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From the Daily Contemplative Pauses
Tuesday with Tom
"Contemplation is a kind of seeing that is much more than mere looking because it also includes recognizing and thus appreciating. The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see but teaches us how to see what we behold. The real gift of contemplative practice is to be happy and content, even while we are just sitting on the porch, looking at a rock; or when we are doing the “nothingness” of prayer or benevolently gazing at anything in its ordinariness; or when we can see, accept, and say that every single act of creation is “just this” and thus allow it to work its wonder on us."
Breathing in Enoughness
Let’s begin our practice by finding a comfortable position of dignity and ease.
Let’s really take our seats, let’s really occupy this moment. If there are parts of ourselves somewhere else, in some other time, past or future, invite them all to come back. We’ll be here, we’ll be now. Settling into just being here. With all the tumult that may be in your life, still you can breathe in and out, with presence, recollecting yourself.
Feel the contact between your body and the floor, whether through the soles of your feet or your legs, knowing that the Earth is supporting you in this moment.
Allow the in-breath and the out-breath to flow naturally. Experience how the breath arrives, what happens as you breathe in. Feel how the out-breath just does what it does, quite naturally.
Breathing in, aware of the body. Breathing out, allowing the body to rest, calming the body.
Aware of the body with the in-breath. Calming, resting, with the out-breath.
If you notice that your mind wanders into thinking, planning, worrying, acknowledge that it is happening, knowing you can return to focus on your thoughts later. For now, engage again with the exercise of attending to this moment.
Inhale and open up to the awareness that this moment is enough, that what we need, it’s already here.
As you exhale, practice to accept that life is as it is in this moment. Allow it to be here, just as it is. Inhaling the sense of enoughness, of contentment, that actually things are okay right here and right now, we don’t need anything more. Exhaling acceptance of how things are.
Breathing in enoughness, breathing out acceptance.
— Kaira Jewel Lingo, We Were Made for These Times: Ten Lessons on Moving through Change, Loss, and Disruption (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2021), 34–35.
Wednesday with Chris
“The inner self is not a part of our being, like a motor in a car. It is our entire substantial reality itself, on its highest and most personal and most existential level. It is like life, and it is life: it is our spiritual life when it is most alive. It is the life by which everything else in us lives and moves. It is in and through and beyond everything that we are. If it is awakened, it communicates a new life to the intelligence in which it lives, so that it becomes a living awareness of itself: and this awareness is not so much something that we ourselves have, as something that we are. It is a new and indefinable quality of our living being. The inner self is as secret as God, and, like God, it evades every concept that tries to seize hold of it with full possession. It is a life that cannot be held and studied as object, because it is not “a thing.’ It is not reached and coaxed forth from hiding by any process under the sun including mediation. All that we can do with any spiritual discipline is produce within ourselves something of the silence, the humility, the detachment, the purity of heart, and the indifference which are required if the inner self is to make some shy, unpredictable manifestation of its presence.”
― Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience, p. 6
Thursday with Ali
"In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau asks, “what should be [a person’s] morning work in this world?”
What Thoreau meant by “morning work” was human activity done with deliberate wakefulness.¹ Take a swig of that line again, work done in deliberate wakefulness. This is the opposite of busy work, or activities that look, smell, and pass as work. Theologian Ilia Delio writes, “Our lives have meaning and purpose. We are created to participate in something that is more than ourselves; that is, we are made to contribute to the fullness of Christ and thus to help bring about the unity of all things in God…We either help build this world up in love or tear it apart. Either way, we bear the responsibility for the world’s future, and thus we bear responsibility for God’s life as well.”²
Paul writes, I want to stitch Thoreau’s “morning work” to Delio’s “world-building”. The work that is yours to do in deliberate wakefulness helps build this world up in love. It can be distracting to think in sentimental slang like work that “changes the world”. Drop that change into your back pocket. Keep it in the dark and focus on discovering the work that is yours to do in deliberate wakefulness; growing a vegetable garden, raising kids, researching what drops you into depth of possibility… sure, all of these specific “morning works” could lead to expansive yields, but first discover your morning work without focusing on the output. That is what matters."
— Paul Swanson and Contemplify
Friday with Chris
"In Christianity the inner self is simply a stepping stone to an awareness of God. (Humans) are in the image of God, and their inner self is a kind of mirror in which God not only sees Gods-self, but reveals Gods-self to the “mirror” in which God is reflected. Thus, through the dark, transparent mystery of our own inner being we can, as it were, see God “through a glass.” All this is of course pure metaphor. It is a way of saying that our being somehow communicates directly with the Being of God, Who is “in us.” If we enter into ourselves, find our true self, and then pass “beyond” the inner “I”, we sail forth into the immense darkness in which we confront the “I AM” of the Almighty….
There is an infinite metaphysical gulf between the being of God and the being of the soul, between the “I” of the Almighty and our own inner “I”. Yet paradoxically our inmost “I” exists in God and God dwells in it…We must know that the mirror is distinct from the image reflected in it. The difference rests on theological faith.”
― Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience, p. 11-12
Saturday with Joy
"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul,
your whole mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:29
This is the first and greatest commandment. It is what the contemplative is trying to do: to come to this kind of wholeness, totality, integrality, and energy. The entire heart is to be involved, the entire soul, the entire mind. Each of these is to be so integrated within itself that it acts as one. And each of them is to be directed to one sole focal point, so that they will be integrated with one another. And all this is to be done with a total commitment of our energy, with great vigor and ardor. According to Jesus, engaging in this kind of love toward God is the greatest thing we can do. It is the fundamental thing, the necessary thing, the first thing and the ultimate thing.”
— Beatrice Bruteau, in Radical Optimism
Sunday with Lacey
"Transitions can only take place if we are willing to let go of what we have known, the worlds we have created, and our assumptions about “how things are.” To let go is the precursor to being reborn. We discard the baggage of societal expectations and, like a morning glory, open to the possibilities of each new day, each new moment, even if those possibilities are shadowy and disorientating…
We say that we are letting go, but, in our society, letting go is more like a tug of war. We diligently guard our stories (true or not), our lifestyles, and our belief systems until they are ripped from our sweaty palms. And yet, letting go is a necessary part of transformation….
When we let go, the only constants are God’s love and God’s promise that we will never be left alone. This space that I name contemplative is a place of breaking, relinquishment, and waiting."
— Barbara Holmes
Writer Felicia Murrell describes the inherent uncertainty of transition:
In the radiance of dark, there is process:
the unfolding of mystery,
things words cannot articulate,
a threshold to freedom the mind cannot comprehend.
But the body feels,
the heart knows:
This is liminality.
The threshold of transition,
from death to life, from evening to morn,
from gestation to giving birth.
The unknown is a part of it all.