June 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 6)

Dear Friends ~ Since people have such diverse personalities and ways of engaging, it is good that there are likewise many paths to contemplation, many doorways into silence. Two practices that may be nurturing to some are watercolor painting and visio divina. Watercolor painting may seem at first glance like an art project for the grandchildren or a medium only for the fine arts. However, painting as a mindfulness practice can stop the mind from racing, help focus attention on the present moment, and allow one to listen— it can become an exploration for the soul. Watercolors do not yield easily to control—rather they invite play and observation. One can perceive the hue and texture of the colors, but it is the water that gives them movement, light and life; a bit like seeing ourselves as the paint and the Spirit as water. When you allow the dynamic interaction between paint and water to flow without constraint, shapes and images can emerge in unexpected and illuminating ways.

We must open our mind's eye much wider

To meditate is often to move through a land without paths. In the room where the philosopher is meditating there is less light, so you have to open your eyes wider. The same is true inside ourselves—There is less that is obvious or reassuring, so we must open our mind's eye much wider... Mindfulness ...means stopping to make contact with the ever-shifting experience that we are having at the time, and to observe the nature of our relationship to that experience, the nature of our presence at that moment.

~ from LOOKING AT MINDFULNESS: 25 PAINTINGS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU LIVE by Christophe Andre

Faith in our creativity

The recovery of faith in our creativity and in the artist within each of us and the artists among all of us is no small thing. It has to do with the rekindling of the spark of hope and vision, of adventure and blessing, that a tired civilization needs... If it is true, as Paul says, that "we are God's work of art," then everything we have said about art as meditation applies to the delight, wonder, admiration, surprise that God takes at our birth and continual unfolding.
~ Matthew Fox in ORIGINAL BLESSING

Finding a new soul

The new work of art does not consist of making a living or producing an objet d'art or in self-therapy, but in finding a new soul. The new era of spiritual creativity...and soul-making.
~ from THE WISDOM OF THE HEART by Henry Miller
The Wisdom of the Heart
By Henry Miller

When your Creative Self calls, go with it

In embracing creativity as a spiritual practice, we commend ourselves into the Creator's hands, knowing that our goal is to disappear. And when we do, we become one with all creation. The divine spirit dances us, it plays its music through us. We become the instrument through which the divine flows like a river. When your Creative Self calls, go with it. It is God speaking. Listen to your Creative Conscience, the voice of the divine guiding you each day. It resides in your heart: your true temple.
~ Lucia Capacchione in THE SOUL OF CREATIVITY, ed. by Tona P. Myers

Creative change begins in the heart

The Great Creator lives within each of us. All of us contain a divine, expressive spark, a creative candle intended to light our path and that of others. We are shiny, not tarnished; large, not small; beautiful, not damaged– although we may be ignorant of our grace, power, and dignity. The human being, by definition, is a creative being. Practicing our creativity is healing. The more we ground it and regularly access it, the better off we are. The "healthier" we are. Creative change begins in the heart. When we start within ourselves and move outward, expressing what we love and what we value, life gets better, we feel better, and the world gets healthier too.
~ from WALKING IN THE WORLD by Julia Cameron

Sacredness can emerge

When imagination is allowed to move to deep places, the sacred is revealed. The more different kinds of thoughts we experience around a thing and the deeper our reflections go as we are arrested by its artfulness, the more fully its sacredness can emerge.

~ from CARE OF THE SOUL by Thomas Moore

A spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. The mind that responds to the intellectual and spiritual values that lie hidden in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music, discovers a spiritual vitality that lifts it above itself, takes it out of itself, and makes it present to itself on a level of being that it did not know it could ever achieve.

~ Thomas Merton in A THOMAS MERTON READER ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell

Religious, sacred, or nothing

Any work of art is ultimately an entry-point into the transcendent, revelatory of not only subtle, but celestial beauty and power; and if the given work is not so, it cannot properly be called art at all...All works of art, in other words, are religious, sacred, or nothing.
~ from THE EGYPTIAN MYSTERIES BY Arthur Versluis
The Egyptian Mysteries
By Arthur Versluis

A work of art opens a void

A work of art opens a void, a moment of silence, a question without an answer, provokes a breach without reconciliation where the world is forced to question itself.
~ Michel Foucault, as quoted in ART AS A WAY OF LIFE ed. by Roderick MacIver
Art as a Way of Life
By Roderick MacIver

God's Moment

God's Moment
The desire
of your heart
awaits
The quiet
moment of
creative love.
With courage
step into
silence.

~ Mary Ellen Robertson

A way of awakening

A contemplative practice is any act, habitually entered into with your whole heart, as a way of awakening, deepening, and sustaining a contemplative experience of the inherent holiness of the present moment. The critical factor is not so much what the practice is in its externals as the extent to which the practice incarnates an utterly sincere stance of awakening and surrendering to the Godly nature of the present moment.

~ from THE CONTEMPLATIVE HEART by James Finley
The Contemplative Heart
By James Finley

May 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 5)

Dear Friends ~ I shall now expose myself for the fraud that I am—I know nothing about prayer, have no attention span, no disciplined prayer practice, and often struggle with depressing periods of doubt. I veer from "Here am I Lord. Forgive my unbelief," to queasy periods of anxiety or guilt when I think I should pray or fear not to pray, to longer spells of hurrying through life distracted and forgetful. Perhaps if I lived where I heard the muezzin call for prayer five times a day or where monastery bells rang to mark the hours—would that make a difference? It's a good thing that we are loved all the same. As Anne Lamott says, perhaps it is enough to say, "Help. Wow. Thanks." Just as flower blossoms emerge on tree limbs that were in winter stark and bare, so too can hearts try once again to open themselves toward Light. It's not too late...

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The inner connection of the heart

In our busy lives it is so easy to forget the Divine, to be immersed in our own problems and our own selves. The mystic knows that what really matters is the inner connection of the heart in which our heart opens and cries. It is something so simple and yet so easily overlooked. Prayer is a way to be with God.
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

A Hasidic saying

Do not think that the words of prayer as you say them arise to God. It is not the words themselves that ascend; it is the burning desire of your heart that rises like smoke toward heaven.
~ a Hasidic saying

A quite warm and tender place

Today my prayer consisted in simply going to my heart and remembering all the folks I've stored there. It is not cold storage. It is a quite warm and tender place.
~ Sr. Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Rest, my dears, in prayer

The sun hears the fields talking about effort
and the sun smiles,
and whispers to me, "Why don't the fields just rest, for
I am willing to do
everything
to help them grow?"
Rest, my dears, in prayer.

~ St. Catherine of Siena
Catherine of Siena
By Sigrid Undset

The art of communion

The human heart is a capacity for God. Prayer, then, is the development of the art of communion. We are called to develop the disciplines required for loving and open communion with God, the world, others, and ourselves. We need to recover the art of communion and so recover the universe as God's, and rediscover our roots in God, in the world, in one another, and in our inner selves.
~ Rachel Hosmer and Alan Jones

I draw prayer round me

I draw prayer round me like a dark protective wall, withdraw inside it as one might into a convent cell and then step outside again, calmer and stronger and more collected again.
~ Etty Hillsum

The prayer of the heart

Real prayer penetrates to the marrow of our soul and leaves nothing untouched. The prayer of the heart is prayer that does not allow us to limit our relationship with God to interesting words or pious emotion...the prayer of the heart is the prayer of truth.
~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

The function of prayer

The function of prayer is not to establish a routine; it is to establish a relationship with God who is in relationship with us always... The function of prayer is to bring us into touch with ourselves, as well. To the ancients, "tears of compunction" were the sign of a soul that knew its limits, faced its sins, accepted its needs, and lived in hope.
~ Joan Chittister

The superior rhythm

"Only those who obey a rhythm superior to their own are free," wrote Kazantzakis. The superior rhythm is the one made by God and whispered into us at the time that we were whispered into being. It is a rhythm based on the light and darkness of the day itself...a rhythm that supports all of our lives— prayer, rest, community and work. We are called to live lives that are shaped and nurtured and wrestled with until they become a prayer that is prayed without ceasing. To do that will require a rule of some sort, even if it is The Rule of Saint Whatever-Your-Name-Is.
~ Robert Benson

Prayer is sitting in the silence

Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, praising God until we ourselves are a constant act of praise.

~ Richard Rohr

The empty garden is full

We meditate in the library's garden, desolate in winter. We shiver but aren't in a hurry... After a while I feel more rested, and strangely fortified, too, as though by a company of unseen helpers, wise ones who know what it means to live with a heart as open as a clear blue sky, as passionate as the summer sun, as patient as rain on rock. How I want to live that way. A Zen saying burrows into my quiet, becomes a prayer: "May I walk hand in hand with you, ancestors, the hair of my eyebrows entangled with yours." The empty garden is full.
~ Phyllis Cole-Dai & James Murray

Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God

Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at God's disposition, and listening for Love's voice in the depths of our hearts.
~ Mother Teresa
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