Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Path of Descent

March 24th, 2020

Crisis Contemplation 
Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The curtailing of individual freedom to live, move, and work may be a new experience for some of us—but is familiar to communities who have suffered from oppression for centuries. By necessity, they have developed ways of coping with fear and uncertainty on an individual and communal level. During the CONSPIRE 2018 conference, Living School faculty member Dr. Barbara Holmes shared some of her experience working with the path of descent.  

During crisis, individuals put to sleep the light of rationality, and descend during dark nights of the soul. As William Shannon puts it, “We darken and blind the exterior self and awaken to the inner self as we grow closer to God.” [1] 

But crisis doesn’t just happen to individuals. . . . It also happens to communities, particularly when a community shatters on the anvil of injustice. Crisis contemplation . . . is [the] point of spiritual and psychic dissolution. Shattering events that create the crisis displace the ordinary until the suffering reaches the point of no return. We are bereft. We are unable to articulate the extent of our suffering or even to reintegrate our fractured meaning structures. And so, the descent begins, and we are in free fall toward the center of our being. . . .  

In my book Joy Unspeakable, I use the black community’s experience of slavery as an extreme example of crisis contemplation, a breaking of extraordinary magnitude. When the crisis is communal, communities may be victimized by systems because of immutable traits like race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity or fluidity, class, political or social differences, real or imagined, and more. When communities are in crisis, first comes the fear. Perhaps you’re Harriet Tubman hiding and trying to make it to Canada with your community, or you’re a person of color today, wondering when the powers that be will decide to put you in the same foil blankets and cages that they’re currently using for Mexican babies. 

After the fear comes the cruelty and the oppression along with the wondering, “Where is God?” Here’s the rub: even as a member of an oppressed community, you’re always an individual, but during a crisis of this magnitude, you do not have the luxury of responding as an individual. Suffering [of community in crisis] cannot be absorbed by individuals, no matter how tenuous and invisible the bonds of community are. Individuals cannot respond. You must do it as community, for safety, for comfort, and for survival. 

I want to echo her final point here: We cannot face large-scale crises as individuals; we cannot carry the pain of this reality on our own, nor can we only look out for ourselves. The pain is communal and so too must be the response. 

The Path of Descent

March 23rd, 2020

The Path of Descent 
Monday, March 23, 2020

The CONSPIRE 2018 conference focused on the Path of Descent as the Path of TransformationSuffering is universal experience occurring across space and time, revealing the “big T” Truth that going down, going through, and going into the unknown can be powerfully transformative. In the meditations this week I will be sharing the wisdom offered by my fellow teachers at the CAC, whom I also call my friends. I hope you will trust their insights as you seem to trust my own. Today, Mirabai Starr shares a breathing practice and a reading from John of the Cross (15421591). Don’t hurry through it with your intellectual mind; allow it to do its work in your heart and body as well.   

Welcome to the descent. As we slip down deeper and deeper, I invite you to remember . . . that it is not in perfection that we reach the divine, but through the gateway of our mistakes and our suffering. . . .  

Let’s take three deep breaths. I invite you to breathe all the way in and hold your inhalation for a while, for as long as you can, holding that inhalation before letting it all go and holding the exhalation. [Do this] three times at your own pace, paying attention to every nuance of your breath as you inhale, hold, exhale and hold, noticing especially the empty space of the out breath.   

As you breathe, feel your attention pouring into the container of this moment so that you fully inhabit your own dear body in this precious moment. [You have] nowhere else to go, nothing to accomplish, [you are giving] yourself the . . . gift of being fully present and resting right here. 

From Dark Night of the Soul (Noche Oscura del Alma):  

The divine is purifying contemplation, and the human is the soul. The divine lays siege upon the soul in order to make her new and to make her divine, stripping her of habitual affections and attachments to the old self to which she had been reconciled. The Divine disentangles and dissolves her spiritual substance, absorbing it in deep darkness. In the face of her own misery, the soul feels herself coming undone and melting away in a cruel, spiritual death. 

Man says, the soul feels as if she herself were coming to an end. David calls out to God: ‘Save me, Lord, for the waters have come in even unto my soul. I am trapped in the mire of the deep. I have nowhere to stand. I have come unto the depth of the sea, and the tempest has overwhelmed me. I have labored in my cry. My throat has become raw, and my eyes have failed while I hope in my God.’ [Psalm 69:24] . . .  [1] 

We abandon the self-improvement project and instead surrender to the Holy Fire. Allowing your breath to be the touchstone of your meditation and contemplation, allow yourself to rest for a few minutes in the stillness. 

The Path of Descent

Suffering in Solidarity
Sunday, March 22, 2020

I am not alone in my tiredness or sickness or fears, but at one with millions of others from many centuries, and it is all part of life. —Etty Hillesum [1] 

The “cross,” rightly understood, always reveals various kinds of resurrection. It’s as if God were holding up the crucifixion as a cosmic object lesson, saying: “I know this is what you’re experiencing. Don’t run from it. Learn from it, as I did. Hang there for a while, as I did. It will be your teacher. Rather than losing life, you will be gaining a larger life. It is the way through.” As impossible as that might feel right now, I absolutely believe that it’s true.  

When we carry our own suffering in solidarity with humanity’s one universal longing for deep union, it helps keep us from self-pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together. It is just as hard for everybody else, and our healing is bound up in each other’s. Almost all people are carrying a great and secret hurt, even when they don’t know it. This realization softens the space around our overly–defended hearts. It makes it hard to be cruel to anyone. It somehow makes us one—in a way that easy comfort and entertainment never can. 

I believe—if I am to believe Jesus—that God is suffering love. If we are created in God’s image, and if there is so much suffering in the world, then God must also be suffering. How else can we understand the revelation of the cross? Why else would the central Christian logo be a naked, bleeding, suffering divine-human being? The image of Jesus on the cross somehow communicates God’s solidarity with the willing soul. A Crucified God is the dramatic symbol of the one suffering that God fully enters into with us—much more than just for us, as many Christians were trained to think. 

If suffering, even unjust suffering (and all suffering is unjust on some level), is part of one Great Mystery, then I am willing to carry my little portion. Etty Hillesum (1914–1943), a young, Dutch, Jewish woman who died in Auschwitz, truly believed her suffering was also the suffering of God. She even expressed a deep desire to help God carry some of it. How many people do you know who feel sorry for God and want to “help” God within us?  She has a stronger sense of the Divine Indwelling within her than most Christians I have ever met: 

And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last. [2] 

Such freedom and generosity of spirit are almost unimaginable to me. What creates such altruistic and loving people? Perhaps this season of disruption will offer us some clues. I certainly hope so.   

Summary and Lamentation Practice for a Time of Crisis

Saturday, March 21, 2020
Summary: Sunday, March 15–Friday, March 20, 2020

Because Jesus is always listening to God and experiencing God’s presence, God is continually teaching him. (Sunday)

Prophets must first be true disciples of their faith. In fact, it is their deep love for their tradition that allows them to profoundly criticize it at the same time. (Monday)

It is by focusing their attention on, and becoming fully aware of, the political, social, economic, military, and religious tendencies of their time that prophets are able to see where it is all heading. —Albert Nolan (Tuesday)

For me, the word mysticism simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, or even church knowledge. (Wednesday)

Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love. (Thursday

We’re all subject to this crisis. Suffering has an ability to pull you into oneness. (Friday)

Practice: Lamentation for a Time of Crisis

Intelligently responding to the Coronavirus demands that we access resources of physical, emotional and spiritual resilience. One practice Christianity has developed to nurture resilience is lamentation. Prayers of lamentation arise in us when we sit and speak out to God and one another—stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. Without this we do not suffer the necessary pain of this world, the necessary sadness of being human.

Walter Brueggemann, my favorite Scripture teacher, points out that even though about one third of the Psalms are psalms of “lament,” these have been the least used by Catholic and Protestant liturgies. We think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, or show a lack of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving. We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5) and that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentation.”

In today’s practice, Reverend Aaron Graham reflects on the elements found in prayers of lament. I hope that you will find in his words and in the text of Psalm 22 a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear. 

We need to be reminded that our cries are not too much for God. [God] laments with us. In fact, [God] wants us to come to [the Divine Presence] in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion. 

Each lamenting Psalm has a structure;

  • They begin with a complaint. . .that things are not as they should be.
  • They turn to a request. God, do something! Rescue me! Heal me! Restore me! Show mercy! 
  • Laments end with an expression of trust. Laments end with the reminder that God is setting things right, even though it often seems so slow. It is right for our laments to turn towards a reminder that God is in control and about the business of righting all things made wrong. [1]

Consider praying these words found in Psalm 22, or choose another passage of lament. Before you pray, ask God to speak to you. 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:1-5). 

Life Coming to a Focus

March 20th, 2020

A Homily from Richard Rohr

Life Coming to a Focus   
Friday, March 20, 2020

As we grow in the spiritual life, our life will become increasingly centered. Only a few things will really matter. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, I see a lot of people right now thinking this way. There’s a sense that we’re all in this together—every continent, country, class, religion, race, age, or gender. We’re all subject to this crisis. Suffering has an ability to pull you into oneness. 

Maybe you’ve seen such oneness emerge in your family. I went to Kansas last month for my sister’s funeral, and all of my family was there. We don’t have any big resentments or conflicts, but the suffering—and acceptance of that suffering in her death—brought us together in the most beautiful way. It was such an honor to have the funeral with my own family and for my own sister. 

We see an increasing centering take place with Jesus and the disciples in the gospel text from this past Sunday [Matthew 17:1-9]. Jesus is leading the disciples towards the Transfiguration experience. He is preparing them for the cross, and saying, “It’s going to come! Be ready. It’s probably the only thing that will transfigure you.”

As I said in yesterday’s reflection, there are only two major paths by which the human soul comes to God: the path of great love, and the one of great suffering. Both finally come down to great suffering—because if we love anything greatly, we will eventually suffer for it. When we’re young, God hides this from us. We think it won’t have to be true for us. But to love anything in depth and over the long term, we eventually must suffer. 

The disciples first respond to the Transfigured Christ with fear. In our global time of crisis, this is where many of us are today. The disciples mirror the itinerary of the spiritual journey: we start out with many concerns, fears, and worries. Our minds and hearts are all over the place. But Jesus comes, touches them, and says, “Get up and do not be afraid.” When the three disciples raise their eyes, they see nothing but one image: Jesus. Their lives have become fully focused and simplified on the one thing that is good, the one thing they desire, and the one thing that is necessary. What a moment of grace and encouragement!

But then Jesus leads them down the mountain, back into the ordinary world to continue his labor of love, healing and nonviolent protest against Empire. We can’t stay on the mountaintop forever. And then Jesus ends with a line that to me was always a disappointment: don’t tell anybody about what just happened. He might be saying, “Don’t tell this story to someone else, because they’ll think they understand it just by hearing about it.” Religious experience has to be experienced firsthand. We can’t believe it because someone else talked about it. Sooner or later, we have to go to our own mountaintop. We have to have our own transfiguration, and we have to walk down the mountaintop into the ordinary world, on the path of suffering, and the path of love—which are, in the end, the same. As we experience a suffering world together, I pray that this community will be drawn to center itself on the cross and bring Jesus’ teaching to life. 

March 19th, 2020

A Message from Richard Rohr about COVID-19

Love Alone Overcomes Fear 
Thursday, March 19, 2020

It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you. I feel that I’m in no position to tell you how to feel or how to think, but there are a few things that come to mind I will share. 

A few days ago I was encouraged by the Franciscans and by the leadership team here at the CAC to self-quarantine, so I’ve been in my little hermitage now for three or four days. I’ve had years of practice, literally, how to do what we are calling “social distancing.” I have a nice, large yard behind me where there are four huge, beautiful cottonwood trees, and so I walk my dog Opie every few hours.

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation. 

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love. 

But for God to reach us, we have to allow suffering to wound us. Now is no time for an academic solidarity with the world. Real solidarity needs to be felt and suffered. That’s the real meaning of the word “suffer” – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way. We need to move beyond our own personal feelings and take in the whole. This, I must say, is one of the gifts of television: we can turn it on and see how people in countries other than our own are hurting. What is going to happen to those living in isolated places or for those who don’t have health care? Imagine the fragility of the most marginalized, of people in prisons, the homeless, or even the people performing necessary services, such as ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors, risking their lives to keep society together? Our feelings of urgency and devastation are not exaggeration: they are responding to the real human situation. We’re not pushing the panic button; we are the panic button. And we have to allow these feelings, and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament. 

I hope this experience will force our attention outwards to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it’s love. This is what we call the subject-subject relationship. Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
 

Inner Experience

March 18th, 2020

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

Inner Experience
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

While most Christians consider themselves disciples of Jesus and try to follow his teachings, a much smaller number move toward practical acts of service or solidarity. But I’m afraid even fewer Christians have the courage to go on the much deeper mystical path. Both Catholics and Protestants have failed our people by mystifying the very notion of mysticism. The word itself has become relegated to a “misty” and distant realm that implies it is only available to very few and something not to be trusted, much less attractive or desirable. For me, the word “mysticism” simply means experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, or even church knowledge.
Most of organized religion, without meaning to, has actually discouraged us from taking the mystical path by telling us almost exclusively to trust outer authority—in the form of Scripture, tradition, or various kinds of experts—instead of telling us the value and importance of inner experience. (I call that trusting the “containers” instead of the “contents.”) In fact, most of us were strongly warned against ever trusting ourselves, told that our personal experiences of the divine were unnecessary and possibly even dangerous.
Discouraging or denying people’s actual experiences of God often created passive people and, more sadly, a lot of people who concluded that there was no God to be experienced! We were taught to mistrust our own souls—and thus the Holy Spirit within us. We can contrast that with Jesus’ common phrase, “Go in peace, your faith has made you whole!” (as in Mark 5:34 and Luke 17:19). He said this to people who had made no dogmatic affirmations, did not think he was “God,” did not pass any moral checklist, and often did not belong to the “correct” group. They were simply people who trustfully affirmed, with open hearts, the grace of their own hungry experience—in that moment—and that God could care about it.
The irony in all of these attempts to over-rely on externals is that people end up relying upon their own experience anyway! Most of us—by necessity—see everything, mystical and otherwise, through the lens of our own temperament, early conditioning, brain function, role and place in society, education, our personal needs, and cultural biases and assumptions. Admittedly, personal experiences are easy to misinterpret, and we shouldn’t universalize from our “moment” to an expectation that everybody must have the same kind of “moment.” We also can’t assume that any experience is 100 percent from God. We must develop filters to clear away our own agenda and ego. Nothing beats a solid understanding of some theology, psychology, and sociology, along with good and wise counsel. We cannot forget Paul’s reminder which was meant to keep us humble: “We know imperfectly and we prophesy imperfectly” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

March 17th, 2020

Reading the Signs of The Times 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Author and Dominican priest Albert Nolan has written many prophetic works that bring attention to systems of oppression throughout the world. His writings were influential in ending apartheid in his own nation of South Africa. Today he explains the spirals of violence that Jesus would have witnessed and encountered firsthand. 

Prophets are typically people who can foretell the future, not as fortune-tellers, but as people who have learned to read the signs of their times. It is by focusing their attention on, and becoming fully aware of, the political, social, economic, military, and religious tendencies of their time that prophets are able to see where it is all heading. 

Reading the signs of his times would have been an integral part of Jesus’ spirituality. 

In the first place, like many of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus must have seen the threatening armies of a powerful empire on the horizon—in this case the Roman Empire. Imperial power was well known to the prophets. At one time or another the people of Israel had been oppressed by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks. The prophets warned against collaborating with these power structures and promised that each of them would one day decline and fall—which they did. In this the prophets saw the finger of God. 

In Jesus’ view, it would only be a matter of time before the Roman armies felt sufficiently provoked to attack and destroy Jerusalem. . . .   

For most Jews, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would mean the destruction of their worship, their culture, and their nation. Jesus’ concern was not for the future of the temple but for the people of Jerusalem, especially the women and children who would suffer so much at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:44; 21:21-24). 

What Jesus must also have seen was the spiral of violence in which the Galilean peasants were caught up…Jesus himself would have been a peasant…Peasants were not only poor, they were exploited and oppressed—and not only by the Romans, but also by the Herods and the rich landowners.  

Jesus, reading the signs of the times from the perspective of a Galilean peasant, would have seen that this spiral of violence held no hope for the poor and the oppressed. The people were powerless and helpless [and the victims of huge structural violence which is largely invisible except to those who are suffering from it. –RR] 

Two thousand years later, prophets still raise their voices against the spirals of violence that continue to rob the poor and the oppressed of hope. Do we even hear them? Are we any more likely to act on their wisdom than our biblical ancestors or do we also dismiss them and their message? I’m afraid it’s the latter, but it is only by choosing the former that we play our part as disciples of Jesus.  

Reading the Sign of the Times

March 17th, 2020

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

Reading the Signs of The Times 
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Author and Dominican priest Albert Nolan has written many prophetic works that bring attention to systems of oppression throughout the world. His writings were influential in ending apartheid in his own nation of South Africa. Today he explains the spirals of violence that Jesus would have witnessed and encountered firsthand. 

Prophets are typically people who can foretell the future, not as fortune-tellers, but as people who have learned to read the signs of their times. It is by focusing their attention on, and becoming fully aware of, the political, social, economic, military, and religious tendencies of their time that prophets are able to see where it is all heading. 

Reading the signs of his times would have been an integral part of Jesus’ spirituality. 

In the first place, like many of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus must have seen the threatening armies of a powerful empire on the horizon—in this case the Roman Empire. Imperial power was well known to the prophets. At one time or another the people of Israel had been oppressed by the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks. The prophets warned against collaborating with these power structures and promised that each of them would one day decline and fall—which they did. In this the prophets saw the finger of God. 

In Jesus’ view, it would only be a matter of time before the Roman armies felt sufficiently provoked to attack and destroy Jerusalem. . . .   

For most Jews, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem would mean the destruction of their worship, their culture, and their nation. Jesus’ concern was not for the future of the temple but for the people of Jerusalem, especially the women and children who would suffer so much at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:44; 21:21-24). 

What Jesus must also have seen was the spiral of violence in which the Galilean peasants were caught up…Jesus himself would have been a peasant…Peasants were not only poor, they were exploited and oppressed—and not only by the Romans, but also by the Herods and the rich landowners.  

Jesus, reading the signs of the times from the perspective of a Galilean peasant, would have seen that this spiral of violence held no hope for the poor and the oppressed. The people were powerless and helpless [and the victims of huge structural violence which is largely invisible except to those who are suffering from it. –RR] 

Two thousand years later, prophets still raise their voices against the spirals of violence that continue to rob the poor and the oppressed of hope. Do we even hear them? Are we any more likely to act on their wisdom than our biblical ancestors or do we also dismiss them and their message? I’m afraid it’s the latter, but it is only by choosing the former that we play our part as disciples of Jesus.  

Disciples, Prophets, and Mystics

March 16th, 2020

Always Listening
Sunday, March 15, 2020

Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Philippians 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny. —James Finley [1]

We have to remember that Jesus says nothing to us that he hasn’t somehow heard from God. Jesus is totally faithful to his relationship with God, whom he called “Abba.” It was because of the familial nature of their relationship that he was able to teach, heal, bless, and create the spiritual family we call the church. To be disciples of Jesus, we have to let ourselves be loved as he did. It is in receiving that love that we find our strength and power.

For Jesus, “discipleship” is about being in an intimate, loving, and challenging relationship, much like that between parent and child. There is a unique nature to the healthy parent-child relationship, and each person has a role to play. Ideally, the parent employs the gifts of experience and knowledge to care for, nurture, and protect the child. In turn, the child can depend on and trust the parent for sustenance, well-being, and guidance in a world of unknowing. Discipleship follows that sequence. First, we must learn how to be God’s children, allowing ourselves to receive love, to be loved, to be cared for, and believed in, so that we can be entrusted to go about our “Father’s business” as Jesus did (see Luke 2:49).

In the beginning, Jesus steps into his ministry as a child of God, not as the parent or authority figure. Rather, he lets himself be the recipient, and he trusts God to lead him. Because Jesus is always listening to God and experiencing God’s presence, God is able to continually teach him. Jesus doesn’t begin his life full of power and authority. He is born helpless and vulnerable like all of us, but throughout his life, he continues to grow in love and wisdom (see Luke 2:52). Like every true disciple, Jesus comes into the fullness of his being by faithfully following and listening to his Great Teacher, the unspeakable YHWH.

At the end of prayer in Jesus’ Judaism there is a beautiful and powerful expression of affirmation, “Amen,” which Christians adopted. Yet Jesus, a devout Jew, puts it at the beginning of everything important he says. Why would he do that? When Jesus says “Amen, Amen,” [there are numerous examples in John’s gospel] I believe he is seconding the motion: “Amen” to what he has first heard from God and a second “Amen” to the authority with which he holds and passes on that same message to us. Like good disciples, in loving relationship with God and companions with Jesus, we must pray for the confidence to also say, as it were, “Amen, Amen.” What I have heard from God is now mine to pass on to you—on the level of inner experience more than the level of knowledge.

Speaking Out 
Monday, March 16, 2020

Prophets must first be true disciples of their faith. In fact, it is their deep love for their tradition that allows them to criticize it at the same time. This is almost always the hallmark of a prophet. Their deepest motivation is not negative but profoundly positive. The dualistic mind presumes that if you criticize something, you don’t love it, but I would say just the opposite. There is a major difference between negative criticism and positive critique. The first stems from the need for power; the second flows from love. 

Institutions prefer loyalists and “company men” to prophets, even if they are mature institutions. We’re uncomfortable with people who point out our shortcomings or imperfections, but human consciousness does not emerge at any depth except through struggling with our shadow and contradictions. It is in the struggle with our shadow self, with failure, or with wounding that we are transformed and break into higher levels of consciousness. People who learn to expose, name, and still thrive inside of a world filled with contradictions are what I would call prophets. They are both faithful and critical. 

Albert Nolan is a Dominican priest from South Africa and the author of several books that challenge us to consider what it means to be a disciple and follower of Jesus. Today, he describes the role of a prophet and how Jesus fulfilled it.   

Prophets are people who speak out when others remain silent. They criticize their own society, their own country, or their own religious institutions. . . . This leads inevitably to tension and even some measure of conflict between the prophet and the establishment. In the Hebrew Scriptures we see how the prophets clashed with kings and sometimes priests too. Jesus was painfully aware of this tension or conflict in the traditions of the prophets. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you . . . for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). Jesus saw those who killed the prophets in the past as the ancestors or predecessors of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:29-35). 

The tension or conflict is between authority and experience. True prophets are not part of the authority structure of their society or their religious institution. Unlike priests and kings, prophets are never appointed, ordained, or anointed by the religious establishment. They experience a special calling that comes directly from God, and their message comes from their experience of God: “Thus says the Lord God.” 

We have seen how boldly and radically Jesus spoke out against the assumptions and practices of the social and religious establishment of his time. He turned their world upside down. The conflict that this created became so intense that in the end they killed him to keep him quiet. 

Any attempt to practice the same spirituality as Jesus would entail learning to speak truth to power as he did—and facing the consequences. [1] 

Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain

March 13th, 2020

Type Seven: The Need to Avoid Pain 
Friday, March 13, 2020 

Holy Idea: Holy Wisdom, Holy Work, Holy Plan 

Virtue: Sobriety 

Passion: Gluttony [1] 

Sevens have been called the “Peter Pans” of the world, yet many Sevens, including our own Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation, are completely dedicated to the hard work of healing and transforming the world. Their own inner hope and optimism reveal what’s possible and they want to share it with the world. On a soul level they share Julian of Norwich’s vision that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” [2] CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault resonates with many aspects of the Seven typology, seeing in this type a freedom and fullness of being. [3] Chris Heuertz, author of The Sacred Enneagram, shares a description of the often delightful and complex Sevens. 

Sevens, the most energetic of all Enneagram types, are a source of imagination and freedom in the world. Due to their charming and winsome energy, Sevens are often mistaken as feeling types. Because they come across as very heart-forward, they are frequently assumed to be in their hearts, but Sevens are actually rooted in the Head Center.  

[Richard here: It can be hard to recognize how Sevens operate out of the Head Center; they are always “doing” and “emoting” positive feelings, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you find a deep-seated fear, present in all the head types.]  

Their fundamental need is to avoid pain, so Sevens are perpetually looking for distractions and opportunities to stay as far away as possible from their inner aches. [It largely works for them for much of their life. . . but not always! And that is often their undoing. So they must watch for their gluttonous attitude very carefully.

The Childhood Wound of a Seven was experienced in relationship to the nurturing energy of their caregiver; they felt frustrated because they weren’t nurtured enough, always needing more. And so Sevens take on a self-nurturing posture as a means of coping with their residual pain and frustration.  

The Basic Fear of the Seven is of dispossession and deprivation. Scarcity of options and opportunity creates tremendous anxiety for Sevens. They are terrified of being stuck with their own pain, so they stay overly active to stave off the inner ache they desperately and frenetically avoid facing. . . .  

The traditional Passion of the Seven is gluttony . . . their determination to overdo everything that brings them gratification—feasting on options and opportunities until they are overwhelmed by their indulgences and sickened by their excessive addiction to pleasure [that sometimes appears as fun, travel, and distraction]. 

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson write about how Essence emerges in Sevens: 

Sevens realize on the most profound level of their consciousness that life really is a gift. One of the big lessons that the Seven offers is that there is nothing wrong with life, nothing wrong with the material world. It is the gift of the Creator. If we were not to take anything for granted, we would be flooded with joy and gratitude all the time. [4]  

Enneagram Part Three: Head Center

March 12th, 2020

Type Six: The Need for Security  
Thursday, March 12, 2020 

Holy Idea: Holy Strength, Holy Faith 

Virtue: Courage 

Passion: Fear [1]  

People who are predominantly type Six have tremendous gifts: they are cooperative, team players, reliable, and loyal. In relationships, one can count on their fidelity. Their friendships are marked by warmhearted and deep feelings. They do their utmost—give body and soul—for the people they love. They are often highly original and witty with a dry sense of humor. Sometimes it takes those around them a moment to catch on to the joke! 

Because of their childhood experience, which was often marked by trauma, Sixes have a deep sense of anxiety. They continually sense danger, which makes them fearful and mistrustful. They easily succumb to self-doubt. While most of us experience the aftereffects of a stressful or traumatic event, Sixes feel that kind of anxiety on an almost daily basis. It isn’t the event that has already happened, but the one that could happen at any time that keeps them in a state of high alert.  

The lack of genuine self-confidence leads Sixes to look around for authority figures and structures that offer them the security and certainty they crave. At their worst, Sixes can become authoritarians, people who want truth in totalitarian, self-righteous fashion and are loyal to a fault, making choices that are not aligned with their deepest values or wisdom. They often give themselves dangerously to strongmen, hierarchical figures, and absolutely certain groups (fundamentalists) to take away their anxiety. 

Sixes used to be categorized into two types: phobic and contraphobic—those who obeyed their fear and those who rebelled against it by taking great risks. But it appears that most Sixes are a combination of both, “playing it safe” or facing their fear head on, depending on the situation. This makes perfect sense according to this description of Sixes from Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson:  

No matter what we say about Sixes, the opposite is often also as true. They are both strong and weak, fearful and courageous, trusting and distrusting, defenders and provokers, . . . aggressive and passive, bullies and weaklings, . . . thinkers and doers, group people and soloists, believers and doubters, cooperative and obstructionistic, . . . —and on and on. It is the contradictory picture that is the characteristic “fingerprint” of Sixes, the fact that they are a bundle of opposites. [2] 

Riso and Hudson write this about the emergence of Essence in Sixes: 

When their minds become quiet, Sixes experience an inner spaciousness that is the Ground of Being. They realize that Essence is real and is not simply an idea; in fact, it is the thing that is most real in existence, the very foundation of existence itself. People have associated this inner peace with the presence of God, which is manifesting itself at every moment, and which is available at every moment. When Sixes experience this truth, they feel solid, steady, and supported. . . . They realize that this ground is the only real security in life, and it is what gives Sixes immense courage.  

This is the real meaning of faith, their particular Essential quality. Faith is not belief, but a real, immediate knowing that comes from experience. . . . Faith with experience brings reliable guidance. [3]