Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives

Fostering Humility is a Christian "Preliminary Practice" (image: Shutterstock)

Tibetan Buddhists have a series of spiritual exercises that are seen as foundational to their spiritual practice: a sort of "spiritual boot camp." They are called ngöndro or in English, "preliminary practices."The aspirant who wishes to attain enlightenment begins with these preliminary exercises, which include a series of 100,000 prostrations and a variety of chants designed to purify the individual of impediments such as jealousy, attachment, or delusion. According to Thubten Chodron, "The … [Read more...]

Pentecost and Ecstasy

Image credit: Shutterstock

A reader of my blog named Paul emailed me the following question: I realize this is a difficult question to answer because of its lack of specificity, however any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  The Pentecostal experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, is it the same thing as experiencing the ecstasy of God? Thanks for your question, even though it does indeed lack specificity! It's a huge question, and I doubt that I can do it justice. So here are just a few thoughts, and I h … [Read more...]

Sanctity and Struggle, or, Why Saints Have Chaotic Inner Lives (Hint: It’s Because We All Do)

Flannery O'Connor, who understood the relationship between sanctity and struggle (photo credit: CMacauley, CC BY-SA 3.0)

An editor at Patheos recently pointed me to the following trailer, and suggested I blog some thoughts in response to it.Well, aside from being very interested in seeing the film, it makes me ponder how so many people we think of as "saints" or "mystics" or particularly "holy" often have interior lives shaped by profound struggle.We need look no further than Thomas Merton. Granted, he's nowhere near canonization (and I doubt he ever will be — he's more like Meister Eckhart than John of … [Read more...]

In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech

KenLeech-Head

I have learned of the passing of Father Kenneth Leech, who died on Saturday after a long illness. With his passing, we have lost one of the great contemplatives of our time, who was also a prophet for God's justice and mercy.He was born in 1939 and grew up in a secular home in the north of England. As a youth he was inspired by Alisdair MacIntyre (later famous for his renowned study of postmodern moral theory, After Virtue) who helped him realize that it is possible to have a critical, inq … [Read more...]

Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr

Mirabai Starr

One of my favorite contemporary authors is Mirabai Starr, who I first encountered through her vivid and accessible translations of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Julian of Norwich. Mirabai has emerged in the last few years as one of the leading voices in interspirituality. Mirabai has a free web event coming up next week called Reclaiming the Power of Ecstasy as a Feminine Mystic (to register for it, click here). When she asked me if I would help to get the word out, I thought the best w … [Read more...]

What Has Not Yet Been Revealed

Radiance

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is I John 3:2. Here is a lectio divina meditation I recently wrote about this verse. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. I think there is a tendency to pay attention to the second half of the verse. "We shall be like God... we shall see God as God is." It's a powerful promise and a lovely summation of what has been cal … [Read more...]

Life is a Pilgrimage — So Embrace the Journey

The Soul of a Pilgrim

Christine Valters Painter is one of the most creative and visionary of spiritual directors with a meaningful online presence. Her website, Abbey of the Arts, functions as a sort of "cyber-cloister," a place of quiet presence and spiritual nurture where participants are invited to encounter God not only through the words and practices of contemplative spirituality, but also — and perhaps more significantly — through creative expression.Paintner understands what Evelyn Underhill declared a cen … [Read more...]


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