9.18.2013 | 0 Comments
Contemplation and Meditation
9.12.2013 | 1 Comment
Announcing the winter 2014 Central California Prayer of the Heart Conference.
“Pursued through Beauty.”
We’ll curate seven incredible encounters with beauty…
tendered by seven local artists/persons of faith…
and explore the way our encounter with everyday beauty can lead us to God.
Mark your calendars now!
Friday evening, Feb 28-Saturday afternoon, March 1, 2014.
More info and a Facebook event page to come!
Click here for a PDF flyer: POH 2014 announcement
9.11.2013 | 0 Comments
A TED talk by photographer Louie Schwartzberg, and a short film (exquisite) narrated by Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. Watch and open your life to Life, experience the truth that “Today is a gift that was given to you, and the only appropriate response is gratitude.”
See the world again through the eyes of a child and an elderly man.
7.28.2013 | 0 Comments
Calm. Composure. Level-headedness. Poise.
I’ll bet these are things you want in your surgeon or pilot. And I’m guessing you’d like to possess them yourself. The ability to hold yourself calm in the eye of a storm will save you a lot of suffering over the long haul. But calm doesn’t just come over you; you’ve got to work it into you, massaging it into the deep tissue of your being through practice, practice, practice.
Contemplative prayer is such a practice. Through meditation on the name of Jesus or some other simple prayer, you make a habit of drawing of your mind down into your heart and holding it there in the presence of God. In this way you train yourself to dwell at the center, remain composed and calm, no matter what’s going on around you.
One of my kids called late one night. He was stuck in on the 134 in LA. An accident. Traffic at a dead stop, not even crawling along. People around him pounding their steering wheels in rage. Others swearing out their windows. His own anxiety skyrocketing in the midst of the mayhem. Never mind that someone’s suffering, maybe dead on the road ahead. Thousands are stuck in gridlock, feeling claustrophobic and powerless to do anything but rage against it all.
Unless you’ve trained yourself for such a time as this, you’ll get sucked into the collective insanity.
Practice poise. Enter the stillness each day in prayer. For 5 minutes (but the more, the better), do nothing in the presence of God but fend off the thoughts that try to pull you away from center. Return to the center, to God. Just be.
Then when you’re on the road or in a meeting, answering an email or listening to the news you’re less likely to get sucked into the collective insanity of so many around you who do not practice peace.
Intention: Today, I’ll practice poise. I’ll grow still in prayer. I’ll massage into my deep tissue a growing trust in God’s presence in and around me.
4.16.2013 | 0 Comments
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a peasant of Galilee. Galilee was hill country and life there was difficult. A drought or bad harvest could endanger whole villages. Infant mortality was about thirty percent, and only sixty percent of children lived beyond teenage years. The peasants’ diet was poor: bread, olives, wine; lentils, a few greens, figs, an occasionally some cheese or yoghurt.
Religious practices were simple. In the rural villages there were no scribes or priests. Families practiced the faith with great devotion, for their vulnerability meant they had little hope except in God.
Twice a day, upon rising and at the time of sleep, peasant families recited a simple prayer, the Shema Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (This portion from the Torah is what Jesus refers to in Mark 12.29-30).
There was little time for extended prayers, and of course, no possibility of reading sacred texts, since no one could read. The prayers were simple, intense, and frequently recited. It reminded these peasants of the one thing that mattered most to them: to love God with every fiber of their being.
Intention: Today, I will gather my life and energy around the simple act of loving God. My head and hands may be busy with ideas and plans and work, but my heart can rest in God through a simple prayer I can return to over an over again.
4.07.2013 | 4 Comments
The way you greet the day matters. Your first lucid moments set the course for what follows. Set that course with intention, through a simple prayer, and you’ll be okay. The prayer needn’t be long, but it ought to be clear. In fact, the simpler, briefer, and more focused it is, the better.
For the better part of your life, you’ve let the day start you. Your alarm awakens you, and you stumble out of bed. You turn on the coffee or the shower. A steady stream of thoughts flows through your head. You get the newspaper, put on music or the TV. Maybe you check your email or head off to the gym. The mental stream swells, and as it does, your body and spirit are pulled along with it. Even first thing in the morning, tension and stress tug at your neck and shoulders. The thought-stream nags at you from the start, demanding more from your body than your body’s ready to give. So you pump a little more caffeine into your veins and jot another note on your to-do list. These thoughts—largely unexamined—have yanked you into a river whose direction you control far less than you realize.
Isaiah says, “Morning by morning GOD wakens–wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught” (50.4b).
What might it mean for you to arouse your spirit first thing–to embrace the day and join up with God?
Intention: Tomorrow, I’ll embrace the moment of my rising and waken my ear to GOD. Doing so has the power to change everything.
3.19.2013 | 0 Comments
You know, don’t you, how your thoughts crowd and push inside your head, almost incessantly, from the moment you rise to the moment you fall asleep. Even sleep is no vacation from the thoughts that assault and confuse and entertain.
Because of this mind-parade of incessant thoughts, most of us are living a spiritual catastrophe. We float along in the flotsam of thoughts, carried somewhere, and often feeling we have very little power to escape them. One long, sleepless night is evidence enough that you’re among that mass of sufferers. Or maybe you anesthetize yourself by falling asleep to the TV, or getting a little help from a drink or drug.
Truth is, you are not your thoughts. The very fact that you can think a thought, watch a thought, even exchange thoughts is proof that there’s a you beyond your thoughts.
St Paul said, “Take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10.5). Paul knew that there’s a you who can take your thoughts captive, who doesn’t have to be a slave to the stuff parading through your brain.
This kind of spiritual freedom is the fruit of the prayer of the heart–a form of prayer that can occupy you for a lifetime, but is so simply a child can practice it. The prayer of the heart is simply the practice of the steady, patient, and habitual drawing the mind down into the heart using a simple prayer like the Lord’s Prayer or the words “Jesus have mercy.” By repeating the prayer, reverently, mindfully, you’ll find yourself resting there in your heart with the Christ who dwells within you. It can be practiced even during the busiest moments of daily life.
“The head and hands at work,” the saints instruct us, “and the heart at rest in prayer.”
Intention: Today, I will pause periodically throughout the day; whisper a simple prayer silently in my heart, and commune with Christ for awhile and give my mind a break from the steady stream of thoughts within.
2.15.2013 | 0 Comments
When I become quiet, still, seeking the simplicity of face to face, heart to heart encounter with God, my mind leaps into the void. It feels like a cage full of monkey’s on crack. I told this recently to a group of university students who I’ve been teaching to pray contemplatively, and one of them blurted out, “And they’re all throwing poo.”
It often feels just like that. My thoughts crowding in, pushing, chattering, hollering, and yes, throwing poo.
So, when I enter the silence, seeking God, I do what Christians throughout the ages have done when facing the same inner chaos. I simply speak the Name of Jesus over and over again in my heart. I join the Name to my breathing, which, in the biblical tradition, is linked to the Spirit. This accords with the teaching of Jesus that we are to keep our words simple and not go babbling like those who think that by their many words they’ll be heard by God (Matthew 6.7).
This repitition is no dull ritual. The Name of Jesus is a prayer itself. And through the recitation of the Name, I draw these maverick thoughts down into my heart, where Christ himself awaits me (Ephesians 3.17-19).
The beauty is this . . . I can do this anywhere. In solitude before dawn, when the house is quiet. As I’m showering and shaving. While eating, driving, typing this little reflection, even leading a meeting or while in a conversation. The Name, joined to my breath, begins to become a habitual prayer, a way of keeping my core alive to Christ, and a way to live out St Paul’s instruction: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17).
Intention: Today, I’ll put the Name of Jesus upon the inner lips of my heart. I’ll join my mind with my heart around the Name, and one by one I’ll invite my maverick thoughts to rest before their Lord and mine. It won’t happen all at once, but this is a start of a whole new way of being.
2.13.2013 | 0 Comments
The best way to experience God is to stop talking. The praying saints testify that silence is the language of God. So does the Bibble. The prophet Habbakuk said, “The Lord is in his holy temple, let all the earth stand silent before him” (Habbakuk 2.20). When Elijah the prophet was seeking God on the mountain, we’re told that God came to him not in a might wind, not in a mighty shaking of the earth, not in flames of fire, but in the “sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19.12).
Silence and stillness and simplicity create the environment for unmediated encounter with the Holy.
Jim’s a friend who’s learned this truth. An active person, engaged in upper corporate management, competent, and hungry for God, he’s learned to cultivate a contemplative posture in the midst of a very busy life. He spends time each day in silence before God. Not asking God for anything. Not reading. His only effort is to still his thoughts, and clear the internal clutter for just a few minutes.
Grinning, he once told me: “Silence is so loud.”
Intention: Today, I’ll practice a moment or more of silence . . . in simple stillness before God. It won’t come easily. I get that. But I crave what can come to me only when I’m open, receptive, quiet.
2.11.2013 | 0 Comments
There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t long for the Beloved’s touch. Everyone wants to pray, and everyone can pray. The trouble is, prayer’s been so highjacked by religious people and especially by serious religious people that many of us don’t want what we think prayer is, or don’t think we can do what prayer requires.
That’s a terrible tragedy.
God is not a remote deity. God is not angry. God doesn’t belong to a particular race or tribe or nation. The God revealed in Jesus is with us, for us, in us.
This means God is as near to you as the beating heart within you, as close as your next breath. Prayer, then, is as natural as breathing. The purest prayer is simply an awareness of the presence of God within and all around you.
Intention: Today, I will pause from time to time, take note of my breath, feel the beating of my heart, and sense the God who is within and all around me.