Category Archives: Contemplative Quotes
The River –
“Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. The river is your stream of consciousness. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling or thought. Don’t hate it, judge it, critique it, or move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. When another thought arises—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river.”
#ThomasKeating, “Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel”
One of the greatest and most difficult realizations is the truth that we are not our thoughts. We are not our actions. We are not our egos. True, each of these can reveal things about us and to the world but we are not these things.
The problem is we’ve been taught the opposite most of our lives. The famous quote; “Reap a thought, a word, an action, then a destiny,” seems right but our thoughts do not have to lead us to who we ultimately become. We can choose to go deeper, change paths, refuse to be captive to our thoughts by breaking free of them.
“The world today tends to be cynical about most things. We have a hard time believing in an enchanted world, a sacred or benevolent universe. Why would we if we see only at the surface level? Everywhere we turn, every time we watch the news, we see suffering. We have become skeptical about God’s goodness, humanity’s possibilities, and our planet’s future. We can’t help seeing what is not and are often unable to recognize or appreciate what is. I see this temptation in myself almost every day. I have to pray and wait for a second gaze, a deeper seeing. This is my daily bread.” (https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/) #RichardRohr
The quote above, from Richard Rohr, was part of my devotional reading this morning. I quickly took the phrase; “Second Gaze” to heart. I hadn’t heard it before but it is a primary wisdom discipline. It is the understanding that if we only see with our physical sight we will miss the goodness, the light, the continuing blossoming of creation all around us. We will also miss the ways in which we can be a part of creation by loving, acts of kindness, a gentleness of spirit and humility to each person and everything we include in the circle of our lives.
Let us look around us today without the cynicism and negativity which often plagues our sight. May we behold and become a part of the ongoing miracle that is life in all its universal glory.
Change Myself –
The older I get the less knowledge and wisdom I think I possess. They say the beginning of wisdom and knowledge is two-fold; fearing God and knowing you know nothing. As each year passes the second part seems to get easier.
There was a time when I believed I knew much. Not just about myself but also about others. I could perceive motives both inward and outward, judge with impunity, and thought myself better and more able to live a life pleasing to God and myself than most other people. Then, I began to grow up.
The word growing brings with it a sense of serenity but growing is painful. It is bursting through old barriers, going places that are uncomfortable and unknown, daring to die in order to live, braving the challenges and elements that surround you.
With growth comes the realization you cannot force others to change. You do not have that power. You cannot stop the world from spinning out of control. You don’t have that ability. You can’t even get past your own hurts, habits, and hangups most days. You, I, am a perfect example of imperfection.
Wisdom and knowledge. They are as different as night and day but compliment each other when embraced and allowed to exist mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact, please you.”
to Know –
A story is told that one day Saint Mother Teresa was asked by a seeker how to find and see God. After a moment of thought, Sister Teresa responded; “You will find God when you can see Him in each next person you meet.” In other words, when a person realizes God indwells in his creation and the love we have for God should be reflected in all he has created.
I am reminded of this story, and wisdom lesson, when someone is getting on my nerves, bugs me just because of who they are, or seems to do everything wrong or not the way I think it should be done. “Do you see God in…?” It’s a powerful reminder that the way we see, treat and judge others is a reflection of our own heart and our relationship with God.
To know someone, to love them is to know and love God.
At a health council meeting today a speaker gave a presentation on going the extra mile. She asked; “Where did this saying come from?” I thought for sure someone would answer but no one did so finally I replied; “Jesus.” She smiled and moved on with her talk. She explained in the time of the Roman Empire there was a rule that if a soldier or other important dignitary asked you to help carry some of their weaponry or baggage you were obligated to carry it one mile. Jesus, however, in Matthew chapter 5, said; “If someone has you carry their stuff one mile go ahead and make it two.” The speaker continued; “The first mile is obligation the second mile is voluntary. It’s the second-mile people remember. When you move beyond your comfort zone, when you give more than what you can afford to, do more than you were asked or expected, offer kindness, grace, and love abundantly, extravagantly.”
As I reflected on her presentation it was a good reminder that what the world expects and usually gets is the minimum, the essentials. When someone digs deeper, cares greatly, meets the greatest of needs, it matters and stays with the one helped and the one helping.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” #MayaAngelou
Born Again –
I desire to be born again, each day emerging from a blanket cocoon, different from the person I was yesterday. Each day we take steps toward who we will eventually be at the end of our lives. Some are making progress toward love, grace, kindness, and peace, others walk in another direction.
What we do today determines who we will be tomorrow. This is a truth I try to live by. What we put our minds to, invest our emotions in, allow our spirits to inhabit, shapes the person we’ll be tomorrow and in the future. We underestimate the “big” and “little” experiences we encounter each day. We dismiss character flaws, hidden hurts, negative habits, and other behaviors and attitudes that either place chains on our souls.
To emerge, new each day, takes work today. We choose where our path will go, not what our path will go through, but its destination. We can’t make our path easy or difficult but we can decide how we handle both. The decision isn’t on tomorrow’s agenda but today’s.
I was reading an excerpt from a book by #LaurenceFreeman this past week. One sentence has stuck with me; “Answers are not what we need. What we need are questions which cannot be answered.” I read and reread this selection many times.
We live in a world, perhaps humanity is made this way by our cultures and societies, in which answers are what we seek and find. While certainly, we would want answers, conclusions, discoveries, of the sort which would end poverty, crime, diseases, however, the most important answers are the ones which cannot be answered.
This is a paradox. Answers comfort us, direct us, help us find our way in the world. However, answers do not lead us to the most important of all truths. God, for example, is by definition, one who cannot be fully and completely known. The deeper we dig to find knowledge of God the more questions we find. It is the same with our existence, our purpose our place in the universe.
Silence as the answer to life’s biggest questions. Many say if you cannot or will not look for the answer then why ask the question? It is when we are able to be still and silent in our souls with the greatest questions unanswered that we find the path of wisdom.
On the Inside –
This weekend has been hot! Temps and humidity in the 90’s. In spite of the temps, I did some yard work on Friday and Saturday and I made my self sick. I took water, Gatorade, breaks. I sat down in the shade several times and laid down with my feet up to avoid heat exhaustion. Even with all these precautions I still sweated buckets and became too hot for my own good. The result was major fatigue and a nauseated stomach. Today, I determined it wasn’t healthy for me to get outside again and so I’ve taken it easy. My stomach is still not normal but better than it was Friday and Saturday. Being sick to your stomach is a terrible feeling. It impacts everything from your appetite to sleeping and doing even the simplest of chores or hobbies.
When I read the quote in the picture (included in post) my stomach troubles are of what I immediately thought. The nauseated feeling is similar to how I feel when I have an anxiety episode so it not a new sensation. I reflected on the truth of how what’s going on in the inside impacts the way see and experience each other, every situation and life. Only when the inside is calm, settled, still are we able to accept life and all of its unpredictability.
“The only peace you find at the top of the mountain
is the peace you bring with you.”
– Wisdom Proverb
Want to See –
Last spring my wife planted some Petunias in a steel bucket that sits in our front yard. This spring she’s been too busy. In place of the beautiful flowers we had last year there are several weeds growing. This afternoon, while mowing the grass, I looked in the steel bucket and there was one single pink Petunia. It was small, crowded and shadowed by the weeds but it was there none the less. If I wasn’t looking in the right place and the right time I would have missed it.
Life can be similar to the small flower in that bucket. There are plenty of weeds; stress, schedules, emergencies, life changing decisions, habits, hang-ups, and hurts. It can be easy not to see the good when we are surrounded by so many things which crowd our lives and shadow our hearts. However, if we keep looking, daring to hope and dream perhaps we will see the beauty of kindness, grace, and love blossom before our eyes.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for several friends. Many are suffering pain and loss. There has been death, injury, mental diagnosis, health issues, setbacks, financial struggles, legal battles and more. You hurt when others are suffering; feelings of inadequacies, trying to figure out what you can do to ease their burdens lays heavy on your mind and spirit.
Someone in the office asked today; “Why do people bring food to families whose loved ones have died?” A co-worker answered; “Because there’s nothing you can do about death.” I thought this was a good and truthful answer.
There are so many things we can’t do anything about, so much that’s beyond our control. Death, disease, and other extreme difficulties descend on people we treasure and if we could we’d take it away but we don’t have that power.
Accepting our powerlessness is the first step in helping. We are finite beings. We are limited in knowledge, expertise, special abilities and do not posses powers to make all things better by wishing it to be so or worrying obsessively.
Awareness of what we can’t do enables us to see how we can assist those in need. Then we take action. The size of our offering isn’t as important as the spirit in which we give. There is no act of good so small that it’s ineffective. Our hearts propel us to do, not for gratification, but because there is a way to help, love, give hope, be a light to someone living in darkness.
Earlier today a friend posted a request for encouragement. A favorite song, scripture, quote that might bring enlightenment, a sense of joy, a glimpse of heaven in our midst, an assurance that the struggle of life is worth the fight.
Along with others I shared the following, with a note, that said;
“I may not always know how to please you my Lord but may my wanting to please you, please you.” #ThomasMerton
This simple prayer reminds me of my limited intellect, vision and certainty of knowing, doing God’s will. It allows me to be at peace and certain that if my heart’s desire is to please God, he will take my feeble efforts and make something beautiful.
The older I get, and depending on the day; ancient I feel, the more I become convinced of how difficult a task it is to decipher and act upon what is best, what is holy, what is selfless and noble. We each have biases whether we recognize them or not. We are encumbered by emotional allegiances, cultural influences and slanted upbringings. They shape and taint how we see the world, each other and God.
Wisdom teaches us that awareness of these limitations begins with humility and an acceptance that our perceptions and intentions are finite and restricted. This, however, is not an excuse not to do but that our speech and acts be given as humble offerings and recognized as small gifts given to a needy world and distributed by a resourceful father.
We share the breath of the Divine Spirit
The Spirit by which the Church lives is the Spirit of love, of unity. Unity can be preserved or restored only by understanding, acceptance and pardon. The Church is a body of men who know they are forgiven and who forgive repeatedly because they are themselves forgiven repeatedly.
The Church is then not so much a body of men who are pure and never offend, but of men who, in their weakness and frailty, frequently err and offend, but who have received from God the power to forgive one another in His name. They possess the Holy Spirit and they can give the Holy Spirit in some sense, to one another. The Holy Spirit Himself moves them to do this, and acts in them, to save others. (See Acts 8:14-18, 26-39; 10:24-48, etc.)
We, then, who form one body in Christ, share with one another the message of Christ’s divine truth, we share His word, we share His worship, we share His love, we share His Spirit.
The highest adoration we offer to God, “in spirit and in truth” is in this sharing of the breath of the Divine Spirit with one another in pardon and in love. That is why we are told to forgive our brother before we go to offer sacrifice. That is why we exchange the kiss of peace before Communion. The kiss of peace is in some way a part of our Eucharistic communion: it symbolizes the spiritual sharing of the Holy Spirit. With a holy kiss we give the Holy Spirit to our brother, as if the flame of one candle were transferred to enlighten another.
Thomas Merton, OCSO
Seasons of Celebration, p. 227
On Tuesday afternoon I ran into a store to pick up a snack to woof down on the way to a presentation. I hadn’t had time for lunch and I needed something on my stomach to make it through the two hour law enforcement training seminar I was taking part in. As I perused the snack aisle I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and turned around to see a friend who has recently been going through a season of suffering. She told me she was doing okay and trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. I listened and was able to share part of my journey these last eighteen months.
I’ve been discussing with another friend the quote from #ThomasMerton above. Here is some of what I wrote to him this week;
“I think longing for perfection leaves no room for the gift of acceptance of the myriad of things of which we have no control. For life to be our definition, version, of perfection is to not suffer. But some of our greatest lessons are found in suffering. We learn to treat others in the way we were not treated, to speak words of encouragement instead of insult, listen not condemn,
understand not assume, embrace not push away, give not take, be lowly not arrogant, the servant not the master. Grace, humility, surrender to the truth of our powerlessness is only found in suffering.”
Suffering is a needed and necessary, albeit unwanted, part of our journey. To resist suffering, to try and control, force, manipulate, coerce, make the world and others in our image doesn’t eliminate suffering but intensifies it.
The lust for perfection comes from our ego. Suffering, if we allow it, can purge our sense of self-importance and replace it with a sense of peace and purpose in the midst of hardships and heartaches.
I heard someone mention one of my favorite quotes today;
I do not know always how to please you my Lord, but may my wanting to please you, be pleasing to you.” #ThomasMerton
This quote always brings a sense of peace and a gentle reminder that I am very human and God is not. As creature I am often lost, confused, questioning and justifying. My sense of who I am, what I am here on this planet to do, what my life’s purpose is for a moment, a day, a lifetime can be fickled.
I often wonder if God is as dependent upon our convictions, confirmed callings, and understanding of his “will” as we’d like to believe. We are damaged, distracted and difficult people. Brennan Manning, a recovering alcoholic, says;
“I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.”
That God can use us to bring his love and grace to a hate filled and damaged world reveals more about who God is than it does our ability to decipher eternal messages in our mortal bottles.
“So, with the Alleluia of victory, the triumphant cry of Easter on her lips, the Church renews the Paschal mystery in which death is conquered, the power of the devil is broken forever, and sins are forgiven: the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Savior who is born to us on this day.
Today, the Church sings; ‘Dies sanctificatus illuxit nobis,’ which means: ‘A day of salvation,’ a day sanctified by mystery, a day full of divine and sanctifying power, has shone upon us. And she continues; ‘Alleluia, Alleluia. A sanctified day has shone upon us: come you gentiles and adore the Lord: for this day a great light has descended upon the earth.’
The Church summons all the world to adoration as she prepares with great solemnity to announce the words of the Gospel. This is the Prologue of John, in which with mighty power given him from God the greatest Evangelist proclaims; ‘The Word, Who was in the beginning with God, is made flesh, and dwells among us full of grace and truth.’
. . . let us open our eyes to the rising Sun, let us hasten to receive Him and let us come together to celebrate the great mystery of charity which is the sacrament of our salvation and of our union in Christ. Let us receive Christ that we may in all truth be ‘light in the Lord’ and that Christ may shine not only to us, but through us, and that we may all bum together in the sweet light of His presence in the world: I mean His presence in us, for we are His Body and His Holy Church.”
A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, ‘My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother’s faults.’
The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus, ‘In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, “Father, why are you weeping?” “I am weeping over my sins,” the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, “You do not have any sins, Father.” The old man replied, “Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them.”
“He who is spiritually “born” as a mature identity is liberated from the enclosing womb of myth and prejudice. He learns to think for himself, guided no longer by the dictates of need and by the systems and processes designed to create artificial needs and then “satisfy” them.
This emancipation can take two forms: first that of the active life, which liberates itself from enslavement to necessity by considering and serving the needs of others, without thought of personal interest or return. And second, the contemplative life, which must not be construed as an escape from time and matter, from social responsibility and from the life of sense, but rather, as an advance into solitude and the desert, confrontation with poverty and the void, a renunciation of the empirical self, in the presence of death, and nothingness, in order to overcome the ignorance and error that spring from the fear of being nothing.”
To live well myself means for me to know and appreciate something of the secret the mystery in myself: that which is incommunicable, which is at once myself and not myself at once in me and above me. From this sanctuary I must seek humbly and patiently to ward off all the intrusions of violence and self-assertion. These intrusions cannot really penetrate the sanctuary, but they can draw me forth from it and slay me before the secret doorway.
If I can understand something of myself and something of others, I can begin to share with them the work of building the foundations for spiritual unity. But first we must work together at dissipating the more absurd fictions which make unity impossible.