One would think crucifixion would become easier each time, that one could perfect it like an art….
A few years back, I published the following article on ProgressiveChristianity.org. I encourage you to see it there, as well as all of the other great articles and resources on that site. If you’ve been following Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations this week, you’ll know he’s been talking about Jesus’ Death. He notes that the word “sin” in the passage God’s Lamb takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) is singular. According to Rohr’s interpretation, this passage refers to a single sin—the sin of redemptive violence. I think you’ll find this article complementary to his interpretation. I hope you enjoy it.
There is a concept in Heidegger’s writing called Sein zum Tode, roughly translated as being unto death; it’s more an orientation than a concept. It’s a persistent awareness.
From that philosophical vantage point, life is given sweetness and poignancy, given meaning in ever-present awareness of its transience.
Since relocating to the West Coast of Ireland from the U.S., abbess, author, and poet Christine Valters Paintner has been immersed in Celtic spirituality, and her new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones, is an opportunity to follow her into that space as a kind of guide, but with the sensibility of a mystic.
Quick thought exercise. Who is it you think of in your own life that you associate with the word wisdom? Someone who doesn’t get caught up in games of status and recognition. Someone who is able to skillfully navigate emotionally charged interactions. Someone at once grounded, aware, insightful, honest, and humble, possessed of a quiet inner strength with no need to call undue attention to itself.
I hear this from many people I talk to.
“I don’t have the time.”
“I lack the discipline.”
“I should be doing something.”
“It is hard to just be.”
Do you want to know truth?
If you take time to just ‘be’, you actually might be better at doing things.
When you take the time to sit in silence you actually slow down and receive inner clarity and wisdom.
Silence prepares you for the times when you need to do things and take action.
It even helps you discern when you need to take no action.
And just ‘be’.
One way I practice just being is my twice a day Centering Prayer practice.
You owe it to yourself to just ‘be’.
So you can better discern the daily actions that you need to take.
Let me know if I can help.
When I first started to practice silence it was painful.
I had heard that silence will transform you.
So, I began to sit in silence.
It was brutal!
I set a timer and sat for 1-3 minutes and dreaded it.
I did not know what to do in the silence.
I just knew it will change me.
I then came across Centering Prayer.
I discovered a container for the silence.
I have not looked back.
As much as possible I try to practice centering prayer twice per day.
My first sit in the morning prepares me for the day!
My second sit later in the day recharges and refreshes me.
I need both sits.
They make me whole!
Let me know if I can help.
One of the challenges of writing about the contemplative path is to address people’s needs adequately - to meet them where they are.
Some are just learning about practices like Centering Prayer. Some are long-time practitioners and teachers of practices spanning a wide range of traditions.
Some are piecing together a kind of post-modern faith after a long drought from the broken forms of childhood faith they’ve outgrown.
What assumptions do we share? What terminology do we use with an interfaith community?
The word mystical might be too pie in the sky for some. The word contemplative might be too obscure for others. The word esoteric registers as foofie New Age-ism for others still. We all have our preferences. And some of us cling to those more tightly than others. Will the way in which we articulate some of this transcendent experience become an obstacle to facilitating that experience?
After a lengthy discussion, for example, our by-line of “Silence. Practice. Healing.” seemed to be simple, elegant, and straightforward enough. But as we dive deeper into the contemplative truths, the question eventually arises: who is the “I” that is supposed to be healed? Even the desire to be after “healing” comes into question, and healing seems a kind of by-product of the process, rather than a pursuit in and of itself.
The problem stems from the very nature of our means of communication in the forums available to us: language and concepts. As I write this on a computer program with the intention to post it to a web site or social media platform later on, I realize the very forms we use to communicate and that draw our attention can have a narrowing, limiting effect.
On the one hand, what an opportunity to connect to such a broad group of people all over the world without massive fundraising and travel.
On the other, it limits the range of what can be communicated and experienced through this mode of exchange to the conceptual, which is exactly what we’re trying to point beyond.
There’s a line in the movie Playing By Heart where Angelina Jolie’s character quotes someone else talking about love. She says, “talking about love is like dancing about architecture.”
That’s a lot like what we do at times, talking about this contemplative path of interior silence and relinquishment.
Interestingly, poet Li-Young Lee describes his understanding of poetry as “building an architecture for silence.” There’s a concentration of meaning in a poem, but ultimately, the best kind of poetry points beyond itself to the potential energies of a kind of divine silence that are more dynamic than language itself, because in the silence we can have even our inmost selves, the architecture of our consciousness, our assumptions, fears, pain, self-loathing, and self-doubt saturated in that subtle divinity we experience in the silence.
All traditions have their exoteric forms, the kataphatic way of communities, their rituals and doctrines. But we recognize at some point, these only carry us so far.
And ultimately, it doesn’t matter to us if people are using the term apophatic, or interior, or contemplative, as long as we are able to carry out the work of facilitating that experience of divine wholeness for others.
Of course, the dirty little inside secret is that the wholeness you find most deeply when the “you,” the ego structure, the sense of an “I” – even an “I” who wants to best for myself and others – is altogether annihilated, and what remains is the heart deep recognition that this kind of True Self is not what we’re after, but who we are. And who we’ve been all along.
“This watching of our thoughts is probably the most effective way of managing our thoughts.”
- Mary Margaret Funk
One of the challenges of the contemplative life is understanding the relationship between the contemplative dimension of life – the cultivation of an interior silence that radically changes how we perceive the world and the self-in-the-world – and the bare facts of the practical lives we find ourselves in.
Philosophers call it the phenomenal world.
More poetically, Eastern traditions have called it the ten thousand things.