Tag Archives: Contemplation

THIS WEEK – Wisdom

Definition

Wisdom – The combination of experience and knowledge with the ability to apply them judiciously ; sound judgment, prudence, practical sense.

(Oxford Dictionary)



Wisdom

Everyone in the world wants to be wise, because the one who possesses wisdom rules the world. Is that true? The answer would have to be yes and no. As we gain wisdom our ability to lead others is strengthened. The way to gain wisdom is to realize what you do not know. When that attitude descends upon us, we begin to desire and seek the opinions and knowledge of others and, more importantly, we realize what we do not know. This leads us to the path of wisdom in this life. Let us look at some ways we can begin the wisdom journey.

“Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary, and in those occasions, speak little, and last. Silence is wisdom where speaking is folly, and always safe.” Those are the words of William Penn, the namesake and founder of the state of Pennsylvania. Let us focus on the concept of speaking little and last. The world is full of people who want to be heard but lacks in those who want to listen. If you find yourself frustrated that you do not get to speak first and loudest, then you may need this wisdom lesson. Pause, listen with openness and respect to those around you, and then speak after you have digested what has been said.

Learn the value of doubt. We can safely say that the one who never doubts himself is lacking in wisdom. No one is always right or knows all. Doubt can be a great blessing, because it leads to greater learning and opens new vistas of life. It can be very isolating and miserable to always think that you have arrived at the right conclusions and taken the right action. Doubt causes us to examine our motives and actions. This process builds wisdom.

The next building block is the virtue of silence. Our wisdom is evaluated by our ability to listen at peace. True silence is a strength. We are not truly silent when we do not speak but are boiling with frustration and anger. Wise people learn the discipline of silence by knowing the art of listening. Silence is an important part of wisdom.

Wisdom is a combination of knowledge and experience. That leads me to believe that the wise person seeks all the knowledge and experience that they can possibly absorb. Let us take advantage of any opportunity to learn a new fact or understand a new concept. If we are vivacious readers and learn of things that are not of immediate use, then we are equipped for whatever life throws at us. Experience is an important part of wisdom. The more we try to use our knowledge, the more it is tested. This testing teaches us that we all know far less that we think. Those tests bring wisdom.

The writer of Proverbs says that wisdom will guard us. Wisdom is the virtue that guards us from foolish and quick action. Wisdom allows us to know when to be silent and when to speak. This same wisdom allows us to carry on in time of distress and failure. Wisdom imparts to us the value of ourselves in a realistic way. We are never as great or as bad as our minds tell us. Every one of God’s creatures needs a gatekeeper, and wisdom is the one that guides, builds and protects us.                                                                                                    

Quotes Banner

Doubt is the origin of wisdom.

~~~Augustine of Hippo

The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.

~~~Napoleon Bonaparte

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

~~~Immanuel Kant

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

~~~Albert Einstein

Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.

~~~Francis Bacon

A fool is known by his speech; and a wise man by silence.

~~~ Pythagoras

The fool wonders, the wise man asks.

~~~Benjamin Disraeli

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

~~~Confucius

Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.

~~~Leonardo da Vinci

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

~~~Benjamin Franklin

There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool.

~~~ Diogenes

Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.

~~~ Kahlil Gibran



Scripture BannerIs wisdom with the aged,

   and understanding in length of days?

~~~Job 12:12

For the Lord gives wisdom;

   from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

~~~Proverbs 2:6

Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;

   love her, and she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,

   and whatever else you get, get insight.

~~~Proverbs 4:6-7

When pride comes, then comes disgrace;

   but wisdom is with the humble.

The integrity of the upright guides them,

   but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

~~~Proverbs 11:2-3

By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,

   and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.

~~~Proverbs 16:6

To get wisdom is to love oneself;

   to keep understanding is to prosper.

~~~Proverbs 19:8

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

   fools despise wisdom and instruction.

~~~Proverbs 1:7

For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

~~~Ecclesiastes 2:26

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

~~~1 Corinthians 1:25

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

~~~James 3:17

A fool gives full vent to anger,

   but the wise quietly holds it back.

~~~Proverbs 29:11

Happy are those who find wisdom,

   and those who get understanding,

for her income is better than silver,

   and her revenue better than gold.

~~~Proverbs 3:13-14

Prayer Banner

Lord, This day I seek lady wisdom. She can lead me to the path that will bring joy and blessing in my life. I confess that I have often forsaken wisdom for the foolishness that plagues me. With your help I can focus on what is necessary to lead a life that develops wisdom each day. Give me enough doubt and enough hunger for knowledge to become wiser this very day.

Amen

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Jesus as Scapegoat

Image credit: White Crucifixion (detail), Marc Chagall, 1938, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

I share this piece by Rev Richard Rhor of the Center for Action and Contemplation. I hope you enjoy it.

Blessings, Irvin

Cross as Agenda

In terms of healing and symbolism, everything hinges on the cross. The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself. The cross is about being the victory instead of just winning a victory. The cross is about refusing the simplistic win-lose scenario and holding out for a possible win-win scenario.

The cross clearly says that evil is to be opposed but we must first hold the tension, ambiguity, and pain of it. “Resist evil and overcome it with good,” as Paul says (Romans 12:21). The cross moves us from the rather universal myth of redemptive violence to a new scenario of transformative suffering.

On the cross of life, we accept our own complicity and cooperation with evil, instead of imagining ourselves on some pedestal of moral superiority. As Paul taught: “everyone has sinned” (Romans 5:12) and Jesus the Lamb of God had the humility to “become sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) with us.

The mystery of the cross teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves. Can you feel yourself stretching in both directions—toward God’s goodness and also toward recognition of your own complicity in evil? If you look at yourself at that moment, you will feel crucified. You hang in between, without resolution, your very life a paradox, held in hope by God (see Romans 8:23-25).

The goal of God’s work is always healing reconciliation, not retributive justice.  And like Jesus, we must invest ourselves in this work of reconciliation that “the two might become one” (see Ephesians 2:13-18).

Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it total chaos, but it has a “cruciform” shape of cross purposes, always needing to be reconciled in us.To hold the contradictions with God, with Jesus, is to participate in the redemption of the world (Colossians 1:24). We all must forgive reality for being what it is. We can’t do this alone, but only by a deep identification with the Crucified One and with crucified humanity. Christ then “carries” us across!

The risen, victorious Jesus gives us a history and hopeful future that moves beyond predictable violence. He destroys death and sin not by canceling it out; but by making a trophy of it. Think about that for a long time until it cracks you open. And it will!

Rev. Richard Rhor OFM

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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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Contemplation and Action, Why Not?

For a number of years now I have sought to deepen my relationship with God by opening myself to His ongoing presence in my everyday living. For me this has come about by sacred reading, retreats, and prayer practices both ancient and not so ancient. I have found myself inwardly led to read and study a variety of works that are written for the specific purpose of bringing creation into contact with the Creator. Such contact is far more than knowledge-it is awareness.

A word that is often used to describe that awareness is contemplative. A contemplative is a person who dedicates himself to live where heaven and earth intersect. William Thiele is the founder and director of The School for Contemplative Living here in New Orleans. In a recent article he cut right to the heart of an important, though fundamentally misunderstood, contemplative principle. “So where exactly is the first place contemplatives belong? The answer is: wherever there are people who’ve been excluded by others. A Christian contemplative seeks to follow the Jesus who always preferred to hang out with the very people excluded by others. Aren’t there enough stories in the gospels to make it crystal clear that those sinners, (non-religious people), and tax collectors were his best buddies? And didn’t Jesus manage to also get himself excluded and eventually killed by the religious people who were doing the excluding?” I want to ponder on that a little.

 There is an undeniable relationship between being a person of contemplation and one that cares and reaches out to the hurt and injustice of the world. When we are called to prayer and silence, we think we are called to isolation and abandonment. The twentieth century mystic monk, Thomas Merton, spent months at a time living as a hermit, but he reminds us of something he learned in isolation, “The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.”  The desert mystics went to the desert to escape the empire, but also to direct others on a path towards God. Many of those that they taught made a great difference in their world. Can we be people of contemplation and compassion without being people of action?

 I think not. Jesus assigns us to be the “salt and light” of the earth. The real thought that I am playing with here is action. As contemplatives we must be people of action. We are stirred to action by our passions. A contemplative must feel enough, care enough to do something. When you have your time of prayer and solitude, emerge from it with full awareness of the world that surrounds you.

  Do you have the spiritual fortitude to think as George Bernard Shaw did? “Some men see things as they are and say why, others dreams things that never were and say, why not?”

 Contemplatives are compelled by the very presence of Him they seek to say, “Why not?”

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Art of Belonging

the prayer room

The journey of every believer brings him to the tough intersection of the world and our desire to be one with God. Oneness with the One who created us in His own image is built into our souls. Thomas Merton once said: “Contemplation will be denied to a man in proportion as he belongs to the world.” The world refers to the things we love of the world -the busyness, prestige, glitzy things, and pride that so represent us to those around us. We are called away from such a life as we seek to be contemplatives. We begin to practice the art of belonging.

As we approach that intersection, and we approach every day, we must make the decision of just how much time we have for the things of the spirit. I would be the first to admit that we don’t have the option of becoming monastic hermits, but we do have the option of giving some priority time to contemplation.  To be contemplative in our world we must establish a pattern and routine of prayer.

Prayer comes in many forms. For some it is silence, for others it is much more active. How do you practice prayer in your life? Prayer has to be much more than a weekly worship time, it must be a special part of your day that keeps you focused on the things of God. Pray the daily office, practice Lectio Divina, centering prayer, or journaling and know that these practices will lead you closer to God. Contemplation and prayer is movement toward belonging to God.

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Closeness to God

Thomas Merton's hermitage at The Abbey of Our ...

Thomas Merton’s Hermitage

It would be a great mistake to think that mystical contemplation necessarily brings a whole litany of weird phenomena-ecstasies, raptures, stigmata and so on. These belong to quite a different order of things. They are “charismatic” gifts, and they are not directly ordered to the sanctification of the one who receives them.

—-Thomas Merton “What is Contemplation?”

The great cry of our time is,” Let me see it!” This cry pushes in on every aspect of our existence, even our spiritual journey. Somehow, we have begun to believe that every act of faith requires some sort of proof or outward manifestation for it to be real. Merton reminds us that not all things are for our own self-gratification. The “gifts” in particular, are for the edification of the church, and when we practice contemplation we should not expect some spectacular results that make us some guru of great faith. Contemplation and centering are acts of the individual and bring us to understand what it means to be close to a loving God. Through such closeness we can live a life that is spiritually fruitful and face the many trials that we encounter.

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Filed under Devotional Quotes, Meditation, Monasticism, Mystics, Prayer, Thomas Merton