Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration, Mystics

Seeking the Beloved – Guest Blogger Bob Russo

Today’s blog comes from reader, Bob Russo.  Raised Catholic and bothered with a soul that is discontent, Bob has found peace in the contemplative journey and the life of a mystic.  Thank you Bob for your inspiring words and humble witness.  (See Bob’s personal bio below)

BobRusso

Where does one begin to discuss a spiritual journey that from the “outside” has no particular appearance or definition?   I lead an ordinary life – going to work – doing stuff around the house – calling friends – viewing old Westerns with my wife – and watching an occasional football or baseball game.   As a youth, I played a lot of baseball.  Sports saved me, especially as a young boy with a lot of nervous energy.

But, behind the outer appearance has always been a soul discontent with “ordinary” reality – or a life experienced only within the confines of the ego or condition self.  From an early age, I sought quiet time alone – often sitting in church after school (I attended 12 years of Catholic School), not so much to pray, but to be still and listen to my surroundings.  I could hear the sparrows chirping in the distance and the peace they brought to my heart.

But, the real “kicker” began on a high school camping trip in the Sierra Nevada in 1970.  One evening, I slipped away from camp alone to view the vast expanse of the starry universe.  This was my first experience seeing space with such clarity – having been raised in the city.  While viewing, I felt a sense of “nothingness” – that all the so-called problems of life were just insignificant compared to the vastness of life that we really are!  I felt a kinship and oneness with this great universe of ours.  And, I felt an immense sense of relief of having to be “somebody” to be “something”.  The experience was short-lived but had a lasting impression on me.  I was 16 years old at the time.

All through these early years, I was a practicing Catholic – attending Mass regularly, going to confession, etc.  The Church was instrumental in laying a foundation for my spiritual life.  It gave roots to this tree that would spring forth into uncharted territory.

While living in Montana in 1974, and after having read the Gospel of John, I began to develop an interest in contemplative spirituality.   I felt this longing to experience God directly instead of just talking about the Divine.  At the time, there was no mystical tradition available to lay Catholics.  So, like many others from my generation, I sought the experience of God through Eastern mysticism, which was gaining much popularity in the West by the late 60s and early 70s.

In the winter of 1975, I decided to experiment with peyote as a means of reaching a state of altered conscious awareness.  With my good friend, Carl, on a sunny Saturday winter morning in Missoula, we decided to do our peyote experiment.  We took a small dose and then went for a walk through town in the fresh snow to enjoy the adventure.

Around 3 hours later, something happened to me.  It was as though my internal dialogue and “ego” consciousness were placed on hold.   I felt completely in the present moment with an open heart.  I felt a kinship with people I would see and the mountains around me.   I felt immense love for life – all was love!

After that experience, I had faith that this experience of love, brotherhood, and oneness could be found through the inner path to God – through deep prayer and meditation.  And, consequently, this has been my path to this day – although it has taken various forms and stages.

It has been a path of joy and equally so a path of tears, dryness, and longing.   I have had periods of deep questioning asking myself, “does God even exist and is this spiritual stuff just another big joke?”  “And, what do I know about any of this spiritual stuff anyway?”  The answer that came to me brought with it a sigh of relief – absolutely nothing – there is nothing to try and figure out!!

But, even during the “dark night” periods, I have felt this inner calling to continue with spiritual practice.  I have learned to forget about any “goals” and just show up –whether in meditation or present to outer life!  And, certainly, don’t take it all too seriously!

If I were to draw a conclusion on the contemplative life it would be that the journey is the path and destination all rolled into one.   Often times, the wounds in my life have been the gateway to further insights or what Father Richard Rohr refers to as “falling upward”.   It’s in those moments that the opportunity is given to let-go of the control switch and surrender to the unknown and to God.  This requires tremendous courage, which I have failed to embark upon on so many occasions.  But, rest assured, there is always another opportunity waiting in the “on-deck circle”!

And so, the longing continues and yet it is a welcomed sign today as opposed to something to attempt to get rid of.   In the past, I often wanted a teacher, technique or practice that would make that pain subside.  But perhaps the Sufis have it right in this regard – that longing is a gift that fuels us to our Beloved in the heart.  And, in this longing is an unexpected gift or signature from God reminding us of an agreement we made with him or her a long time ago?

And so the journey continues ….

Bob Russo has been a student of Eastern and Western contemplative practice since 1974.  He enjoys quiet time in Nature along with hiking, gardening, and an occasion day in the surf.  He has been happily married to his wife, Valerie, for 31 years.  Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, he currently resides in Murrieta California.  He has recently been influenced by the writings and Men’s Rite of Passage program of Fr. Richard Rohr and the Sufi teachings as presented by Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration, Mystics, Oneness with God, Spiritual Practices

Mystics and Contemplatives

In the past several days, I have used the words mystic and contemplative somewhat interchangeably.  While the two are similar and walk a common path with a common mission, I have learned there is a bit of a difference between the two.  After today’s blog, let me know if you are a contemplative or a mystic.

normal_Hildegard_von_Bingen_-_Fan_Art

The same, only different

There are common characteristics between contemplatives and mystics, most obviously is their intimate connection with the transcendent, or what I call God.  Mystics and contemplatives both possess a deep inner calling to connect with God and to maintain that connection, sometimes through meditation and prayer, often through life itself, nature, the body, relationship and creative expression.  Mystics and contemplatives both have an innate ability to see and be present to the world beyond this world and once encountered, mystics and contemplatives find ways to cultivate that connection through disciplined practice (again, sometimes in prayer, sometimes through other means).  While mystics and contemplatives are similar in this regard, there are a few things that set them apart.

Examples in the saints

The Catholic pantheon of saints provides the perfect exploration into the differences between mystics and contemplatives.  John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating and Catherine of Siena are contemplatives.  St. Francis, Hildegard of Bingen, Joan of Arc, Galileo and Teresa of Avila are mystics.  The former tend to stay in line with the Institution…..the latter tend to rock the boat.

Contemplatives vs. Mystics

Contemplatives (as compared to mystics) are well-behaved.  They are quiet and unobtrusive.  Contemplatives are content to sit and pray and trust and wait (for the most part).  Contemplatives gain the approval of the Institution.  They color inside the lines.  While speaking and living their truth, they don’t tend to rock the boat.  A contemplative would be more likely to earn an imprimatur and a nihil’obstat – the Vatican Good Housekeeping seals of approval.  Mystics, on the other hand, are a whole different story.  Mystics, by their very nature are sh..t-disturbers, they rock the boat, are not content with status quo and generally tick people off (those who find security in the status-quo anyway!).   Mystics also, tend to be a bit mad (aka crazy, insane, off their rocker…)….at least they appear that way to the general public and to those who maintain the current structure of power.  Mystics are not “normal.”   Mystics do not color inside the lines and they are certainly anything but quiet!  Mystics are loud.  Mystics make their presence known.  Mystics are unlikely to gain the approval of the Institution – in fact, they might seek to tick them off.  In fact, any mystic worth their salt has probably been called before the Inquisition to defend their crazy ideas….and some have been excommunicated or even killed for their truths, or at the very least, silenced.  (Galileo, Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen for example).  Some have survived the scrutiny of the Inquisition (Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, Martin Luther, ahem…Jesus!) and through their survival, initiated great reform!

Mystics are Reformers

Herein lies the other difference between contemplatives and mystics.  Whereas contemplatives may be initiating reform through their quiet, prayerful presence, mystics are living their call to reform OUT LOUD.  Like John the Baptist, mystics are the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”  Mystics are the prophets and visionaries who see our potential as human beings and work toward helping us achieve this potential, for this is the call of the mystic – to know God, to see God’s higher vision for humanity, and to invite (challenge) the world to become this vision.

So…..are you a contemplative or a mystic?

Posted in Faith, Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration, Mystics

Mystics and Superheroes

Mystics (or contemplatives, whatever name you call them) are the real-life version of a superhero.  In today’s blog, we explore the innate superhero powers of mystics and how this makes them better than even Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman or Iron Man.

Superheroes

Mystics

For the past week or so, I’ve been exploring the gift, the call and the journey of the mystic (aka contemplative).  We’ve explored their loneliness, their longing, their mission, their commitment and their call.  Today, I want to explore the greatest strength of the mystic and why I consider them to be the honest-to-god/dess, real-life version of a Superhero.  Superheroes are walking among us and they are housed in the body, mind, spirit and work of the modern-day mystic.

Superheroes

We know who the superheroes are.  BatmanWonder Woman.  Bat Girl. Iron Man. Superman Spiderman.  The Hulk.  Captain America.  Catwoman (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen Dark Knight Rising!)  and one for the kids:  The Powerpuff Girls.  🙂  In the immortal words of Mighty Mouse, superheroes “have come to save the day.”  Superheroes have been gifted with magical powers and/or magical gadgets which allow them to save the world from evil.  Superheroes are cool.  Superheroes rock.  And they have really cool costumes!  But, without their costumes, gadgets and magical powers, superheroes are just ordinary people with names like Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Barbara Gordon, Tony Stark, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Bruce (David) Banner, Steve Rogers and Selina Kyle.

Mystics vs. Superheroes

The difference between mystics and superheroes is that mystics don’t need costumes or gadgets, and their powers aren’t what one might call “magical.”  Mystics weren’t bitten by a radioactive spider, neither do they hail from the Isle of Amazon, and they certainly don’t have the magical crystal which births the Fortress of Solitude where they find guidance and direction from their deceased alien parents.  Instead, the mystic’s magic resides within the innate gifts that they were given at their birth, gifts that could be the possession of each and every human being, should they choose to use them.  But, like superheroes, the mystic’s innate gifts are given so that they might …save the day!

The Mystic’s secret weapon and super power

Mystic’s, while gifted in unique, individual and amazing ways to bring saving into the world, all have ONE GIFT in common.  It is this one gift that allows the mystic to be present to the human condition in such a way as to be a source of support, healing and inspiration for the world.  If I could choose one superhero movie to portray the mystic’s gift, I would choose the most recent Batman release – Dark Knight Rises.    But, it is not outfitted as Batman with all the padding and bionic supports that portrays the mystic’s gift, (warning spoiler alert) it is in the foreign prison where a very human Bruce Wayne, crippled and broken rebuilds his body and his mind, then works and works and works to escape “Hell on Earth,” the inescapable prison and succeeds through a literal leap of faith.  A very human Bruce Wayne used the most important super power of the mystic to accomplish his escape that that power is COURAGE and its sidekick, FAITH.

Courage and Faith

Courage and faith are the innate super powers born into every mystic because the mystic’s job is to dive deeply into the grit and grime of the human experience.  If one is to accomplish the mystic’s mission of saving the world, one needs to be willing to walk into the horrors and struggles of the human condition, one must be willing to experience one’s own pain and to be able to be present for others in their pain.  In this job of saving the day, the mystic has to walk into terrifying situations, to take dangerous leaps of faith and TRUST that all will be well.  And….as every mystic can attest….in the end, it always is.  And if the outcome of the path is likely to be death, the mystic also knows and proves that even in death, there is always new life.  (ahem….another Dark Knight Rises reference. 😉 )

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration

Loneliness and Longing

Flipping through my journal yesterday, I came upon a poem I wrote that was inspired by a line from Rilke, “You are the partner to her loneliness.”  The “You” to which Rilke is referring is God.  Here is my poem as it speaks to my own longing and the longing known by every mystic and contemplative in their spiritual search.

excalibur

Partner to My Loneliness

You are the partner to my loneliness.

Loneliness like the red-draped Excalibur eviscerating my soul in excruciating emptiness and pain.

Loneliness that is the longing that cannot be fulfilled

neither by coin, nor task, nor present company.

A longing that drives me to seek

beneath every shrub

under every pew

up on every shelf

around every corner

and through every door

. . . all for naught.

For the remedy to this loneliness is not to be found in the world of men,

neither is it to be found in my bed

nor in my mind

nor in the fleeting approval of others.

This longing is only fulfilled in you.

in the quiet recesses of my soul where life has cut a trail

made of the pain

of my unfulfilled hopes

and unsatisfied dreams.

It is only here, when wedded to you that I find my bliss

and know that I am home.

– 2013  Lauri Lumby

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration

The Mystic’s Mission

Today’s blog is a continuation of the work begun on Monday morning, Jesus came knocking at my door which then led to yesterday’s blog The Mystic’s Manifesto.  Today, we explore the job of a mystic, the reason we are here and what we are compelled to do.  And here’s a little music to accompany your reading, from one of my favorite group of mystics:  Kan’nal:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J2_1FT7wZE

http://kannal.org/
http://kannal.org/

Walking among you

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, you will find some of us mystics within the hallowed halls of sacred institutions, but more often than not, you will find us walking among you.  You will find us at the local coffee shops, library, art gallery, grocery store, gas station, book store, etc. etc.  We dress like you (most of the time anyway).  Some of us have real jobs.  We have partners and families and some of us are single. For the most part, we do a pretty good job of blending in with the rest of society, though there are some telltale signs that someone you know (or maybe even yourself) might be a mystic.

Seeing and feeling in a different way

One distinguishing characteristic of a mystic is the way we see and experience the world.  Mystics, unlike much of the world, see through the lens of potentials, possibilities, dreams, magic, wonder and awe.  Mystics are attuned to looking for God in all things and asking the question, “where is God in this?”  Mystics also feel the human experience in a very unique way.  Instead of just going through the motions of the human condition, mystics feel the heights and the depths of this experience, perhaps like no other.  The mystics are kind of a living barometer, forever measuring the sorrow, pain, joy and ecstasy of what it is like to be human.  While it often feels like a rollercoaster ride, there is a purpose to the living barometers that mystics are.  More about that in a bit…

Heretics, blasphemers, sh..t disturbers

The other distinguishing characteristic of a mystic is our ability to challenge.  Mystics are not made to be silent unless spoken to.  Mystics are not meant to be content with the status quo.  Mystics are not followers and good luck trying to tell a mystic what to do or how to do it.  Mystics follow their own path and as such are leaders in their own right.  Mystics are kind of like the Pied Piper, but instead of leading you to your own demise, we lead you to your truth.  Mystics confront and challenge.  We are the catalysts for change and transformation.  We compel the world to become its best self.  But in order to do that, we have to color outside the lines, dance naked around the bonfire and howl at the moon.  And if you look really closely, we just might have a magic wand in our hand and a broomstick in our back pocket.

Only the courageous need apply

One thing I will warn you about a mystic is that if you are content with the status quo, or afraid of your own truth….when you see one of us coming, you might want to run the other way.  One really weird thing about us mystics is that whether we want it to happen or not, by simply being in our presence, your truth will be stirred.  So…if you decide to spend time in our presence…BE FOREWARNED, your world will be rocked, your illusions confronted, your tightly held perceived safety will be nudged.  If you don’t want to live your truth or if it scares the crap out of you, spending time with a mystic might make you REALLY uncomfortable.  And if you don’t like the way we make you feel, I’m sorry for that, but we really have no choice in the matter.  It is just something over which we have no control.  And if it is too much to take, we mostly understand if you need to close the door and walk away.  Eventually, your truth will lead you to another mystic, and you will have an opportunity to choose again…and again….and again….until you are ready.  And if you’re not…that is ok too.  Because in the end, mystics have one purpose and one purpose only and that is to lead the world to love.

Leading the world to love

The real job of a mystic and the ultimate purpose of all this disturbing is to hold the world accountable to LOVE.   It is our job, first to know what love is (hence the inner barometer), then to challenge the world for its non-loving actions and to inspire the world to return to its origin which is LOVE.  As such, the ultimate job of the mystic is to embody love and to inspire the world to love….continually asking and challenging humanity with this question:  WHAT WOULD LOVE DO?  So, if we make you uncomfortable, if the truth stirring you feels painful, know that all it is really doing is leading you to a more authentic and deeper experience of love, for love is who you are and what you are called to be and to do and it is the mystics job to help you claim that love.  And the more who remember the love that they are, the more the world becomes loving in itself.  It is for this purpose that mystics exist and walk among us.

copyright 2013  Lauri Ann Lumby

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Raised Catholic

Mystic Manifesto

What does it mean to be a mystic in the modern-world?  What do we have that Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis and Clare didn’t have?  How are we called to be mystics in a world that often judges belief and faith to be frivolous and naïve?  As a contemplative, raised Catholic, trying to find my place, I often wonder….

Crue

4:30 wakeup calls

Just for the record, in no way, shape or form, do I boast about Jesus ringing my doorbell at 4:30 in the morning and paying me a little visit (see yesterday’s blog).  In fact, rather than tell the tale, I’d rather run into the darkest corner of the room and hide behind the couch or beneath the dining room table.  For you see, I’m the last person Jesus should be visiting.  I’m not a Jesus Freak.  I’m not a bible thumper.  I will never ask you to change your beliefs or inquire over whether or not you’ve been saved (mostly because I don’t believe there is anyone who is NOT saved).  I’m imperfect and flawed just like everyone else.  Yes, God is my Source, Jesus is my dude and Shekinah (the Holy Spirit) drives my purpose.  But other than that….I’m just plain Lauri.  I color outside the lines.  I listen to heavy metal music.  I have a few tattoos.  And I swear (kind of a lot).  But, for some strange reason, Jesus got planted into my heart and he keeps showing up.  So, what am I supposed to do but pay attention, listen and act…in most cases from a place of incredible insecurity and fear.

Mystics, Tramps and Thieves

Just a little play on words…..and a reminder that mystics (people who talk to God) are a strange and Motley Crue (another play on spelling).  While many are familiar with St. Francis and Clare who talked with God, Joan of Arc who was instructed by angels and saints, Teresa of Avila who had ecstatic experiences of the Divine…no one really talks about the mystics of today.  Who are we?  We are the weirdos who, even in the midst of the post-modern era, the supposed age of reason, with science guiding our steps, still talk to God.  But more than talking….we listen.  And how do we listen?  We listen through a deep dedication to our spiritual practice which may or may not look very traditional.  While my spiritual practice might look pretty traditional (a little scripture, some meditation and contemplation and maybe even some chant), the modern-day mystic is not limited by the trappings of institutions.  While there are mystics within the hallowed halls of sacred institutions….some of us are simply running amok in the street and in YOUR WORLD!  One mystic that I know hears God in nature.  Another in his art.  Another through her music.  Another through his encounters with people.

Being the Body of Christ

But even more important than talking and listening to God, a mystic is known in the way that they serve.  In most cases, you will not see us wearing a collar or a habit, but you might recognize us in the wide-eyed look of generosity shining back at you through our eyes.  What you might not know about mystics, is that we have no choice but to serve.  For service, you see, is the natural result of paying attention to God.  Once you open that door and let the flame of the Spirit in…..she sets you on fire…most especially your hands, heart and feet.  With the fire of God’s love aflame in our hearts, we have no choice but to share that fire in the world.  The mystic’s dream is to embody God and in doing so, to set the world on fire with God’s love…healing, transformation, empowering…and look out if you come anywhere near a mystic….because you can’t help but be compelled to seek your own inner fire and in doing so, finding yourself.

A Mystic’s Prayer

In closing, here is a beautiful poem by Rainer Marie Rilke which speaks to the Mystic’s call to serve…and what I might call the Mystic Manifesto:

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.

I want to free what waits within me

so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear

without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,

but this is what I need to say.

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back,

the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Practices

Shifting Perspective – Fear as a Gift?

Today’s blog is a follow up to yesterday’s blog about depression and the muse, specifically, the fear of rejection and how it reared its ugly head….but more importantly, how we are sometimes asked to shift our perspectives and see those things we are tempted to judge through another lens.

God has a sick sense of humor

Yesterday after posting the blog “Depression and the Muse”, two crazy things happened that reminded me of how truly sick God’s sense of humor is!  Just when I think I know what the heck is going on or when I dare to believe I have grasped a new level of understanding, God quickly turns the table on me.  When that happens, I am simply forced to laugh at my own arrogance and to be grateful that God is the one running the show and not me.

Point #1 – Walking on Eggshells

Yesterday I mentioned a poem that came out of my meditation class on Wednesday night.  Here is the text of the poem:

Walking on Eggshells

Love

Pounding on the door of my heart

 

Desperate in its wanting

To enfold you in all I have to give.

 

Free flowing

Without limit

Generous

Supportive

Presence

 

Instead,

I walk on eggshells

Afraid

That you’ll say no.

 When I saw these words flying out of my pen, I was sure I knew what they were pertaining to.  I thought I had it all figured out.  Piece of cake.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.  HA!   Then God showed me more.  After penning yesterday’s blog about rejection it suddenly dawned on me, this poem has NOTHING to do with what I thought it did (ok, maybe a little)…..rather, it had EVERYTHING to do with MY WHOLE DARN LIFE!   Walking on Eggshells in my work, my writing, in my relationships, in my play, in my recreation, in my social interactions…..WHY??????   Because I’m afraid they will say “NO”….no to me, no to my work, blah blah blah.  That darn fear of rejection suddenly became WAY BIGGER than I ever acknowledged it as being and it encompassed EVERY aspect of my life.  Dag nabbit!  Now what I am going to do?  Apparently I’m afraid of everything and everybody that might reject me and in response, I withold all the love that I am from the world and hold back in the free and generous sharing of my gifts and my talents.  What is wrong with me?????  The good news is that before I was tempted to know too much about this fear and how wretched a human being I am for being so dang afraid, God dropped the other F-bomb.

Point #2 – Fear as a Gift?????

Shortly after coming to the above realization, I was facilitating another meditation group and participating in the prescribed meditation activity.  I was using the following scripture passage as a mantra when God dropped the F-Bomb:

I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

As I was repeating the above phrase in my mind and allowing God to speak to me through these words, here are the words that God gave back to me:

Lauri,

Has it ever occurred to you that I have given you the fear of rejection as a gift?  I gifted you with your own unique way of perceiving your life experience and it is through the lens of rejection.  I gave this unique gift to you so that you would find ways to move through that fear and in moving through that fear, drawing closer to me, closer to yourself and closer to others.  And in doing so, you would experience healing and growth.  I then gave you the gift of transparency so that you would share these experiences with others so that they too could find the way through their own experiences of perceived rejection, draw closer to me, closer to themselves and closer to others.  Your fear of rejection is a gift, not the curse that you often perceive it to be and certainly not something to judge or condemn. 

Ok then, I guess in that I will let God have the final word.

NOTE:  If you find these blog posts to be helpful, consider subscribing to the Agape’ Meditation Newsletter.  With your monthly donation of $10.00, you will receive the weekly Agape newsletter which provides you:

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Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Herein Lies the Rub – The Spiritual Journey requires WORK!

Today’s blog explores the WORK that is required if we want to have peace, contentment, joy, love and fulfillment in our lives. 

Coffee with a Friend

Yesterday, I had a long overdue coffee with my friend and spiritual brother, Steve.  Steve and I have been friends and fellow sojourners for nearly 20 years.  While our temperments differ greatly, especially in regards to spiritual practice (Steve is a Christian Zen practitioner, my practice tends to be more active.), we are 100% alike in our commitment to our respective spiritual practices and our passion about the value of contemplative living.  As we sipped our mutual beverages of choice, we shared the ways in which our lives have been dramatically altered because of the commitment we have made to our spiritual practice.  As we mused on about the fruits of diligent practice and the many ways our lives have been enriched through contemplative action, we couldn’t help but wonder, “Why don’t more people practice meditation, contemplation and mindfulness?”  We nodded our head in mutual agreement when the answer presented itself:  “Because it requires WORK!”

Herein Lies the Rub

As Steve and I arrived at this conclusion, it answered the question that I have been struggling to answer for at least 15 years.  Since first learning the rich traditions of Christian Contemplation and realizing the benefits of this practice, I have sought to share these practices with others.  Those who have said yes by attending the classes and meditation gatherings that I have offered have experienced enormous benefit.  Many have gone on to embrace a daily, if not at least a weekly practice and have experienced the fruits of their practice – greater peace, increased fulfillment, a deeper experience of compassion and love and the motivation to serve.  The struggle for me has been to get more than just a handful of people to say yes.  And I have never understood why this is such a struggle.  Doesn’t everyone want more peace, joy, fulfillment and love in their lives?  Of course!  But, in order to have these things, we have to work for them.  And it seems that the hard truth is that we want these things, but we don’t want to do the work that is required to obtain them.

Peace, love and joy require WORK!

The common search among human beings is for fulfillment.  We begin that search by looking outside of us to people, money, material possessions, fame, power, etc.  We soon learn that even in the aquisitions of these things, fulfillment is fleeting at best. As all spiritual teachers have come to know and eventually teach is that the only way to achieve fulfillment is through spiritual practice (defined by me as any activity that helps us to connect with peace, love, joy, leads us to the knowledge of our gifts and compels us to nurture, cultivate and share these gifts in service to the world for the good of humanity.).  And just like any other goal, inner fulfillment requires WORK!  If we want to lose weight, gain strength, learn a task, we have to work at it.  Spiritual Practice is the same…..which is why it is called PRACTICE.  If we really want peace, love, joy, fulfillment in our lives, we have to WORK FOR IT!  We have to make a commitment to our practice and we need to STICK WITH IT.  This, in and of itself is probably enough to keep most people from even trying meditation, let alone making a commitment to it.

Our Greatest Fear

If making a commitment to the work isn’t hard enough, an even bigger obstacle to beginning and maintaining a contemplative practice is that which strikes the greatest fear in human beings.  And this is not the fear of death, but something we fear even more.  And that fear is:  CHANGE.  More than death itself, (and maybe public speaking), human beings fear CHANGE.  Being creatures of habit and seekers of pleasure, we enjoy the perceived security in familiarity and predictability.  And if there is one thing for certain about embracing a spiritual practice, you and your life will CHANGE.  Ah yes, the changes that you experience will all be for your highest good and it will all be for the better…..but as we all know, CHANGE is NEVER easy!  It isn’t easy to give up our compulsive behaviors, our control dramas, our attachments, our entanglements, our habitual behaviors and thought patterns.  Let’s face it, our inner critic, martyr, dictator, perfectionist, glutton, sloth, slave, victim, miser, performer, worrier, control freak, etc. etc. etc. serve us in some way.  Giving up who we have thought ourselves to be and the life that we have known is not easy and as we move along the path of spiritual growth, change is 100% guaranteed.

The Few,  The Brave, The Contemplatives

The realization of humanities’ resistance to change and reluctance to work invites a different tool for measuring the work that I do.  Which brings me full circle in yesterday’s conversation with Steve as we pondered the question, “How do you measure success in spiritual endeavors?”  As I have sought to share the gift of contemplative practice, I have been tempted to measure success using the traditional, capitalistic, Western model.  Numbers and money = success.  The answer, it seems is not in the numbers or in the money.  Instead, it seems that the measurement of success (if we can even use the word “success” in regards to spiritual work) is in a single life.  If a single person has grown in peace, released compulsions and fears, found comfort, support, healing, etc. then I have done my job.  The invitation for me then is to remember that it is only the few and the brave that will say yes and that my job is to let go of my attachment to the outcome, numbers, money, etc. etc. etc.   SIGH….And here is where I am invited to do more WORK!  🙂

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Agape Project, Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Practices

Excuses and Meditation Time Magic

Today’s blog, in anticipation of the Agape’ Project launch on Thursday, March 15, 2012, explores the number one reason people give for NOT meditation or engaging in a spiritual practice…..TIME!

The Number One Excuse

The number one reason/excuse people give for not starting, continuing, cultivating a spiritual practice (meditation, contemplation, prayer, body prayer, mantra, chant, etc. etc. etc. ) is TIME!   “I don’t have time.” “I’m too busy.”  “My work is all-consuming.”  “My family needs me.”  “I don’t have time….I don’t have time….I don’t have time.”  Right here….and right now….I am going to kick this excuse to the curb….and show you that not only DO you have time……..you can’t afford NOT to do it!  And know that I am not going to give you the self-righteous, “If I can find time….you can too” reason.  The reason I will give you is nothing short of miraculous and magical.  So, feel free to imagine that as I share this reason with you, I am waving my magic wand and the showering light of fairydust and Divine magic is floating your way.  😉

Meditation is MAGIC!

All those people out there who use TIME (or lack thereof) as their excuse for not starting or continuing a mediation practice do not know about the magical power of meditation.  In short, here is how it works:

When you give the first 10-30 minutes of your day to God, you get it back a hundred fold!

And I can tell you from personal experience, and from the feedback of experienced meditators…..This is ABSOLUTELY true!  I can’t explain why or how this works, but it does!  When we set time aside out of our “busy” lives in dedication to our spiritual practice, we get it back in droves!   Even more than that…..miraculous things begin to occur.  For example:

  • Solutions to problems fall into your lap
  • Creative ideas spark
  • The things that you need to be the person God made you to be miraculously show up
  • Synchronicities (aka God-cidences) start to show up…..you meet people that help you in your professional and personal journey, seemingly without any effort on your part and other such coincidences.
  • The opportunities for learning that you need in support of your life’s work come to you…again without much if any effort on your part.
  • You find the information you need to meet a challenge….again miraculously
  • You have more time in your life for the things you love
  • Time takes on a new quality and what used to take a long time to accomplish happens quickly and effortlessly
  • Life’s challenges become easier to handle and are accomplished more quickly

Again, I don’t know how this all happens…but it does.  It’s kind of like God says, “Ok, you’re going to give me part of yourself and part of your day……here is an extra 1000 minutes.”

Try it, You will Like it!

The great news is that you don’t have to take my word for it.   Try it yourself and see what happens.  Set aside 10-30 minutes out of your day to just be with God.  I like first thing in the morning, but honor your own bio-rhythms.  Choose a meditation practice to try (from the list I shared with you the other day, or from your own arsenal) and DO IT!  Listen to music.  Pray.  Meditation.  Contemplate.  Read and reflect on scripture, the sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, Rumi, Hafiz, etc.  Chant.  Write your own prayers.  Hold others in prayer.  The activity itself does not matter….what matters is the intent.  KNOW that whatever you are doing in those 10-30 minutes is your personal time with God.  (And for mothers with infants and toddlers, congratulations, you get two loopholes:  holding and loving your children counts as “meditation” when you offer that time to God…..and even better…..if you can get your husband to agree to watch the kids so you can pray…..you get that time back 1 million fold!!!!!   YAY……and here’s the frosting on the cake……if your husband helps to support your spiritual practice, he gets that time back 1 million fold too!!!!)

So, what are you waiting for?  Set aside some time for God and watch the magic unfold!  AMEN!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Agape Project, Gifts of Contemplation, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Why Bother with a Spiritual Practice?

Today’s blog explores the value of a personal, spiritual practice….and answers the great marketing question:  WIFM?  You will learn that you can’t afford NOT to cultivate a sound spiritual practice if you desire peace and joy in your life.   

Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

Jeremiah 17: 5-9

WIFM?  What is in it for me if I embrace a spiritual practice?

The first reading from today’s scripture pretty much says it all.  I don’t think I have read anything that more accurately describes the contrast between a life without spiritual practice and a life that is firmly rooted in meditation, contemplation, creative endeavors….anything that is directed toward knowing God and knowing ourselves.  When we give time to God in meditation, contemplation and prayer, life takes on a quality of ease, peacefulness, contentment.  We are able to be present to the ebb and flow of the human condition – facing adversity, challenge, loss with a sense of surrender and peace.  We are also able to celebrate the gifts of the human condition with fulfillment and joy.  When we do not have our lives rooted in spiritual practice, life tosses us about like a plastic bag in the wind and life feels like a barren wasteland….stark, depressing, blech.

Fruits of Contemplation

In the Western Contemplative tradition, these benefits of sound spiritual practice are referred to as “the fruits of contemplation.”   Teresa Tillson speaks of these fruits in an article she penned for the St. Olaf college website:

Jesus taught no specific method, but did regularly withdraw to be alone with God. The fruits of prayer described by Paul the Apostle are love, joy peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and purity. (Galatians 5:22-23). According to Thomas Keating, the fruits of centering prayer are freedom from self-centered motivation, action in service to others, a sense of interconnectedness with all creation, dis-identification with our self-image, healing of fear, conviction of our basic goodness, and capacity for union with God.

 The Way of Meditation and Contemplation by Teresa Tillson  http://www.stolaf.edu/people/huff/classes/religion/Essay.html

In short, spiritual practice is good for us.  It helps us to be happy and to find peace.  It fills us up, nourishes us, makes life palatable.  If it is so good for us, why don’t we do something about it?

All Good Things, Right!?

That is a really good question.  If spiritual practice is so dang good for us and centuries of teachers seem to know this, why don’t we do it?  The first answer is that maybe life hasn’t yet kicked our butt enough.  The second answer might be lack of motivation.  The third answer might be the illusion or false perception that ” I don’t have time.”  The fourth answer might be that you have never been given the tools or taught effective means of contemplation that SPEAK TO YOU.  Not everyone is called to silent meditation and the rosary doesn’t speak to everyone.  In the coming days and in support of the March 15th global launch of the Agape’ Project…..I hope to blast through some of the obstacles to spiritual practice, while providing you the tools and support you might need to either begin or further develop your existing practice.  Because more than anything in the world…..I hope for you to know the peace, joy and love that I have discovered through sound spiritual practice and to find those things for yourself.

If you do not have a daily spiritual practice……why not?

Where do you seek more peace, fulfillment, love and joy in your life?

How are you being called to deepen your existing spiritual practice if you have one?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com