Persistence

September 8, 2020

Thomas Merton (Spiritual Direction & Meditation) talks of those who expect a deep emotional experience each time they sit to meditate. If that fails to happen, they feel dry.

Meditation, like its cousin prayer, requires the persistence to sit day after day in the practice. There are actually great benefits to that practice even if there are no peak emotional experiences. Both the meditator’s physical health and mental health are enhanced by slowing, pausing, and mindfully breathing.

I’ve seen many people searching for those peak emotional experiences. They show up at a church; then they quietly disappear. You see them later. “We just weren’t being fed,” they say.

There is a certain persistence required. Showing up. Doing the work. Being prepared ready to contribute.

Savoring and Absorbing the Word of God

September 7, 2020

Thomas Merton (Spiritual Direction & Meditation) speaks of meditating on Scripture–particularly the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures–and savoring and absorbing them.

This takes time. Even more time than the scholar or student picking up a commentary and dictionary and parsing through the words and grammar.

It involves reading a text many times. Then pausing. And reflecting. And reflecting upon your reflections.

One must not hurry through this process. This attitude is unlike that attitude of the young person recently graduated from university landing that first position who asks, “Will I be able to interview for CEO next year?”

To savor something means taking the time to enjoy each nuance of flavor as it turns over in the mouth.

To absorb means allowing time for the molecules to break down such that they can pass through the membrane and enter into the body.

Today is a holiday in the US. Traditionally this holiday is the transition day from the leisure of summer to the new working or school period of autumn. That makes it an excellent day to pause, savor and absorb the good things gleaned from this unusual year and look forward to a new season.

Art of Listening

September 4, 2020

Critical listeners dry you up. — Toru Sato

Becoming silent or quiet forms the beginning of listening. As the mind draws still and actions pause, a space forms allowing the other person to speak and be heard.

Those who are thinking during conversation in order to achieve the perfect critical response statement destroy the moment. It is lost. And the other, fearing another critical shot, dries up.

But creative listening, the sort of thing that springs from quiet, allows and even encourages the other to be themselves. With all the good and bad, the nice them and the angry them, the happy them and the discouraged them.

That listening opens the fountain within the other.

Thoughts prodded by reading from Two, One, None by Toru Sato.

Silence

September 3, 2020

On the patio at 6 am. Under the huge observant eye of a full moon. With Venus bright on my left.

In the silence where my mind can wander there is still sound. I can hear the traffic on Interstate 90 several miles away. The occasional car in the neighborhood. The morning birds soothing until the Sandhill Cranes begin flying toward their favorite bird feeder by the golf course across the road.

Out of silence comes creativity, love, wholeness.

Silence is a gift to be cultivated with the regularity of the sun and moon.

Quiet the mind periodically with the rhythm of the week or the day.

Find peace.

Sometimes We Think We’re Going Nowhere

September 2, 2020

Way back when Twitter was very new, I was at dinner with some executives of a leading process control company. A couple of us taught a VP about Twitter and signed him up. He tweeted just once. That is how I became one of the subjects of his only tweet, “I am having dinner surrounded by a bunch of idiots.”

Sometimes we feel like we’re in that song by Stealer’s Wheel

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

I wrote recently about listening with thoughts from Toru Sato’s new book, Two, One, None: Conversations on Meditations. The book is written as a long series of conversations, so it reads sort of like reading the script of a play. Kim and the reader (designated by 2<1<0 or two, one, none) are on a pilgrimage. Following a discussion of listening, Kim says,

I guess our presence is meaningful even if it feels like nothing is getting done.

Too often, especially for men, we feel that a conversation must lead to some sort of problem solving. Or that after listening for a while we are obligated to say something wise.

Sometimes we’re not stuck, just in the middle. Sometimes we are like one of the idiots at dinner just sitting there. Sometimes just being fully present with the other person is all that is required. Often that is better than words. But it can only be done with love and kindness.

Missing The Basic Command

September 1, 2020

Fear generates many other emotions. It is often the root cause of anger, hate, jealousy, argumentativeness.

Sometimes fear saves our lives. It gives that shot of adrenaline so that we can outrun danger.

Sometimes it is that deep unease that things are changing, that new people are moving in, that we may be losing jobs to other people, or that we’re hearing different languages.

This fear drives us to sow hate and discord and even pull out guns to shoot people.

The sad and unnecessary part is that so many of these people are self-proclaimed Christians. And they have failed to digest the most basic command we find in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures–Fear Not!

Jesus told his little band of followers that many bad things were going to happen to them, but “Fear Not, for I am with you.”

We need the giant economy size box of Fear Not today. And calm everybody down.

Be Kind

August 31, 2020

Be Kind.

Certainly the word of the year–or the word that we need to practice in a year of emotions pent up and then released by the unnatural order of things given the pandemic.

It’s the sort of release of tension certainly America has witnessed many times in its history. And the world has seen many times in the history of humans walking the earth.

Can you be kind when posting on social media? I’ve tried, and I think I’ve failed. How difficult it is to even try being kind on media.

I’m socially awkward. Even in speech I don’t always come across with the attitude I think I have.

How about you? Have you tried?

First, we must be kind to ourselves. It is really hard to be kind to others when we have not searched ourselves and forgiven ourselves and sought forgiveness.

Be kind to others. Small acts of service are always much appreciated. Referring to others as human beings rather than objectifying others as groups. I hear “the blacks” or “the French” or “the poor” or “the gays”. Remember all are humans and children of God. Kindness toward others begins with an attitude of non-violence and non-hatred and non-fear within us.

Be kind to nature. Treat the land and the plants and creatures upon it as creation of God and respect it as such. It is part of a deep attitude of kindness.

Be kind…

To Yourself,

To Others,

To the World.

Make that our spiritual practice for the remainder of this difficult year.

Listening

August 28, 2020

To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear. Mark Nepo (quoted by Toru Sato in Two, One, None: Conversations on Meditations)

It could be said that failure to listen is the sign of our times. But it could be said of the 50s and 60s–1850s and 1860s in America, that is. And also the 1840s when there was a considerable anti-immigration movement in America–against the Irish.

And again, I have searched the most ancient of human writing and find that the failure to listen is a human trait.

I don’t think that Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard ever talked of listening as a spiritual discipline. At least not a core one.

I argue that listening is indeed the precursor to spiritual disciplines. It must come before study, meditation, prayer, fasting, for that is what we are doing in those disciplines. And also in worship and service. How can one spiritually serve others and not listen as Nepo describes?

Want to begin to heal the divisions found today in many, many countries around the globe?

Try listening to others. Softly. Freshly. With a willingness to be changed by what we hear. Not necessarily to change our politics. Definitely to change our hearts.

It’s A Connected World

August 27, 2020

I missed a post yesterday. There was an event for media and analyst people, and they included me. Normally we’d be in a hotel conference or meeting room. Breakfast would be served from a buffet table in the hallway outside the doors. Coffee is sometimes plentiful. Breakfast was at 7 EDT, which meant 6 am for me.

I made my own breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and a slice of toast with direct trade coffee. Sat on my patio. And tuned in via the Internet on the newly popular Zoom.

The speakers were speaking from their living rooms or home offices from England, California, Boston, and several other geographically dispersed locations. Questions during the Q&A session were from Wisconsin, India, and other places.

With nationalism rampant in politics these days in many places (UK, US, Turkey, China, and more) business and technology continue to cross borders just like we read about in the Hebrew Bible in stories dating back 4,000 years.

Christians get caught up in the same fever of nationalism. Jesus died only for us in the [United States or fill in your own blank].

Remember that Paul said in Jesus there is no Jew or Greek. We are all the same. Men and women are all people. Americans and Chinese and Iranians and Nigerians (also fill in the blank) are all people, created by God, loved by God, and invited to live in God’s Kingdom.

I write this blog and a business/technology blog. After the US in terms of readership, the next largest group of readers on both blogs hail from Germany and China.

There’s politics, and then there’s Jesus. It’s OK to look out for the common good of your nation or city or tribe. But, we need to maintain our real focus on the greater kingdom–God’s.

When You Proclaim A Virtue While Hiding A Vice

August 25, 2020

I have been thinking about the early Christians. The ones from the time of the Pentecost at around 30 AD (or CE depending upon your tradition). As I read from the writings of the early apostles (Peter, Paul, James, John and so forth) and the writings that were used for teaching but not included in the “Bible”, I marvel at the searching for how to organize their lives in this new reality of the Kingdom of God.

For 300 years or so they struggled with spirituality and daily living and how to be true to this new faith.

There was the time I was shown how I am capable of all of the vices. It was a scary vision. But truthful. It’s enough not to put myself forward as the leader of some “moral crusade”.

Immediately afterward, I was shown the grace of God toward all people–every race, gender, skin color, age. That was the solution to realizing I was a sinner, but that grace is there for the asking.

We have in America another example of a fall. It should be a lesson to us of the sin of pride. And also to take care when we offer ourselves as an example of moral rectitude. When we think we are that good, we should ask what we are hiding.

I observe that it is difficult for a prideful person to ask for forgiveness, and doubly so for a prideful well known person to admit wrongdoing publicly and seek forgiveness from those who put faith in their leadership. How many examples will it take before we realize this?