August 26, 2021 – |Wings| Short Animated Film
August 19, 2021 – Richard Rohr Meditation
Good and Bad Power
Once we come into contact with the Holy Spirit, our Inner Source, we become living icons of true, humble, and confident power.
When we haven’t experienced or don’t trust our God-given “power within,” we are either afraid of power or we exert too much of it over others. Enduring structures of “power-over,” like patriarchy, white supremacy, and rigid capitalism, have limited most individuals’ power for so long that it is difficult to imagine another way.
The theme that I believe is basic to many of our political ills is domination. . . . Domination is a relation that does not work the same in both directions. One commands, the other obeys. One shows respect, the other accepts it but does not return it. One gains privileges from which the other is excluded.
God does not play favorites. God loves all equally. Children of God are supremely safe in this love (but not protected in the world), and children of God are themselves capable of this kind of loving. —Beatrice Bruteau
When you take something you possess—your bread and power, your abilities and identities, your comfort and control, your treasured structures and even life itself—and release your attachment to it and make it useful to God’s movement, you are practicing kenosis. —Stephanie Spellers
What if we actually surrendered to the inner Trinitarian flow and let it be our primary teacher? Our notion of society, politics, and authority—which is still top-down and outside-in—would utterly change.
Learning to Let Go
Centering Prayer is a devotional practice, placing ourselves in God’s presence and quieting our minds and hearts, but as Cynthia Bourgeault explains, it doesn’t only work on that level. What the desert abbas and ammas, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, and even Thomas Keating could not have known when he formally started teaching the practice five decades ago, was that it works on a physiological level as well, strengthening neural pathways, and making “letting go” that much easier. When it comes to releasing our strong preferences, especially our desire for power and control, it seems safe to say that some practice of kenosis is necessary for any movement forward.
The theological basis for Centering Prayer lies in the principle of kenosis, Jesus’s self-emptying love that forms the core of his own self-understanding and life practice. . . .
The gospels themselves make clear that [Jesus] is specifically inviting us to this journey and modeling how to do it. Once you see this, it’s the touchstone throughout all his teaching: Let go! Don’t cling! Don’t hoard! Don’t assert your importance! Don’t fret. “Do not be afraid, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:32). And it’s this same core gesture we practice in Centering Prayer: thought by thought by thought. You could really summarize Centering Prayer as kenosis in meditation form. . . .
Fascinating confirmation that kenosis is indeed an evolutionary human pathway is emerging from—of all places—recent discoveries in neuroscience. From fMRI data collected primarily by the California-based HeartMath Institute, you can now verify chapter and verse that how you respond to a stimulus in the outer world determines which neural pathways will be activated in your brain, and between your brain and your heart. If you respond with any form of initial negativity (which translates physiologically as constriction)—freezing, bracing, clinging, clenching, and so on—the pathway illumined leads to your amygdala (or “reptilian brain,” as it’s familiarly known) . . . which controls a repertory of highly energized fight-or-flight responses. If you can relax into a stimulus—opening, softening, yielding, releasing—the neural pathway leads through the more evolutionarily advanced parts of your forebrain and, surprisingly, brings brain and heart rhythms into entrainment. . . .
Every time we manage to let go of a thought in Centering Prayer, “consenting to the presence and action of God within,” the gesture is actually physically embodied. It’s not just an attitude; something actually “drops and releases” in the solar plexus region of your body, a subtle but distinct form of interior relaxation. . . . And in time, this gentle and persistent “inner aerobics,” undertaken under the specific banner of Centering Prayer and in solidarity with Jesus’s own kenotic path, will gradually establish that “mind of Christ” within you as your own authentic self.
We invite you to spend some time today practicing “letting go” through Centering Prayer or another practice of kenosis.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala: 2016), 33, 34, 35–36.
Image credit: Charles O’Rear, A Hundred Mile Ribbon of Sand Dunes (detail), 1972, photograph, California, National Archives.
Image inspiration: A desert has the potential for phenomenal beauty—but if you want to survive, you wouldn’t enter it without food and water. Likewise, power in itself is neither good nor bad, but requires our precautions and awareness to navigate and apply with great care.
August 12, 2021 – Richard Rohr Meditation
Because we’re human, we hurt. Because we’re human, we have tears to cry. Because we’re human, our hearts are broken. Because we’re human, we understand that loss is a universal language. Everybody grieves. —Rev. Jacqui Lewis
We must go through the stages of feeling, not only the last death but all the earlier little (and not-so-little) deaths. If we bypass these emotional stages by easy answers, all they do is take a deeper form of disguise and come out in another way.
The great wisdom traditions are trying to teach us that grief isn’t something to run from. It’s a liminal space, a time of transformation.
By leaning into the horror and yielding to the sorrow, by standing in the fire of emptiness and saying yes to the mystery, I was honoring my child and expressing my ongoing love for her. —Mirabai Starr
Grief is our common bond. Opening to sorrow connects us with everyone, everywhere. —Francis Weller
If we are honest, we acknowledge that we are dying throughout our life, and this is what we learn if we are attentive: grace is found at the depths and in the death of everything.
Feeling Our Pain
We all have preferred styles of attention and ways that we perceive what is happening to us. It takes lifelong practice of what I call “mirror-wiping” to see things as they are, instead of as we are! “I” am always my first problem, and if I deal with “me,” then I can deal with other problems much more effectively. Similarly, grief work begins with cleansing the lens of my perception, and simply being “here” to what is. Buddhist teacher Cuong Lu is a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, and here he describes a practical way to be present to our pain.
Do you want to put an end to the dark thoughts racing through your mind, the pressures you feel every day, the many ways you don’t feel seen or heard? What do you really want? What do you really want to end? Your thoughts bombarding you 24/7? Your loneliness? Your despair? What do you think happens when life ends? Do you think you won’t feel anything, that you won’t suffer anymore? . . .
Instead of acting on these impulses—stop, wait, and study the details of your life: the skin on your hands, the despair in your throat, the searing currents running through your veins. Study these things as if your life depended on it. When you stay fully present with your feelings, your sensations, and the world around you, even when it seems dark and cold, joy will arise. Joy and suffering are two sides of the same coin.
The way to free yourself from pain is to feel it, not to run away, as difficult as that may be. Be a mountain and be porous at the same time. Become interested in yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, your sensations. This might not make sense now, but it will. . . .
Pain and suffering make life beautiful. This might be hard to believe while you’re suffering, but the lessons you can learn from hardships are jewels to cherish. If you’re suffering, it means you have a heart. Suffering is evidence of your capacity to love, and only those who understand suffering can understand life and help others.
The world needs your suffering, your courage, and your strength. Don’t try to kill your pain. Share it with another, communicate it. If the first person you talk to isn’t the right one, find someone else. Somebody somewhere wants to listen to your pain, to connect with you and understand you. When you find them, when you lighten your burden and discover the jewels and joy that are alive beneath the pain, later you’ll be present for others who are suffering.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Cuong Lu, Wait: A Love Letter to Those in Despair (Shambhala: 2021), 12–13, 15–16.
Image credit: Dennis Cowals, Upland Taiga (detail), 1973, photograph, Alaska, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Grief can feel like a wilderness—the vastness and depth of it overwhelming. We enter this wilderness to find the keys for healing, bit by bit, tree by tree, discovering and knowing our own grief spaces.
August 5, 2021 – Richard Rohr Meditation
Living in a transitional age such as ours is scary: things are falling apart, the future is unknowable, so much doesn’t cohere or make sense. Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.”
When the ordinary isn’t ordinary anymore and the crisis is upon us, the self can center in this refuge that I am calling “crisis contemplation,” a space that is neither the result of spiritual seeking nor the voluntary entry into meditative spaces. —Barbara Holmes
Ultimately, we can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit as it guides us toward mutual care and love of God, neighbors, and creation. —Barbara Holmes
It takes great trust and patience to remain stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events.
In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in joy is a revolutionary act. —Valarie Kaur
Mysticism reminds us that the boundaries between this life and the life beyond are permeable, and that our power is not seeded in what is bestowed by politicians and society, but to everyone willing and ready to recognize the moves of an active Holy Spirit. —Barbara Holmes
Each day at the CAC we begin our morning sit by repeating a line from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” With each repetition, we drop a word from the verse until we finally say only “Be,” before entering the silence together. It is a reminder that no matter how we arrive that day, we are called to be, and be still, before God. Barbara Holmes affirms that stillness is important for all who want to transform their pain instead of transmit it: “Stillness is a state of wholeness, an antidote to the fragmentation of BIPOC people that comes with marginalization. . . . Sitting in stillness may allow the pieces of us to reassemble.” 
Meditation teacher Eckhart Tolle offers this insight:
Silence is helpful, but you don’t need it in order to find stillness. Even when there is noise, you can be aware of the stillness underneath the noise, of the space in which the noise arises. That is the inner space of pure awareness, consciousness itself. . . .
We have forgotten what rocks, plants, and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be—to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.
Whenever you bring your attention to anything natural, anything that has come into existence without human intervention, you step out of the prison of conceptualized thinking and, to some extent, participate in the state of connectedness with Being in which everything natural still exists.
To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.
Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in Being—completely at one with what it is and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself. 
Let us come to this place of rest, whether we are in crisis or at peace. If we keep breathing consciously, in connection with all that surrounds us, we will know that we are connected to all of humanity from cave dwellers to cosmonauts, to the entire animal world, and even to the trees and plants. As Barbara Holmes often reminds us, even the atoms we breathe are physically the same as the stardust from the Big Bang. Oneness is no longer experienced as merely a vague mystical notion, but rooted in scientific and embodied fact. 
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
 Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 56.
 Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (New World Library: 2003), 22, 77–78.
 Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (Crossroad: 2009), 26.
Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
July 29, 2021 – Richard Rohr Meditation
The Sermon on the Mount
We must be honest and admit that most of Christianity has focused very little on what Jesus himself taught and spent most of his time doing: healing people, doing acts of justice and inclusion, embodying compassionate and nonviolent ways of living.
In the Sermon on the Plain, I think Jesus is describing what the world would look like if people really followed him. He’s giving us an upside-down version of reality that turns middle-class morality on its head.
Jesus does not replace. Jesus reimagines and expands, inviting an alternative and often innovative reading of Jewish tradition. —Diana Butler Bass
When I understand Jesus’ words in Aramaic, I translate like this: “Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.” —Elias Chacour
Jesus commands us to love our enemies not just because it’s right; not just because it’s moral; and not just because it’s the only practical solution; but because God loves God’s enemies. That’s the very nature of God, he explains. —John Dear
The awareness of being a child of God tends to stabilize the ego and results in a new courage, fearlessness, and power. I have seen it happen again and again. —Howard Thurman
Finding the Source of Comfort
Earlier this week, we shared a meditation from Megan McKenna on the importance of translation. Scholar and author Neil Douglas-Klotz has worked for decades with the Aramaic language, which Jesus most likely spoke as a first-century Jewish man from Nazareth. Because translation is never an exact science, Dr. Douglas-Klotz offers several possible understandings of Jesus’ teaching “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love. Healthy are those weak and overextended for their purpose; they shall feel their inner flow of strength return. Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire; they shall see the face of fulfillment in a new form. Aligned with the One are the mourners; they shall be comforted. Turned to the Source are those feeling deeply confused by life; they shall be returned from their wandering.
Dr. Douglas-Klotz continues:
Lawile can mean “mourners” (as translated from the Greek), but in Aramaic it also carries the sense of those who long deeply for something to occur, those troubled or in emotional turmoil, or those who are weak and in want from such longing. Netbayun can mean “comforted,” but also connotes being returned from wandering, united inside by love, feeling an inner continuity, or seeing the arrival of (literally, the face of) what one longs for.
Dr. Douglas-Klotz offers this embodied prayer practice to help readers sense the powerful message of this beatitude.
When in emotional turmoil—or unable to clearly feel any emotion—experiment in this fashion: breathe in while feeling the word lawile (lay-wee-ley) [longing]; breathe out while feeling the word netbayun (net-bah-yoon) [loving]. Embrace all of what you feel and allow all emotions to wash through as though you were standing under a gentle waterfall. Follow this flow back to its source and find there the spring from which all emotion arises. At this source, consider what emotion has meaning for the moment, what action or nonaction is important now.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco: 1990), 50, 51, 52.
Image inspiration: A public piano is for everyone. The sound of the notes is a gift, made by ordinary people, rippling outward toward passersby. The beauty of shared music is present, whether or not the people who hear it respond.
July 1 -You Are a Recipient of Light
It is indeed the task of everyone who cares to prevent people— young, middle-aged, and old—from clinging to false expectations and from building their lives on false suppositions. If it is true that people age the way they live, our first task is to help people discover their lifestyles in which “being” is not identified with “having,” self-esteem does not depend on success, and goodness is not the same as popularity. Care for the aging means a persistent refusal to attach any kind of ultimate significance to grades, degrees, positions, promotions, or rewards and the courageous effort to keep men and women in contact with their inner self, where they can experience their own solitude and silence as potential recipients of light. When one has not discovered and experienced the light that is love, peace, forgiveness, gentleness, kindness, and deep joy in the early years, how can one expect to recognize it in old age? As the book of Sirach says: “If you have gathered nothing in your youth, how can you find anything in your old age?” (Sirach 25:3–4). That is true not only of money and material goods, but also of peace and purity of heart
June 24 – Nouwen Meditation: Inviting Closeness with the Other
To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow the other to come close to us. It means to take away the many barriers that prevent us from entering into communion with the other. When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts. When we dare to care, we have to confess that when others kill, I could have killed, too. When others torture, I could have done the same. When others heal, I could have healed, too. And when others give life, I could have done the same. Then we experience that we can be present to the soldier who kills, to the guard who pesters, to the young woman who plays as if life has no end, and to the old man who stopped playing out of fear for death.
By the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness we can participate in the care of God who came, not to the powerful but powerless, not to be different but the same, not to take our pain away but to share it. Through this participation, we can open our hearts to each other and form a new community.
June 17 – Nouwen Meditation: You are the Beloved
Life is a gift. Each one of us is unique, known by name, and loved by the One who fashioned us. Unfortunately, there is a very loud, consistent, and powerful message coming to us from our world that leads us to believe that we must prove our belovedness by how we look, by what we have, and by what we can accomplish. We become preoccupied with “making it” in this life, and we are very slow to grasp the liberating truth of our origins and our finality. We need to hear the message announced and the message emboldened over and over again. Only then do we find the courage to claim it and live from it.