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Patience is an act of compassion

When we sit in silent prayer or meditation, patience is the essence of the activity. It requires patience to sit, and the more we sit, the more patient we become. Whatever is your spiritual practice, whatever keeps you centered and grounded on a daily basis, patience is the key.

We learn patience. This learning of patience, though, is also growth in compassion and love.

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The Disposable Ones

It’s going on seven years now, since I visited the Nazi concentration camps. I’m still processing, as you can imagine. What surprised me in my visit was how viscerally the physical visit to the actual place affected me. Reading about genocide is something of a traumatic experience. (It is possible that one can suffer from what is called “secondary post-traumatic stress syndrome.”) Visiting the concentration camp sites, though, even 70 some odd years after the Holocaust is traumatic in a way that I’ve not quite been able to understand. There’s something about being there, in that place, that resonates in a deep way, in a way that you don’t get when you read about it in a book.
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Hand to the plow

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9

And perhaps that’s why the kingdom of God is, in a very important sense, not yet upon us. There aren’t many of us who have truly put the hand to the plow and not looked back. But, of course we look back! In this sense, are there any of us who are truly fit for the kingdom of God? Probably not. Still, if you are like me, then you have some sense of what it is like to be captured by the beauty of a vision of a better world, of a more free and peaceful culture.

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On taking the direct approach of Jesus

Recently I’ve been studying quite a bit on that Jesus dude. A prophet, Jesus was. Yet, interestingly, he didn’t use the typical ‘Thus says the Lord,’ or ‘Hear the word of the Lord’ rhetoric that characterizes many prophets in the Jewish tradition. Jesus didn’t appeal to his hearers on the basis of having a direct line to God. He didn’t say, “Yo. Listen to what God told me.” His prophetic approach was to overturn tables or to speak directly to the powerful.

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Recent Articles

20
Feb

A sentence from my journal

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A sentence from my daily journal (which is usually only a few sentences anyway): “The same fear, anger, frustration, and pride that is in you is also in me.”

For all of us, there are gaps between our values and our actions. If you are serious about inhabiting these spaces, to understand the lack of integration in your life as one of the central aims of your life, then I call you a fellow contemplative.

17
Feb

Snow Makes Mountain

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All my life false and real, right and wrong tangled.
Playing with the moon, ridiculing the wind, listening to birds….
Many years wasted seeing the mountain covered with snow.
This winter I suddenly realize snow makes mountain.

— Dogen

13
Feb

The Trauma Story

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“A little child can’t give herself the experience of her own prciousness. She has to see it mirrored in her mother’s eyes. But what if the child looks into the mother’s eyes and no one looks back?..This is the trauma story.”

– James Finley, Ph.D, spiritual teacher and psychotherapist for trauma victims, from Transforming Trauma.

4
Feb

Why Meditate?

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“The Dhammapada, an ancient Buddhist text..says:

‘What you are now is the result of what you were. What you will be tomorrow will be the result of what you are now. The consequences of an evil mind will follow you like the cart follows the ox that pulls it. The consequences of a purified mind will follow you like your own shadow. No one can do more for you than your own purified mind— no parent, no relative, no friend, no one. A well-disciplined mind brings happiness.’

Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred, and jealousy, which keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. Meditation brings the mind to a state of tranquillity and awareness, a state of concentration and insight.

Meditation changes your character by a process of sensitization, by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your arrogance evaporates, and your antagonism dries up. Your mind becomes still and calm. And your life smoothes out. Thus meditation, properly performed, prepares you to meet the ups and downs of existence.”

– Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

2
Feb

Housecleaning

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“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see, we cannot think.” – Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.

Merton inspires me because he was that rare prophetic soul who connected our spiritual illness with our social sickness and did this in a meaningful and substantial way. As I work on writing my own spiritual memoir, I look for ways to make this connection. “Deconstruction must always be done in love,” says Jacques Derrida. Whatever manner in which we attempt to peel back the layers of social sin — greed disguised as “economics” or exploitation posing as the “free market” — the heart of the matter is always compassion, the longing to see true healing for the whole of the world. This healing is the purity and cleansing we all seek, the only true basis for a
housecleaning of our culture.

28
Jan

Theology of Love

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28
Jan

Merton

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“I am nobody’s answer – not even my own.” - Thomas Merton

“I am nobody’s answer – not even my own.”

Thomas Merton’s 100th birthday is arriving.

25
Jan

God’s epiphany

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Christians are currently observing the season of epiphany, the phenomenon of sacred revelation. And God, it would seem, also experiences epiphanies, reacting, changing course, ever flowing.

11
Jan

Western liberalism and free speech

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Putting the idea of “free speech” in historical perspective. Here are excerpt from the article:

“Even as they were establishing the very foundations of modern liberal societies, from the tenets of freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion to the basis for democratic forms of governance, Enlightenment thinkers were nearly universal in their expression of support for a world built on racial hierarchies and the expansion of new European empires that depended largely on the use of violence to control colonial subjects….

“Western countries have had no qualms about setting aside their liberal values to offer full-fledged support to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that, incidentally, create the repressive climate that has been proven to give rise to militant extremism….

“The abhorrent violence by some Muslims is a recent phenomenon, and one that must be confronted by addressing the failure of western liberalism to live up to its stated ideals, not by reflexively continuing to sing its praises….”

Article by Abdullah Al-Arian, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University:
http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201511063740106115

31
Dec

14 Religious Moments In 2014 That Give Us Hope For 2015

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http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6322894?1419564666&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

31
Dec

Wishing you a forgetful New Year

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“To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self.” Dogen

I like the word “forgetting.” To forget the self is to allow the concerns of ego to drop away. Subtle stuff, though, isn’t it? For some, being more assertive is actually a “forgetting,” a forgetting of insecurity and fear. In this sense, forgetting the self means letting inner obstacles drop away, becoming present to the now, appreciating the only truth and reality we have — the present moment…..Happy New Year and best wishes for a year full, rich, and attentive.

28
Dec

Pope Francis and a bit of good news

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Pope Francis will be issuing an edict on climate change. That’s great news in itself, but there’s more. Listen to this quote, as Pope Francis gets to the heart of the matter:

“An economic system centred n the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it.

“The system continues unchaned, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics. It is no longer man who commands, but money. Cash commands.

“The monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

Truth. Climate change is part of a much bigger issue, an economy that lacks moral accountability and spiritual grounding. The result is greed and destruction. This is why the environment is a religious issue. Pope Francis is right on.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing

3
Dec

Insight

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“In brief, insight is wisdom which enables one to see that mental states and matter are impermanent or transitory, unsatisfactory or suffering, and impersonal or non-self. What we regard as ‘self’ or ‘ego’ or ‘soul’ are miscomprehensions arising from a lack of knowledge of absolute truth. In reality, ‘self’ is but a very rapid continuity of birth and decay of mental states and matter…” — Achaan Naeb, Vipassana meditation master

The point here is not to denigrate human experience or to fall into a state of existential despair. Quite the contrary, our best shot at inner happiness is to recognize reality for what it is: changeable, unpredictable, and unreliable. “This world is not my home,” to put it in Christian terminology, it is passing away and not a sure source of joy. In all religions and spiritualities that I have studied and can recall, the point is to let go of what we think we need. This is the lifelong process of becoming wise. Think of those wise old men and women. They are wise because they are content with things as they are, effortlessly riding the waves of change.

2
Dec

I learned something interesting today

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It isn’t a secret that the Bible is anti-gay. This basically makes no sense, on the surface. I have had a theory over the years that the anti-gay language goes back to the attempt of ancient cultures to strictly maintain male hierarchies of control.

By and large, this theory fits the biblical evidence as I see it. Mainstream American Christians, for example, tend to believe that the Bible prohibits homosexuality because it is “sinful” or “evil” — they see it as a moral problem. But the Bible never actually says that. The ancient law of Moses basically says: gay sex is detestable, kill them both by stoning them to death. End of story. There’s no “pray the gay away” camps or anything. A man is not to lie with a man “as a man lies with a woman” because women are to be sexually submissive. When a man is in the submissive position, that violates the natural order of the hierarchy. The answer is just to stone them and move on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that modern day Christians are not calling on the death penalty to deal with homosexuality. Though, to be fair, there are Christians who do call for gay people to be killed, and in other countries, gay people are still murdered, jailed, or maimed as a matter of law — I don’t mean to diminish this very real persecution. My point is simply that if my theory is correct, then most modern American Christians don’t really understand the roots of why there is so much anti-gay language in the Bible. If they did, they might be willing to rethink.

All that brings me to what I learned today. I was listening to one of those Great Courses series. This one on Classical Mythology. The Professor explained that in ancient Athenian culture, sexuality was based on the hierarchy of domination and control. To put it bluntly, it was all about who penetrated who. Man penetrating woman = okay. Male god penetrating human female = okay. Human male penetrating female goddess…not so okay.

Homosexuality was okay, as long as it maintained the hierarchy. So, a mature, older man could penetrate an adolescent male, because the hierarchy is not violated.

This adds a bit more substance to my theory that the biblical anti-gay rhetoric is rooted in the hierarchy of male control and domination. This would be a reason to dispense not only with Christian anti-gay rhetoric but to also consider all of the ways in which Christianity needs to question hierarchies of domination and control.

That’s what I learned today.

29
Nov

What would MLK say about Ferguson?

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I have been intensely engaged in a few Facebook conversations regarding the Ferguson shooting of the unarmed black man, Michael Brown. All in all, the conversations tend to be productive. But many whites (and in some cases non whites) are quick to condemn the rioters. I hear comments to the effect, “Why can’t blacks just get over it?” With a black President, they say, we have proof that the playing field is equal. I posted a picture of Malcolm X, and I made the comment that “Those who are oppressed and denied justice have the right to take power and freedom by any means necessary.” It prompted a lot of tense comments, as you can imagine, most of which disagreed with me.

One person posted a lengthy quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “The Other America.” Turns out MLK wasn’t all that far away from Malcolm X.

I consider Martin Luther King, Jr. to be a fellow subversive mystic, in the Jesus tradition. He is also a figure that many mainstream white Americans admire. However, in his speech, “The Other America” (1968) King talked about the African-American riots of the late 1960s, and there are two things that might surprise most white people.

1) The unemployment rate among African-Americans is actually higher today — around 11% — than the statistics that King quotes in his speech in 1968 — 8.8%.

2) While reaffirming his personal commitment to nonviolence, King does not come forward with an outright condemnation of the rioters.

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