Friday, December 15, 2006

Involvement with Others

The paradox about being in recovery is that many people describe themselves as inveterate loners. And yet many times a week these same people come together at meetings to discuss the healing they receive from being part of a support group. Not only that, they also describe how getting involved with helping those who are less fortunate and are involuntarily placed in hospitals, institutions or jails strengthens their spirituality. Today, I am coming to realize that a large part of my spirituality is involved with others. I was struck by Martin Buber’s eloquent words where he states: Creation is not a hurdle on the road to God, it is the road itself.. We are created along with one another and directed to a life with one another. Creatures are placed in my way so that I, their fellow creature, by means of them and with them, find the way to God.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Daily Mass

Since retirement more than 15 years ago, my mother attended daily mass. While part of the reason was spiritual sustenance, she also enjoyed socializing. She and a few of her friends would go after mass to have coffee and talk.

I benefitted from the prayers mom would request for me at mass. Health problems, job security, deaths in my wife's family and miscellaneous other intentions were offered for me at mass by my mother. I always felt comforted by the prayers of the faithful.

At eighty one years old, my mother's memory is not very good. Although she tells me she still attends daily mass, I've heard from her friends that she rarely does. After all the years of mass, I think she believes she really does attend. Today, at mass, my prayer intentions are for her.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Passionate Anxiety

The setting was Tassajara Zen Center during an inter-religious discussion between a Jewish rabbi and a Zen roshi. The rabbi, a former zen monk, recounted that after years of intensive Zen training he had a moment of satori. In the midst of Zen meditation he asked himself: "What am I doing here? I'm Jewish."

During a question and answer period, a man asked both rabbi and roshi this question. "What do you find lacking in the other religion?" While reluctanct to criticize another's religion, the zen roshi said that he felt Judaism lacked a monastic tradition. The rabbi said that Buddhism was very logical and had a strong metaphysical sense of cause and effect. However, he felt that in it's emphasis on detachment, it often became too observing and did not embrace a life of passionate anxiety.

I have often thought about the rabbi's reply and mark it as one of the reasons I began my rapproachement with Christian mysticism. While detachment has its place, it cannot be a steady diet for me. Often I am beset by either passion or anxiety or both. And meditation can help deal with emotional surges. However, I sometimes prefer how the Christian saints embrace their savior and hold on when the winds of change feel like it is going to blow down the house.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Platero and I

A friend of mine from Chile recommended a book titled Platero and I written by Juan Ramon Jimenez. Platero is the narrator's donkey and the book is a series of lyrical conversations with Platero.

Set in Andalusia Spain, it is highly descriptive of the natural world where time ambulates slowly. Jimenez paints a country side of fragrant gardens, merchants pushing their carts filled with taffy and balloons and puppeteers performing street theater for the small town children.

The narrator is in love with all that surround him and especially with his best friend Platero who accompanies him in his travels.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Critical Self Talk

Noticed I've been very self critical, i.e.: preoccupied with what I have not done, lack of notable accomplishments and the mundane location of my present life.

A sado-masochistic image flashes in my mind of a man on a leash, being pulled and him straining against it. At first I thought the man was resisting against his own best interests. But now I see it as the constant nagging and pulling of abusive self talk--come here, bad boy!!

Will begin noticing my thoughts and when bastardly self talk comes up: to let it pass, not entertain it. As Fr. Maximos said, treat thoughts as annoying flies and provide them no place to land.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Orthodox Christianity

I recently read a book titled The Mountain of Silence. It gave a beautiful portrayal of Orthodox Christianity. It is a mystical branch of Christianity that focuses more on praxis rather than doctrine: i.e., fasting, praying, chanting--rather than systematic structures of thought.

One simple Orthodox practice is repeating an abbrieviated version of theJesus Prayer (recently made famous by J.D. Salinger's story "Franny and Zooey").

"Christ have mercy."

To some, the prayer may seem disempowering--a Christian remnant that shames the pray-er where "have mercy" connotes begging or pleading for one's life.

However, to me it is beautiful especially when one considers the Greek root of 'mercy' (eleos) represents a soothing balm that is rubbed on a wound to comfort and heal.

Friday, July 07, 2006


One definition of vocation is where the world's greatest need meets one's greatest passion. I've been thinking about vocation all my life, mostly in a negative vein, as in why don't I have a vocation? Possibly it's because my greatest passion has no corresponding match with the world's greatest need.

And what is my passion: to pray, to meditate, to reflect. For over twenty years, I have done that sometimes with a belief that too much inward focus is narcissistic. I know that my reasons for spiritual seeking are straight forward. It is what I wanted and need to do.

Recently when I took time to meditate on vocation, I was surprised by what I felt was God's revelation. A gentle intuition told me I had been pursuing my vocation all these years. That my vocation was praying, meditating and reflecting. This is what God wants me to do.

But how does it meet the world's greatest need? I do not know and maybe I need not be concerned about someone else's definition of vocation. I believe it may be like the tree in my front yard whose pink flowers simply amaze me as I walk past. Or perhaps it is like my dog who barks and pirouettes when I walk in the front door, vigorously wagging its tail in friendly greeting. Both are pursuing their vocation with no idea of how it serves the world's greatest need.