Thursday, September 24, 2009

Active Meditation

Just to update you, we are re-formatting our Contemplative Time. We are going to move away from the Contemplative Group format and move towards a more individualistic time for everyone to come and sit, listen to music in candlelight, and reflect on your spiritual path. Moving towards a more individualistic time of meditation does mean we are moving away from one of our goals to foster active meditation. Rather, we are hoping to make this time of silence more accessible for all of us to relax, refresh, and renew our spirits. We hope it will be a time of peace for us in a hectic world.

I believe Richard Rohr discusses active meditation better than I can, so I will quote him at length. Please focus on his words and incorporate them into your own spiritual life as you see fit. At the Selah Center, we are always attempting to practice an intentional spiritual walk that includes service to our community. I hope this helps in your journey:

"I believe that there are two necessary paths enabling us to move toward wisdom: a radical journey inward and a radical journey outward. For far too long we've confined people to a sort of security zone, a safe midpoint. We've called them neither to a radical path inward, in other words, to contemplation, nor to a radical journey outward, that is, to commitment on the social issues of our time...

There is no perfect theology, there are no perfect explanations, there is no perfect road leading to psychic health. We are forced to live in a world that contains both life and death. The Reign of God is already here, but it's not yet whole. Faith means standing in this position and holding on to paradox at the same time. If we take the contemplative path, then we see the shadow side and the inconsistency of our own souls. If we take the path outward, then we encounter the place where the victims are. If we try to get to the truth by arguing, we will find good arguments on both sides. At some point we must risk the dangerous decision for faith, which means always standing on the side of the weak, always on the side of the poor, always on the side of the victims."
Richard Rohr - Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go

Wherever you are on your spiritual path, you are welcome in this space. We hope you will join us when you can....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Contemplative Group

This week, we re-visited the importance of discipline for spiritual formation. We noted that the weekly practice of our group is important to the overall growth of the individual's spiritual growth. The intentional practice of setting aside a time each week devoted to spiritual growth and renewal is something many of us have lost in our busy lives, but it is vitally important for a fresh encounter with our own spiritual experience "the more" of life.

For further contemplation: "Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant gratification is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people...The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world."
Richard J. Foster - Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

Monday, August 3, 2009

Contemplative Group

This week, we met in the Theatre Underground again and engaged in music contemplation. A lot of good insights were discovered and shared.

We began by re-visiting the order/chaos dichotomy we discussed last week, and we elaborated on the worldviews these different perspectives create and construct. We connected these worldviews to the musical pieces some preferred over others. This led into a discussion of how we approach the world and understand ourselves within it.

Then, we attempted to synthesize this with our own spiritual journeys, and we discovered how closely our preferences for certain sounds is related to our theological constructions. We analogously discussed music with conceptions of "God" and other theological concepts, and we realized that our yearnings for order or chaos or familiar songs transposed onto our theological underpinnings. For example, we noted that we preferred familiar songs to unfamiliar songs initially. In like manner, we have certain theological preferences that are familiar, and we tend to dismiss unfamiliar theological viewpoints just as we dismiss unfamiliar songs because they are uncomfortable. We decided that a simplistic approach to our musical repertoires is similar to a simplistic approach to theological diversity, and we determined that when we are not open to unfamiliar theologies, we are also not open to Others' songs and musical preferences.

In addition, we realized this related intimately to our discoveries in previous contemplative sessions where we explored our tendency to attempt to control various situations by placing unreasonable expectations onto them. Releasing control, viewing expectations as restrictive, and preferring dynamic change over static order are all things we still struggle with, but we are intentionally aware that these exist. Just as we cannot always control our sound environments, we also cannot always feel comfort by placing unrealistic expectations onto situations that give us the illusion of control. Simply pushing the music to the background, just as we often attempt to push "life" to the background, did not really solve any problems. Rather, it left us with the illusion of safety and a feeling of restlessness because of a lack of risk and disengagement with our lives.

Our "playlist" for this week included:

Massive Attack - Angel
Imogen Heap - Sweet Religion
Eluveitie - Glamonios
zero dB - On the One & Three
Josh Ritter - Girl in the War
Glory of Byzance - O Vierge Sainte, rejouis-toi
Iron & Wine - On Your Wings
Radiohead - Karma Police

For further contemplation: "Ancient Greek philosophers consistently explained hearing as the result of a commotion in the air. An external object must actively shock or assault the air to produce sound, and it is this disturbance that is carried to the ear...Sound thus denotes distance and temporality in a way that sight does not. Rather than an inner illumination that emanates outward, hearing proceeds from the external to the internal...Sounds draw us out of ourselves by leading us to the source of the noise, while sight brings the image to us. Sound does not permit us to be detached from the source, as does sight, but it also does not connect us to the source in an immediate way, since sound takes time as its medium. Sound is intimate without being immediate."
Stephen H. Webb - The Divine Voice

Join us next week if you can as we once again meet in the Loft and practice visual contemplation through the artwork of Jay Davis.

Wherever you are on your spiritual journey you are welcome in this place....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Contemplative Group - Theology of Sound

This week, our contemplative group experimented with a new form of contemplation. Rather than sitting in silence, we decided to sit surrounded with various sounds and music. We intentionally contemplated what it means to listen intentionally to various kinds of music, and we attempted to incorporate these insights into our daily spiritual journey.

What we discovered is that this was a beneficial practice that brought out a lot of emotions and topics for discussion. We explored the differences between silence and sound, and we realized how much we ignore the affects sound has on our emotional, spiritual, and physical development. We often avoid sitting in silence, but we also tend to surround ourselves with noise and sounds that we pay little attention to in terms of our own growth. So much of the noise in our lives is relegated to the background, and we wanted to bring that experience to the foreground. In so doing, we realized how much of our lives are structured by the sounds we choose to surround ourselves as well as the sounds we choose to avoid.

Theologically, we found that sound is an integral part of how we relate to the world around us. Sound effects our various interpretations of the world and our contexts, and it also has a significant emotive power over us. Our perceptions of the world are often guided by the sounds and senses that are occurring in a given situation. Our thoughts about our own journeys, our concepts of God, and our relation to others and our selves are intimately related to sound. As our culture is typically visually oriented rather than orally oriented, this is an important element to incorporate into our own spiritual practices. The music we experienced opened avenues of thought we may not have discovered with silence alone.

Our "playlist" that facilitated this exploration was:

Radiohead - Everything in Its Right Place
Sigur Ros - Takk...
Sigur Ros - Glosoli
Lamb - Til the Clouds Clear
Vast - One More Day
David Crowder Band - Intro (I've Had Enough)
Snow Patrol - Warmer Climate
Muse - Endlessly
Jump Little Children - Cathedrals

For further contemplation: "The inner life is a soundscape that integrates body, mind, and emotion, all of which are revealed in the voice. Sound does not disappear into the inner life like light being drawn into a black hole, sound reaches into the whole body and draws the listener and speaker together toward a new place that neither had previously occupied."

"Voices have timber, tone, and life. Voices can be thought to touch us, indeed to enter into us, in ways that a word does not...All sound, in fact, has a physical quality since we hear different kinds of sounds with different parts of our body, due to the vibratory nature of sound waves. Sound and touch, as with Word and body, can work together to reveal and heal."

Stephen H. Webb - The Divine Voice

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Contemplative Group

This week we explored the many intrusions we experience throughout our days. We discovered how much of our lives are consumed by being annoyed or irritated by these intrusions, and we discussed ways to accept these intrusions rather than try to resist them.

We are so used to controlling our environments that we forget to adapt to our environments. If it is hot or cold, we adjust the temperature. If music is too loud, we turn it down. We are used to controlling every aspect of our environments rather than incorporating them into our overall experiences. We expect to be comfortable and at peace all the time, but when we resist uncomfortable intrusions, we are missing out on important parts of our lives and important lessons to learn. We let these intrusions distract us from the act and art of living fully, and these intrusions become compulsions that obsess us and obstruct our paths on our journey. We must learn to adapt to intrusions rather than letting them become compulsions and hinder our path.

For further contemplation: "One moment we are 'pathing,' only in the next to find ourselves 'stuck' and 'blocked.' We may not have lost our sense of purpose and direction, but feel incapable of making any headway. It is as though a barrier has been placed across our path and we can find no way to surmount it...Compulsions obstruct the path by monopolizing consciousness. The hypnotic fascination they exert prevents us from attending to anything else. We behave like a rabbit dazzled by the headlights of a car. Not only do compulsions make us lose sight of our goal, they inwardly paralyze us. To escape their grip does not entail suppressing them but creating a space in which we are freed to let them go and they are freed to disappear...

...Compulsions not only disturb and enclose, they distort. The emotion of hatred is not possible without a perception of the other as hateful. Everything about the person is repellent: the slant of his mouth, the shrug of his shoulders, the tone of his voice, the cut of his suit. Although he has a wife, children, and friends, it is inconceivable that they could love such a man. A compulsive feeling about someone encloses him or her inside a frozen image...

...Once revealed for what it is, the world is opened up as tentative and contingent, impossible to pin down as 'this' or 'that,' 'me' or 'mine.' A thing is what it is not because of an irreducible essence that marks it off from other things but because the complex and singular relationships that enable it to emerge with its own unique character from the matrices of a contingent world. To emerge contingently like this is what it means for a thing or a person to be 'empty'...

...Thus emptiness is a path. It is that open and unfettered space that frees us to respond from a liberating perspective rather than react from a fixed position. It is the absence of resistance in the heart of life itself that allows the boundless diversity of phenomena to pour forth in creative profusion and abundance."

Stephen Bachelor - Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good
and Evil

Wherever you are on your path, you are welcome in this place. We hope you will join us when you can.....

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Contemplative Group

Tonight we reiterated some important intents and purposes of the group. We reflected on the intentionality and discipline required to cultivate a contemplative stance towards life, and we discussed the importance of incorporating meditative practices into our everyday lives.

We focused on cultivating an intentional awareness towards all the moments of our lives, and we noted the difficulty in living this way. So much of our lives are lost to us in a blur of distractions and un-focused spirituality, and it is only through an intentional awareness that we can begin to recover a sense of wonderment towards life.

We discovered (again) that much of our lives are also a struggle between the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves and learning to live with our limitations and boundaries. For, we often live as if we have no limitations, but part of becoming more aware is also becoming more aware of our own limitations, which serve to guide us in the process of healing and wholeness. We should not resist discovering our limitations. Rather, we should embrace them and learn to live with(in) them. It is important to temper our strong drives towards idealism with a certain pragmatism about living. Otherwise, frustration will follow us on our path.

Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome in this place. We hope you will join us when you can....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Contemplative Group

Tonight's discussion went in some interesting and important directions. We began by discussing the need to control again, and we noted our desire for Order and Certainty. We quickly realized that exploring the Mystery of the Divine is both beautiful as well as disturbing. For, journeying the path of Mystery can also make us uncomfortable in that we do not always understand is incomprehensible. As we are used to explaining and comprehending various problems, delving into incomprehensibility is often foreign and even frightening to us.

What we discovered is that exploring Mystery must always be tempered with a certain amount of Responsibility...for ourselves as well as those around us. We realized that moving into Mystery often makes us uncomfortable because we are used to equating simply waiting with inactivity and passivity. We are used to "doing" and controlling and shaping the outcomes in a given situation. Interestingly, however, passivity and letting go of control need not always be viewed as negative. Non-action is also a type of action when it is intentional. We must form and re-form ourselves in order to prepare ourselves for right action. That is, in order to be motivated by compassionate engagement with the world around us in a responsible way, we must also be willing to appreciate the Unknown Mysteries of this Life, learn from it, and incorporate it into our daily lives.

I am reminded again of the analogy of water from last week. A rushing river is formed and channeled by its environment. It does not force itself onto that environment but is shaped by that environment. Yet, water also exerts its own force onto its surroundings as well. Over time, its own force can be felt and seen. Simply "being," water eventually cuts its own path while still remaining fluid and adaptable enough to its surroundings. It is not that a river is passive. Rather, its patience and consistency, its active non-action alters its surroundings while also allowing itself to be re-formed by those same surroundings.

Human and Divine Responsibility are difficult questions, and we must continue to struggle with them. We must be honest with ourselves about our questions, the Unknown, and even the anger that often accompanies that incomprehensibility. We do not let ourselves be tossed and driven by any passing wind, but we also must embrace the mysterious unknowability of that fierce wind.

For further contemplation: "The Master sees things as they are, without trying to control them. She lets them go their own way, and resides at the center of the circle."
Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching

We cannot control everything, but we do not simply remain passive either. We engage action through non-action. We approach responsibility through compassion and mystery. Sometimes it is difficult in its incomprehensibility, but the difficulty does not force us into apathy. Indeed, non-action is far from apathetic resignation. Those around us make their own decisions. Those decisions can be horrific and disturbing, and we must be ready to take responsible action towards those decisions. Yet, the mystery of those decisions remains, and we are not responsible for others' decisions. Indeed, it is impossible to be so, and we would drive ourselves mad believing this to be true.

Does "letting go" signify passivity?
Do we feel helpless at the center of the circle? If so, why?
How much control do we believe we should have over Life?
Is it our Responsibility to control the Mystery of Life?
Why do we seek possession of Mystery?
Are we actually called to do this?
Do we equate participation in Mystery with control?
Do we equate Responsibility with control?

Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome in this place. We hope you will join us when you can...