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Archive for the ‘Practical Spirituality’ Category

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“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God.”

In this way, King David in 2 Samuel 7:18-29 prays to God in gratitude. He does so mindful of the many blessings of God in “ building” his house.

David’s prayer reminds us of the centrality  of gratitude and infinite perspective as we travel down finite temporal roads. He turns his gaze, as have so many before and after him, towards the greater Goodness that lies behind the ephemeral and the tangible.

A deep and abiding tenderness is a perpetual ocean beneath the passing times with all its fads, fuss, clamor and distractions. It is good to start the day as did David, reminding oneself of the inner Life that knows no evening and the Sun which never sets.

St. Francis saw Christ in every creature under heaven. He saw well beyond the surface details. I pray I might always remember to dance as did he within the enthused and spirit-filled communion of my sisters and brothers.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Hello.

…… Are there still facts out there?

Sure, don’t you think?

If what’s real is called “fake” … it’s still real, no?

If I see a tornado coming my way and Fox News says it’s fake,

will it not still suck up cows and barns and me all the same?

Seems sometimes that truth is dead. I feel it.

We get all spun up in this big centrifuge of misdirection.

But, my friends, it’s all a sleight of hand.

Prestidigitation! PT Barnum sucker stuff …

A mischievous shell game played by the powerful ….

… to silence the 6 in 10 majority.

Ok, sad to say it’s true, 1 in 5 are in the market for humbug!

And they always will be.

End times?

Maybe, or maybe it’s all nothing new ….

….. well, there is all that middle of the night Twitter- babble coming from the White House …

I envision the future book writing of our times: “ When Twits took to Twitter and made a virtue of Crazy”!

Grab a latte and say a prayer.

Reach for the soothing cannoli ( well maybe just half).

It’s a “tale as old as time, true as it can be”…

Plato’s Cave dwellers are still mistaking shadows for what cast them;

And, as ever,

… they are gunslinger-ready to ridicule and kill the fact talkers

… with the audacity to blind them with too much light!

So, Cappuccino in hand, I cling to the fact that there are facts.

I write this. You are reading this.

Just like that.

Simple.

Ain’t that Refreshing!

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Knowing

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There are few more powerful tools than incisive questions to instrument the peeling back of the pancaked layers of assumption and thought, opinion, feeling and images that frame our reality.

Living in a good question is far more important in fact than formulating an answer. The best questions orient our consciousness to be perpetually alert for subtle showings that reveal the roots of our own motivations. The point of all our spiritual exercises is revelation of the truth and the ” higher Self” otherwise obscured by ego and the constructed self (complete with the wardrobe of masks we wear for different situations).

Each day we add to our treasury of meaning as we amass new experiences. Without provocative inquiry, automatic thoughts define our worlds and we are too easily swept away by prevailing currents, or dominant unthinking narratives. Without rich inquiry, we are just so much flotsam adrift on wild seas.

Examens of consciousness have their history especially in the thought and practices of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Using our imaginations, we are invited to turn the tables on our own thinking, placing us in a better position to see what we otherwise are quite likely to miss ( whether intentionally or unintentionally).

My Examen today revolves around vanity:

τ In what one particular way is my heart consumed with appearances and worry about being judged acceptable by others?

τ What one moment stands out today because I was truly authentic and, in contrast, when was I least authentic?

τ What do I imagine Christ would say about these moments?

As a Franciscan and student of philosophy, I am in full agreement with Plato that the  “unexamined life is not worth living.”

The teachings of Jesus are, without exception, invitations to routinely and energetically examine ourselves so that God’s intent for us shines brightly. In doing so, we come to know perfect joy and are liberated from the prison of Self ignorance and spiritual blindness.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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I do love those mornings when ground fog obscures one’s ability to see very far. I recall an occasion several years ago when traveling on business early one morning in the Napa Valley. I was on my way by car to the Sonoma Cutrer Winery where I was to facilitate a session on leadership. On approach, the ground fog lay heavy on the vineyard, casting it all in an eerily mysterious glow as the early dawn sun illuminated the clouds.

I was literally arrested in place, overcome by the beauty of the scene. I recalled such a scene in the movie, “A Walk in the Clouds,” in which Keanu Reeves plays a kind stranger who stumbles upon a vineyard and falls in love with both the place and its owner’s daughter. One particular scene had ground fog just as I was seeing it – a mesmerizing display that evoked the most tender of emotions.

What does the ground fog teach? Why was I so touched by it that I had to pull the car over, get out and just bathe in the mist, almost tasting it, feeling totally present and blessed? Recently, I was again treated to such a scene and it brought back all of this.

As I’ve reflected and prayed on these connected moments across many years, what strikes me is the fact that the world that often seems so clear and known to us is really more the illusion. In fact, our spiritual lives dance among the mysteries, and we delight as children of the living God at the moments when all our senses are focused on “seeing” the real beyond the apparent and tasting the presence of the sacred all around us.

There will be a good number of such mornings as we lean into the spring and early summer. I do hope you are visited by the angels that surely are singing Psalms amidst the lighted fog.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Presence

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Is the impact of my life one that brings light? What does my presence create?

At times, it seems that the darkness and the negative are simply overwhelming. It is easy to catch the negativity bug with so much incivility, absence of grace and divisiveness being modeled by so called leaders who, like it or not, set the emotional climate of public discourse. So, our times now at least make the contrasts clear and the choice is ours to either bring light or obscure it.

In my professional work, I am always amazed at how one person either can inspire others to passionate unity and greatness or sour a team and erode trust. Research makes it clear that negative thoughts move faster through the central nervous system than positive ones. It is a vestige of evolution, as reaction time to threats matters. We therefore need to work at proactive and positive thought.

I can think of no more Franciscan exercise than to be both objective and realistic while looking for opportunity and possibilities quickened by the ever-present graces and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Or any recurring ones?

Saints Francis and Clare were respecters of dreams. In the Bible, prophecy is often prompted through dreams: Abimelech abstaining from touching Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as a result of a dream; Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven; Solomon’s dream of God’s open-ended offer of whatever he asked and his choice of Wisdom; Joseph’s dream about Mary’s pregnancy as the work of God; and the entire book of John’s Revelation as revealed while he was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, to name a few).

In today’s western culture, the power and significance of dreams has been drowned out by the presumptions of a pervasive scientism. I am endlessly fascinated by the encoded narratives in dreams and their psycho-spiritual significance. My own diary of dreams informs my examination of where I am on my own journey. The imagination is the deeper gift that powers dreams to reawaken us; this is another road to communion with Christ.

What dreams inspire you as you examine how you are called on behalf of the Holy Spirit? Are there themes in your dreams worth excavating?

Outside of the Jungian circle of lovers of mysteries, archetypes, the collective unconscious and believers in prophecy, reflections on dreams are often relegated to the margins of fancy. Some neuroscientists believe that dreams are just random sets of neural activity designed to clean up the day’s clutter of mental content. I totally disagree.

I celebrate Francis’s faith that God speaks in all moments and in all ways (and certainly in dreams) as a telling reinforcement of Biblical wisdom and an invitation to all of us to similarly reinvest in what psychoanalyst Erich Fromm once called “The Forgotten Language.”

Happy dreaming!

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Seven pounds, four ounces and, oh, so beautifully delicate: our granddaughter, Zoey Ava, was born on June 14 at 5:45 pm after seven hours of labor.

My first thought, on being invited to hold the baby, embracing one so tiny after so many years, was a familiar one: “be careful, Don’t hold her too hard or, God forbid, drop her!”Most of us with children can recall these troubling, intrusive thoughts (that are actually designed to inspire an excess of caution) as we bring every ounce of care and attention to our newborn.

We are awestruck by the exquisitely precious vulnerability, an utter dependence! A little reflection reveals just how much time we work as adults to avoid vulnerability, fragility and our desperate need for connection and caring. In the so called “ Baby Place,” the loving postpartum wing of the hospital where Zoey was born, the midwife and nurses place a big premium on “skin to skin” time when mom and baby can feel each other, breath together, hear each other’s heartbeats. This is a profoundly moving and critical communion ( now fully recognized as such by physicians).

A newborn cuts through  our otherwise practiced distancing from vulnerability. The baby charges the air around her, electrifying it with sacredness, wonder and a sense of the miraculous. We are reduced to just a few simple words, a rush of tears, and the making of soft, reassuring and joyful vocalizations. One newborn can change hearts and minds in an instant. Just one! Even the deepest cynic is likely to smile ( if only briefly, on the inside). New life cries out to all life in concelebration of Cosmic Eucharist. Waves of love travel out in all directions and so all the world feels renewed.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus tells the story of the smallest of seeds, that produces a medium sized bush height-wise, a weed actually (though yielding a popular spice). He likens the Kingdom of God to it. His choice of the mustard seed metaphor is a striking one. While the bush doesn’t grow very tall, it’s horizontal growth is steady and tenacious. It will, in time, take over a landscape. Very tall things, like trees, on the other hand, are certainly more conspicuous, but are way more easily toppled.

God Almighty came into this world as a fragile innocence. That innocence, purity and knowledge of the true Way of the Heart endures and it is still growing in us and reaching across the landscape of hearts and minds. We are exhorted to be “again as little children” who sweeten the air and space around them with their genuineness, openness and surrender.

In celebrating our granddaughter, I am reminded again to surrender to the movement and moment of Christ. Surely, the Divine Presence is spreading like the mustard bush, in all directions. It will endure and transform the landscape, Though today’s news is filled with distressing portents of ill winds, I listen to baby Zoey’s voice, and I am soothed and reassured.

There is much to relearn from the full and authentic presence of little children before they learn to live according to someone else’s story. We are invited by them to recall our True selves and work to be who we were meant to be.

Whose story are we each living? Do we see our frailty and hear the call back to simple joy in surrender to the One on whom we really depend? Only when our story becomes His, can our smallness change the world.

From the smallest and humblest of seeds come mighty transformations!

The Sufi mystic and poet, Rumi, expressed it with simple and arresting elegance: “Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”

© The Harried Mystic, 2018 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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