Nothing Like A Wildfire To Get Your Priorities In Check-Maria Shriver

I’VE BEEN THINKING

What a week it has been.

Wednesday, I awoke to the smell of smoke inside my home. I rushed to my back door and found that smoke filled the air outside as well. Immediately, I knew something was wrong.

I turned on the news and saw that wildfires were raging out of control just a few miles from my home. I watched in disbelief as firefighters battled brush and winds on the hillside along our big freeway, which was engulfed in flames.

It looked like a scene out of a movie, but this was real life. And, it was unfolding in real time.

My daughters called to see if I was okay. One asked me, “What’s happening?” I told them it would be fine, but then a friend called and told me she was evacuating. With urgency in her voice, she told me to grab some stuff and get out now.

I could feel my kids’ anxiety about the situation. I could feel my friend’s anxiety. But still, I didn’t think I needed to move just yet.

Then, I found out that my neighborhood and my street were being told to prepare to evacuate. (I learned this via an email that was forwarded to me, not a text message, phone call or more immediate form of communication. I think this system of alerting people needs to be modernized.)

Prepare. Prepare to evacuate at a moment’s notice, the email said. Gather up what you need. Medicine. Pets. Important papers. Precious belongings. You must be ready at a moment’s notice to leave.

Immediately, I found myself in the midst of making split-second decisions about what mattered to me and to my kids, and what didn’t. (I’m not a quick decision maker, but in this instance, I surprised myself.)

My heart beat fast as I grabbed the notes and cards my kids had written to me, which luckily I keep in a bag next to my bed. I grabbed their school drawings off the wall and threw them in my car. I grabbed something from each of my parents. I grabbed some other family photos and a few other items from people I love. Interestingly, I didn’t grab a single bag or piece of clothing, although my daughter did grab one purse that my mother had given me. In that moment, when it felt like I had everything to lose, nothing else mattered.

I know it shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how unimportant “stuff” is. It shouldn’t take a wildfire to remind me how important friends and family are, or how deeply I love my kids and how proud I am of them. But, in these moments, you really are reminded of what really matters.

My daughters were amazing, calm, helpful, and generous during these uncertain moments. (Both of my boys were out of town.) I was proud of them. Proud to see what they grabbed for themselves and for me. Proud that they were so concerned about so many others. (They even called to ask their brothers and dad what items they should grab that meant something to them.) They were also especially focused on all of the animals in harm’s way.

So many people have lost everything in these fires. So many others in America lost so much in the hurricanes earlier this year. So many people have lost everything they own this year. Everything they worked their whole lives for. In a moment, they lost it all.

In a moment, everything can be gone. Everything can change. We’re reminded of this all the time on the news. We see it all around us every day. A moment can make all the difference.

This all got me thinking. Do you know what you would grab if you were told you had just a moment? Do you know what you would say if you had just a moment to say it? Do you know who you would call? Do you have someone in your circle who will check on you and be there for you?

This fire just reaffirmed for me what I already knew. What I value are the personal notes my kids have given me over the years. I value the heartfelt gifts that have been given to me by those I love. I value what’s personal. I didn’t grab the Emmys. I didn’t grab my clothes. I didn’t grab the things I dreamt of when I was in my 20s. I grabbed the things with meaning. I grabbed what represented my family, love, and hope.

Thankfully, my house was spared from the fire and everything there remains safe. I am grateful because I know others weren’t as lucky. As I sit writing this, I’m thinking of all of the firefighters still out there fighting on the frontlines. There really are no words to express my admiration and gratitude. As I sit listening to the news about my fellow Californians—families whose homes have burned to the ground—I am in awe of their resilience. I am almost speechless as I listen to them talk about their hopes for moving forward. Their strength moves me.

As I sit here, with my car still packed with all the things that matter to me, I’m reminded that it’s the little things that matter most. These are the things we want to take with us.

In my purse, I have a medal that my mother gave me. It’s sharing space with my kids’ letters, a rosary necklace, and a stone in the shape of a heart that I hold when I need support. When I was told I had to grab what mattered, it was illuminating for me to see what I felt compelled to grab, and what I didn’t care about at all.

Life is a series of moments. Don’t wait for a wildfire or another natural disaster to remind you of what really matters and what doesn’t. Don’t wait for a wildfire to say what you need to say. Don’t spend your moments accumulating stuff that doesn’t matter in the moment because, sometimes, all you have is a moment.

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Interfaith Friendship-Richard Rohr Daily Meditation Week Summary

An image of a large tree with roots growing above ground.Interfaith Friendship

Summary: Sunday, December 3-Friday, December 8, 2017

Underneath the very real differences between religions and peoples lies a unifying foundation. (Sunday)

“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. (Monday)

“When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition.” —James Finley (Tuesday)

God is a mystery of relationship, and the truest relationship is love. Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them. (Wednesday)

How can we learn to draw from the deep aquifer, the common Source of Love for all religions, without denying the goodness of our own small spring? This is the marriage of unity and diversity. (Thursday)

Jesus and Buddha both speak about anxiety, attachment, grasping, craving, and self-absorption. Christians and Buddhists can help each other remember the teachings at the core of our faiths. (Friday)

Practice: The Eightfold Path

The Buddha said again and again, “I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering.” As I often say: If you do not transform your pain, you will almost certainly transmit it. All great religion is about what you do with your pain. The Noble Eightfold Path describes the Buddha’s way to transform your pain. The Buddha said, “Wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there.” [1]

Thich Nhat Hanh writes that the Dharma, “the way of Understanding and Love . . . teaches us to recognize suffering as suffering and to transform our suffering into mindfulness, compassion, peace, and liberation. . . . The teachings of the Buddha were not to escape from life, but to help us relate to ourselves and the world as thoroughly as possible.” [2]

James Finley describes the Eightfold Path:

The first two steps of the Eightfold Path are Right View and Right Thinking (“right” meaning effective in evoking happiness and inner peace). These two are associated with the notion of wisdom. They help us ground ourselves in this wisdom of the Eightfold Path.

The next four of the eight steps—Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence—are the paths of the moral precepts. Do not confuse this with being “moralistic.” The intuition of the Buddha is that one will not come to this inner peace unless one grounds one’s life in an inflowing and outflowing love. This is the core of what it means to be moral.

Jesus also taught an outflow of love when he said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Love is the outflowing way that we must relate to God and to everything [because everything flows from God] and the outflowing way we must relate to each individual person.

Practicing Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and Right Diligence expands our realm of conscious freedom to choose love. God cannot and will not give us any gift that we do not want and freely choose—usually again and again.

The last two steps are Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The Buddha felt none of this would work without deep meditation practice. [3]

While some people allow themselves to be changed through great love or great suffering, a meditation practice helps us stay receptive and open. It preserves and sustains what we learn in love and suffering.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already one.

References:

[1] Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Broadway Books: 1998), 49.
[2] Ibid., 7-8.
[3] James Finley, exclusive Living School teaching. Learn more about the two-year program at cac.org/living-school.

For Further Study:

Richard Rohr and James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley, Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015), CD, MP3 download

Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation (Franciscan Media: 2014)

An Advent Meditation

As we enter Advent, a season of expectation and preparation, CAC core faculty member James Finley offers a short video meditation. What does the story of Jesus’ birth teach us about how God is present in our lives? “God is unexplainably born in our hearts moment by moment, breath by breath.”

Watch the video (about 7 minutes) at cac.org/faculty-advent-messages.

Introductory Teachings from CAC’s Core Faculty

Our teachers share a wealth of wisdom drawn from both their own lives and centuries of the Christian mystical tradition. If you are new to this path or would like to introduce someone to the contemplative way, see our recommended reading lists, featuring the writings of Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, and James Finley.

Learn more at cac.org.

Daily Meditations:
Rebuilding Christianity “From the Bottom Up”

Drawing from his own Franciscan heritage and other wisdom traditions, Richard Rohr reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal the foundations of contemplative Christianity and the universe itself: God as loving relationship.

Each week of meditations builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Watch a short introduction to the theme “From the Bottom Up” (8-minute video)—click here. If you’ve missed earlier messages, explore the online archive.

Feel free to share meditations on social media: go to CAC’s Facebook page or Twitter feed and find today’s post. Or use the “Forward to a Friend” link at the top of this message to send via email.

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Center for Action and Contemplation

Sacred Advent for December 3, 2017

Sacred AdventLoyola Press: A Jesuit Ministry
Sacred Advent
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3
First Sunday of Advent

The Presence of God
“Be still and know that I am God.” Lord, your words lead us to the calmness and greatness of your presence.

Freedom
I am free. When I look at these words in writing, they seem to create in me a feeling of awe. Yes, a wonderful feeling of freedom. Thank you, God.

Consciousness
At this moment, Lord, I turn my thoughts to you. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence, Lord.

The Word
The Word of God comes down to us through the Scriptures. May the Holy Spirit enlighten my mind and my heart to respond to the gospel teachings.

Mark 13:33–37
Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

Jesus is speaking of his second coming at the end of time. We must live so that it does not matter when he comes. Our life becomes a preparation for the vision of happiness.
Do I anticipate the Lord’s coming, or do I dread it? Why do I feel as I do about this?

Conversation
Begin to talk with Jesus about the Scripture you have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in you? Perhaps the words of a friend—or some story you have heard recently—will slowly rise to the surface of your consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the Scripture passage may be trying to say to you?

Conclusion
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen.
Advent Action
► Enjoy an Arts & Faith: Advent reflection for the First Sunday of Advent.
► Start using an Advent calendar today for yourself or with your family.
► Review a selection of Advent resources to learn more about the season and how you might spend this sacred season.

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via Sacred Advent for December 3, 2017

Column: A land of squalor, faith and hope-Holy Family Cevicos Mission

Column: A land of squalor, faith and hope

by Jeff Stockman-December 2, 2017 Gloucester Daily Times

Cevicos is a small town in Central Dominican Republic that is the home of about 23,000 souls. The Holy Family Cevicos Mission has been visiting Cevicos three times a year for the last 17 years. My wife, Linda, and I recently came back from our first mission trip there. The experience we had in Cevicos was life changing.

There were 10 missionaries who went in October to Cevicos. A retired English teacher, a clammer, an engineer, a librarian, a banker, a graphic designer, three nurses and a pediatrician. We each brought with us two 50-pound bags of medications, medical supplies to stock the clinic’s pharmacy and a willingness to help others.

The Holy Family Cevicos Mission was first started 17 years ago by Deacon Bill Kane from St. Joachim Church. In its early days the missionaries stayed with the nuns or with families in the community. Now it is based in a 5-year-old building that can accommodate up to 15 missionaries. It has five exam rooms, a pharmacy, a waiting area and two classrooms. The entire building was built from funds raised by the Holy Family Mission, largely through the efforts of George Lieser. George is a Rockport resident with seemingly unbounded energy and faith. He is a man of great spirituality and generosity and has a good head for business and organization. Without George I don’t believe the mission would exist.

 The mission building and clinic was donated to the Nuns of Our Lady of Fatima in Cevicos shortly after it was built. Sor (Sister) Mariana, Sor Rosalba and Sor Monica run the clinic providing logistical support, crowd control, social services, and they act as interpreters. They are the connection between the clinic and the people and are the rock on which the people of Cevicos base their faith.

Cevicos is not like the Dominican Republic that most tourists visit. It is not a place on the coast with high-rise, all-inclusive resorts. It is a town of stark contrasts. There are a few well-off people. They are the land owners and politicians. The majority of the people are desperately poor. Most of them toil in the pineapple fields or sugar plantations. The lucky ones have a cement floor and a tin roof. Most homes have no running water or electricity. The front door is a rag curtain and the windows have no glass or screens to protect them from insects, wind or rain. Those homes with electricity, including the mission, endure daily power failures so that the power is only available about eight hours a day. That makes refrigeration almost impossible. The water supply is abysmal. Water is drawn from a brown, sluggish river filled with trash and other waste. The water treatment plant is mismanaged and poorly engineered, making it largely ineffective. It is no wonder that almost every one of the patients I saw were infected with parasites such as amoebiasis, giardia and worms.

There is a small hospital, several local doctors and a pharmacy in Cevicos. Most people have no insurance and even if they are seen by a doctor, rarely can afford their prescriptions. The local physicians have very little to work with. Access to medications, radiologic studies and laboratory work is very limited. As a result the people of Cevicos suffer and die from treatable illness every day. They do not die well. There is no hospice care. There is limited availability of pain medications. Only the wealthy have access to health care. I see it as a warning of what could happen to us here in the United States if we do not maintain affordable health care for everyone.

The mission clinic starts seeing patients at 9 a.m. but the queue at the gate starts to form at 6:30 a.m. In an average day more than 250 patients are seen. We couldn’t have achieved this without the help of the local physicians who donated their time and worked tirelessly, shoulder to shoulder with us. I was nervous the first day. So many people were looking to me for help. Sor Mariana and George guided me through that first day. Entire families come in at the same time. Quickly I began seeing 10 to 12 patients an hour. In addition to the all-encompassing parasites, I treated hypertension, diabetes, malnutrition and pneumonia, as well as the common childhood diseases I am used to treating here in Gloucester. People were polite and patient despite waiting for hours. We had the Sor’s “special patients” — children with deafness, blindness, limb abnormalities, congenital heart defects, caustic ingestions and congenital vascular anomalies. We saw neglect/abuse cases that would have challenged our social services department here in the United States. We also saw adults with hideous ulcers due to diabetes, gangrenous wounds and crippling fractures that had never been treated properly. We saw AIDs, teen pregnancy, urinary tract infections; the list goes on and on. Miraculously, it was never overwhelming. Instead I felt energized in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time. We were doing God’s Work.

There is one case that stands out from all the rest. Little 2-month-old Baby M was born with part of her bowel on the outside of her body. The doctors were able to surgically tuck the bowel back into place within hours of her birth. Unfortunately, her teen mother was unable to afford to stay in Santiago after the surgery. Shortly after returning to Cevicos, Baby M’s mother’s milk dried up. The family tried to stretch what little formula they had by mixing it with extra water and rice. When Baby M arrived at the mission clinic on Monday morning, she weighed just over 4lbs. She had diarrhea from the watered down formula and possibly secondary parasitic infection. She was the color of gray clay. Her hands were cold despite the 87-degree heat and high humidity. She had labored breathing and a distended abdomen. She was at death’s door. But baby M is a fighter. She gulped down a bottle of properly mixed formula. We started her on antibiotics. Sor Mariana met her grandmother and convinced her to guide Baby M’s teen mother, and help care for her. We provided formula and clean water as well as instructions on how to mix it. I later learned the Sors placed Baby M’s intake form on the altar at the convent in the arms of The Virgin Mary and prayed for her. Miraculously, two days later, she returned to the clinic. She was still wasted in appearance but her eyes were bright and when she looked up at me, she smiled. My heart soared at the sight of that smile. I have rarely felt such joy. The mission provided money for transportation back to Santiago and Sor Mariana called her surgeon and arranged for follow up. I know she is in good hands now.

 In addition to providing medical services, the Holy Family Cevicos Mission is providing micro loans to help people raise themselves from poverty. As a result there are hair and nail salons, landscaping businesses, new small farms and even a computer repair and sales shop. The Holy Family Mission is funding the construction of new homes to allow people to escape the squalor they are now living in. Hydrologists have been hired and have visited the city twice to advise and rebuild the water treatment plant. It is hoped that groundwater can be used instead of the parasite-infested river water the plant currently draws from. In short, the Holy Family Cevicos Mission and the nuns of Our Lady of Fatima in Cevicos are providing faith and hope where there has only been squalor.

I want to thank Alex and Bill at Conley’s Pharmacy for ordering our pediatric medications; Dr. Carbone at Cape Ann Pediatrics for generously contributing to the cost of supplies and medications; and the Fulford family for donating a nebulizer, asthma medications and even some toys to give out to the children at the mission clinic. I also want to thank Michael, Shep, Dan, Phillis, Kathy, Kathleen, Lillian and George for giving us the opportunity to do these great works of charity and help bring hope to this faithful community. Thank you to all of you who have given to the mission. One hundred percent of your donations go directly to doing God’s work in Cevicos. Each trip is more expensive than the last as the number of families that we help increases.

If you would like to see photos of the mission or to help bring faith and hope to Cevicos with a contribution, please visit us at our website www.HolyFamilyCevicos.com. I have discovered that the spirit of the missionary is in all of us, and giving of oneself in this way, is itself a gift that brings enormous satisfaction.

The Emerging Church-Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation Weekly Summary

An image of a beautiful stained glass spiral ceiling that resembles the spiral of a nautilus shell.

Emerging Church

Summary: Sunday, November 26-Friday, December 1, 2017

Reformation is the perpetual process of conversion that is needed by all individuals and institutions. (Sunday)

I believe the “emerging church” is a movement of the Holy Spirit. Movements are the energy-building stages of things, before they become monuments, museums, or machines. (Monday)

The emerging church, a convergence of hopeful and liberating Christian themes, is happening on all continents, in all denominations, at all levels—and at a rather quick pace. (Tuesday)

Emerging Christianity is both longing for and moving toward a way of following Jesus that has much more to do with lifestyle than with belief. (Wednesday)

We cannot keep avoiding what Jesus actually emphasized and mandated. In this most urgent time, “it is the very love of Christ that now urges us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). (Thursday)

“If Christianity’s prime contribution to humanity can be shifted from teaching correct beliefs to practicing the way of love as Jesus taught, then our whole understanding and experience of the church could be transformed . . . [into] a school of love.” —Brian McLaren (Friday)

 Practice: The How

Brian McLaren offers guidance for us in rebuilding Christianity from the bottom up:

We are on a quest for a new kind of Christianity—a faith liberated from the institutional and dogmatic straightjackets we inherited, a way of life that integrates the personal and the social dimensions of spirituality, a practice that integrates centered contemplation and dynamic action. In our quest, we must remember how easy it is to self-sabotage; we must remember that how we get there will determine where we will be.

. . . I see four areas where many of us need to pay special attention to the how, so we can be examples and midwives of emerging Christianity instead of its accidental saboteurs.

First, we need to process our pain, anger, and frustration with the institutional or inherited forms of church. . . . [If] we learn to process our pain, if we join Jesus in the way of redemptive suffering and gracious forgiveness, we will become sweeter and better, not meaner and bitter, and we will become the kinds of people who embody an emerging Christian faith indeed.

Second, we need to manage our idealism. . . . The emerging church will never be a perfect church; it will always be a community of sinner-saints and stumbling bumblers touched by radical grace. Liberated by grace from a perfectionistic idealism, we can celebrate the beauty of what is emerging instead of letting its imperfections frustrate us.

Third, we need to focus our circle of responsibility. . . . That means letting go of the things you can’t control—which includes the decisions that popes, bishops, pastors, councils, and church boards may make. . . . [If] you can’t get your congregation to care about homeless people, you can get involved yourself. If you can’t get your congregation to treat gay folks with respect, you can do so around your kitchen table. If you can’t get your church to focus on cross-racial relationships, you can take a step this Sunday and visit a church where you’re the minority, and from there, begin to build relationships. You don’t need anyone’s vote or permission to do these things: you only need to exercise your own responsibility and freedom. . . .

Finally, we need to start small and celebrate small gains. One of the curses of late modernity was the belief that unless something was big and well-publicized, it didn’t count. . . . [Jesus] spoke of tiny mustard seeds, of a little yeast in a lot of dough, of a little flock, of the greatness of smallness, of a secret good deed and a simple cup of cold water given to one in need.

As we process our pain, manage our idealism, do what’s doable, and celebrate the small and beautiful, we discover that all around us, new forms and expressions of Christian faith are emerging. Through a better how, a better where is possible.

Gateway to Silence:
Rooted and growing in Love.

Reference:

Brian McLaren, “Emerging Christianity: How We Get There Determines Where We Arrive,” Radical Grace, vol. 23, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), 4-5.­

For Further Study:

Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (Convergent: 2016)

Richard Rohr, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Alexie Torres-Fleming, and Phyllis Tickle, Emerging Church: Christians Creating a New World Together (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download

Richard Rohr, What Is the Emerging Church? (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008),  CD, MP3 download.

Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters (Baker Books: 2012)

Living in the Now

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation:
Living in the Now

A digitally created image of a large landscape of a mountain forest with a sun and moon.

Summary: Sunday, November 19-Friday, November 24, 2017

Of all the things I have learned and taught over the years, I can think of nothing that could be of more help to you than living in the now. (Sunday)

I could tell you that God is not elsewhere and heaven is not later, but until you come to personally and regularly experience that, you will not believe it. (Monday)

Unitive, non-dual consciousness opens our hearts, minds, and bodies to actually experience God in the now. (Tuesday)

“Only one thing is necessary,” Jesus says. If you are present, you will be able to know what you need to know. Truly seeing is both that simple and that hard. (Wednesday)

Wisdom is the freedom to be truly present to what is right in front of you. Presence is pretty much the same as wisdom! (Thursday)

The presence of God is infinite, everywhere, always, and forever. You cannot not be in the presence of God. There’s no other place to be. It is we who are not present to Presence. (Friday)

 Practice: A Clear Mirror

Both Jesus and Buddha say the same thing: “Stay awake!” Contemplative practice gradually transforms our minds so that we can live in the naked now, the sacrament of the present moment. Without some form of meditation, we read life through a preferred and habitual style of attention. Unless we come to recognize the lens through which we filter all of our experiences, we will not see things as they are but as we are.

Zen Buddhist masters tell us we need to “wipe the mirror” of our minds and hearts in order to see what’s there without distortions or even explanations—not what we’re afraid is there, nor what we wish were there, but what is actually there. Contemplation is a lifelong task of mirror-wiping. “I” am always my first problem, and if I deal with “me,” then I can deal with other problems much more effectively. A clean mirror offers “perfect freedom” (see James 1:23-25).

Mirror-wiping is the inner discipline of calmly observing our own patterns—what we see and what we don’t—in order to get our demanding and over-defended egos away from the full control they always want. It requires us to stand at a distance from ourselves and listen and look with calm, nonjudgmental objectivity. Otherwise, we do not have thoughts and feelings: they have us! A clear mirror allows us to simply see the reality of what is.

The real gift is to be happy and content, even when we are doing the “nothingness” of a chore, a repetitive task, or silent prayer. When we can see and accept that every single act of creation is “just this” and thus allow it to work its wonder on us, we have found true freedom and peace.

Many years ago I asked CAC’s bookstore to create a simple double-sided mirror medallion as a tool to remind us how to be present to what is, to just this. One side is a plain mirror, taking in and reflecting exactly what it sees, without distortion, judgment, or analysis. The other mirrored side has an image of the eye of God, forever gazing at us with love, respect, and desire. [1]

I invite you to imagine wearing such a mirror at the level of your heart. With both your external and internal eyes, see reality as it is through a clear mirror. As you receive this unfiltered reality, reflect back its shining beauty and dignity. Imagine God’s eye gazing into your heart, revealing to you the reality of your own being. Reflect back the love that is your True Self.

Gateway to Silence:
God is right here right now.

References:

[1] The mirror medallion described here is available at store.cac.org.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017), 24, 34.

For Further Study:

Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017)
Richard Rohr, Living the Eternal Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), CD, MP3 download
Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009)

Maria Shriver: Why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday

 

I’VE BEEN THINKING
We are heading into my favorite week of the year.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it represents everything that is important to me: My family (I just spent a few days with two of my cousins. How deeply meaningful it was to share laughter and connection with them), my kids, my friends, my open table, food, and my faith in this country.

I’ve thought a lot lately about welcoming people to the table—not just to my Thanksgiving table, but to my kitchen table on a weekly basis as well. I deeply believe that we all have a common desire to be welcomed, to be invited in, to be included—not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day of our lives. I know I do.

I’m deeply touched when someone includes me. When someone invites me in. When someone has time for me. When someone feeds me spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally, like my friend Rev. Ed Bacon did this week. (You can watch our conversation below in this newsletter.)

I was particularly struck by one thing he said to me. He said that there are so many good people toiling quietly across our country for good. Individuals who are deeply committed to making our country better. Who want to bring people together. Who want to forge understanding across faiths and across political parties. Rev. Bacon said, “Maria, these good people are quiet. We don’t hear that much about them, though, because all of the attention is going to those who are making the noise.”

I was so encouraged by his observations, which have come from his travels and time spent in cities across our country. It’s a reminder that as the noise gets louder—as the yelling increases—may we all remember that there are people working in our neighborhoods, our cities, our schools, and our churches for the greater good. Individuals like Scarlett Lewis, a mom who lost her son in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, then turned her pain into a powerful mission to help children learn compassion and love. She shares her story here in The Sunday Paper today.

Individuals like Scarlett are out there everywhere, and so much hope lies within them. Hope lies within each of us to be beacons of positive change. (Watch our new video celebrating Architects of Change and recognize someone you know who is moving humanity forward today.)

This holiday week, each of us can make a choice to reach out to a neighbor who may be alone and invite them in. Each of us can join a local church or non-profit as they feed those living on the margins. I do this every year with my kids and it’s one of the best things we do together.

For many, the holidays are a lonely time. For many, they create great anxiety. I believe that so many of the problems we face in society today are a result of this pain: emotional pain, mental pain, physical pain. People amongst us are suffering and in need, and we must be gentle with our communications, our tone and our judgments. We must welcome them all in and let them know that we can be in community together.

So this week, remember Rev. Ed Bacon’s words. There are more good people out there than any of us realize. May we all look for the good in people this holiday season and celebrate those who are doing what they can to move humanity forward.

HEALING YOUR LIFE THROUGH CONNECTION: This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Architect of Change Ed Bacon, a retired priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. In an illuminating conversation, Rev. Bacon reveals how we can all free ourselves of fear-based living and deepen our connection with those around us. [WATCH HERE]

Click Here for entire Sunday Paper: Why Thanksgiving Is My Favorite Holiday

Living in the Now-November 21, 2017

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
A digitally created image of a large landscape of a mountain forest with a sun and moon.
Living in the Now

The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
—Rumi [1]

Unitive, non-dual consciousness opens our hearts, minds, and bodies to actually experience God in the now. Ultimate Reality cannot be seen with any dualistic operation of the mind, where we divide the field of the moment and eliminate anything mysterious, confusing, unfamiliar, or outside our comfort zone. Dualistic thinking is highly controlled and permits only limited seeing. It protects the status quo and allows the ego to feel like it’s in control. This way of filtering reality is the opposite of pure presence.

We learn the dualistic pattern of thinking at an early age, and it helps us survive and succeed in practical ways. But it can get us only so far. That’s why all religions at the more mature levels have discovered another “software” for processing the really big questions like death, love, infinity, suffering, the mysterious nature of sexuality, and whoever God or the Divine is. Many of us call this access “contemplation” or simply “prayer.” It is a non-dualistic way of living in the moment. Don’t think, just look (contemplata).

Non-dual knowing is learning how to live satisfied in the naked now, “the sacrament of the present moment” as Jean Pierre de Caussade called it. This consciousness will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us. Words by themselves divide and judge the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is. Words and thoughts are invariably dualistic; pure experience is always non-dualistic.

As long as you can deal with life as a set of universal abstractions, you can pretend that the binary system is true. But once you deal with concrete reality—with yourself, with someone you love, with actual moments—you find that reality is a mixture of good and bad, dark and light, life and death. Reality requires more a both/and approach than either/or differentiation. The non-dual mind is open to everything. It is capable of listening to the other, to the body, to the heart, to all the senses. It begins with a radical yes to each moment.

When you can be present in this way, you will know the Real Presence. I promise you this is true. You will still need and use your dualistic mind, but now it is in service to the greater whole rather than just the small self.

Gateway to Silence:
God is right here right now.

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Living in the Now

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
A digitally created image of a large landscape of a mountain forest with a sun and moon.

Living in the Now

Incarnation and Indwelling
Monday, November 20, 2017

Most religious people I’ve met—from sincere laypeople to priests and nuns—still imagine God to be elsewhere. Before you can take the “now” seriously, you must shift from thinking of God as “out there” to also knowing God “in here.” In fact, that is the best access point! Only inner experience can bring about a healing of the human-divine split.

Transformation comes by realizing your union with God right here, right now—regardless of any performance or achievement on your part. That is the core meaning of grace. But you have to know this for yourself. No one can do this knowing for you. I could tell you that God is not elsewhere and heaven is not later, but until you come to personally and regularly experience that, you will not believe it.

Authentic Christianity overcame the “God-is-elsewhere” idea in at least two major and foundational ways. Through the Incarnation, God in Jesus became flesh; God visibly moved in with the material world to help us overcome the illusion of separation (John 1:14). Secondly, God as Holy Spirit, is precisely known as an indwelling and vitalizing presence. By itself, intellectual assent to these two truths does little. The Incarnation and Indwelling Spirit are known only through participation and practice, when you actively draw upon such Infinite Sources. “Use it or lose it!”

Good theology helps us know that we can fully trust the “now” because of the Incarnation and the Spirit within us. It’s like making love. We can’t be fully intimate with someone who is physically absent or through vague, amorphous energy; we need close, concrete, particular connections. That’s how our human brains are wired.

Jesus teaches and is himself a message of now-ness, here-ness, concreteness, and this-ness. The only time Jesus talks about future time is when he tells us not to worry about it (see Matthew 6:25-34). Don’t worry about times and seasons, don’t worry about when God will return, don’t worry about tomorrow. Thinking about the future keeps us in our heads, far from presence. Jesus talks about the past in terms of forgiving it. Some say forgiveness is central to his whole message. Jesus tells us to hand the past over to the mercy and action of God. We do not need to keep replaying the past, atoning for it, or agonizing about it.

Yet, as practitioners of meditation have discovered, the mind can only do two things: replay the past and plan or worry about the future. The mind is always bored in the present. So it must be trained to stop running backward and forward. This is the role of contemplation.

Gateway to Silence:
God is right here right now.
Reference:

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Living the Eternal Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2005), CD, MP3 download.

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Let us give thanks

Let us give thanks
Gratitude is not only the posture of praise but it is also the basic element of real belief in God.

When we bow our heads in gratitude, we acknowledge that the works of God are good. We recognize that we cannot, of ourselves, save ourselves. We proclaim that our existence and all its goods come not from our own devices but are part of the works of God. Gratitude is the alleluia to existence, the praise that thunders through the universe as tribute to the ongoing presence of God with us even now.

Thank you for the new day.
Thank you for this work.
Thank you for this family.
Thank you for our daily bread.
Thank you for this storm and the moisture it brings to a parched earth.
Thank you for the corrections that bring me to growth.
Thank you for the bank of crown vetch that brings color to the hillside.
Thank you for pets that bind us to nature.
Thank you for the necessities that keep me aware of your bounty in my life.
The Breath of the Soul by Joan Chittister
Without doubt, unstinting gratitude saves us from the sense of self-sufficiency that leads to forgetfulness of God. Let us learn to come to prayer with an alleluia heart—“Praise to you, O God. Let all creation sing your praise.”

—from “The Breath of the Soul: Reflections on Prayer” by Joan Chittister (Twenty-Third Publications)

via Let us give thanks