This day is the first day of Advent in the Christian tradition. I invite you once again into a vigil over these next three weeks leading up to Christmas. A vigil is a period of "keeping awake" during time usually spent asleep, or in the dark. To keep watch or pray.
During these days of Advent "keeping awake" is about spiritual awakeness in regard to what we give our attention to. As humans, our brains are wired for our survival to give our attention to what is "wrong," referred to by my teacher Steve Hoskinson as "what's wrong attention" (WWA). This is not necessarily harmful but when we give our attention to all that is "wrong" in our lives and in the world around us in an automatic unconscious way, we can unknowingly feed it and its negative impact grows. We can even observe how when we do that with others, it can add to the incoherent energy in the collective.
Instead of going on autopilot with our "what's wrong attention" during this lavishly dark winter season, we can come together in a vigil, uniting with one another in "keeping awake" and giving our attention to "what's right". . . to all that is true, good, and beautiful (Philippians 4:8) already within and around us. We will focus the first week of Advent on what is true, the second on what is good, and the third on what is beautiful. We may consider our task as a sort of spiritual activism, as we feed and tend to these spiritual substances (as Cynthia Bourgeault calls them). In giving ourselves to this work together, we support one another energetically to steward our personal ecosystems. This in turn spills out beyond us and without explicitly inviting others, although we may, it elicits an urge within others to join in.
With this in heart for the week ahead, we commit to giving our attention to all that is true. True is also understood as what it authentic, honest, and real. Allowing that to settle our nervous systems as truth has a way of doing (said by Nancy Napier). Early followers of Yeshua spoke about this. The Gospel of Philip says, "Authentic beings are who they have always been, and what they engender is authentic: simply becoming who one is." And the Gospel of Thomas says,
His students asked him,
"Do you want us to fast?"
"How shall we pray?"
"Should we give offerings?"
"From what foods must we abstain? "
Do not do what you hate,
because everything here lies open before heaven.
Nothing hidden will remain secret,
for the veil will be stripped away
from what lies concealed behind it."
I suggest we ponder both of these passages about the true, authentic, honest, and real, in order that they may guide us in our search to find or generate these substances within and around us. And as we do this, we can focus on what is refreshing, what we can appreciate, and the ways our nervous systems are settled. With our attention as a tool, we can grow this substance, noticing its impact on our seeing, thinking, sensations, feelings, and our impulses.
May we keep awake to all that is true, good and beautiful throughout this season of lavish winter darkness in a quiet, gestating way.
May we tend to that which is true, authentic, honest, and real, this week,
Collective Contemplative Pause Readings
Tuesday, November 21st with Ali
“Slow Enough to Notice”
Wherever God shows up today,
May I not be too hurried to notice,
Nor too aloof to care.
When the Sacred surprises me
lik e an unexpected guest,
May I not hesitate to greet Them with open arms.
Let not my bias be a barrier,
To embracing The Holy’s mysterious ways.
May I be hospitable to God enfleshed
In even the fullest circumstances,
And the hardest situations,
And the strangest of places.
I am open
To encountering Love,
To meeting with Justice,
To being held by Awe.
May it be so.
— M Jade Kaiser, enfleshed.com
Wednesday, November 22nd with Catherine
Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the hearth of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness,
thanksgiving gives birth to alertness…
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.
Thursday, November 23rd with Tom
If I could learn to let go of what I
have and was and will be, of all
the good gifts You have given,
then I could trust myself to
know who I truly am, which
is the only one You desire,
for You are ever love, and I
am ever loved, and it is enough
to know and be Your beloved.
— Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart
Friday, November 24th with Tom
"So much of our life has to do with keeping the world at bay, of learning how to live under siege; of coping and of trying to create a space in which to catch our breath.
Every threshold of difficulty we come across in our lives almost always asks us for a radical form of simplification, toward something elemental, precious and deeply personal that lies at the core of all the pressure and complication that on the outside, seem to overwhelm us.
We can practice the art of simplification and the art of resting at a deeper level and ultimately the art of resolving many of our difficulties through radical simplification, and radically simple actions, almost in the same way as we can practice and improve our abilities on a musical instrument. We can each practice shaping a more beautiful mind, both for ourselves and for others, we can be a presence that invites other presences in the same way we might walk entranced into a room where someone is playing live, intriguing and extraordinary music."
— David Whyte
Sunday, November 26th with Heather
My prayer for you is that from the great treasures of his beauty, Creator will gift you with the Spirit's mighty power and strengthen you in your inner being. In this way, the Chosen One [Creator Sets Free, Jesus] will make his home in your heart.
I pray that as you trust in him, your roots will go deep into the soil of his great love, and that from these roots you will draw the strength and courage needed to walk this sacred path together with all his holy people. This path of love is higher than the stars, deeper than the great waters, wider than the sky. Yes, this love comes from and reaches to all directions.
I pray that you would feel how deep the Chosen One's great love is. It is a love that goes beyond our small and weak ways of thinking. This love fills us with the Great Spirit, the one who fills all things. I am praying to the Maker of Life, who, by his great power working in us, can do far more than what we ask for, more than our small minds can imagine.
May his sacred family and the Chosen One bring honor to him across all generations, to the time beyond the end of all days. Aho! May it be so!
— Ephesians 3:14-20, trans. First Nations Version, An INDIGENOUS TRANSLATION of the NEW TESTAMENT
Monday, November 27th with Heather
"How do I move beyond "the mazes of the mind" and into a deeper wisdom knowing? The answer is simple, though perhaps not easy: through meditation. Meditation is one of the most ancient and universal of all spiritual practices, and it is the cornerstone of the wisdom encounter with Christ.
You may already be familiar with the benefits of meditation in terms of relieving stress or relaxing the mind or the body, but its real value in terms of wisdom is to transform the way you think. Its immediate and obvious effect is to break the tyranny of your usual mind, with its constant compulsive thinking. Its underlying and far more powerful effect is to catapult you into a direct experience of being itself, unmediated by thinking, and to give you a strong taste of what heart perception actually feels like. Meditation is the tool you use to "upgrade your operating system," to move from that "either/or" thinking of the binary mind into the more spacious heart awareness that sustains the wisdom way of knowing."
— Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus, p. 141-142
Tuesday, November 28th with Heather
"Among the various worldwide meditation traditions, Centering Prayer is somewhat innovative. You might think that all meditation is about achieving "still mind" or "single-pointed concentration" or "pristine awareness." In fact, most meditation practices do have these as their goals. But Centering Prayer doesn't work with the mind at all; it goes straight for the heart.
It's a surrender method, pure and simple, a practice based entirely on the prompt letting go of thoughts as they arise. I often think of it as kenosis in meditation form, a way of patter - ing into our being that continuously repeated gesture of "let go, let go, let go" at the core of the path that Jesus himself walked.
Because of this underlying theological congruence, Center ing Prayer has a particular resonance with the emotional heart of Christianity and will take you very quickly into that heart. It's a warm practice, a little sloppier and dreamier than the classic methods of attention and awareness practices. You will lose some time in daydreaming, at least at the start, and that vibrant, tingling sense of "I am here" prized in so many meditation practices is not really a goal in Centering Prayer. But its path will lead you directly to that place where, as St. Paul described it in his letter to the Romans, "the spirit prays within you," and the spirit knows what is in your heart."
— Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus, p. 142-143
Wednesday, November 29th with Heather
I think you and I have been recruited as spiritual medics. We may not have asked for the job, but under the current circumstances we have been pressed into service. It is a tough world out there. Socially, eco-nomically, and politically, people are struggling around us.
People are anxious, angry, and afraid. They are divided and uncertain. Conflicts are increasing. Into this reality the spiritual medic is called upon, again and again, to risk being a target in order to bring a healing word, to risk the safety of familiar trenches to stand on open ground for the sake of peace. We won't win any medals, but a lot of people are going to be glad we were there when they needed a little help believing in tomorrow.
— Steven Charleston, Ladder to the Light
Thursday, November 30th with Heather
Love is the medicine by Ali Maya
Friday, December 1st with Heather
"Do you have hope for the future? someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied, that it will turn out to have been all right for what it was, something we can accept, mistakes made by the selves we had to be, not able to be, perhaps, what we wished, or what looking back half the time it seems we could so easily have been, or ought.
The future, yes, and even for the past, that it will become something we can bear.
..Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage, and it brings strange peace that itself passes into past, easier to bear because you said it, rather casually, as snow went on falling in Vermont years ago."
— David Ray from "Thanks Robert Frost" in Music of Time
Saturday, December 2nd with Heather
"Centering Prayer works entirely with the energy of intention. Most of the classic meditation practices work with attention rather than directly with intention; you learn to tether your "monkey mind" by giving it something simple to do, like following your breath or repeating a mantra. Centering prayer relies only on your inten-tion, your "naked intent direct to God," as it's called in that medieval classic The Cloud of Unknowing? To the extent that your intention is clear and strong, your practice will be also. If your intention gets muddled and confused, so will your practice.
So it's important to be as clear as you can, before you even sit down on your prayer bench or chair, about what your aim is in doing so and about whether you're really willing to give yourself to it utterly. I don't mean that you need to put this aim into words (most people can't)-only that you know from the inside what you are about and are willing to give it an honest try.
Generally speaking, you are in the right ballpark if your aim is to be deeply available to God —that is, available at the depths of your being, deeper than words, memories, emotions, sensations; deeper even than your felt sense of "I am here." You are simply asked to attend, to give yourself completely into that deeper,
Notice that I did not propose as an aim making yourself empry or making yourself still. Don't even go there. Like trying not to think of an elephant, it pretty much assures that your Centering Prayer period will be a constant, nonstop stream of thoughts.
Let go of all attachment to outcome, all notions of some ideal state that you identify as meditation. Simply stay with that quiet, gathered waiting within."
— Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus, p. 143-144