Saturday, July 31, 2010

the contemplative stance

"Contemplation becomes a way of life.  I don’t like to think of it so much as something I do, but something I am; so I often use the phrase “the contemplative stance.”  It’s a way of living, moving, and being in this world.  The very word means “to see.”

"I fully admit that we don’t live all of our twenty-four hours there.  The world keeps pulling us back into our false and small self.  “Put on this hat.  Attach to this identity.  Take on this hurt.  Put on this self-importance,” we say to ourselves.  It’s all right as long as we know how to take it back off again, and rather quickly, if possible.  “Who was I before I was hurt?” is your original face, your true identity in God, your own “immaculate conception.”  We must all crawl our way back to such innocence and such freedom."

- Fr. Richard Rohr OFM, Adapted from Contemplative Prayer (CD)


  1. fits in well with my therapy lately - about the serving the poor thing - my therapist insists mother theresa was not authentic to herself because she was so miserable in her vocation - i wonder, if she had been more contemplative and found that true identity, maybe she would have been doing something entirely different and been a happier person?

  2. I have a good friend who is driven to help death row inmates. She is a driven woman, frequently depressed, overworked and over-extended, and yet I sense that she is very, very close to God, and that she is in love with these men whom she walks with to their death.

    I don't know what to make of Mother Teresa. The one person I know who met her personally said that she was a grumpy woman.

  3. Also - I kind of think that if you happen to discover your "true" identity, you find it in the other. So that authenticity is paradoxically all tied up in giving to somebody else (and not focusing upon being true to oneself).

  4. I agree Beth, authenticity is found in serving others by finding Christ in them with not so much focus upon self. One of the great paradoxes of a life in God is that often it is one of trial and suffering.

    I was a Psychotherapist for a very long time and left that “religion” (for religion it is - the priesthood of secular humanism). In time I found it too narrow and judgmental and not very much about the other. Few therapists seem to really understand the life in God (let life in Christ here in God) and think that a spiritual life is all “happy, happy, joy, joy.”
    Psychotherapists for the most part think spirituality is a place where the authentic self never experiences the dark night of the soul, never suffers, never doubts and never sacrifices it self to find itself. They beleive and teach that the self (ie the ego) is one’s greatest identity. What is eve more ironic is that so many "therapists" weave in pseudo buddist philosopies" without realizing that the "Buddha" and all the other buddist saints only found thier authentic self through sacrificing that self and becomgin one and aware of the great sentience of everything. They did not call it God - but God it is.

    Mother Teresa would simply be treated by psychotherapists for her co-dependancy and her depression without consideration of her larger life of love and service.

    As I move through a process toward surrendering even more of what I am into the service of Christ I often wonder what Fr. Louis would have had to say about the psychotherapy movement as it became the religion of the “me generation” in the 1970's and beyond. I also think one has to separate the psychotherapy movement from the study of psychology, which used with great care, remains a benefit to one’s life.

    There is a place where “self” does disappear and we live fully in awareness, as Martin Buber called it, an I-Thou relationship not and I-It. In that place there is no longer I simply Thou.

    Keep up the good work and keep posting.

    Br. William

  5. Thank you for the thoughtful responses. this is a place where i hear my inner voice say "dig!"

    the problem i've always had with buddhism is the skandhas - we are at root bundles of perceptions and not much else

  6. re: therapy - i'ms starting to see more of what Fr. Groeschel meant when he said: "psychology is 99% about the lies we tell ourselves"

    for what it's worth:
    "anytime our giving is compulsive or is induced by feelings of guilt or obligation or leaves us feeling victimized we are in danger" co-dependent's guide to 12 steps

    by the by also - sister corita kent said Daniel Berrigan could not stand anything psychological/analytic and would leave the room when the topics swayed that way.

  7. One should keep in mind that Buddhism arose at much the same time that Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus and the other fathers of Greek Philosophy arose. I am not equating cause and effect but simply saying that it was like something was in the air and historically there was an exchange of ideas.

    Buddhism arose as a way (philosophy) to end suffering - it is not a religious/spiritual path per se but a method of psychology. Only later did it accrue the forms of “religion” and yes, the Skandas are about us being root bundles of perceptions, much as clinical psychology would reduce us to root bundles of perceptions and mis perception and not much else... that does not mean however that by breaking those mis perceptions of the ego that one cannot attain some sort of enlightened way of living.

    That is not the nature of salivation however. As a clinical counselor I will tell you that we are a bundle of broken ness and illusions.

    I agree with Fr. Groeschel, 99 % of therapy is about the lies we tell ourselves - there is mental “illness” beyond being merely neurotic however. Most in therapy are merely neurotic, living compulsively...

    As for Christ . . . He is different in kind and type from the Buddha - Jesus did not sit under a tree and clarify himself - instead divinity came to man as man and delivered us from - not our suffering because if we follow Christ we learn to embrace our suffering like he did - but to deliver us from our ability through our pride (original sin that all sins spring from) and move us to not think about self but instead about God and thus others. For me, even as much as I admire Thich Nhat Hanh , it was with his development of “socially active Buddhism” that I finally turned toward home.

    In Christ we need no such development because from the beginning Jesus was: transcendent, immanent, socially active, contemplative - all of the things that show up in bits and pieces else where. Christ is the specific revelation of God, all the others can point to god as part of general revelation but they are not the same in kind or type.

    I think Fr. Louis, as much as his reading of all the other contemplative traditions informed him would never have left Christ. A man can be informed by psychology, by Buddhism, by many other things but once he has met Christ and allowed Christ to meet the Jesus in him he will not abandon Christ permanently. Even Peter and the boys, though they abandoned Our Lord in the moment of his greatest need, (as much as we are all want to abandon one another) was brought home by a simple question - Peter, do you love me? Yes Master. Peter, do you love me? Yes master. Peter, do you really love me? Yes master with my whole heart. Jesus, alive asks this of us yesterday, today and tomorrow. So in the end one has no desire to be an enlightened Buddha, one simply wants to love the Lord God in all aspects - father, son and holy spirit and love the Christ in everyone - no matter the cost. And that has nothing to do with being neurotic or simply meditation on the Skandhas for the sake of ones own enlightenment.

    As for Fr. Berrigan - he has had his struggles hasn’t he?
    Don't we all?

    Br. William

  8. What struggles of Dan Berrigan are you referring to, Br. William?

  9. Obedience to his order.

    Too much anger at the world.

    There is a tone of violence in his protests that escalates to the unnecessary. He really did not practice Dr. King's way of non violence. Even at times Fr. Louis was unsure of Fr. Berrigan's actions.

    Of course we all struggle to not react in anger to injustice - and to remain calm in front of our accusers or that which we think is unjust. I think Fr. Berrigan lost his voice in society due to his violence while Fr. Louis and Dr King are well remembered and both laid the foundation for long term changes. We all long for Fr louis' final inner peace and Dr. King's social justice. Few of us have the courage to follow Christ to his final visit to the temple or the cross so we can reach the garden of the resurrection.

  10. Methinks that you don't know Dan Berrigan very well, Br. William.

    If you read his poetry, you will see the deep love that Berrigan has for God and the world. Dan is not an overtly angry man, by any means. Yes, Merton was often confused by Berrigan's actions, but he totally trusted the spirituality that led Berrigan. The Peace Movement as a whole, at that time, Merton had questions about, but not Berrigan. If I were at home (which I'm not), I could dig up tons of Merton and Berrigan material to show you the deep relationship between Berrigan and Merton, and how, in many ways, Berrigan was showing Merton the way.

    Yes, Berrigan broke the law (as did MLK), but where is the violence?

    As for Berrigan's obedience to his order, I don't know of any time where he was given an order that he disobeyed. Do you?

    The story is still being written. I think that the prophetic courage of Fr. Berrigan to speak the truth of God to the world will know its own prominant place, right along side that of Merton and MLK.

  11. Time will tell Beth.

    It takes an angry person to destroy so much property but I am open to what you can show me.

    Br. William

  12. I'm not sure what property Berrigan destroyed other than draft cards, and I don't think that anger was the motivation but rather the need to speak to the culture and to make a strong statement of resistance and protest.

    Merton advised Berrigan that violence against people was always off-limits. In a letter to Berrigan dated Oct 10, 1967 he says that violence against property gets away from Gandhi's ideals and starts to get fuzzy morally, but he (Merton) does not rule it out. However he points out that it would undermine the real message behind the peace movement.

    Take a look at the other posts under the "Dan Berrigan" tag in this blog. There are many excerpts from the correspondence between Merton and Berrigan.

  13. Also this page:

    Gives a synopsis of the correspondence between Merton and Berrigan. Like I said, I'm not at home now and don't have access to all my Merton/Berrigan material.

  14. I concede that most of what I know of Fr. Berrigan is from the news. Even destroying property becomes fuzzy. I agree, actions which even resemble the "oppressor" makes our protest fuzzy.

    As for taking it to the world - I did long ago - I am aware I have an FBI file due to campus protests in the 1970's. My father was in law enforcement then and I was called home to explain certain pictures. (mostly me tending to those bashed in but once I returned fire afer a cop shot a girl in the back with a teaer gas canister. Great piture of me throwing it back) Ce la vie. Now I prefer a more prayerful and contemplative life - I have seen too much violence. I too was a cop for a while. Mostly I worked in hosptials.

    I will look at the Berrigan files as I get a chance. Thanks Beth. Go with Christ.

    Br. William, OSB

  15. THanks for your contributions, Br. William. Sounds like you've had a very interesting life. I wish you well in your quests.



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