Archives for posts with tag: contemplative prayer

 

self

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am not just talking about “personal hygiene” here—-or even “mental hygiene” as the Veterans Administration folks used to call it. I am talking about steps that need to be taken for the miracle of recovery to occur. I cannot count the times I have heard people talk about the importance of completing AA’s 4th step in supporting recovery. This step involves taking a self-inventory. There are a variety of ways to work this step; many old-timers are “big book thumpers”  who insist it has to be done exactly as outlined in the “big book.” Personally, I think each person needs to find a way of working this step that works for him or her, and I tend to think it is as important to look at assets as it is defects.

After this inventory is completed the person working the steps is expected to talk it over with another human being and to eventually “make amends” for the past wrongs that were identified. Sadly, in terms of acknowledging wrongs done and making amends, the person working the steps is the one most often overlooked. I believe it is essential for both the inventory and amends to include both the harm done to oneself and forgiving oneself.

I just finished reading a meditation for the second time today. I want to share part of it with you. It is from John Kirvin’s Where Only Love Can Go: A Journey of the Soul into the Cloud of Unknowing (1996, pp. 122-123, Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press). This particular book is a book of meditations based on a book written anonymously in the thirteen hundreds. Text from this ancient book is still used today as one of the basic cornerstones of contemplative prayer.

One of Kirvin’s selections from this ancient text  addresses how we must start our spiritual journey by “cleansing our consciences, and enduring the pain of restoring creation to its proper place in our lives” (p. 122).  It basically says that those of us who have sinned will have a harder job of it, but that “God gives his  grace in a special way to the least of us and to the amazement of the world ” (p. 122).  It points out that many honored in this life will be pushed aside on judgment day while “some who are now despised and considered of no spiritual worth will take their place with the angels and saints.” It ends by admonishing us to “Judge no one in this life, least of all yourself” (p. 123).

Both anonymous works (The Cloud of Unknowing and AA’s big book) stress the importance of self-inventory and conscience cleansing. However, not judging yourself is not emphasized in the big book, and, in my opinion,  doing so is essential for true recovery to begin and to continue. Most of my professional life has focused on two things: teaching mental health nursing and promoting recovery in women who are alcoholics and addicts. Time and time again, one of the major obstacles women often encounter in their recovery journey is the difficulty they have in forgiving themselves. Our culture and most of our religious teachings does not stress the importance of self-forgiveness. But forgiving ourselves is an essential component of being able to begin to love ourselves as God does. After all,  if God through his grace can forgive us, who are we to question his judgment?

Enough said. Just because I am obsessing about a particular topic, it is not fair for me to keep going on and on about it. I hope your spiritual journey includes. self-forgiveness and a growing self-love. I am still working on it  one day at a time myself—–even after over thirty two years of recovery. May God bless and keep you.

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Potter Earth

Image courtesy of  dan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mud on the Floor

Today’s quote:

“The early Native Americans did not believe in an afterlife, at least not in the Christian sense of souls living eternally in heaven or hell. However, they did believe strongly in immortality. When we die, they believed, our souls leave our bodies and enter a spirit world where they freely communicate with the spirits of other living things that have died throughout the history of the universe, plants and animals included. The only way souls could enter this spirit world was to become part of the earth, the ultimate place of origin. In Listen to the Drum, Robert Blackwolf Jones writes: “We are all born from Mother Earth and return to Mother Earth. The next time you get mud on your carpet, therefore, don’t panic. You’re just looking at yourself in the mirror before your time.”

Shimer, Porter (2004-09-01). Healing Secrets of the Native Americans: Herbs, Remedies, and Practices That Restore the Body, Refresh the Mind, and Rebuild the Spirit (pp. 28-29). Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Yes, that is mud on the potter’s hands in the photo. Perhaps it is all the mess my dogs have  tracked in  today every time they come back in from being out in all this snow, but today’s quote about mud being a reflection of ourselves really caught my eye.

Native American spiritual beliefs have always resonated with my soul. The above quote, however,  would have triggered a bit of anxiety in me were I to have read it in the past when I was younger and clinging desperately to the fundamental Christian beliefs I heard preached from the pulpit every Sunday.

During my spiritual journey of the past thirty years, I have come to believe in a “spiritual reality” which co-exists simultaneously as a parallel reality with physical reality. When I free my mind from the confines of physical reality by meditating, participating in centering prayer, or participating in a Native American sweat lodge, my mind directly connects with spiritual reality. I have learned that reality is always there;  I just need to be still, turn my “busy mind” off, and open up to an awareness of it. I am learning in centering prayer that the spirit of God is within me as well as surrounding me, and when I am able to focus my mind on consenting to that loving presence, I willingly enter God’s spiritual reality.

I believe all religions have their own way of knowing and seeking God—and of experiencing spiritual reality.  Somehow I find comfort in the humor of Blackwolf Jones; it is amusing to realize when I look at mud I am looking at a mirror-like reflection of myself from a different point on the continuum of time. The study of contemplative prayer is teaching me that God has no concept of time. God is “I am”…now, not yesterday, and not tomorrow, but eternally. I doubt God would have any trouble at all recognizing me in any form, be it mud or flesh and blood,  because I know it is my spirit that shares God’s eternity with him and not the package that houses my spirit.

Enough. You probably think by now being snowed in by the “winter storm of 2013” has gotten to my mind and caused all coherent thought to flee. Maybe it has. Leaving the confines of reality as I’ve known it so I can more consciously connect with God’s spiritual reality doesn’t scare me anymore. I have an eternal place in God’s spiritual reality—-one that is independent of the boundaries of time, space, and shape.

Please comment and share your thoughts about your experience of spiritual reality. Stay safe and warm. May God bless and keep you.