divine indwelling within me. And indeed I must return to that reality over and over in the prayer of touching this presence. In those moments I am reminded of why I exist, the purpose of my life, which is to awaken to my divine nature and the divine nature of everything. How easily I forget.

I have been reading once again Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation. I am now on the chapter entitled The Gift of Understanding. My last time through I wrote this in the margins on p. 228. “…To accept the life of the Giver, without needing to or trying to possess it. There is no self to hold onto this gift; only the silent communication of receiving the life of the Giver and mirroring that life of love back.” I am grasping at understanding here, and that is fine. My reason is touched by faith, and my faith is strengthened each time I remind myself to see with awakened eyes and heart.

Right now, as I write this, I am sitting at the dining room table and looking out the window at the dawning of this new day. And, Oh my God, what a gift it is! I live by the generosity of God infinitely being given to me in and as my life and the life of everything around me. There is at this moment the squirrel high in the branches of the bare trees across the road. There are a few red clouds off on the horizon lit up by the rising sun. There is so much beauty everywhere I look, and it is all constantly poured out as the infinity of God infinitely sharing Being in and as the very being of everything. And still I need to keep reminding myself of this.

I will get drawn into the worries and cares of this day, but will I stop and remember whose I am and who I am? Can I enter through the narrow gate in my heart into the spacious rooms of a Love always present, even in my absence. That narrow gate is the gate of heaven. I am a temple of the divine presence; everything is likewise such a temple.

Lectio, Mark 14:22

By | Contemplation, Contemplative Journey, Contemporary Issues, Ingegral Spirituality/Psychology, Mysticism, Natural World, Nature, Nonviolence, Saying the Unsayable, Social Justice, Spirituality | No Comments

“While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take, this is my body” Mark 14:22

As a Christian, I believe that this bread truly became the body of Christ Jesus, and that the bread of the Eucharist is the true body of Christ Jesus. But there are far more bold implications for this sacrament. After all, when we receive the Eucharist, we receive it with the words, “The Body of Christ.” And we say our “Amen” to that reality.

The body of Christ is the whole cosmos, and Christ infinitely fills each and every part of the cosmos in the same way that Christ infinitely fills the bread we receive. To the Christian, this is not merely a symbol but a reality. Every atom in the cosmos is filled infinitely with the infinity of the Christ. Every atom is holographic in nature, containing within itself the infinity of the whole while also being a part of the whole. The Sufis chant, “How could I ever be less by dying. I am the ocean and the ocean is me.”

It is nice to think that there is little relation between the bread of the Eucharist and the cosmos as Eucharist–both being the real presence of Christ. That way, we can go out from our worship and rape the creation and still come back and pay reverance to the Body of Christ in the bread. The split goes right through our heart and through the heart of creation.

Shock and Awe

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

The light shines in the darkness
Revealing its own infinity
And our incapacity to comprehend it–
The beginning of real awe.

The light shining in the darkness
Shines on our own inner darkness
As initial shock–
Revelation of our little self at work–
As invitation to awaken.

Those who walk while asleep are wasting their time…

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

For them there is only the past, present, future.
They walk out of illusion into illusion
Going along but never up.

To be awake is to be aware of the vertical dimension–
Of states of being, of evolution of consciousness,
Of entering the cocoon and emerging as something new, transformed.
Leaving behind old ways of thinking and doing.

The intersection of time with eternity
Is always the now–the quality of the moment
Is measured in lightness of energy.
Bogged down in time we will not ascend.

There is nothing to find outside ourselves
We have been primed from the beginning.
The Absolute lies within
Ready to reveal our True Self to us.

We are all asleep. When we awake, the journey begins.
We ascend the ladder that leans against no particular building
But is supported by angels ascending and descending
Between heaven and earth.

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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