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Prayer as Cultivating Enjoyment.



This Wednesday ushers us into the season of Lent in the Christian Wisdom tradition which runs up to March 28th. The Lenten season is often seen as a season of spiritual disciplines focused on prayer, fasting, repentance, and self-examination. I invite you to consider joining me in these disciplines over this six week period with two simple intentions—our practices of prayer and fasting will be about cultivating Enjoyment, our practices of repentance and self-examination will be about cultivating Welcoming.

This week let us consider how we might take up the practice of growing our spiritual Enjoyment as prayer. For those on a Wisdom path, it is easy to get discouraged with all of the ways we see humanity not measuring up to our potential or to get sucked into the negativity within and around us. Without minimizing or ignoring the pain and sorrow in our midst, it is still important that we practice enjoyment/enjoying. Enjoying this relational sacred cosmos we exist within, enjoying our spiritual practices, enjoying the holiness of life. This is something I hear over and over again from various spiritual teachers like Lawrence Freeman, Joan Chittister, and my teacher Steve Hoskinson.

Steve suggests we practice enjoying non-addictive, non-substantive simple pleasures available in any given moment and that we work on "stabilizing enjoyment" in our lives. Stabilizing enjoyment means having the capacity to register and stay with the embodied experience of enjoyment in our three centers through thoughts, images, meaning, emotions, and sensations. When we stabilize enjoyment in this way, we strengthen our nervous systems and as Murat Yagan suggests, this is what spiritual practice is mostly about. As we commit to the practice of stabilizing enjoyment, we savor all that is good, true and beautiful in this earthly realm that we exist in and we take pleasure in simply existing in God as God exists within us. In this way it becomes prayer.

This week let us work with Steve's four step practice of "stabilizing enjoyment" as an intentional way of praying.

First, notice something pleasant (something you are taking in through your senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, taste; a way you are making contact with your body such as a hand gently up against your cheek, arms wrapped around your midsection, or a movement your body is doing like rocking or swaying; a feeling of awe or wonder, etc).


Second, be aware of it as it is without changing what you notice.


Third, begin to sense it in your body wherever it is registering in your physical tissues, muscles, etc and sustain your attention in the place that you are feeling it.


Finally, notice how this makes a difference in your whole body (as well as your mental and emotional state).

  

You will likely experience a small but perceptible pleasant impact from this and perhaps a natural urge to say "thank you."

The veil during this season remains thin and we are invited to be receptive to the potentialities of this time, the spiritual influences always present in Lent, the support scattered from generations and multitudes of those who’ve gone before us and those who come ahead. Together we can hold one another in intention. Collectively, even a small group of people creating the conditions for coherence may impact the spiritual state of our planet. These practices allow us to be conductors of the real virtues needed to offer this time of planetary struggle and unsettlement.

With Love,

Heather


 

Daily Contemplative Pauses Readings

from last week

Sunday Monday, February 5th with Heather

“The heart is the primary organ of our identity, it is our innermost being, “the very deepest and truest self, not attained except through sacrifice, through death,” According to Boris Vysheslavtsev, it is, “the centre not only of consciousness but of the unconscious, not only of the soul but of the spirit, not only of the spirit but of the body, not only of the comprehensible but of the incomprehensible; in one word, it is the absolute center.” Interpreted in this way, the heart is far more than a material organ in the body; the physical heart is an outward symbol of the boundless spiritual potentialities of the human creature, made in the image of God, called to attain [God’s] likeness.” — Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia

Tuesday, February 6th with Heather

Deep

is where it is dark where there is mystery where the way is not known where it is easy to become fearful and even turn back.

but

Deep

within your heart, God, is where

there's always strength to go in where truth becomes known where your love holds me close where I need not be afraid.

my hidden self, Deep, Deep down

in the womb of Yourself:

safe nourished guarded enlivened.

take me there, God.

I want to go.

— Joyce Rupp

Chant: be right here, in the heart of God

Wednesday, February 7th

“Sometimes you'll be sitting in prayer and find yourself inexplicably near tears, or even in fact crying! This may strike you as particularly odd because you weren't aware you were sad when you sat down to do the prayer. Or occasionally you'll find yourself in the presence of a spike of emotional or even physical pain: a raw surge of anxiety or anger, or a sudden throbbing muscle or dizziness that wasn't there before you sat down to do the prayer. You wonder what's going on, whether you're going crazy.

What's going on is that the relaxed, gentled attention of Centering Prayer is allowing some interior rearrangement to go on. We all carry a lot of pain deep inside us, buried in our emotions and in our bodies. Through your willingness to "consent to the presence and action of God," the tight repressive bands that the egoic mind keeps wrapped around these shadow places within you begin to loosen up, and some of the trapped material can release itself, most often in tears. While this may initially feel disconcerting, it is actually a sign that a process of inner healing is under way.” — Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p.38-39

Chant: Oh Mercy, I entrust myself to you, that I may be transformed

Thursday, February 8th with Tom

We awaken in Christ's body  by Symeon the New Theologian, English version by Stephen Mitchell

We awaken in Christ's body

as Christ awakens our bodies,

and my poor hand is Christ, He enters

my foot, and is infinitely me.I move my hand, and wonderfully

my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him(for God is indivisibly

whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at onceHe appears like a flash of lightning.

Do my words seem blasphemous? -- Then

open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one

who is opening to you so deeply.

For if we genuinely love Him,

we wake up inside Christ's body

where all our body, all over,

every most hidden part of it,

is realized in joy as Him,

and He makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything

that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful

maimed, ugly, irreparably

damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,

and radiant in His light

he awakens as the Beloved

in every last part of our body.

Chant: we swim in mercy, as in an endless see

Friday, February 9th with Heather

Stillness by Thomas Keating

Our true nature is stillness,

The Source from which we come.

It manifests itself within us

As a rising tide of silence,

A flowing stream of peacefulness,

A limitless ocean of calm, Or just sheer stillness.

The deep listening of pure contemplation

Is the path to stillness.

All words disappear into It,

And all creation awakens to the delight of

Just Being.

Saturday, February 10th with Catherine

“I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.

I want to free what waits within me

so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing to you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, February 11th with Catherine

“Love Does That” by Meister Eckhart 

All day long a little burro labors, sometimes

with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries

about things that bother only

burros. 

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting

than physical labor. 

Once in a while a kind monk comes

to her stable and brings

a pear, but more

than that, he looks into the burro's eyes and touches her ears and for a few seconds the burro is free

and even seems to laugh, because love does

that. 

Love Frees.

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