Posted in Gifts of Contemplation, Inspiration, Jesus, Mystics, Spiritual Practices

Just Sit! Guest Blogger Steve Makar

When gathering contributors for this series on mysticism and the contemplative life, I couldn’t NOT ask one of my dearest friends and trusted companions on the spiritual path.  Steve and I have journeyed together through the twists and turns of life including marriage, divorce, children (I am honored to be the godmother of his son), ministry and just plain stuff.  I am grateful for all the ways Steve has been a source of support for me in my life and ministry and he, along with the woman he loves, hold a very special place in my heart.  Thank you Steve for your characteristically Zen conciseness.  I admire how you can say in only a few words what it has taken me a lifetime to express!  I love you brother!

Just Sit: Reflections on the Contemplative Life, from a Male Perspective

Makar_Stephen_2011_picture

Christian Zen integrates Zen Meditation with Christian Contemplation. In this practice, men and women are invited to “be still and listen” (Psalm 46). One form of stillness in Christian Zen is sitting meditation (zazen). For me, the diligent practice of zazen offers insight into why it is important for me to practice sitting meditation. It helps me to remember my true nature, and live accordingly.

What is this true nature or “Big Self?” Are there male and female dimensions of Big Self? My short answer: I do not know. I can, however, offer some reflections on the contemplative life from a male perspective.

The heart is of primary interest in my Christian Zen practice. It is the “hearts of men” that Jesus emphasized. Similarly, the “Heart Sutra” is a central teaching in Mahayana Buddhism. In the stillness of sitting meditation is a spaciousness that allows gratitude and compassion for my male experience.

As a son, my heart aches when I sit with the joys of spontaneous play; the adventurous exploration of the deep woods, and the carefree flow of an aimless day.

As a father, my heart aches when I sit with the love of my son, and reflect on the teaching that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).

As a partner, my heart aches when I sit with the great souled desire for intimacy, and the mystery of solitude greeting solitude.

And when the ache within the aches becomes too great to bear, I let go and just sit. I let go of my need to win, and to be right, and to have more, and even to understand. As I let go, I return to the moment.

May you listen with loving attentiveness to the present moment. May you remain at peace, free from unnecessary suffering.

May you practice steady beginner’s mind, and see things as they are. May you awake to your true nature, and live accordingly.

Meta.

Steve Makar has been a student and teacher of the integrative practice of Christian Zen for more than 10 years. With a PhD in accounting and international economics, he also integrates the solitude of research with the ministry of teaching. Steve is a father of a teenage son, and partner with the woman he loves.

Posted in church, Raised Catholic

Where Have All the Catholics Gone? Part II

Today’s blog continues the discussion about the 42.7 million people who still identify themselves as Catholic, yet no longer participate in the Church.  Today’s discussion explores where they might be and includes those who were raised Catholic but no longer identify themselves as such.  PS  I’m probably going to get a little “up in my ego” on this one……so I acknowledge this ahead of time.  I’m still human afterall.  🙂 

Why They Left and Where They Went

The last two blogs explored the why’s of the Catholic exodus:  change in priest, Church teachings, bad liturgy, sex abuse scandals, told they weren’t welcome, etc.  Today I will share with you my theories on where the Catholics went.

Evangelical, Congregational and Unitarian Churches

It has been my observation that when Catholics leave, they don’t normally trade Catholicism for something that looks similar such as Anglican, Lutheran or Methodist.  While I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, Catholics who are liturgy inclined, are more likely to seek out a worship experience different from what they have known.  For those who are in search of vibrant worship, uplifting music, motivational preaching and who want to know more about scripture, they might find themselves drawn to Evangelical and Non-Denominational Christian churches.  The Congregational Churches draw the Catholics looking for community.  And for those Catholics who are kind of done with the whole “God” thing, and are looking for something more embracing of all practices and beliefs, the Unitarian church might do it for them.

If You Want to Learn More About Scripture and how to Know Yourself and God through Scripture, click HERE. 

Wicca/Neo-Pagan

Did you just fall out of your chair?  It is really true……the majority of people I know who are currently practicing Wicca were raised Catholic.  And if you know anything about Wicca, it is an easy transition from Catholicism to Wicca for many reasons, not the least of which is polytheism.  As much as the Institution would quake in its shoes to hear me say this, Catholicism is about as polytheistic as it gets.  No, the teachings and theology of the Catholic Church are not polytheistic – professing One God (oops….in three!).  🙂  But let’s get real, in practice, Catholics worship many “gods”.  Yes, these “gods” are cleverly disguised as “Mary and the Saints” but who do we think we are fooling?  I know, I know, we aren’t worshipping Mary and the Saints and we really do only believe in ONE God, but our practice of honoring the Communion of Saints and having altars to our favorite saints, wearing their medals, hanging their pictures in our home,  saying novenas to them, etc. etc. etc. is no different than the practices we judge as polytheistic from our Wicca or Hindu or Pagan brothers and sisters.  So let’s pull the splinter of the true cross out of our eye before we yank the broomstick out of our Wicca brother and sister’s eyes.  The other reasons Catholics gravitate toward Wicca are rituals and sabbats.  Wicca rituals look a lot like ours and their holidays…..well, let’s just be really honest here and admit that we stole our holidays from THEM!  Check your history books if you don’t believe me!

Buddhism

For many Catholics, their true heart resides in contemplation.  The problem is, they don’t know it and the Church hasn’t done a good job of helping them identify or find this within their own faith.  So…….for many of these Catholics, the restlessness that drives all of us to our truth, causes them to seek the remedy to this restlessness and for many, instead of finding the remedy within the rich tradition of Christian Contemplation, find it in the contemplative practices and philosophies of Buddhism.  Here, they find the DIRECT EXPERIENCE of God, (known in peace, contentment, love and joy)  that they found elusive in their experience of Catholicism.  Buddhism is also an easy resting place for those who have had trouble with the negative images of God sometimes propogated by the Church.  In Buddhism, there is no sense of a “personal” God.  Instead, it is described as Essence or Presence – something transcendent, but not separate from us, something that is part of us and it our truest self, highest self, truest nature.  HMMMMM…..sounds a little like Jesus’ teachings on Oneness.  🙂

If You are Interested in Learning More About Christian Contemplation and Jesus’ Teachings on Oneness, click HERE. 

Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong

One HUGE thing that has been neglected in Catholicism is the spiritual nature of our physical bodies.  Our bodies house our Spirit and are therefore sacred, holy, amazing.  In its attempt to demonize physicality, the body has all but been neglected or worse yet, effectively destroyed.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, Dance, SEX, allow us to rediscover the intimate relationship between physical movement and God.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qong, etc. allow Catholics to fill an ENORMOUS gap in their religious/spiritual experience.  Sadly, the Institution hasn’t been very supportive of these practices and in some cases have tried to dissuade Catholics from participating. If you have found yoga to be supportive in your search for inner peace and your priest tells you it is evil, how are you going to respond?  Hmmmm…..I’m thinking some might decide to leave, especially if their experience of Church isn’t providing them with the same kind of spiritual fulfillment.  Just sayin’!

New Age Groups, gatherings, on-line communities

Several years ago the Vatican published a document on the New Age Movement.  In short, they don’t like it and in the document condemn many of what they are calling “New Age” practices (Eastern meditation practices, hands-on healing, yoga, meditation, among other things).   The New Age Movement is drawing many Catholics away from the Church because it meets the needs that are not being met in the Church.  DUH!  And this is where I get to do a little of my own pontificating……What would happen if instead of condemning the New Age Movement, the Vatican took the time to explore WHAT in the New Age Movement was drawing Catholics and offer these things in their own communities.  Because I’m here to tell you that whatever we are finding in the New Age Movement exists within our Catholic Tradition.  It is just that nobody bothered to teach us and show us how we could get the very same needs met within our own Church.

If you are interested in learning more about the connection between “new age” energy medicine and Jesus, click HERE

Isolated and Alone

This is the group of non-practicing Catholics for whom I feel the deepest level of grief.  These are the folks who were told they weren’t welcome or felt as if they were not accepted by their Church and who have been unable (or unwilling) to find supportive and accepting community elsewhere.  So, they sit home, alone and unfed.  This makes me sad.

If you were raised Catholic and no longer attend mass, why not?

What spiritual and communal needs are you finding satisfied outside the Catholic Church and where are you finding them met?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in About Lauri

Shameless Self-Promotion – Part 1

It is time for a little shameless self-promotion.  As I explore my own giftedness, I invite you to explore your own!


There comes a time in every self-employed, professional’s journey when we must wave the flag of our own greatness, or our businesses would never get off the ground, and those that could benefit from the sharing of our gifts would never have the opportunity to enjoy those gifts.  Today is one of those days.  The invitation for me today to wave the flag of my own magnificence brings to mind the words of one of my teachers, Julie Tallard Johnson, “You each have your own unique medicine and there are people out there just waiting to receive it.” It is to those folks that I pen today’s blog. 

As you probably already know, I am a trained, professional Spiritual Director and Reiki Master Practitioner and see clients in person, via Skype and over the phone for these services.  What you might not know are the things about my education, training and background that make me unique in the field of holistic healing, personal growth and transformation:

  • I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, studied Catholic/Christian theology and spirituality for seven years and worked professionally in the Catholic Church for 10 years.  As such, I bring a sensitivity to issues related to being raised Catholic.  Many of my clients are men and women who have been raised Catholic and are trying to find their own truth in the midst of what they were taught.  Some clients are trying to recover from the guilt and fearful images of the Divine that sometimes come with being raised in this tradition.
  • As part of my studies in Catholic/Christian spirituality, I learned ancient spiritual tools and practices not readily accessible to most Catholics or Christians.  These traditions have been carefully guarded by monastic communities and have been part of the Christian tradition for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, but not shared with the average Joe or Jill in the pew.  When practiced diligently, these tools help to facilitate profound spiritual growth, healing and transformation.  The focus of my work has been to make these tools available to EVERYONE!
  • Along with my studies in Catholicism, I have studied and enjoyed the practices of many other traditions: Buddhism, Paganism, Wicca, Hinduism, Yoga, Zen, etc.  Exploring and learning from these traditions has taught me to look for the places of connection between all the world religions and spiritual traditions, something I have brought into my own practice and have incorporated into my writings, my curriculum development, my program facilitation and retreat work.
  • In addition to studying and practicing Reiki, I have studied Chi Qong and Chinese Medicine.  Knowledge and experience in these fields of energy medicine have enhanced the work I do as a Spiritual Director and teacher.  All of the classes I teach incorporate this knowledge and experience.
  • Oh yea, and I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Iowa and 10+ years of corporate experience in sales, management and marketing.

So, there’s my professional resume in a nutshell.  This is for your knowledge and if you know any of those people just waiting for the “medicine” that I have to offer, I invite you to share this blog and website with them.  I also invite you to take some time today to reflect on the education and experiences that have contributed to your own unique medicine.  How has this made you special and unique?  When was the last time you took the time to wave the flag of your own unique magnificence?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries/yourspiritualtruth

http://yourspiritualtruth.com