Tag Archives: Spirituality

Sabbath – Wayne Muller

I finally got around to reading this amazing book – a must read for leaders, those who seek the spiritual, the busy people…let’s go with everyone!

A “successful” life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their  limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them when they are hurt and afraid, and need our company; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us; war on our communities, because we are fearfully
protecting what we have, and do not feel safe enough to be kind and generous, we cannot take the time to place our feet on the ground and allow it to feed us, to taste its blessings and give thanks.

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When the Mass begins in a cathedral, the space is transformed the instant the first prayer is offered. The space is not different, but the time has been transformed. When monks enter an ashram or monastery and sit in silence, only when the bell is rung does the meditation begin. The space may be the same, but the time is consecrated by the mindfulness that arises in the striking of the bell. When Muslims are called to prayer five times each day, all work ceases, and all the ancient words, spoken aloud for centuries, rise like fragrance to the skies. Just so, during Sabbath the Jews, by keeping sacred rest, could maintain their spiritual ground wherever they were, even in protracted exile from their own country. It was not Israel that kept the Sabbath, it is said, but the Sabbath kept Israel.
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If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: Please, don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a lifestyle suggestion, but a commandment—as important as not stealing, not murdering, or not lying. Remember to play and bless and make love and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.

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All Jesus’ teaching seems to hinge on this singular truth concerning the nature of life: It is all right. Do not worry about tomorrow. I have come that you might have life abundantly. Be not afraid. Over and over, in parable, story and example, he insists that regardless how it goes for us, we are cared for, we are safe, we are all right. There is a light of the world, a kingdom of heaven inside us that will bear us up, regardless of our sorrow, fear, or loss. Do not wait to enjoy the harvest of your life; you are already blessed. The kingdom of God is already here. It is within you and among you.

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Our reluctance to rest—our belief that our joy and delight may somehow steal from the poor, or add to the sorrows of those who suffer—is a dangerous and corrosive myth, because it creates the illusion that service to others is a painful and dreary thing. Jesus says there will always be opportunities to be kind and generous. Just as there is a time for everything under heaven, so is there a time for nourishment and joy, especially among those who would serve.

But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? What if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? What if our life, roughhewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? What if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear—and all the while we work, pray, and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? What if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? What if all the way to heaven is
heaven? Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground.
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When we move too fast we shield ourselves from the actual experience of suffering; we see only its outward manifestations and appearances. In our frantic craving for relief, we try to make the appearance of suffering go away. But we risk eradicating the symptoms without ever understanding the disease.

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According to Henri Nouwen, Jesus’ three temptations were these:
To be useful. To be important. And to be powerful. Useful, important, and powerful—are not these the attributes that still tempt every one of us who seek to do good in the world?

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The word humility, like the word human, comes from ‘humus’, or ‘earth’. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simply dust and spirit—at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move., perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born and bless it with kindness and care. But in the end, we are granted the tremendous blessing of knowing that we do very little at all by ourselves.

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Richard Rohr – Immortal Diamond

Immortal diamondHaving just finished Richard Rohr’s latest reflection Immortal Diamond I have taken the time to collect a few quotes that caused some wonderful moments of personal reflection over coffee. The book is easily available through the usual providers like Amazon and Book Depository.

If you would like to join in a conversation, hit me up on twitter.

Note that all words that follow are direct quotations from the book and not being my own work should be attributed to the author. Emphasis is mine to show thoughts of particular personal interest.

We have spent centuries of philosophy trying to solve the problem of evil, yet I believe the much more confounding and astounding issue is ‘the problem of good.’ How do we account for so much gratuitous and sheer goodness in this world? Tackling this problem would achieve much better results.

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These three paragraphs…summarise the book

1. The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference.

2. Death is not just physical dying, but going to full depth, hitting the bottom, going the distance, beyond where I am in control, fully beyond where I am now.

3. When you go into the full depths and death, sometimes even the depths of your sin, you come out the other side—and the word for that is resurrection.

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If I had a message to my contemporaries it is surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success…. If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.

Thomas Merton quoted on 9-10

The False Self is what changes, passes, and dies. Only your True Self lives forever. There are/our major splits from reality that we have all made in varying degrees to create our False Self:

1. We split from our shadow self and pretend to be our idealized self.

2. We split our mind from our body and soul and live in our minds.

3. We split life from death and try to live our life without any ‘death.’

4. We split ourselves from other selves and try to live apart, superior, and separate.
Each of these four illusions must—and will be overcome, either in this world, in our last days or afterward.

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Much of the Christian religion, in misunderstanding and seeking to avoid the major death of the False Self, became moralistic instead, piously and falsely sacrificial about many arbitrary and small things. I guess we thought this pleased Jesus—who actually saw through it all and denied any idealization of sacrifice or false generosity and the payback that it always expects. In another book I called it “the myth of sacrifice”.  ‘Sacrifice’ usually leads to a well-hidden sense of entitlement and perpetuates the vicious circle of merit, a mind-set that leads most of us to assume that we are more deserving than others because of what we have given or done.

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‘Re-ligio’ (‘rebinding, re-ligamenting’) is not doing its job if it only reminds you of your distance, your unworthiness, your sinfulness, and your inadequacy before God’s greatness. Whenever religion actually increases the gap, it becomes antireligion instead. I am afraid we have lots of antireligion in all denominations.

I always figured that was the meaning of the very first devil Jesus met and had to exercise; notice it was living in the synagogue itself (Mark 1:21-28). So I am not talking about the devils of secularism, scientism, or atheism. I am talking about the common blockages and boundary markers inside religion itself — anything that deliberately increases the gap between my unworthiness and the supreme majesty of God – the exact and very gap that Jesus came to deny and undo.

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The spiritual question is this: Does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Does “this encounter bring about in you any of the things that Paul describes as the ‘fruits’ of the Spirit: “love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Galatians 5:22)? Is the person or the group after this encounter different from its surroundings, or does it reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of its group?

Or, even worse, does your religion spend much of its time defining and deciding who cannot participate? When there is not much to enjoy from the inside, all you can do is keep yourself above and apart from others. Many groups still forbid “under pain of sin” worshiping God in another denominational space. Please. Such religion is nothing but groupthink and boundary marking, and is not likely to lead you to any deep encounter with God. Such smallness will never be ready or eager for true greatness.

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I order you, 0 sleeper, to awake!
I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell.
Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.
Rise up, work of my hands, you were created in my image.
Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you.
Together we form only one person and we cannot be separated!

From an ancient homily for Easter Saturday quoted on 187

Ways to practice resurrection now

1. Refuse to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts (you cannot stop ‘having” them).

2. Apologize when you hurt another person or situation.

3. Undo your mistakes by some positive action toward the offended person or situation.

4. Do not indulge or believe your False Self—that which is concocted by your mind and society’s expectations.

5. Choose your True Self – your radical union with God – as often as possible throughout the day

6. Always seek to change yourself before trying to change others.

7. Choose as much as possible to serve be served.

8. Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good.

9. Give preference to those in pain, excluded, or disabled in any way.

10. Seek just systems and policies over mere charity.

11. Make sure your medium is the same as your message.

12. Never doubt that it is all about love in the end.

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What every good leader knows – Richard Rohr

Quoted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to see as the Mystics see, The Crossroad Publishing Company: NY, pp 156-­157. More information here.

At times, spiritual wisdom does not harmonize well with the goals and practices of the world. But sometimes spiritual seekers take this truth too far, thinking that to be “spiritual” we have to be naive and simplistic and can’t lead as well as others. At the same time, religious leaders often try to bypass the needed competencies because they believe their special status makes the training whether skill sets or the work of spiritual growth unnecessary.

In fact, there is no greater training for true leadership than living in the naked now. There, we can set aside our own mental constructs and lead situations even more imaginatively with the clearer vision of one who lives beyond himself or herself. This is surely why some of Christianity’s great mystics, such as Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Ignatius of Loyola, were also first rate leaders, motivators of others, and reformers of institutions.

Here are some insights into what every good, nondual leader knows and practices, whether in the workplace, at home, or in the classroom.

  • Good leaders are seers of alternatives.
  • Good leaders move forward by influencing events and inspiring people more than by ordering or demanding.
  • Good leaders know that every onesided solution is doomed ahead of time to failure. It is never a final solution but only a postponement of the problem.
  • Good leaders learn to study, discern, and search together with their people for solutions.
  • Good leaders know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many dilemmas because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over identified with our position, needy of winning the case, or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering.
  • Good leaders search for a middle ground where the most people can find meaning; they work for win/win situations. (This is hard to do if you assume you are the higher, the more responsible, the in-­charge, the senior, the more competent or once you have made a harsh judgment about the other.)
  • Good leaders know that there is no perfect solution. That is the lie and false promise of the dualistic mind, polarity, and all or nothing thinking.
  • Good leaders know that seeking exclusive or overly rapid recourse to the law is an easy way out, and often just a sign of laziness or fear of taking responsibility.
  • Good leaders know that the rule of law and obedience can inform you only about what is illegal or immoral; it cannot of itself lead you to God, truth, goodness, or beauty (Romans 3:20 and 7:7).
  • Good leaders know that rapid recourse to the law might be seeking the will of God, but it might also be seeking to avoid the responsibility, the necessary self-doubt, the darkness, and the prayer required to live in faith, hope, and love.
  • Good leaders know that when done well, compromise and consensus seeking is not a way of abdicating essential values, but very often a way of seeking, and finding, other values, especially community building, along with giving more people a personal investment in the outcome.
  • Good leaders know that wisdom is “the art of the possible.” The key question is no longer “How can I problem solve now and get this off my plate?”, it is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for the next generations?”
  • Good leaders keep prayerfully offering new data, until they can work toward some consensus from all sides.
  • Good leaders want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group -­ not just subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work anyway.
  • Good leaders let people know the why of a decision, and show how that is consistent with the group’s values. In short, good leaders must have a certain capacity for non polarity thinking and full-­access knowing (prayer), a tolerance for ambiguity (faith), an ability to hold creative tensions (hope), and an ability to care (love) beyond their own personal advantage.

In your own life of leadership, whether in private or in public, meditate on this list from time to time. Ask yourself honestly which aspects of non dual leadership are your strongest, and make note, over time, of which ones become more natural for you as you grow in the contemplative gaze.

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