The School for Contemplative Living
Tuesday, December 07, 2021
Listening in Stillness, Serving in Joy!
At Play in the World
Elizabeth O'Connor
The relationship between pain and vocation first became clear to me when I was reading books on child development.
In one book an author stated matter-of-factly that play is to a child what work is to an adult.
In a very different book on play therapy another author explained how, in arranging dolls and toy furniture,
the child expresses her inner conflicts and her struggle to work them out.
Is it possible that the adult, when working at what he wants to do, is also engaged in the same process?
For such an adult his work becomes his play. Through that work not only is he healed, but he becomes a healer.
It might be said that in finding vocation one discovers how to be at play in the world.

Be Still, Take Time
Wayne Muller 
When we breathe, we do not stop inhaling because we have taken in all the oxygen we will ever need,
but because we have all the oxygen we need for this breath. Then we exhale, release carbon dioxide,
and make room for more oxygen. Sabbath, like the breath, allows us to imagine we have
done enough work for this day. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus said again and again.
Let the work of this day be sufficient....The world seduces us with an artificial urgency that requires us
to respond without listening to what is most deeply true. In Sabbath time, we cultivate a sense of eternity
where we truly rest, and feel how all things can wait, and turn them gently in the hand until we feel their shape,
and know the truth of them. The theology of progress forces us to act before we are ready.
We speak before we know what to say. We respond before we feel the truth of what we know.
In the process, we inadvertently create suffering, heaping imprecision upon inaccuracy,
until we are buried under a mountain of misperception. But Sabbath says, Be still. Stop.
There is no rush to get to the end, because we are never finished.
Take time to rest, and eat, and drink, and be refreshed.
And in the gentle rhythm of that refreshment,
listen to the sound the heart makes as it speaks
 the quiet truth of what is needed.
Source: Sabbath

Etty Hillesum
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow,
 for they sap our energies…. The things that have to be done must be done,
and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested
with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God.
Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves,
more and more peace, and reflect it towards others.
And the more peace there is in us,
the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

 "There is a reason they call God a presence -
because God is right here, right now.
In the present is the only place to find Him,
and now is the only time."
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)

 For One Who is Exhausted
John O’Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out,
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the rush of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit,
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
©John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us (New York:  Doubleday, 2008), p.125, 126.

Silence and Action
Soren Kierkegaard
 Silence is the measure of the power to act; that is, a person never has more power to act than he has silence. Anyone can understand that to do something is far greater than to talk about doing it. If, therefore, a person has a plan or idea and is fully resolved to carry it out, he does not need to talk about it. What he talks about in connection with the proposed action is what he is most unsure of and most unwilling to do.

 A Vast and Fruitful Loneliness
Etty Hillesum
Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inward in prayer for five short minutes.

Seeing Ourselves
M. Basil Pennington
Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self--the false self--and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.
Source: Unknown

“Sober people say that religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who’ve been there. And I think faith, for me, is a word that speaks much more to a belief and an interest in matters that are spiritual rather than the institution and creeds that you associate with religion.”  
Anne Lamott

You Are Accepted 
“…it is as though a voice were saying: You are accepted. You are accepted,  accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not  know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for  anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!”
 Paul Tillich

Becoming the Word of God
"Each of us, at some point, might have been rejected
for being too young, too poor, too queer, too old, too crazy
or difficult or sick: in one way or another, cracked, broken not right...
but we are becoming right together." 
Sara Miles,   Take This Bread

The Rhythm of Life
Thomas Merton
Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence, there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling in the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing a hell on earth. If we have not silence, God is not heard in our music. If we have not rest, God does not bless our work. If we twist our lives out of shape in order to fill every corner of them with action and experience, God will seem silently to withdraw from our hearts and leave us empty.

"Prayer requires education, training, reflection, contemplation.
It is not enough to join others;
it is necessary to build a sanctuary within, brick by brick,
instants of meditation, moments of devotion."
Abraham Joshua Heschel
  (A contemplative spiritual path requires two movements--into the inner sanctuary and into community.)
"In every [one's] life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal. Each of us has at least once experienced the momentous reality of God....To some people [these events] are like shooting stars, passing and unremembered. In others they kindle a light that is never quenched. The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the response of that moment are the forces that sustain our faith. In this sense, faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, loyalty to our response."
Abraham Joshua Heschel
(In this way spiritual remembering helps us "faith" our way through times
when there is no clarity or light on the journey.
Both quotes were drawn from Robert J. Wicks' delightful writing in
Everyday Simplicity: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Growth.)

 The following inspirations come from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation,
which serves as a guiding organization for community members in
The School for Contemplative Living: 
“Most of us need special places and special groups where the clutter of our cultural and personal egos can lighten and we can see the divine again. In finding such support we discover an amazing array of companions. The least formally educated and theologically sophisticated person may well become our best inspirer. The most sophisticated may rely less on their knowledge and be open for simple trust. Persons of all kinds can be discovered as true soul-kin. Spiritual hunger and trusting willingness – to be opened beyond what we know or understand – can be the deepest human meeting ground, the place for the most hope for our fractured human family.”
 (p. 128, Tilden Edwards, director, Shalem News, Fall 1993)

“…as far as God is concerned, there is no place I need to go, nothing I need to do,
 no improvements or changes I need to make.
 I am already Home, just the way I am, however ignorant, selfish,
 or spiritually unenlightened that may be.
All the time we’re on the Journey,  
we’re already Home.”
(p. 129, Susie Dillon, Shalem News, October 1999)

  “Tend only to the birth in you and you will find all….”       Meister Eckhart

“It is love alone that can reach God in this life, and not knowing.”  
Anonymous Author, The Cloud of Unknowing