Concerning Spiritual Noise, (Lack of) Inner Silence, and Singlemindedness

Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church)

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AM writes:

I find most of your posts on the contemplative life too congested with many labels and categories – mystics and non-mystics, oppositional thinking and non-oppositional thinking, Christian mysticism and ordinary Christian spirituality, Protestant mystics and Catholic mystics, mysticism and contemplation, etc. This appears to me not only an intellectual congestion but also a spiritual noise, a portrayal of a lack of inner silence. Somehow, I visit your blog … to be nourished by a certain quality I call “singlemindedness”. This is something I sensed to be absent in your blog.

I spent two hours last night writing a response to this comment. It took me to a place where I had to face my own rage at a cosmos where a young woman could spend her entire life so trammeled by illness. It was just a wee bit too vulnerable for me, so I decided to keep things simple.

In short, AM is right. Singlemindedness? I have no idea what that is. I’m clearly a son of Martha (if you don’t know who Martha is, see Luke 10). Intellectual congestion? Yep. Lack of inner silence? You bet.

Just to keep this short and simple: I write about contemplation and the mystical life not because I am any kind of “master,” but actually for the precise opposite reason: because I am hardly accomplished (whatever that means). I am, at best, an “aspiring contemplative,” a keystone cop of the inner life. My archetype is the clown, not the sage. This is why I compare mysticism to tofu and contemplation to the Dufflepuds in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (yes, that was a plug for my recently published and my forthcoming books). If you come to this blog looking for insight into the mind of a “true” contemplative, I’m afraid all you will find is this poor boy, trying the best he can with a pretty unimpressive level of skill. Sorry, but that’s what you get.

Of course, I hope folks won’t decide this blog is a waste of time. I rather like knowing that there are others out there who struggle with silence, who cannot figure out why their mind remains so congested despite their best and most sincere efforts, who are driven almost to the point of despair over how singlemindedness eludes them. I like it that you guys read my blog and offer me advice, encouragement, and the occasional kick in the pants (I see the comment above as one of those kicks). And I hope that this blog, miserable and imperfect though it may be, might offer a similar measure of enthusiasm and encouragement to its readers.

I’m teaching an introduction to Christian mysticism class right now through the Emory Center for Lifelong Learning. Last Thursday night, the lecture was on the history of Christian mysticism from the New Testament through Francis and Clare of Assisi. At the beginning of the lecture, I apologized in advance for what I was sure would be a snooze of a talk. After all, just how exciting can obscure folks from over a millennium ago (like Isaac of Ninevah, Maximus the Confessor and Gregory of Nyssa) can be? But at the end of the class, one of the students complimented me. “That wasn’t boring at all,” he said. “Your enthusiasm for the subject more than made up for how dry it is.” I was touched. I may not be a Bernard McGinn or an Andrew Louth, but at least I’m passionate about all this stuff.

So that’s what this blog offers: enthusiasm and passion for the silent life and the practice of contemplation. It’s the enthusiasm of a slow learner, a middle aged guy who’s angry at God because he has a terminally ill stepdaughter and a wife whose life is shaped by grief for her little girl’s pain. But somehow, I cling to my faltering attempts to find silence, because I know that’s the only way I can deal with all that anger and turbulence I continually find within. And I hope that in the midst of my many mistakes, perhaps you can find some encouragement to enter into your own adventure in silence. At any rate, that’s my prayer.

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  • http://www.flamingseed.com jane brunette

    Carl, From where I sit, your blog is perfect as it is. What I find inspiring is how willing you are to be transparent–exposing process and feelings and doubts and then in the vulnerability of that, actually listening to feedback without getting defensive. These are rare qualities, brave qualities–and signs of an ego that doesn’t have a tight grip on needing to look good all the time. You sit in the hot seat of awakening on this blog, and give us all a transmission on how we might be more intimate with the world.

    Your open-minded enthusiasm for mysticism and it’s practices is another gift. So many in the spiritual world get long-faced and serious about practices that are meant to bring us to the joy of God. You remind us how exciting and lighthearted this venture can be. In the short time I’ve been reading, your blog has already inspired me (natural hermit/could easily spend my life in retreat doing ever more subtle kinds of meditation) to come out of my cave and play the same daring game you do. Beginning to do so is already quickening my growth in blocked areas of my being that extended retreat and contemplation couldn’t reach.

    The cave isn’t for everyone–and the point of going in is to come out. As my dear mentor, Kamalakar Mishra put it, as deep as the roots of the tree go, that’s as wide as the branches need to extend into the world. And he advised me to get out of my cave and go about the business of loving people in the world. As I begin to follow his advice, deep thanks for your example here. I only wish I would have discovered your blog sooner.

  • rodney neill

    Carl
    I really appreciate your blog as it is and find myself encouraged and nourished by it!! Do not let self-appointed ‘experts’ who appear to lack humility or generousity of spirit in the personal nature of their comments belittle the value of your blog for fellow aspirants to the Christian contemplative life like me

    Rodney

  • rodney neill

    I would very much echo brunettes comments as she has captured what I would like to say in a very articulate manner – much better than I could.

    Rodney

  • http://www.ascendingthehills.blogspot.com Jessica M

    You wrote: I rather like knowing that there are others out there who struggle with silence, who cannot figure out why their mind remains so congested despite their best and most sincere efforts, who are driven almost to the point of despair over how singlemindedness eludes them.

    I am very early on in my contemplative journey but from what I’ve read from contemplatives as well as masters of Zen, it is certainly not a foreign concept-struggling to maintain stillness and silence…that is something, if we are all honest with ourselves, that we all share. Perhaps, through much time and practice and intent, it gets easier but I think your honesty anyone can appreciate because I would say most of us feel the same way!

    To appreciate silence, especially in today’s society, is something that isn’t taught but a path that must be sought out by those that discover it’s healing and spiritual attributes. To experience the presence of God in the present moment, (which is the only way I feel the presence of God can be experienced by us humans-in the present moment), welcomes a union like no other to be shared but, like anything else, it is a process to be appreciated. I read a book by James Finley, called Christian Meditation, where he brings up a good point that I think sometimes is often overlooked.We often have compassion for others when they struggle with something but little compassion for ourselves. It’s important, while meditating to have compassion on ourselves in those moments when silence and stillness seems to be anything but we are experiencing. When the pain and trouble of life just comes flooding in, crowding our thoughts, crowding our mind, pressing in close and refusing to dissipate. Sometimes meditation sessions seem to be a flop, other times they seem to be an amazing experience of nondual union with our God…I guess like anything else it ebs and flows and to progress into the sea of silence we have to learn to ride its waves with patience and compassion, forgiving ourselves our pitfalls.

    Anyways, just some thoughts. Hope they make some sense! Like I said, I’m very new on my journey myself :)
    ~Peace,

    Jessica

  • http://meadowsweet-myrrh.blogspot.com/ Ali

    Yes, everything Jane said! Most especially, “In the short time I’ve been reading, your blog has already inspired me (natural hermit/could easily spend my life in retreat doing ever more subtle kinds of meditation) to come out of my cave and play the same daring game you do. … The cave isn’t for everyone–and the point of going in is to come out.

    This has been true for me, too. The example of your enthusiasm, joy and kindness (and rock-star niceness ;) ) has been and continues to be an inspiration and motivation. I have no doubt that the vast majority of your readers are here because of your passion, honesty and commitment. I hope they let you know that.

    As for AM’s comment….. well. Personally, I’m not sure why anyone would turn to a blog for inner silence instead of, say, going out into the woods and sitting with the trees for a while. If you’re looking for teachers of inner silence, the stone, the breeze, the sunlight are the best I know.

    (And don’t get me started on “single-mindedness.” Don’t we have enough of that in our culture already?!)

  • Kathy

    Carl, I agree with the person who wrote to you but I identify with you. My interior busyness is not a terminally ill daughter — I tend to obsess over a sick assortment of psycho-spiritual-judicial horrors (ex. Christians openly endorsing the use of torture) plus a variety of personal tragedies — but I know exactly what you’re saying. That being said, your correspondent has a point. Even so, you are human and in pain, and so am I, and so are most of us. Talking and teaching about contemplation from the standpoint of ordinary flawed lay people, well, what you’re doing is extremely important. Keep at it and God help us every one.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      Oh, I agree that AM has a point, which is why I blogged about the comment rather than just ignoring it. Like I said, once in a while I need a kick in the seat of the pants (just like everybody else!).

  • http://www.philfosterlpc.com phil foster

    After reading your post I’m reflecting on 2 things:

    There seems to be a connection b/w AM’s comments, your reply, and the dialogue you have been having with Maggie Ross. I can’t really articulate it but briefly, I am thinking of the line from the Tao Te Ching, “Those who speak don’t know, and those who know don’t speak.”

    Secondly, I’m reminded of a parishioner who is always saying to me, “You’re a good man,” to which I continue to reply, “No, I’m not a good man which is precisely why I am here (church).” Or, as the singer-songwriter Guy Clark has put it, “I’m just an old chunk of coal now, Lord, but I’m gonna be a diamond someday.”

    Peace.

  • fraterminor

    Carl,
    AM’s comment is offensive … to you and to all of us who find encouragement, hope and inspiration on this blog. AM’s comment is offensive in the same way that Maggie Ross’ comment about Thomas Merton is. The only thought that comes to mind when I read either of these two comments is Our Lord’s comment, “By their fruits you will know them…” All the “growth in” and knowledge of Contemplative Prayer is fruitless … if it only leads us to look down on others, to point out their faults … to make them feel somewhow less ….
    Thank you, Carl, for all that you give to us who are beginners on the contemplative journey, however imperfectly. Yours is the first blog I check into each morning.

  • Al Jordan

    I think there’s something in what “AM” is saying. As a periodic visitor to your blog, I keep coming back albeit I do find a lot of intellectual “congestion” there. But since I am a person who suffers that affliction, I also find one (and many others) who wrestle that same beast. I also find the stimulus for substantive reflection and contemplation. You cannot live an engaged life in this modern world and not be distracted by all kinds of noise, internal and otherwise. We all need more interior silence and stillness. That’s the treasure. But, alas, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” I agree with Jane, I think your transparency, sincerity, humility and willingness to hear what others are saying are the most precious things I take from the blog. Don’t be discouraged. Just keep surrendering deeper and deeper parts of yourself to the all encompassing grace that holds us all. Very few of us will attain to your level of knowledge and intellect but we can share something more important in saying Namaste: I honor the spirit in you which is also in me. Peace and Presence

  • Al Jordan

    BTW, I forgot to say, how kind of God to love Rhiannon and Fran through you.

  • brazenbird

    Carl,

    I’m sure you didn’t write this post as a beggar for compliments but I’m going to compliment you anyway. What I most appreciate about your blog is the sincerity and transparency with which you write and share. Your availability to us as “a real boy” seeking the mystic path makes it okay for me to be “a real girl” seeking the mystic path. I’m a human being knocking around on this sphere with other human beings and I just feel lucky to find others, when I do, who ask questions and challenge themselves and want to seek out the inner silence and ultimately, grow closer to God throughout the process – an openness and willingness to learn the lessons throughout the process.

    I’m new to this side of the world and I am not well-read at all so not only am I unable to critique your perspective regarding the writings or practices of mystics, half the time I don’t understand the critiques from others. Okay, more like ninety-percent of the time. All of this is a learning experience for me.

    I return, even when I don’t fully comprehend what’s written here (by you or others) because your blog makes me feel less alone (and I learn). I do not have a real, live community of people who are Christ-centered mystics. I have people here and there, sprinkled through my life who are deeply Loving and deeply connected and deeply aware. I’m grateful for those people and the rich lessons we learn together, but it’s also nice to find others who are deeply Loving, connected and aware who find Christ at their center, simply because it’s a meaningful, shared commonality and extends the reach of feeling understood by others and in turn, understanding of others. Your blog is that home for me right now. And I love that there are people who share here who are not Christ-centered mystics, I like the mix which I just cannot imagine finding anywhere right now. I love getting Ally’s point of view as a Druid and some of the other contributors who are Buddhists and others still. *And* I find Christians too. It’s lovely.

    Is your blog going to serve every kind of person who comes along it? No. But it is serving many, many people in a multitude of ways. You are as exactly as you should be in this moment, you are offering up great gifts to your readers. And you also offer something so very rare, which is the heart of a person who wants to be continually changed by God which is what makes it okay for you to be exactly as you are in this moment – you are not a static person driven by your ego. You are always growing and sharing that growth. That is where the true gift is to be found.

    Many, many blessings to you and yours.

  • Cindy Wilson

    I can SO identify with what you’ve been saying! As I’ve recently begun teaching a Sunday School class about Contemplative Prayer and the method of Centering Prayer, I’ve felt so inadequate to teach these fellow class members, knowing that my own prayer life and practice of Centering Prayer is so haphazard. But the reason for this class itself is to bring as many people as possible closer to the knowledge of what Contemplative Prayer is all about, and how important it is to deepen our relationship with God – to let them know that there’s more to their prayer life and their relationship to Our Creator – MUCH more! We’ve got to start somewhere! – And God will take us the rest of the Way! And I know that in the process of teaching my fellow members, my relationship with God will grow and deepen – and I need that! And so do a lot of your other readers out there. Glad to have your blog to spur me on!

  • mike

    I read this blog for it’s “messiness” if the definition of this can be considered spiritually and intellectually wide ranging curiousity. It is a great source for new avenues of exploration of any individual experience from many other’s point of view. As such it is very useful.

    Singleminded ness would seem to me to be the establishment of limits to what is experiencable; the “being” of termite or ant conscious.

    There can be found in prayer or mediation an absorbsion of self into Oneness. This is felt, not thought, as unity or seamless Oneness and perhaps this is what the writer AM is pointing towards in commenting.

    This will not be found in the material covered in any blog no matter its merit.

    Keep on trucking Carl.

  • mike

    I would like to add another comment.

    Whatever ones practice; be it prayer, be it meditation, be it service, be it whatever …, the only way forward is to practice with what can be called singleminded ness. There is no other way to “mastery” but such practice.

    At some point each of us, I believe, needs to settle into a practice and pursue it with concentrated intent of purpose.

    As Zen Buddhists say; whatever ones practice, do it each day as great Doubt, great Effort, and great Determination.

  • Simon Whitney

    Carl

    Was it fair on AM to hang her out like that?

    And does someone who has written books on mysticism and who gives lectures on the subject really believe that he is such a novice?

  • suzanne kurtz

    Like all of us AM is looking to blogs rather than just bending his knees in prayer.
    One learns to seek singlemindedness in prayer and in Scripture.
    One seeks manymindedness by reading blogs, and seeing the ways others have, and are, making the pilgrimage to singlemindedness.
    Bless you Carl, and all the seekers,
    Suzanne

  • brazenbird

    @Simon,

    AM’s comments can be found publicly written in yesterday’s blog comments.

    And what with the nauseating numbers of books written by people who claim to be Masters in X most of whom are egomaniacs who are obviously making stuff up as they go along and feeding their own selves, it’s refreshing to read a yearning novice’s voice about a subject that he feels so passionately about who doesn’t put on airs that he knows it all. Writing a book does not a master/experienced/professional make.

    Again, it’s Carl’s humility and openness and authenticity that makes his writing and the topic so approachable.

  • mike

    Carl,

    ” It took me to a place where I had to face my own rage at …. ”

    These words finally registered. This goes to the core of your response and is perhaps a major reason for your searching.

    I know a version of this feeling and, many years ago now, wrote of it this way.

    If all I do is but a fool’s play
    so be it.

    For now must be rekindled Joy’s spark
    or ever this mean smolder.

    It burns either way.
    with each breath I shall choose.

    Rage, as you must well know, can be “a cover for” despair and such depth of feeling does not go away.

    After long practice, I have come to an inner acceptance of its validity and choose to leave it as it is, as a feeling without accepting it or rejecting it. The ability to do this “well” comes and goes but, what I have learned is, this too shall pass.

    There is found, oddly enough, freedom from knowing in this and it helps when rage well up or threatens.

    Take care and go straight on.

  • InfiniteWarrior

    Single-minded-ness“? That’s a pretty dangerous term, all things considered. (And, personally, I don’t think there is such a thing as “spiritual noise”. Egoic noise? Definitely. Spiritual? No.)

    I tend to appreciate more “visionary” terms, e.g. “aperspectival”, supra-rational, supra-mental, “integral”, etc. We all struggle at times to “reach” inner silence (“knowing” it requires only “letting go” – duh), but I should think this has more to do with our emotions than any “intellectual” distinctions we might make, especially for the sake of clarity.

    Coincidentally, I had occasion today to link up with Rumi’s “root of the root” once again. As intriguing a poem closely follows — one with which we might all wish to become familiar.

    I noted the other day that, on the Internet, “ego” is all that’s readily apparent. After all, isn’t the purpose of “ego” to order and arrange our thoughts into forms that convey meaning? What passes on the Internet in silence (provided there are no assumptions or presumptions in the way), otoh, we rarely seem to notice and/or, in some cases, consider “not real” or to have “not happened”. Strange.

    Words read no differently on the Internet than they do in books. When we have a “problem” with them, perhaps chances are often better than good the “problem” is ours. At times, I think we’re all just “Lost in Translation”.

    One of my favorite quotes is by RW Emerson.

    It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude after own own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

    Occasional “intellectual congestion” or no, I think you manage that very well. Certainly, far better than I. But, perhaps, we’re all a little too hard on ourselves when unable to do so. After all, the “intellectual congestion” itself is not ours and ours alone. In fact, it would appear to constitute much of the “human condition” at the moment.

  • http://mysticbluerosegarden.blogspot.com/ Debra Masters

    As the mother of a child with a congenital heart defect who had SCREAMING matches with GOD after the day I was told that 50% of children born with my son’s heart die by age 5, I can honestly say I understand your rage. But you let it drive you closer to GOD and not further away, and trust me when I tell you, that is an amazing thing to watch, as is your love for your wife and your beloved step-daughter.

    In my aspirations of being one with GOD, your steadfast love and commitment and enthusiasm brings me back every time. Your light shines brightly, and we are drawn to your light and see the light shining through whatever messiness and/or non-single-mindedness. Thank you.

    Debra Masters
    *oh, my son is now three open-heart surgeries later and a bright, shiny 16*

  • Ellen

    I just want to say that the two things I appreciate most about your blog and the reasons I read it and am so often encouraged or challenged by it are your authenticity and your accessible way of writing and sharing ideas. I feel less alone as I stumble along in an attempt to somehow blend a contemplative life with all the realities I live with including my all-too-often undisciplined way of being in this world. Thank you for what you do and write, and, as others have said, please carry on!

  • http://www.spiritualchristianity.net Cheryl Bryant-Rushing

    We are all just trying to find our way home from this wasteland of separation. God bless your efforts.

  • AM

    First, i sincerely apologize if my comment offended you. I don’t mean to pour cold water over your enthusiasm on the subject of mysticism, an enthusiasm much connected with your personal share of suffering. Please know i used to work as a lay chaplain among cancer patients including children in Houston.

    Your commenters in this post have been generous of their sympathy and time to think things through. I don’t want to comment on anyone in particular. But let’s face it: blogging has its own burden for our spiritual life. Thanks to blogging: we now have a personal postmodernist avenue for self-reflection and personal story-telling. In my seeking, you also bless me with your stories (I was so moved to tears in particular by your moments of life and death with China). But blogging is also casting a shadow on all of us and this is what concerns me with all these self-affirming comments in this post – the seemingly seductive cosmic self as the very ground of discussion. I’m musing if keeping ourselves hidden, including suffering and acclamations, in the hiddenness of God is a higher truth than collective self-mirroring? Let me end this comment from one story of a monk and an elder, a truth often trapped especially within an individualist, reward-based, praise-hungry American culture:

    “A Brother went to the Elder Makarios, the Egyptian, and said to him: “Father, give me a word! How can I attain salvation?” The Elder instructed him: “Go to the cemetery and sneer at the dead.” The Brother went, scoffed at the dead and threw stones. He then returned and reported to the Elder, who asked: “Did they say anything?” He answered: “No.” Then the Elder said:”Go again tomorrow and praise them.” The Brother went, praised them saying: “Apostles, Saints, Just Ones!” Then he returned to the Elder and said:”I praised them.” The Elder asked him:”Did they answer you?” “No!” replied the Brother. Then the Elder instructed him: “You know how much you maligned them, and they did not respond…and how much you praised them, and they said nothing. You must act in the same if you want to attain salvation. Be as a corpse…”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Well, I wasn’t offended at all, so no worries there. And please accept my apologies if some of my readers have been a bit overzealous in defending me! :-)

    Brazenbird got me thinking when she said “I’m sure you didn’t write this post as a beggar for compliments…” — I’m suspicious enough of myself that I’ve spent much of the day wondering just how deep-seated is my subconscious need for applause and affirmation. You raise important questions along those lines. I do occasionally fantasize about walking away from the blog. But I keep at it, for several reasons, including the fact that I enjoy it, that it appears to be of some small use to others, that I have formed and strengthened a number of meaningful relationships through the blog (including several that have blossomed beyond the glare of cyberspace), and that, for better or worse, it has become part of my spiritual practice (your and Maggie’s challenges have given me much to consider, and while I may not fully buy in to where you or she is coming from, I so appreciate the opportunity to see myself and my work in a different light. Even cantankerous Simon has taught me a thing or two). I think cyber-communication (blogging, social media, etc.) is the Gutenberg revolution of our generation, and the genie is out of the bottle for good. Now the question is how do we offer all this to the greater glory of God?

  • http://www.kairos2.com Alex Tang

    Thanks AM and Carl for your interactions on this blog. I find it fascinating that AM will bring in Elder Makarios in this discussion. Here the lesson Elder Makarios taught is detachment, not involvement. Indirectly, you have have commented on Carl’s need for affirmation in his blog posts as some other commenters have alluded to. But then, who of us do not need some affirmation now and then?

    Mysticism, especially Christian mysticism is a phenomenon in a process of being rediscovered by 21st Century Christians. Hence the enormous numbers of labels, categories and nuances that AM has alluded to. That is what happens when we try to discuss the undescricable with our modern Enlightenment mindset. To understand mysticism, we need to move into the realm of silence and experiences. Silences and experiences are ‘dead spaces’ from which not many books or articles emerge. We must remember the great classics of the Christian mystics are the exception rather than the rule.

    On my part, I am glad that Carl is comfortable enough to share his spiritual journey and his works in understanding mysticism. Though I do not agree with all he wrote about mysticism, yet he has contributed much in his posts on this blog. Being a blogger myself, I know how difficult it is to be vulnerable. And we are all works in progress.

    However I always console myself that we are all on a journey and maybe our developing thoughts and mindset may help or encourage someone else who is on the same journey.

  • http://flamingseed.com jane brunette

    I appreciate AM’s thoughtful feedback and never considered that Carl needed defending from it. Quite the contrary–what I enjoy about this blog is that there is room for all of these ways of looking at things, and Carl is resilient enough to hold the space for all of it.

    AM: I think the story you tell above is more useful as a model for how to hold experience inwardly than how to behave externally. For some, it will balance them to be quiet rather than go after attention. For others, who prefer the peace of anonymity, it is likely the less egoic movement to reveal themselves publicly.

    I think we all have to be careful of the tendency to assume everyone needs the same thing. One teacher I had said the spiritual path is like driving a car. Some need to adjust the wheel right, and some left. The instructions might sound like entirely the opposite for two different people, but they are correctives, not absolutes.

  • AM

    @jane brunette: whatever happens to synchronicity? to the wisdom of desert wanderers across time that the inner life is the basis of one’s exterior life? It took 20 years for Julian to reflect in silence before she wrote down the second part of her Shewings. Do we have data so far on her personal life? Nada i believe. So far, on the translation of Dr. Brock of St. Isaac of Nineveh (much remains to be translated), there is no data on the Saint’s spiritual life. It’s all writings on how prayer and silence can influence one’s active life, especially a life of selfless compassion. Spiritual paths? Yes, they are varied. Inner-outer life? I doubt if we have other third party for this double helix of the spiritual life.

  • AM

    erratum: “on the Saint’s personal life…”

  • AM

    Erratum: “on the Saint’s personal life.”

  • I-Don’t-Know What

    Forget all this arguing. Perhaps the real question is, “How can one be a contemplative in the world?”

    I, for one, find it almost completely impossible. I am a driver for the post office. The fact that I must concentrate on driving, and the hours that I work, has destroyed any recollection that I may have had. But, I make the sacrifice in order to support my family. Will God restore my recollection later? Or, perhaps, reward me for the sacrifice in the future? I don’t know. Not really considering it also. Dedicating my life to contemplation?…then I would fail in my duty to my family. I cannot do both 100%.

    But, these spiritual writers, who are all professed, ie. not in the world, have the leisure to at least focus on it. But there was a time where I was recollected, and the things of the world mattered not. All fell apart, and I gladly let them fall apart. But at that time, I was alone. Now, I am not. It was a torture to return to the world, to have to focus my attention on things, rather than God.

    Necessity. Now there is a word.

  • Bryan Fredrickson

    Thank you, Carl. You have brilliantly described the human condition.

  • http://www.philfosterlpc.com phil foster

    Great, respectful, mindful, heartful conversation here. Thanks, Carl, et. al.

    One of my past teachers in indigenous spiritual practice used to be fond of saying, “On the spiritual path, everyone is an apprentice.”

  • http://heartofflame.blogspot.com/ Yewtree

    I posted a brilliant and profound comment here, and cyberspace gremlins seem to have eaten it. But anyway, the gist of it was, there are no words to describe the ineffable, and all descriptions of the divine mystery are at best approximations. Those who feel compelled to write about it and try to share are providing signposts for other seekers, however imperfect those signposts may be.

  • http://www.spiritualchristianity.net Cheryl Bryant-Rushing

    “there are no words to describe the ineffable, and all descriptions of the divine mystery are at best approximations. Those who feel compelled to write about it and try to share are providing signposts for other seekers, however imperfect those signposts may be.”

    Well said, Carl. On my new blog, mysticalchristianity.net, i have so many drafts waiting on my spirit’s consent. Such is the divine mystery, so intensely personal, I hesitate, wanting not to throw my pearls before swine.

  • Kathleen

    I too struggle with finding silence and feel the contemplative life has something to offer me. I am coming to terms with a young son with autism and learning that maybe he has something to teach me.. I like your blog because I sense the same search for depth and meaning and appreciate your enthusiasm and honesty and non-academic approach. Peace.


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