Being · Reflecting · Words

The Meaning of Life

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, December 28, 2019

Practice: The Meaning of Life

Michael Lerner is an American rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley, a political activist, and the editor of Tikkun, a Jewish interfaith magazine. Rabbi Lerner has shared my work with his audiences, noting the message of love and justice that flows through all the Abrahamic faiths and touches on all the great religious and spiritual traditions. In today’s practice, Rabbi Lerner imagines an education for the future where students would learn to engage in studies that would prepare them for spiritual transformation. In alignment with our consideration of “incarnation,” one of the topics students would explore is “Meaning of Life.” Lerner explains:

In this stream, students would learn about the various ways people have sought to discover a framework of meaning for life. Students would study art and poetry, music and dance, world literature and philosophy, religions and forms of spirituality. They would be encouraged to consider their own paths for finding meaning, and to develop rituals, poetry, music, and dance that fit the lives they are shaping for themselves or as part of ongoing communities of meaning.

Students would also be exposed to the range of human suffering, projects and strategies for ameliorating or reducing suffering, and the range of responses and attempts to give meaning to the suffering and the attempts to be with suffering without giving it any larger meaning. They would also be exposed to the ways people have sought to find meaning through community action, mutual support, and love. Many students will have already had their own exposure to suffering in their families and communities, but the school situation will give them a different a take: an opportunity to reflect on suffering and its meaning. So, too, students will explore experiences of unity, mystical luminosity and joy that are as much dimensions of life as suffering and cruelty.

Finally, students would be encouraged to prepare of a rite of passage that they, together with parents and teachers as advisors, devised for themselves: a kind of “hero’s quest” in which they were initiated into the realities of some aspect of adult life. Adapting from suggestions made by [Zen Roshi] Joan Halifax, I suggest that such a rite of passage would involve going through a process that would include:

  1. Plunging into some (carefully discerned) arena of activity
  2. Allowing oneself to separate from familiar paths and ways of coping so that one can “not know”
  3. Allowing oneself to experience confusion, fear, and disorientation without jumping into denial or easy resolution of conflict
  4. Healing oneself and incorporating into one’s being the knowledge learned as part of this process
  5. Ending with a firm determination to liberate oneself and the world from suffering.

[While] it could be argued that many students have already gone through stages “1” through “3,” few get to “4” or “5.” Commitment to healing oneself and making a commitment to liberation for self, others, and the world is an essential part of spiritual transformation. [1]

[1] Michael Lerner, Spirit Matters (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.: 2002), 264-265.

Being · Words

Incarnation

Inspiriting the World
What I am calling an incarnational worldview is the profound recognition of the presence of the divine in literally “every thing” and “every one.” It is the key to mental and spiritual health as well as to a kind of basic contentment and happiness. An incarnational worldview is the only way we can reconcile our inner worlds with the outer one, unity with diversity, physical with spiritual, individual with corporate, and divine with human.

Every time you take in a breath, you are repeating the pattern of taking spirit into matter, and thus repeating the first creation of Adam. And every time you breathe out, you are repeating the pattern of returning spirit to the material universe. In a way, every exhalation is a “little dying” as you pay the price of inspiriting the world. Your simple breathing models your entire vocation as a human being. Like Christ, you are an incarnation of matter and spirit operating as one. This, more than anything we believe or accomplish, is how all of us continue the mystery of incarnation in space and time—either knowingly and joyfully or not.

–Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, December 26, 2019, From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Becoming Perceptive · Words

“…deepen this intentionality and this attention…”

“…I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself — and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.

I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you, that whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you will like it. But the other mercy is that whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass, and what actually occurs is this meeting, this frontier. But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level. Half of what’s about to occur is unknown both inside you and outside you. John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out.”

—David Whyte, On Being with Krista Tippett

Feeling · Love · Words

Do unto…

“But if you stop and think about it, what better way could there be for me to actively pursue the God I did not make up—the one I cannot see—than to try for even twelve seconds to love these brothers and sisters whom I can see? What better way to shatter my custom-made divine mosaic than to accept that these fundamentally irritating and sometimes frightening people are also made in the image of God? Honest to goodness, with a gospel like that you could empty a church right out. Yet this, in a nutshell, is the monumental spiritual challenge of living with religious difference—and more centrally than that—of living with anyone who does not happen to be me. “Love God in the person standing right in front of you,” the Jesus of my understanding says, “or forget the whole thing, because if you cannot do that, then you are just going to keep making shit up.” It took my husband, Ed, and me years to make peace with that truth. I keep thinking he likes cities, but that is me, not him. He keeps thinking I like power tools, but that is him, not me. When he is hurt, he likes to be held. When I am hurt, I like to be left alone until the urge to bite someone passes. Now Ed and I operate by our first amendment to the Golden Rule, which is not “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them (instead of thinking they are just like you).” (Emphasis mine)

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor, 2018

Faith · Love · Words

Entanglements

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Science: Old and New

The Field of Love

Thursday, November 7, 2019

“…I like to describe this phenomenon as the experiential “force field” of the Holy Spirit. One stays in this positive force field whenever one loves, cares, is in solidarity with, or serves with positive energy. In Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is foundationally described as the field of love between the Father and the Son. When people stand in this place and rest in love as their home base, they become quite usable by God, and their lives are filled with quantum entanglements that may result in very real healings, forgiveness, answered prayers, and new freedom for those whom they include in the force field with them. (Is that what it means to pray for someone?) Conversely, there are people who carry death wherever they go; they can pull almost anyone into their negative force field. (Is this hell?)

I know that when I regress into any kind of intentional negativity toward anything or anybody, even in my mind, I am actually hurting and harming them and myself. Each of us moves things along in the direction of violence every time we fail to love. In one of my favorite books, An Interrupted Life, a young imprisoned Jew in Nazi Germany, Etty Hillesum, says straightforwardly, “Each of us must turn inwards and destroy in [ourselves] all that [we think we] ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.” [2] It surely follows that each of us moves things along in the direction of healing and wholeness each time we choose to love. It is always a choice and a decision.

We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace—first of all in our minds and hearts. This is conscious quantum entanglement. God is not “in” heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven through our intentions and actions.” (emphasis mine)

[1] For a simple scientific explanation of quantum entanglement, see this brief video from Science News: https://youtu.be/6yfWdb-JOA8.   

[2] Etty Hillesum, diary entry (September 23, 1942), An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 19411943, trans. Arno Pomerans (Pantheon Books: 1983), 180.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Quantum Entanglement,” the Mendicant, vol. 4, no. 6(Center for Action and Contemplation: November 2014), 1.

Faith · Reflecting · Words

Does this resonate with you?

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

From the Center for Action and Contemplation

Church: Old and New

If We Were Christian

Friday, November 1, 2019
All Saints’ Day

“…Quaker pastor Philip Gulley superbly summarizes how we must rebuild spirituality from the bottom up in his book, If the Church Were Christian. [3] Here I take the liberty of using my own words to restate his message, which offers a rather excellent description of what is emerging in Christianity today:

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (Eternity is God’s work anyway).

If this makes sense to you, you are already participating in evolving Christianity. Do read it several times. It only makes more and more sense…

[3] See Philip Gulley, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus (HarperOne: 2010). This list is adapted from his chapter titles…

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Emerging Christianity: A Non-Dual Vision,” Radical Grace, vol. 23, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), 3, 22.”

Words

Be who you are

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (Riverhead Books: 1996), 88. (as read in “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation” on October 24, 2019)

Becoming Perceptive · Reflecting · Words

Read about the “Wood Wide Web”–you’ll be glad you did

ESSAY

The Understory

http://www.dailygood.org/more.php?n=8231

Faith · Love · Reflecting · Words

The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi

A prayer attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, union;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Becoming Perceptive · Reflecting · Words

“The prayer of the contemplative…”

“The prayer of the contemplative is, essentially, an attention to the omnipresence of God. God is omnipresent not as a theological doctrine, but as the great silence that is present in every moment—but from which we are usually distracted by an overactive mind that refuses to wait in a humble unknowing for a pure wisdom from above [James 3:17].”

Richard Rohr, Richard Rohr Meditation, “Beholding,” August 13, 2019

Becoming Perceptive · Words

Attention and randomness and resilience

Krista Tippett: Here’s something else you wrote: “The outline of our lives, like the candle’s flame, is continuously coaxed in new directions by a variety of random events that, along with our responses to them, determine our fate.” You say that we are driven to see patterns and create patterns where the patterns aren’t there. But it seems to me that you’re also presenting our responses as mattering. There is randomness, and then you talk about that even though that is true, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized does make a difference. It does shift things.

Leonard Mlodinow: …little things make a big difference. And what they really do is they raise opportunities for you. Or they raise challenges. And the course of your life depends on how you react to those opportunities and challenges that the randomness presents to you. If you’re awake and paying attention, you will find that things happen. They might seem good, they might seem bad. But the important thing is how you reacted to it. (emphasis mine)

 

Words

“It will flame out, like shining from shook foil”

God’s Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
“God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Public Domain. Read on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, July 6, 2019.