Six Ways to Experience Contemplation Online

Irvin J. Boudreaux:

Great insights and suggestions from Bryan.

Originally posted on Living Contemplatively:

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef

We live an increasingly virtual existence. We have ongoing conversations with our friends—sitting in our home, or from our office, or while standing on the street waiting for the bus—while they are in a different home, in a different office, or on a different street.

Person-Using-iPhone-4SNews and weather alerts pop up automatically on our phones, keeping us forever in the loop. We update our status so the world can know what we had for dinner, or so that not just family, but every person we’ve ever known can see a picture of our kids on their first day of school. We plug in to our devices to keep up-to-date on the news, choosing a website or newscast of choice. Sometimes, rather than looking out the window or stepping outside, we pull up our favorite weather app to decide if it’s going to be a…

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Self Judgment

Desert MonkA brother who was sharing lodging with other brothers asked Abba Bessarion, ‘What should I do?’ The old man replied, ‘Keep silence and do not compare yourself to others.’

—-sayings of the desert

There is no greater enemy than the enemy of self – judgment. When we compare ourselves to others, we are judging ourselves and usually looking for ways to compete with the other. This sort of behavior easily leads to jealousy and envy, emotions which ALWAYS cause us to fall into sin. Jealousy and envy become all-consuming and the next thing you know you are trying to eliminate them so they are no longer a threat.

The other side of that scenario is self – loathing. Such an attitude leads to loss of productivity, depression and destructive behavior. We must be continually be reminded that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we are possessors of great potential. The sheer numbers of different personalities and talents are an expression of an infinite God whose possibilities are limitless.

The Abba is telling the brother and us, to keep silent and see the person that God has created. We are not all the same, but we are the crown jewel of God’s creation. In silence we discover God’s spark in our lives, and He then uses it to bring us to our full potential. As the psalmist says, ‘Be still and know that I am God….’

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God Came Today

Preschool kidsEvery Monday I do “chapel” for our church preschool. In all honesty it is not my strong suit to tell a story, no matter how brief, to a group of three and four year olds. I have, however, begun to truly enjoy my time with them. Recently something very special happened, and it really taught me a great lesson.

Our preschool director told me one of the children reported to his mother that God had come to see them last week. What the child said was both adorable and profound. I am definitely not God, but God did come to see him. God was there because the little child was looking for Him. What a marvelous thought – we see God when we look for Him. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Children see God because they have not yet become their own God. Children do not see themselves as masters of their own destiny but rather as those that are dependent on others. They are vulnerable in so many ways. They need help, they need to believe in something and someone greater than themselves.

I learned from that child that God can be seen in the strangest places and faces. Perhaps it is well advised that we always be on our best behavior lest we shatter the faith of someone who is searching for God.

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A Scottish Blessing

If there is righteousness in the heart,
there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character,
there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
So let it be.

Scottish Blessing

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Our Preparation

 

Several centuries aJapanese stone lanterns in Monte Palace Tropic...go, a Japanese emperor commissioned an artist to paint a bird. A number of months passed, then several years, and still no painting was brought to the palace. Finally the emperor became so exasperated that he went to the artist’s home to demand an explanation. Instead of making excuses, the artist placed a blank canvas on the easel. In less than an hour, he completed a painting that was to become a brilliant masterpiece. When the emperor asked the reason for the delay, the artist showed him armloads of drawings of feathers, wings, heads, and feet. Then he explained that all of this research and study had been necessary before he could complete the painting.

The word is preparation. One of the primary reasons for failure is lack of preparation. Are we preparing to succeed or setting ourselves up for failure? As in the story above, a person who is prepared for a task can easily accomplish it, but the unprepared flounder and fail.

When we go to church, our task is to worship God. Worship means to honor, respect or encounter. We cannot do any of these things unless we are prepared. Come to worship prepared to interact with God. He will pour out His blessings to you.

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Surrender to God

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

The prophecies in Isaiah seem to be fulfilled in this man Jesus, whose actions live out the prophet’s promise. God is here, and God’s presence among us is manifested in healing. This is a wonderful vision. And we may feel very comfortable in looking forward to this. Who wouldn’t? Everybody wants to say; “I’m a good person,” . What a super possibility—a world where things would really be good. Imagine a world with only good. That is God’s world and He invites us to consider the possibility.”

This is how Mr. Wesley puts it::
“The most dry and barren places shall be made moist and fruitful; which is principally meant of the plentiful effusion of God’s grace upon such persons and nations, as had been wholly destitute of it.”

John Wesley

  • Do you daily turn your troubles over to the Lord?
  • Do you ask God to help you prosper?
  • How often do you bring your troubles to the Lord?

As you worship consider how much different your life could be if you surrendered your all to God.

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Pure prayer – Mar Isaac the Syrian

Originally posted on sayingsoftheorthodoxfathers:

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Prayer is a beseeching for, a caring for, a longing for something, either a liberation from the evil things here or [in the world] to come, or a desire for promised things, or a demand for something by which man wishes to be brought nearer to God. In these emotions are included all habits of prayer. But its being pure or not depends upon the following circumstances. 

If, when the spirit is prepared to offer one of the emotions we have enumerated, any foreign deliberation or distraction mingles itself with it, prayer is called non-pure, because it has brought upon the altar of the Lord an animal which it is not allowed [to offer], the altar which is an upright, intelligible heart. 

But when the spirit gives itself with longing to one of these emotions, in accordance to the necessity of the case, at the time of beseeching, and when on…

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Non-Dual Consciousness

Non-dual or contemplative consciousness is not the same as being churchy or reflective or introverted. Unfortunately this is the way the word is often used even by people who should know better. Contemplation is a panoramic, receptive awareness whereby you take in all that the situation, the moment, the event offers without eliminating anything. That does not come naturally. You have to work at it and develop practices whereby you recognize your compulsive and repetitive patterns.

It seems we are addicted to our need to make distinctions and judgments, which we actually call “thinking”! Most of us think we are our thinking, yet almost all thinking is compulsive and habitual. And educated people are just as bad as the uneducated, sometimes even worse.

That is why all forms of meditation and contemplation are teaching you a way of quieting the dualistic “thinking” mind. After a while you see that this kind of thinking is not going to get you very far, simply because reality is not all about you and your preferences! And frankly, the universe is not all about any one of us, but only all of us together and with God.

Non-dual consciousness is about receiving and being present to the moment and to the now exactly as it is, without judgment, without analysis, without critique, without your ego deciding whether you like it or whether you don’t like it. It is a much more holistic knowing, where your mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is. You are not dividing the field of the moment (and eliminating anything that threatens your ego), but holding it all together.

The non-dual, contemplative mind is a whole new mind! With it, you can stand back and simply observe the self and the event from the standpoint of the “stable witness,” or what Christians would call the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). Now you can laugh or weep over your little dramas and dances, without being attached to them or hating them. You can look at yourself and others calmly and compassionately because you are able to see things as they are in themselves and not from the viewpoint of how they affect you.

Adapted from Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening by Richard Rhor

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Self Creation

Saint AugustineAugustine of Hippo speaking to those who doubted the God of creation tells us: “Where could such a creature come but from you, O Lord? Is any man clever enough to have fashioned himself? Or is there any other source from which being and life could flow into us…”

Let us examine two questions.

Where did we originate if not from God?

Recently, Scientist Stephen Hawking has concluded that the Big Bang was the result of the inevitable laws of physics and did not need God to spark the creation of the Universe. Augustine set forth a really good contrary argument when he challenges our origin, if not from God where? This whole concept of scientific randomness is very difficult for me to believe. I believe that the whole mystery of life and death points to a creator. That may be an old fashioned concept, but it brings me a sense of place that far exceeds that I am a random act of physics.

Can we create ourselves?

Man has been trying to create himself for a very long time, but we have never become clever enough to succeed. From the earliest days of science we have sought to find the key to life, and it is a noble quest. A man can no more create himself than he suspend himself in the air. There must be help to do such a thing. Creation is God’s providence. Humans are very presumptuous when they claim to have this matter solved. Life and faith are about mystery, not certainty!

May God allow His essence to continue to flow through us.

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The Summer Ends

This seemed like an appropriate poem to share today. Wendell Berry is one of my favorites.

wendellberry

Wendell Berry

The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

—-Wendell Berry

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