This is another big week. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Wednesday is Inauguration Day. There is such a strong need to stay steady and steward our Beings that we might offer - others, the world, the Divine - more than we take. As we continue our contemplative practices, we must make a bridge to action and bring our inner stillness and silence into the way we show up in life. I realize saying ‘we’ can be problematic in the sense that ‘we’ are not homogenous. Yes, ‘we’ are all One and ‘we’ are differentiated individuals with unique identities, characteristics, and experiences. It is both.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” Leaning into Epiphany and the gifts of wisdom available to us will support us in creating and then stepping onto that bridge toward discerned action. Building this bridge toward action will also be different for each person.
Some of us may have already been building that bridge and are now invited to vulnerably and humbly take another step on the other side. Others may be more comfortable with action than with contemplation, to which Thomas Merton’s words are helpful. "If you attempt to act and do for others or for the world without deepening your own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, you will not have anything to give others.”
Wherever you are, lean into gentleness and warm heartedness and ride the edge without judging yourself or trying to get yourself to be capable of more than you are. Just be. Just do the next thing.
May you be anchored.
May you be surrendered.
May you be connected.
May you be free.
May you trust the invincibility of your own heart.
Here are a some of the readings from the ‘collective contemplative pauses’ this week:
'The Year as a House: A Blessing'
Think of the year
as a house:
door flung wide
a graced spaciousness
opening and offering itself
Let it be blessed
in every room.
Let it be hallowed
in every corner.
Let every nook
be a refuge
and every object
set to holy use.
Let it be here
that safety will rest.
Let it be here
that health will make its home.
Let it be here
that peace will show its face.
Let it be here
that love will find its way.
let the weary come
let the aching come
let the lost come
let the sorrowing come.
let them find their rest
and let them find their soothing
and let them find their place
and let them find their delight.
And may it be
in this house of a year
that the seasons will spin in beauty,
and may it be
in these turning days
that time will spiral with joy.
And may it be
that its rooms will fill
with ordinary grace
and light spill from every window
to welcome the stranger home.
— Jan Richardson
We love the moment in a seeming stillness,
the breath in the body of the loved one sleeping,
the highest leaves in the silent wood,
a great migration in the sky above:
the waters of the earth, the blood in the body,
the first, soft, stir in the silence beneath a strident
voice, the internal hands of our mind,
always searching for touch, thoughts seeking other
thoughts, seeking other minds, the great arrival
of form through all our hidden themes.
And this breath, in this body, able,
just for a moment to give and to take,
to ask and be told, to find and be found,
to bless and be blessed, to hold and be held.
We are all a sun-lit moment come from
a long darkness, what moves us always
comes from what is hidden, what seems
to be said so suddenly has lived
in the body for a long, long time.
Our life like a breath, then, a give
and a take, a bridge, a central movement,
between singing a separate self
and learning to be selfless.
— David Whyte
“Continue your daily practice of Centering Prayer, paying particular attention to its foundational teaching on handling thoughts during prayer time. A thought, in Centering Prayer language, is anything that pulls your attention to a focal point, i.e., that replaces silence with ‘content.’ The instruction in Centering Prayer is to let all thoughts go, regardless of the nature of their content. It’s the configuration of your attention that’s at stake, not the content of ‘the message.’
This is always a difficult hurdle for novice practitioners to get by... It is only by training your mind to stay gathered in silence — not grabbing for content — that you can eventually come to experience the silence as having its own shape and substantiality. In its usual subject/object configuration the mind will never meet silence as a “something.’”
— Cynthia Bourgeault
Do not expect cocooning
To be easy.
It is not a time of rest
But of rebirth.
They used to think
That the Caterpillar
Merely slept there,
Awaiting the wonder of wings.
This is not true.
To cocoon means
The breaking down of self,
Of letting go of all
that may be considered
Yielding to the chrysalis call.
Dropping all that is old identity,
All that is desire,
All that is hungry,
All that is eating, eating, eating,
When the moment comes, called
To go to the cool dark underleaf, underlog place,
To spin the silk of silent self,
The Caterpillar dissolves,
Touches the point of nothingness
Become simply, potential,
Until new form is found,
Until the selfmade tomb is too tight
And Butterfly is birthed,
bursting blessing, beauty.
A journey through stillness
No one who knew the Caterpillar
Would know it in the Butterfly,
No one who knows the Butterfly
Would see in it
Even the memory
Yet within there is
A continuity of being
A new recipe out of old ingredients
A life remade, a seed flowered, a potency fulfilled,
There is pain in this
I am sure.
How could there not be?
There is always pain
In new life, new birth
Death before resurrection,
Letting go, before letting be
This is the divine order of things
This is why there hides
Even here, even now,
In all your old Caterpillar desiring,
In the hunger at the core of your being,
The promise of Butterfly
If you would but surrender
To the call
Of the cocoon.
If you would know,
even for a day,
The wonder of wings
The freedom of flight.
— Brother Richard Hendrick
"There is a second lesson that comes to us from Jesus’ prayer on the Cross. It is an expression of Jesus’ awareness of man’s intellectual and spiritual blindness. “They know not what they do,” said Jesus. Blindness was their trouble. Enlightenment was their need. We must recognize that Jesus was nailed to the cross not simply by sin but by blindness. The man who cried “crucify him” were not bad men but blind men. The jeering mob that lined the roadside which led to the cross was not composed of evil people but blind people. They knew not what they did. What a tragedy!"
— Martin Luther King
"Scripture scholars contend that the original language of the Beatitudes should not be rendered as "Blessed are the single-hearted" or "Blessed are the peacemakers" or "Blessed are those who struggle for justice." Greater precision in translation would say, "You're in the right place if...you are single-hearted or work for peace." The Beatitudes is not a spirituality, after all. It's a geography. It tells us where to stand.
Compassion isn't just about feeling the pain of others; it's about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. "Be compassionate as God is compassionate," means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.
In Scripture, Jesus is in a house so packed that no one can come through the door anymore. So the people open the roof and lower this paralytic down through it, so Jesus can heal him. The focus of the story is, understandably, the healing of the paralytic. But there is something more significant than that happening here. They're ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in.”
— Gregory Boyle