Saturday, June 25, 2011

longing and belonging

Photo by Thomas Merton
“Each of us has to look into our dark world, recognize the forces that bind us, the blind instincts, the compulsions which, though they give the illusion of power, freedom, adulthood, ensnare us. We have to fight our way free; renounce the Dark Powers, learn to judge and act from our centre. Only then are we human and personal. This work of self-knowledge is absolutely essential.”
-Ruth Burrows
Guidelines for Mystical Prayer
This is the quote Gerry Straub uses to introduce his blog post today.  He goes on to talk about his struggle to find his real self.  It is profoundly honest and true.  In my opinion, he's getting very close to the central insight of Contemplative Prayer.  Gerry writes:

"... This stuff doesn’t come quickly or easily, which is why we don’t bother with it. I devoted a few pages of The Sun and Moon Over Assisi to explaining Merton’s ideas on the true and false self stuff. Mostly I quoted sources who understood. I had deceived myself into thinking I understood. In truth, my mind kinda got it – but it was just another theory neatly tucked away in a dingy corner of my brain. Slowly, I am beginning to “see” it with different eyes.
Thomas Merton wrote so clearly about deep spiritual things that we think we get it. The fact is his understanding was hidden in his words, which only point the way, showing us the right direction. But we must walk alone. Only God can teach me how to find God. And that reality is why so many true contemplatives are so reluctant to talk about their inner life. They cannot teach us anything – aside from a few techniques to help us get started..."
(Read all of it HERE)

I've written about Gerry Straub - a documentary filmmaker and award winning author - before on this blog  (HERE and HERE).  One day last fall, out of the blue, Gerry called me on the phone and we had a long talk about our similar interests and quests.  Such things can happen when you mention someone on your blog.  Gerry told me that if I never needed anything, I should call him.  I haven't called him yet, but knowing he is here among us gives me great comfort.


  1. Much that you have shared in your blog today touches me and my current situation. Thank you. It is also a reminder to re-read Thomas Keating.

  2. You might also want to look at William Meninger, Barbara. Though I know that Keating's insights are keen and he is the so-called official spokesman for Contemplative Prayer, there is something about the way that Meninger speaks that touches me.

    Also, the best teacher of CP is the prayer itself.

  3. I was thinking more of the wresting myself from the forces that bind me, the illusions that ensnare me.
    I pray as I pray, basta.

  4. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to promote a specific way of praying, Barbara. Each person finds her own way in and through this territory, and that way of prayer deserves the utmost of respect and tolerance.

  5. No need to apologize, beth!!!! I took no offense. It was more with resignation that I wrote what I did. Hugs.

  6. Hi Beth,
    I saw Crazy Wisdom at Buddafest in Arlington VA. a couple of weeks ago. Trungpa has said that as one gets to the brink of enlightenment or understanding, you can find yourself on a tightrope between perfect wisdom and insanity. This is what came to my mind reading this post today

  7. Well, that's kind of wild, Sean.

    I don't know that I get it or not, though. Or that there is such a thing as perfect wisdom. Seems to me that as one becomes more wise, one becomes more humble, perhaps more foolish, but I'm not sure I would call that insanity.

    Seems to me that that tightrope walk is BEFORE surrender where one is still hoping to "attain" something for the ego (like enlightenment), no?


Christ in the Rubble

The Rev. Munther Isaac lighting a candle next to an improvised crèche this month in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Credit... Samar Hazboun...