Practicing Silence – Part 1

“Prayer as Crucible” is the name of a chapter by Sarah Coakley in a book entitled How My Mind Has Changed: Essays from the Christian Century. The book was edited by David Heim, executive editor of Christian Century. Sarah Coakley is a professor of divinity at the University of Cambridge and a priest in the Church of England.

Almost anything about prayer catches my eye these days because in about two months my novel on the subject will be published by an independent publisher.

Coakley describes her essay as “an account of how prayer—especially the simple prayer of relative silence or stillness—has the power to change one’s perception of the theological task.”  There’s something to roll around in your mind!

I agree with her understanding of the prayer of silence because this was my experience too. Like Coakley, I came to a quite deepened relationship with the divine through the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM). She calls her TM experience an “experiment.” Mine, which started in 1992 and has continued since, was more deliberate but the results have been similar. She writes, “the impact was electrifying.” I usually understate it as “the single most important thing I’ve ever done.” But I like her words that the prayer of silence has the power to change one’s perception of the theological task.

Of course this begs the asking of what the theological task is. If theology literally means “study of God” and is understood as meaning the study of the nature of God and religious belief, then the change in my perception that came about through TM was the realization that what I most wanted (to feel close to God) is not only possible but a gift God wants for me to have. Therefore, the theological task, as I see it, is falling into relationship with God.

Sitting in silence as a regular practice is the ticket.


Faith Is a Lifestyle

Mary Morrissey has a number of ways of being available to people. One of these is her blog (where the link leads) and another is a daily dispatch via email. Recently she published a “Daily Dream Builder” post on a T-shirt slogan she had seen: “Faith is a lifestyle.” Mary explained the slogan as “we put our believing mind toward possibility.”

While that is beautifully stated, it passes through a bit quickly. To me, the point is so important that it deserves a deeper look.

“Faith is a lifestyle” describes a way of being in the world that is defined by the decision to believe. It describes a relationship you have chosen to live within – whether you see that as a relationship between yourself and the Universe or one between yourself and God. It says that you will conduct yourself within a range of behavior and you believe that what’s on the other side of the relationship will also conduct Itself within a range of behavior. It says that you have chosen to trust in the Good. It says that when life seems rough, you choose to believe that ultimately some positive result will manifest itself and you are willing to wait and watch for that. It says that you have your role and however you define the larger Spirit also has its role, and the two roles together shape your life.

What do you think?


Advent / Awakening

Advent is a lot like awakening, with its sense of emergence and dawn, and the materialization of the good that we hope for. I have to admit that the seasons, both those of the calendar and those of the Church, often run right by me, and I don’t look up until they are about over. But Advent is different and I think it’s because of the promise of awakening – specifically, awakening to hope.

Exactly what we are awakening to, in this season of Advent, is really up to us. We can choose how we want to receive, what we want to emerge in our lives. As with many things, how much we get out of the season depends on how much we put into it. Perhaps the best approach is to think deeply about who we want to be, what we want to pull up from our spirits, how we would create the world that works for all of us.

Eckhart Tolle said, “There’s something in everybody that longs for that awakening to be more true to yourself.” More true to yourself is a euphemism for living from our spirits to be the people we most want to be.

Going the next step into the actual awakening is a process that grows naturally out of regular spiritual practices. The list of practices is endless, and many spiritual practices have already been discussed in this blog. Choose two or three that work for you and practice them daily.

Psalm 17:15 “And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”


Spiritual Practices – Surprising Possibilities

I’ve been listening to a CD of the Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL), Seattle, last August. Based in Canada, he’s the Spiritual Leader of the Centers for Spiritual Living. His talk in Seattle was about living in our purpose – but what most struck me were his comments on spiritual practices.

Dr. Gordon described spiritual practices as “vital” for living in purpose, but he quickly explained that he wasn’t necessarily talking about meditation or prayer or any of the usual things we tend to think of. Here’s how he defined spiritual practice:

“Whatever you choose to do: mowing your lawn, looking in the mirror and seeing yourself, playing with your children or your grandchildren – anything that awakens God within you, that can bring you back to the realization and the recognition that you have a vital purpose in this thing called life, that you play a part, and you’re part of a mosaic that is unfolding to the benefit and beauty of Eden itself.”

His phrase “anything that awakens God within you” is the best definition for spiritual practice I’ve ever heard, and it shows how wide the range of possible activities is.

It takes vigilance and a willingness to continually remind ourselves and to return again and again to the path of our purpose, said Dr. Gordon. And if we trade it away in order to “be right,” in order to fit in, in order to “have our level of pissedofftivity satisfied,” then we’re trading away our peace, abundance, joy, love, and light for the smallest thing.

If you have occasion to hear Dr. Gordon speak, don’t pass it up.