Archive for September, 2018

Islam; Dying Before We Die

September 28th, 2018


Dying Before We Die
Friday, September 28, 2018

Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is

So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.

“Die before you die,” said the Prophet

Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?

I was born when all I once feared—I could love.

—Rabia [1]

In her book God of Love, Mirabai Starr shows how at the nondual or contemplative levels the teachings of the three Abrahamic Traditions are quite similar, especially regarding the transformation of the separate self into union with God:

“Wash yourself of yourself,” says Rumi [a Sufi]. “Be melting snow.” In Kabbalah [Jewish mysticism], this process is known as bitul hayesh, “nullification of one’s somethingness,” and is consciously cultivated through prayer. In Christian tradition, the union of the soul with God in love is called “bridal mysticism.” And in Sufism, it is fana, where the soul attains complete unity with Allah. In every case, there is a dying of the false self into the truth of the Divine.

“God, whose love and joy are present everywhere,” said Angelus Silesius, the seventeenth-century German [Christian] mystic and poet, “cannot come to visit you unless you are not there.” [2]

Anthony de Mello (1931–1987), an East Indian Jesuit priest, was renowned for his storytelling, which drew from both Eastern and Western mystical traditions. One of his stories, “The Salt Doll,” illustrates the awakening to our true essence:

A salt doll journeyed for thousands of miles over land, until it finally came to the sea. It was fascinated by this strange moving mass, quite unlike anything it had ever seen before.

“Who are you?” said the salt doll to the sea.

The sea smilingly replied, “Come in and see.”

So the doll waded in. The farther it walked into the sea the more it dissolved, until there was only very little of it left. Before that last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed in wonder, “Now I know what I am!” [3]

Jordan Denari Duffner is a leading advocate for interreligious dialogue. Drawing from her personal experiences of living and praying alongside Muslims in the United States and the Middle East, she writes:

Muslims describe beautiful experiences of God’s nearness, of feeling personally connected to [God] through prayer. The Prophet Muhammad once illustrated the experience of prayer this way: “During prayer, God lifts the veil and opens the gates of the invisible, so that His servant is standing in front of Him. The prayer creates a secret connection between the one praying and the One prayed to. Prayer is a threshold at the entrance to God’s reality.” [4]

Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet it does not destroy you (Exodus 3:2-3), just as the burning bush revealed to Moses. But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. The Islamic mystics seem to be the most honest here, as we see in the ecstatic and erotic poetry of Rabia, Rumi, Kabir, and Hafiz. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self.


Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 28, 2018

OPEN YOUR MIND AND HEART— your entire being— to receive My Love in full measure. So many of My children limp through their lives starved for Love because they haven’t learned the art of receiving. This is essentially an act of faith: believing that I love you with boundless, everlasting Love. The art of receiving is also a discipline: training your mind to trust Me, coming close to Me with confidence.

Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. Learn to recognize his deceptive intrusions into your thoughts. One of his favorite deceptions is to undermine your confidence in My unconditional Love. Fight back against these lies! Do not let them go unchallenged. Resist the devil in My Name, and he will slink away from you. Draw near to Me, and My Presence will envelop you in Love.

EPHESIANS 3: 16– 19;  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.

HEBREWS 4: 16; Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

JOHN 8: 44; Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

JAMES 4: 7– 8 NKJV; Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.


Primordial Light

September 26th, 2018

Primordial Light
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?
It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!
—Hafiz (c. 1320–1389) [1]

Sufism is the mystical arm of Islam. Mainline Islam, like most organized religions, largely emphasizes practical expressions and behaviors, whereas Sufism developed and emphasized the interior life. [2] Poet Daniel Ladinsky (who has been inspired by Sufi poets like Rumi and Hafiz) writes that “their ‘way’ has always existed, under many names, in many lands, associated with the mystical dimension of every spiritual system.” The special emphasis of Sufism is “intense, often ecstatic, one-pointed devotion to God.” [3] If you have ever seen a Sufi Dervish twirl around one pivot, as I was privileged to witness in Turkey, all the message is contained therein.

Avideh Shashaani, an Iranian-American poet and translator of Sufi mystic texts, reflects on how Sufism points to our True Self as the image of God:

My understanding of Islam has come through Sufism—the interior life of Islam. Islam, like any religion, may be viewed as a spectrum of light—ranging from the fundamentalists to the mystics. Our place on this spectrum depends on our level of spiritual expansion and knowledge.

In the Islamic tradition, we are considered to be an amazing weave of heaven and earth [spirit and matter]. Islam does not see us as sinful beings to be redeemed, but as neglectful and forgetful beings endowed with the primordial light.

When we “step” across the boundary of the divine realm into the world and become forgetful of our reality, we are in a state of transgression. Forgetfulness is what we must constantly struggle against.

The message of Islam is meant to guide us to uncover our true identity deeply buried under the layers of our neglectful nature. The Qur’an says “[God] created man in the best of stature” (95:4), and says that “[God is] closer to him than his jugular vein” (50:16). The duties prescribed for the Muslim are directed toward uncovering our primordial nature and remembering our covenant with God, “‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we bear witness’” (7:172). The memory of the covenant rests deep within our souls. This is why the remembrance of God is central in Islam. . . .

In the Islamic mystical tradition, the reality of “I” is not separate from the Ultimate Reality. “I” is that divine inspiration that imbues life from the Beginning. . . . Sufis often refer to a hadith [a saying of the Prophet Muhammad], “Whoever knows himself knows his Lord.” Ibn al Arabi, the 12th century Islamic mystic from Andalusia, writes [with amazing similarity to the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart’s “The eyes with which we look back at God are the same eyes with which God looks at us”]:

When my Beloved appears,
With what eye do I see Him?
With His eye, not with mine,
For none sees Him except Himself. [4]

. . . In the remembrance of God, the mirror of the heart is polished and is able to reflect the light of God, allowing “I” to shine.

Hafiz gives us another beautiful expression of this “I” that is the “divine inspiration”:

I am
a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through—
listen to this
music. [5]

COME TO ME AND LISTEN! Attune yourself to My voice, and receive My richest blessings. Marvel at the wonder of communing with the Creator of the universe while sitting in the comfort of your home. Kings who reign on earth tend to make themselves inaccessible; ordinary people almost never gain an audience with them. Even dignitaries must plow through red tape and protocol in order to speak with royalty.
Though I am King of the universe, I am totally accessible to you. I am with you wherever you are. Nothing can separate you from My Presence! When I cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This opened the way for you to meet Me face to Face, with no need of protocol or priests. I, the King of kings, am your constant Companion.

ISAIAH 50: 4;

ISAIAH 55: 2– 3;

JOHN 19: 30;

MATTHEW 27: 50– 51

Islam Holy, Nonviolent Struggle

September 25th, 2018

Holy, Nonviolent Struggle
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Karen Armstrong continues exploring the origins of Islam:
In [the] early days, Muslims did not see Islam as a new, exclusive religion but as a continuation of the primordial faith of the “People of the Book,” the Jews and Christians. In one remarkable passage, God insists that Muslims must accept indiscriminately the revelations of every single one of God’s messengers: Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and all the other prophets. [1] The Qur’an is simply a “confirmation” of the previous scriptures. [2] Nobody must be forced to accept Islam, because . . . God was not the exclusive property of any one tradition: the divine light could not be confined to a single lamp, belonged neither to the East nor to the West, but enlightened all human beings. [3] Muslims must speak courteously to the People of the Book, debate with them only in “the most kindly manner,” remember that they worshipped the same God, and not engage in pointless, aggressive disputes. [4]
All of this would require a ceaseless jihad (which did not mean “holy war” but “effort,” “struggle”), because it was extremely difficult to implement the will of God in a tragically flawed world. Muslims must make a determined endeavor on all fronts—intellectual, social, economic, moral, spiritual, and political. Sometimes they might have to fight, as Muhammad did when the Meccan kafirun vowed to exterminate the Muslim community. But aggressive warfare was outlawed, and the only justification for war was self-defense. [5] . . . An important and oft-quoted tradition (hadith) has Muhammad say on his way home after a battle: “We are returning from the Lesser Jihad [the battle] and going to the Greater Jihad,” the far more important and difficult struggle to reform one’s own society and one’s own heart. Eventually, when the war with Mecca was turning in his favor, Muhammad adopted a policy of nonviolence. . . .
Like any religious tradition, Islam would change and evolve. Muslims acquired a large empire, stretching from the Pyrenees to the Himalayas, but true to Qur’anic principles, nobody was forced to become Muslim. Indeed, for the first hundred years after the Prophet’s death, conversion to Islam was actually discouraged, because Islam was a din [way of life] for the Arabs, the descendants of Abraham’s elder son, Ishmael, just as Judaism was for the sons of Isaac, and Christianity for the followers of the gospel.
Faith, therefore, was a matter of practical insight and active commitment; it had little to do with abstract belief or theological conjecture.
I would add that mature Islam beautifully parallels the Franciscan and Christian contemplative emphasis on orthopraxy (right practice) and the importance of nondual consciousness. For our jihad to be nonviolent and transformative, our actions must be rooted in an inner experience of love and communion—what we call contemplation. Opening our hearts, minds, and bodies to union takes lifelong practice.


Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 25, 2018

POUR ALL OF YOUR ENERGY into trusting Me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My Presence. Every step on your life-journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trust are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether: leaping across chasms in semidarkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me. Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences. Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa. Only I know the difficulty or ease of each segment of your journey. Beware of trying to impress others by acting as if your giant steps are only baby ones. Do not judge others who hesitate in trembling fear before an act that would be easy for you. If each of My children would seek to please Me above all else, fear of others’ judgments would vanish, as would attempts to impress others. Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you and on the One who never leaves your side.

PSALM 23: 4; Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

MATTHEW 7: 1– 2; “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it.

PROVERBS 29: 25; Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.




September 24th, 2018

Islam A Way of Life
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Muslims do not worship Muhammad. He is a prophet . . . [and] because of his pure submission to God alone, [he] serves as the model of the perfect human being. His holiness lies not in his own being, but in his pointing away from himself and toward the Holy One. —Mirabai Starr [1]

There are a lot of misconceptions about Islam. Like Christianity and other religions, there is a great deal of variety within Islam. Just as not all Christians are extremists, the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. As many Christians disagree on theology and hermeneutics, so Muslims have different ways of interpreting their sacred text and tradition. Over the next week I’ll share some background, drawing from Karen Armstrong’s work, and then turn to one stream within Islam, Sufism. I hope this brief introduction will help you recognize God’s image and likeness in your Muslim brothers and sisters and learn more about their faith!

Religious historian Karen Armstrong describes the origins of Islam:

In 610, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (c. 560–632), a merchant of the thriving commercial city of Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz, began to have revelations that he believed came from the God of the Jews and Christians. These divine messages were eventually brought together in the scripture known as the Qur’an, the “Recitation,” and its text was finalized a mere twenty years after the Prophet’s death. The religion of the Qur’an would eventually be known as Islam, a word that means “surrender” to God, and was based on the same basic principles as the two other monotheistic traditions.

The Qur’an has no interest in “belief.” . . . Theological speculation that results in the formulation of abstruse doctrines is dismissed as zannah, self-indulgent guesswork about matters that nobody can prove one way or the other but that makes people quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian. Like any religion or philosophia, Islam [is] a way of life (din). The fundamental message of the Qur’an [is] . . . an ethical summons to practically expressed compassion: it is wrong to build a private fortune and good to share your wealth fairly and create a just society where poor and vulnerable people are treated with respect. [2]

The five “pillars” of Islam are a miqra, a summons to dedicated activity: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage. This is also true of the first “pillar,” the declaration of faith: “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet.” This is not a “creed” in the modern Western sense; the Muslim who makes this shahadah “bears witness” in his life and in every single one of his actions that his chief priority is Allah and that no other “gods”—which include political, material, economic, and personal ambitions—can take precedence over his commitment to God alone. In the Qur’an, faith (iman) is something that people do: they share their wealth, perform the “works of justice” (salihat), and prostrate their bodies to the ground in the kenotic, ego-deflating act of prayer (salat). [3]


Islam——Walk Gently on the Earth

Monday, September 24, 2018

During the Convivencia in Spain [711–1492], Jews, Christians and Muslims not only lived side by side in an atmosphere of religious tolerance but they also actively collaborated on some of the most important works of art, architecture, literature, mathematics, science, and mystical teachings in the history of Western culture. . . . The commitment to welcoming people of all faiths is still a beacon that shines from the heart of Islam. —Mirabai Starr [1]

Mature religions and individuals have great tolerance and even appreciation for differences. When we are secure and confident in our oneness—knowing that all are created in God’s image and are equally beloved—differences of faith, culture, language, skin color, sexuality, or other trait no longer threaten us. Rather, we seek to understand and honor others and to live in harmony with them. Karen Armstrong explains how this is a core teaching within Islam:

In the Qur’an, the people who opposed Islam when Muhammad began to preach in Mecca are called the kafirum. The usual English translation is extremely misleading: it does not mean “unbeliever” or “infidel”; the root KFR means “blatant ingratitude,” a discourteous and arrogant refusal of something offered with great kindness. . . . They were not condemned for their “unbelief” but for their braying, offensive manner to others, their pride, self-importance, chauvinism, and inability to accept criticism. [2] . . . Above all, they are jahili: chronically “irascible,” acutely sensitive about their honor and prestige, with a destructive tendency to violent retaliation. Muslims are commanded to respond to such abusive behavior with hilm (“forbearance”) and quiet courtesy, leaving revenge to Allah. They must “walk gently on the earth,” and whenever the jahilun insult them, they should simply reply, “Peace.” [3]

There was no question of a literal, simplistic reading of scripture. Every single image, statement, and verse in the Qur’an is called an ayah (“sign,” “symbol,” “parable”), because we can speak of God only analogically. The great ayat of the creation and the last judgment are not introduced to enforce “belief,” but they are a summons to action. Muslims must translate these doctrines into practical behavior. The ayah of the last day, when people will find that their wealth cannot save them, should make Muslims examine their conduct here and now: Are they behaving kindly and fairly to the needy? They must imitate the generosity of Allah, who created the wonders of this world so munificently and sustains it so benevolently. At first, the religion was known as tazakka (“refinement”). By looking after the poor compassionately, freeing their slaves, and performing small acts of kindness on a daily, hourly basis, Muslims would acquire a responsible, caring spirit, purging themselves of pride and selfishness. By modeling their behavior on that of the Creator, they would achieve spiritual refinement [what I would call growing in God’s likeness].


LIVE FIRST AND FOREMOST in My Presence. Gradually you will become more aware of Me than of people and places around you. This awareness will not detract from your relationships with others. Instead, it will increase your ability to give love and encouragement to them. My Peace will permeate your words and demeanor. You will be active in the world, yet one step removed from it. You will not be easily shaken because My enveloping Presence buffers the blow of problems. This is the path I have set before you. As you follow it wholeheartedly, you experience abundant Life and Peace.

PSALM 89: 15– 16;
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
16 They rejoice in your name all day long;
they celebrate your righteousness.

PSALM 16: 8;
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

2 PETER 1: 2
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

JOHN 10: 28 NKJV
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Western Christianity; Crisis Contemplation

September 21st, 2018

Western Christianity

Crisis Contemplation
Friday, September 21, 2018

As I mentioned earlier this week, Western Christianity neglected the systematic instruction of contemplative practice for hundreds of years. Yet many people naturally grow into nondual consciousness through great suffering or great love. Barbara Holmes suggests that “crisis contemplation” arose out of necessity during the “Middle Passage” and slavery:

The air must have been thick with fear and prayer as the slaving ships pulled out of Gorée and other West African ports laden with human cargo. Devotees of Vodun, the river gods, [YHWH], Allah, Oludumare—to name just a few—lay together (tightly or loosely packed) in an involuntary rebirthing cocoon. It was a community of sorts, yet each person lay in their own chrysalis of human waste and anxiety. More often than not, these Africans were strangers to each other by virtue of language, culture, and tribe. Although the names of their deities differed, they shared a common belief in the seen and unseen. The journey was a rite of passage of sorts that stripped captives of their personal control over the situation and forced them to turn to the spirit realm for relief and guidance.

. . . The word contemplation must press beyond the constraints of religious expectations to reach the potential for spiritual centering in the midst of danger. Centering moments accessed in safety are an expected luxury in our era. During slavery, however, crisis contemplation became a refuge, a wellspring of discernment in a suddenly disordered life space, and a geo-spiritual anvil for forging a new identity. This definition of contemplation is dynamic and situational. . . .

As unlikely as it may seem, the contemplative moment can be found at the very center of such ontological crises . . . during the Middle Passage in the holds of slave ships . . . auction blocks . . . and the . . . hush arbors [where slaves worshipped in secret]. Each event is experienced by individuals stunned into multiple realities by shock, journey, and displacement. . . . In the words of Howard Thurman, “when all hope for release in the world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.” [1] For captured Africans, there was no safety except in common cause and the development of internal and spiritual fortitude. . . .

The only sound that would carry Africans over the bitter waters was the moan. Moans flowed through each wracked body and drew each soul toward the center of contemplation. . . . One imagines the Spirit moaning as it hovered over the deep during the Genesis account of creation [Genesis 1:2]. Here, the moan stitches horror and survival instincts into a creation narrative. . . . On the slave ships, the moan became the language of stolen strangers, the sound of unspeakable fears, the precursor to joy yet unknown. The moan is the birthing sound, the first movement toward a creative response to oppression, the entry into the heart of contemplation through the crucible of crisis.



Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 21, 2018

WAIT QUIETLY IN MY PRESENCE while My thoughts form silently in the depths of your being. Do not try to rush this process, because hurry keeps your heart earthbound. I am the Creator of the entire universe, yet I choose to make My humble home in your heart. It is there where you know Me most intimately; it is there where I speak to you in holy whispers. Ask My Spirit to quiet your mind so that you can hear My still small voice within you. I am speaking to you continually: words of Life . . . Peace . . . Love. Tune your heart to receive these messages of abundant blessing. Lay your requests before Me, and wait in expectation.

COLOSSIANS 1: 16 NKJV; For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities …

1 KINGS 19: 12 NKJV; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

PSALM 5: 3; In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.


Western Christianity; Healing Addiction

September 20th, 2018

Western Christianity

Healing Addiction
Thursday, September 20, 2018

I’ve shared some of Western Christianity’s weaknesses—for example, how we have over-emphasized separateness, sin, and external religious exercises. But Western Christianity has unique gifts and strengths to offer. The dynamism of Western civilization has led to what I might call the “secularization” of the Gospel message into many side streams and rivulets. A strong example of this might be Twelve-Step programs and many other healing and transformational experiences that have now emerged outside of the formal boundaries of Christianity. You cannot kill the Gospel or true wisdom! Living things keep taking on ever new forms of life.

In creating Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, with typical American pragmatism, designed a program that really worked to change lives. It is the same spirituality of imperfection that Jesus taught, Paul clarified, Francis and Clare of Assisi lived, and Thérèse of Lisieux brought to light for the modern world. Transformation has little to do with intelligence, willpower, or perfection. It has everything to do with honesty, humility, willingness, and surrender.

On the practical (read “transformational”) level, the Gospel message of Jesus and the Twelve-Step message of Bill Wilson are largely the same. Addiction can be a metaphor for what the biblical tradition called sin. It is quite helpful to see sin, like addiction, as a destructive disease instead of something for which we’re culpable or punishable and that “makes God unhappy.” If sin indeed makes God “unhappy,” it is because God loves us, desires nothing more than our happiness, and wills the healing of our disease.

Pope Francis clearly understands sin in this way. Shortly after he proclaimed the Holy Year of Mercy in 2015, he was asked why humanity is so in need of mercy. He replied that in part it’s due to “considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven. We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too: we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet. We need mercy.” [1]

Much of Jesus’ work was healing, with many of his teachings illustrating the healings. Nine of Jesus’ healing stories are actually exorcisms. While the term may be off-putting, the fact that there are so many exorcisms in the Gospels speaks to their importance. I believe “possession by devils” refers to what we now call addiction. The “possessed” person is in some sense trapped by a larger force and is powerless to do anything about it. The only cure for possession is “repossession” by Something Greater than the disease. This is why Bill Wilson said that a vital spiritual experience” is necessary for full recovery.

I’m convinced that when the great medieval spiritual teachers talked so much about attachment, they were really talking about addiction. We are all attached and addicted in some way. At the very least, we are addicted to our compulsive dualistic patterns of thinking, to our preferred self-image, and to the usually unworkable programs for happiness we developed in childhood—which then showed themselves to be inadequate or even wrong.


Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling

September 20, 2018

TRY TO SEE THINGS more and more from My perspective. Let the Light of My Presence so fully fill your mind that you view the world through Me. When little things don’t go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, “Oh, well.” This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations. If you practice this diligently, you will make a life-changing discovery: You realize that most of the things that worry you are not important. If you shrug them off immediately and return your focus to Me, you will walk through your days with lighter steps and a joyful heart.

When serious problems come your way, you will have more reserves for dealing with them. You will not have squandered your energy on petty problems. You may even reach the point where you can agree with the apostle Paul that all your troubles are light and momentary compared with the eternal glory being achieved by them.

PSALM 36: 9; For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

PROVERBS 20: 24; 2; A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?

CORINTHIANS 4: 17– 18; For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is  unseen.



The Soul’s Objective Union with God

September 19th, 2018

Western Christianity…….The Soul’s Objective Union with God
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Genesis story of the Judeo-Christian tradition is really quite extraordinary. It says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God, proceeding from free and overflowing love (Genesis 1:26). This flow is rediscovered and re-experienced by various imperfect people throughout the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. This sets us on a positive and hopeful foundation, which cannot be overstated. The Bible illustrates, through various stories, humanity’s objective unity with God, the total gratuity of that love and, unfortunately, our resistance to such an “impossibility.”

Due to a lack of mysticism and contemplative consciousness, I find that many Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (e.g., 1 John 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4). Such gratuity is too good to be true. Even ministers often fight me on this, quoting Augustine’s “original sin,” Calvin’s “total depravity,” or Luther’s statement, “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” I am sure they all meant well, but they also dug a pit so deep that many could never climb out or allow themselves to be lifted out.

How do we ever undo such foundational damnation? Grace can only be trusted by an equally graceful human nature. Our work is merely to till the fertile soil, knowing that the Indwelling Spirit has already been planted within, and She is the One who “teaches you all things and reminds you of all things” (John 14:26). Many Christians have tried to pile a positive theology of salvation on top of a very negative anthropology of the human person, and it just does not work. The human self-image is too damaged and distorted within such a framework.

What we call sins are usually more symptoms of sin. Sin is primarily living outside of union; it is a state of separation—when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any inner experience of who you are in God. “Sins” often have more to do with ignorance than actual malice. Disconnected people may become malicious, but they did not start there. They began in union, and disunion became their experienced lie.

You can’t accomplish or work up to union with God, because you’ve already got it. “Before the world began you were chosen, chosen in Christ to live through love in his presence” (Ephesians 1:4). You cannot ever become worthy or “perfect” by yourself; you can only reconnect to your Infinite Source. The biblical revelation is about awakening, not accomplishing. It is about realization, not performance. You cannot get there, you can only be there. Only the humble can receive it and surrender to such grace.


Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning

THERE IS A MIGHTY BATTLE going on for control of your mind. Heaven and earth intersect in your mind; the tugs of both spheres influence your thinking. I created you with the capacity to experience foretastes of heaven. When you shut out the world and focus on My Presence, you can enjoy sitting with Me in heavenly realms. This is an incredible privilege reserved for precious ones who belong to Me and seek My Face. Your greatest strength is your desire to spend time communing with Me. As you concentrate on Me, My Spirit fills your mind with Life and Peace. The world exerts a downward pull on your thoughts.

Media bombard you with greed, lust, and cynicism. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment. Stay in continual communication with Me whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Stay alert, recognizing the battle being waged against your mind. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in heaven.
with Me.

As you concentrate on Me, My Spirit fills your mind with Life and Peace. The world exerts a downward pull on your thoughts. Media bombard you with greed, lust, and cynicism. When you face these things, pray for protection and discernment. Stay in continual communication with Me whenever you walk through the wastelands of this world. Refuse to worry, because this form of worldliness will weigh you down and block awareness of My Presence. Stay alert, recognizing the battle being waged against your mind. Look forward to an eternity of strife-free living, reserved for you in heaven.

EPHESIANS 2: 6; 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

ROMANS 8: 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

1 JOHN 2: 15, 17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Western Christianity; The Self-in-God

September 18th, 2018


The Self-in-God
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In his booklet That We May Be One, Thomas Keating writes about two models of spirituality and how they influence our growth in God’s likeness:

Since the Reformation, the Christian Tradition has been somewhat focused on doctrinal differences rather than on the spiritual journey itself and the transformation of being. This has given rise to an overemphasis on our activity [and an under-emphasis on the inner spiritual journey]. Of course, Christian Tradition has always had a concern about works and grace and how they relate, but an overemphasis on works has led to a dualistic view of God and self.

A way of explaining this might be the characterization of a Western Model of spirituality as seeing the self-outside-of-God. By contrast, earlier parts of the Tradition and throughout time in the experience of the great mystics, [are] about the self-in-God, and God-in-self, which may be called the Scriptural Model of Spirituality. This distinction has profound implications for the spiritual life. . . . The [Scriptural Model] supposes that we are to become a living sacrament by being always in the presence of God and in relation to God. . . .

God is not just with us, not just beside us, not just under us, not just over us, but within us, at the deepest level, and, in our inmost being, a step beyond the true Self. What is the self?

Science has looked everywhere for a self in the human organism. It cannot be found. So the self then is not an entity. . . . We do know that the self can keep on growing until it becomes a true Self in the image and likeness of God. . . . The movement is towards unity consciousness and experiencing the divine as our ultimate Self, in which case the false self has a happy death in God!

Just by living and growing in consciousness, we are becoming, growing in God’s Self, in God’s presence, in God-consciousness. The ultimate consciousness is total Oneness in which God is all in all. [2]

I learned the terms “True Self” and “false self” from Thomas Merton—words he used to clarify what Jesus surely meant when he said that we must die to ourselves or we must “lose ourselves to find ourselves” (see Mark 8:35). Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway. The false self is simply a substitute for our deeper and deepest truth. It is a useful and even needed part of ourselves, but it is not all; the danger is when we think we are only our false, separate, small self. Our attachment to false self must die to allow True Self—our basic and unchangeable identity in God—to live fully and freely.


Sarah Young Jesus Calling 

September 18, 2018

SEEK TO PLEASE ME above all else. Let that goal be your focal point as you go through this day. Such a mind-set will protect you from scattering your energy to the winds. The free will I bestowed on you comes with awesome responsibility. Each day presents you with choice after choice. Many of these decisions you ignore and thus make by default. Without a focal point to guide you, you can easily lose your way. That’s why it is so important to stay in communication with Me, living in thankful awareness of My Presence. You inhabit a fallen, disjointed world, where things are constantly unraveling around the edges. Only a vibrant relationship with Me can keep you from coming unraveled too.

MATTHEW 6: 33; But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

JOHN 8: 29; The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 

COLOSSIANS 3: 23– 24; Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance.



The Christian Contemplative Tradition

September 17th, 2018

The Christian Contemplative Tradition
Sunday, September 16, 2018

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have a long tradition of teaching contemplation or nondual consciousness. But its systematic teaching was primarily held in the Eastern “Greek” church; the Western “Latin” church was more extroverted and aligned with empires.

Serious contemplative teaching—very upfront in the desert fathers and mothers—is surely found in Celtic Christianity (outside of empire), and is continued by leaders of many monasteries, for example, by John Cassian (360–435 CE), Pseudo-Dionysius (5th–6th centuries), and Hugh of St. Victor (1096–1141) in Paris. Later mystics like Bonaventure (1221–1274), Francisco de Osuna (1497–1541), the unknown author of The Cloud of Unknowing (late 14th century), and 16th century mystics Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) and John of the Cross (1542–1591) also taught nondual consciousness. It held on much longer in the religious orders than the ordinary local church or with the common priest or bishop—whose ministry was an occupation more than a search for God or a “school for the Lord’s service,” as St. Benedict (480–547) described. [1]

Most Western mystics exemplified contemplation, as did Jesus, much more than they directly taught it. Maybe this is part of the reason many Christians lost it, and why good theological teaching and practice is now so important today. After the fights of the Reformation, and after the over-rationalization of the 17th and 18th century Enlightenment, many of us Western Christians became very defensive, wanting to prove we were smart and could win arguments with the new secularism. We imitated the rationalists while using pious Christian vocabulary. It took the form of heady Scholasticism and rote formulas in Catholicism, and led to fundamentalism and memorized Scripture verses providing their own kind of “rationalism” among many Protestants.

Catholic doctrines (such as transubstantiation, papal infallibility, and hierarchical authority) came to be presented in a largely academic and juridical way (or, for the sacraments, with an almost magical interpretation), as opposed to a contemplative or mystical way. Frankly, all of this inspired few and drove many away from Christianity. Most priests were educated this way until the much-needed reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. Thomas Merton (1915–1968) was very influential in reintroducing contemplation to the West. Now it is again taught in Christian arenas all over the world under different names.

What we now call contemplation—a unique way of knowing—is a rediscovery of our earlier Christian practice. Basically, contemplation is the way you know and think of yourself when you are sincerely praying and present—as opposed to thinking, arguing, or proving.

As Archbishop Rowan Williams, former leader of the Anglican Church, told the Synod of Catholic Bishops in Rome:

Contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter. [2]

Despite centuries without systematic teaching of nondual consciousness, many seekers have now come to contemplation as the fruit of great suffering or great love. These are the quickest and most universal ways that God uses to destabilize the self-referential ego. Those transformed by life and grace come to enjoy the presence of God, others, and even themselves. They have connected with their deepest Source, an identity that goes far beyond ideas of right and wrong.

Great suffering, great love, and contemplative practice can instill in us “the same mind which is in Christ Jesus” (see Philippians 2:5-11, 4:4-7, and 1 Corinthians 2 and 3). Indeed, I believe contemplative, nondual consciousness is the mind of Christ.


Renewal of Contemplative Christianity
Monday, September 17, 2018

In the 1950s and 1960s, Thomas Merton brought renewed interest to the contemplative tradition in the West. He became a Trappist monk and “left the world” for the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he learned the lessons of contemplation and action.

Merton was spiritual director to James Finley, one of our CAC faculty members, for five and a half years. Finley recalls that when he voiced a complaint about something, Merton would tell him, “We don’t come to the monastery to get away from suffering; we come to hold the suffering of all the world.” [1] This can only be done by plugging into a larger consciousness through contemplation. No longer focused on our individual private perfection—or what Merton called “our personal salvation project”—we become fully human and usable by opening our hearts to God.

Through contemplation—holding the paradoxes of life—Merton struggled against “the evil [that] is in us all . . . [and] the blindness of a world that wants to end itself.” He fought against violence, war, racism, poverty, and consumerism. He wrote, “Those who continue to struggle are at peace. If God wills, they can pacify the world. For [the person] who accepts the struggle in the name of Christ is delivered from its power by the victory of Christ.” [2]

Many other modern mystics have brought awareness of and tools for contemplative practice to Western Christianity, from Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941), Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), Simone Weil (1909–1943), to current teachers such as Barbara Holmes and Mirabai Starr. Cynthia Bourgeault, who is herself a contemplative leader and a CAC faculty member, describes the origins of Centering Prayer and Christian meditation in the mid-1970s:

Thomas Keating [born 1923] and John Main (1926–1982) responded to Merton’s prophetic call, developing simple meditation methods solidly rooted in the Christian spiritual tradition and suitable for use not only within the cloister walls, but in a world hungry for the recovery of its spiritual roots. All three of these men recognized meditation not as a newfangled innovation, let alone the grafting onto Christianity of an Eastern practice, but rather, as something that had originally been at the very center of Christian practice and had become lost. [3


YOU WILL NOT FIND MY PEACE by engaging in excessive planning, attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief. When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.
I did not design the human mind to figure out the future. That is beyond your capability. I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.
1 PETER 5: 6– 7; 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

PROVERBS 16: 9; In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

PSALM 37: 5 NKJV Commit[a] your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Participation in the Incarnation

September 14th, 2018

Richard Rohr

Eastern Christianity
Participation in the Incarnation
Friday, September 14, 2018

Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. —Isaiah 60:1
George Maloney (1924–2005), a Catholic priest in the Russian Byzantine Rite with a doctorate in Eastern Christian spirituality, and I used to be on the same speaking circuit back in the 1970s, and he first led me to trust Eastern Christianity much more. Today I share insights Maloney gleaned on Jesus and the Incarnation:
In Eastern Christian spirituality, there has always been a special accent on the gentleness and humility of the Word made flesh as He comes to serve us in order to reflect the infinite love of the Father. He serves us not in power but in the weakness of a suffering servant on the cross. This is the kenotic spirituality of the Eastern mystics who (in Saint Paul’s words, “He emptied himself,” Philippians 2:7) strove to live a life of non-violence and of gentle and humble service in imitation of the suffering servant. . . .
We can learn from the [Eastern Fathers] . . . who found, through constant repetition of the name of Jesus, the means to remain constantly in His healing presence. . . . In deep prayer we learn to surrender to [Jesus’] love and peace. . . . Our potential for being expands into a realized consciousness. We feel in the depths of our being a transformation taking place. Power to love, to be toward God, ourselves and others, in a healthy way, opens up slowly like a lotus flower. . . .
The Eastern Fathers have always stressed in line with the vision of Saint Paul especially, that if we are in Christ we participate in His paschal victory over sin and death. . . . [The Spirit] effects the likeness of Jesus Christ within us . . . [drawing] out the potentiality locked within us, as in a seed, to become transfigured into the very Body of the Risen Lord, Jesus. . . . Resurrection is already ours; we have entered into a sharing already, an anticipation, of the future resurrection as we die daily to our own selfishness and rise to let the power of Jesus’ resurrection . . . direct our lives in greater self-sacrificing love toward our neighbors. . . .
We Christians have been called by Christ to see Him everywhere as the Light of God’s loving presence. We have been . . . made in His image and likeness, to grasp boldly the Sun in all its brightness, so that we may image His light fully to the world. We become the creative power of God as [God’s] word tumbles forth from the lips of the Almighty. That word, spoken in the flowers, the trees, birds, animals, the beauties of each new season, the sun, moon, stars, the mountains, lakes, oceans, goes forth and “shall not return empty” (Isaiah 55:11). . . . Nothing exists or moves toward perfection except by God’s creative power immanently present in all things. “In [God] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Sarah Young Jesus Calling

September 14, 2018

WORSHIP ME by living close to Me. This was My original design for man, into whom I breathed My very breath of Life. This is My desire for you: that you stay near Me as you walk along your life-path. Each day is an important part of that journey. Although you may feel as if you are going nowhere in this world, your spiritual journey is another matter altogether, taking you along steep, treacherous paths of adventure.

That is why walking in the Light of my Presence is essential to keep you from stumbling. By staying close to Me, you present yourself as a living sacrifice. Even the most routine part of your day can be a spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to Me.

GENESIS 2: 7; Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

PSALM 89: 15; Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.

ROMANS 12: 1– 2; I appeal to you therefore, brothers,1 by the mercies of God, and to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.