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Archive for the ‘contemplation’ Category

Really interesting to be back at my old church last night. I went for a couple of reasons – principally because my friend (and my daughter’s Godfather) – Alan – is now the curate there. He was preaching and I haven’t had chance to hear him before now as there’s always a clash with our community gathering. He was good!

Anyway – it gave me an opportunity to reflect a little on my spiritual journey over the last few years since I was there. I’ve grown tired of expending negative energy and it’s not my place to judge others so that’s not what this is about. Nevertheless something helpful occurred to me.

It seems to me that many conservative forms of Christianity are predicated on the idea that God is always somewhere else. We are waiting for God to come to us and the problem to be overcome is how to get God to ‘show up’ – we have got to get closer to God or get God closer to us. And there are all kinds of ways we hope we might be able to go that.

I used to think like that too. But over the last few years there has been a seismic shift going on in my spirituality. Now I would say that God is always present. The problem then is not about getting God to come to us (and at this time of year we are particularly mindful of how the incarnation reveals God’s presence with us) but about waking up from our sleep and becoming mindful and aware of God’s already-present presence. The problem is not that God is not here, the problem is that we are not aware of God being here.

Spiritual practice helps deepen our awareness of God being right here, right now.

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I know Eckhart Tolle is a somewhat controversial figure – deemed dangerous by conservative Christians, a bit ‘new-age’ to others, and probably doesn’t lean deeply enough into any one tradition to satisfy purists – but I really enjoy his stuff. I think he is talking about contemplation but using his own language.

But we should be grown up enough to not require people to speak to us in the language we are used to.

Richard Rohr has written a short paper on Tolle which makes interesting reading. You can find it here. His main gist is that Tolle isn’t claiming to be a Christian teacher so we shouldn’t judge him as one. Tolle is teaching us HOW to see not WHAT we should see – he leaves that open. I think that’s a really helpful way of engaging with Tolle.

Anyway – I am half way through his latest book – ‘A New Earth‘ – and finding it really helpful. His main point (so far) is that what prevents us from really seeing reality as it is is the various constructs of the ego. And that our major task is to deconstruct the ego through developing awareness. This will allow who we really are to emerge. Our true nature is buried under layers of egoic mental constructs – roles etc.

As we go deeper in meditation and contemplation we will develop the ability to open up critical distance between our true and false selves and be able to step back and become more aware of the ego games we play. Tolle’s assertion is that such awareness will automatically dissolve the ego.

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watching and waiting

Advent is a season of watching and waiting. We watch and wait with John the Bpatist, Zechariah and principally Mary.

This speaks to me of contemplation. The goal of contemplative prayer is to make us present to the moment where we can encounter Christ. In fact it’s the only locus we can encounter Christ. Christ has come, and Christ will come again – the two great themes of Advent – but we need to watch and wait and encounter Christ in the present, in the NOW.

We are too often asleep, walking around in a daze, perhaps too stimulated to delight in the ordinary (HT R Rohr) and so we are not awake to Christ in the present.

Contemplative prayer should help us to watch and wait.

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