Tag Archives: Jesus

On The Rings Of Contemplation or A Tale Of Give Us This Day Our Daily Silence

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
George MacDonald

Many years ago while living in San Francisco I found a dusty little book in Dog Eared Books, The Cloud of Unknowing. It is this wonderful, anonymous 14th century book that presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God to me.

This form of meditation, more commonly known as ‘Centering Prayer’ (from a text by the brilliant Thomas Merton) can be traced from and through the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on God.

Silence is God’s first language,” wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross. And silence is the normal context in which contemplative prayer takes place. But there is silence and then there is silence. There is an outer silence, an outer stopping of the words and busyness, but there is also a much more challenging interior silence, where the inner talking stops as well.

The purpose of prayer is the noughting of oneself and the all-ing of God.
Anonymous

Most of us are familiar with this first kind of silence, although we don’t get enough of it in our spiritual life. It’s the kind of silence we normally practice in retreat times and quiet days. With a break from the usual hurly-burly of your life, you have time to draw inward and allow your mind to meander. You may pore over a scriptural verse and let your imagination and feelings carry you more deeply into it. Or you may simply put the books away and go for a walk in the woods, allowing the tranquility of the setting and the relative quieting of external pressures bring you more deeply in touch with yourself. You listen carefully to how you’re feeling, what you’re wishing. In this kind of work, the free association of your mind provides the key to the renewal, and silence furnishes the backdrop where this work can go on.

But there is another kind of silence as well, far less familiar to most students of spiritual growth. In this other kind of silence, the exercise is exactly the opposite. In silence, you encourage your mind to float where it will; in this other silence — or to use the generic description, meditation — a deliberate effort is made to restrain the wandering of the mind, either by slowing down the thought process itself or by developing a means of detaching oneself from it.

Intentional silence almost always feels like work. It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and there is in fact considerable resistance raised from the mind itself: “You mean I just sit there and make my mind a blank?” Then the inner talking begins in earnest, and you ask yourself, “How can this be prayer? How can God give me my imagination, reason, and feelings and then expect me not to use them?” “Will I go crazy?”

Perhaps the most powerful argument is the one from authority. Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it. Whether it is the meditation of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal avowal that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.  All major, worldwide religions, most urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human being. And while it’s true that we don’t have pictures of Jesus teaching a meditation practice exactly — this can be read between the lines fairly easily on any number of occasions in the scriptures.

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our world, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be — that busy, anxious little “I” so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues — is never even remotely the whole of who I AM, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger life. This is why, according to His teaching, the one who tries to keep his life will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing. Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the ego with its insatiable needs and demands.

This confusion between ego self and I AM is the core illusion of the human condition, and penetrating this illusion is what awakening is all about.

God hidden within me.  I find Him by hiding in the silence in which He is concealed.
Thomas Merton

At the center of our being is a point of emptiness which is untouched by ego and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point of light which belongs entirely to God. This little point of emptiness is the light of God burning in us. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of an inner sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely and it is the gateway to heaven.  As we enter contemplative prayer, we draw near the wellspring from which our being flows.

On To Tango Upon Chiron or A Tale Of Dancing With God

planets_300_300“All motion begins in God and ends in God.  The universe is engaged in a whirling flow of change and activity. This is God’s dance. We are all dancing with God and God with us.

I’ve come under fire of late.  Yes, I’m experiencing my own Duck Dynasty moment. Friends of mine, deeply spiritual friends, who define themselves as wounded Christians, have been very critical of my speaking openly about attending mass. To them it is a slap in the face since they have a negative view of Christianity.  Not to be outdone, friends who identify as Christians have been very critical of my chanting and practicing kirtan.  I’ve been told it’s idol worship.  To both groups I roll my eyes.

My devotions and practices are mine.  While we are all created in God’s image, God is also created in our image.  I believe I have forged a distinctively personal path of spirituality that places the uniqueness of the individual, in this case me, at the center of his or her own spiritual universe with God — a spiritual partnership so to speak. Feisty and invigorating, yet deeply personal and self-revealing — this is my approach to my inner life and my relationship with God.

This is my dance with God.

dancing godThe scriptures are filled with stories of dancing. These dances are not planned, scripted ballets but improvised songs of freedom, hope and joy. They aren’t performed by trained and seasoned professionals but are initiated in the joyful celebrations of people to their God.

These raves of God are edgy and innovative – raw and spirit filled. They are the dances of the people, the seeds of raw potential, born not out of the exactness of ritual but in the spontaneity of the Spirit – filled with the rhythm of life.  The dance of God is the dance of the cosmos, the interrelationship of Creator, created (you and me), and life itself, the holy creativity of the All in All.

The dancing metaphor of all life is envisioned and embodied as a circle dance. The dance of the divine is moving, active, eternally both transcendent and immanent, and flowing together in a joyful and harmonious, rhythmic and resonant celebration of life. The great Artist of eternal life dances with the child and the Divine Mother. Each dwells in the other, outside of and within the created world.

The Christ, the Lord of the Dance, is the physical embodiment of the sacred dance of life, the incarnated vision and rhythm of the artistry of God. Whereas the Trinity is the music and the composer, the Christ is the one who calls to us to “come and dance” and promises that we need never lose the rhythm of the dance.

The Lord of the Dance takes the lead. Our role is that of the dancing partner who has the courage to get up from the safety of sitting and spread our wings into the unknown. In joining the dance, we break free of some kind of social sheath and give others the courage to follow their passion.

As we join the Lord of the Dance the Spirit becomes a whirling life force, becoming aligned with and at one with God and ourselves. The implication of this dance is that all persons dance a dance of mutual love, breathe together the breath of life, and pour out to one another in mutual giving.

Believe only in a God who would know how to dance.

We are all of us invited to the dance, though not all join.  But look what happens when we do. We fall into sync with the rhythm of life. The rhythms of the Universe echo within the music of the spheres until all are singing and dancing together in a beautiful and diverse harmony.

The time is now, and the dance is eternal. Don’t sit this dance out. Life is moves quickly. Buds burst in fragrant spring; fruits delight in fertile summer. Leaves change colors in autumn. Trees fall in whitened winter. Dance while you can. The world doesn’t need more conversations so much as it needs more dancing. When “heart speaks unto heart,” what comes next is less a conversation than a waltz or a tango, with all its unexpected twists, turns and dips.

The soul’s dance occurs both in the earthly here and now and in the heavenly beyond. The celebration of rebirth, beauty and hope surrounds and permeates our life. Harmony prevails in every step we take with God and with each other. We are lead in a new dance of human connection under divine direction.

The dance of God is a dance of love that moves and flows through the ins and outs, ups and downs of all of life’s joys and travails. The circle of our dancing is a powerful movement of shared compassion).

Too often in our spiritual life, we want to give dance lessons, to be the judges of dance competitions. I won’t be judged in my dance with God.  The Lord of the Dance can never be directed or contained. To join the dance of spirit, we need to break out of our square lines and ballroom boxes and let the spirit draw us in. The dance is a dance of unity of sound and sight, a unity of those who believe, and a unity of God and his creation.

And now, as Lawrence Welk used to say, “A-one, an-atwo.