How to be a Contemplative in a “Toxic” Community (Part One)

A reader wrote the following message to me recently: Hi Carl. I’m a contemplative in a Roman Catholic Community. It’s rather toxic and cold. I don’t go to dinners or other community building events. I go to Sunday Mass regularly. Does this fulfill my community efforts at not being a “Lone Ranger” and individualist mystic? Regular readers of this blog will understand where the writer of this message is coming from. In posts like Is it possible to be a... Read more

Richard Rohr on the Spirituality of Unknowing (Video)

Here’s a treat for all you Richard Rohr fans (and if you’re not a Rohr fan, perhaps this is a good introduction to him and his ideas). This video was recorded at the Science and Nonduality Conference — which is a secular/interfaith gathering of folks exploring (in the words of their website) “a new relationship to spirituality, free from religious dogma, based on timeless wisdom traditions, informed by cutting-edge science, and grounded in direct experience.” Rohr, as a Catholic priest,... Read more

Seven Things I’ve Learned from the Vinyl Revival

Sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake. Apparently vinyl records have been making a kind of limited comeback for at least the past decade. But I’ve been pretty much oblivious to it, at least until I noticed that used vinyl record shops were opening (not closing) in trendy neighborhoods around Atlanta. And then one day last year I stumbled across a rack of expensive, audiophile quality vinyl records in my local Barnes & Noble, of all places! When I... Read more

Is it possible to be a “Do It Yourself” Christian Mystic? Evelyn Underhill would say “No” — and I agree with her

Nearly all Christian mystics maintain that an essential characteristic of Christian mysticism is participation in the Body of Christ, which is to say, in the Christian community of faith. In other words, to be a Christian mystic, it is as important to be a follower of Christ as it is to be a mystic. And to be a follower of Christ means to express spirituality in a communal way. The above statements annoy a lot of people. Sorry about that, but that’s how it rolls. Recently a... Read more

Compass Points for the Spiritual Life (Video)

How do we orient ourselves in the life of the Spirit? What landmarks, or directions, guide us along the way as seek to walk the path of God? Here is a video that was recorded a while back — I believe it was the summer of 2012 (I still had a beard, which didn’t disappear until early 2015). At the time, I was playing around with the idea that spirituality functions as a kind of “compass” by which we orient... Read more

Why I Love the Carmina Gadelica (Despite Its Flaws)

You are the joy of all joyous things, You are the light of the beam of the sun, You are the door of the chief of hospitality, You are the surpassing star of guidance, You are the step of the deer of the hill, You are the step of the steed of the plain, You are the grace of the swan of swimming, You are the loveliness of all lovely desires. — “The Invocation of the Graces” from the Carmina Gadelica... Read more

Books I Recommend (On Various Topics)

I’ll admit — I love lists of books. I find browsing someone’s list of recommended titles is a great way to find a new treasure. So with that in mind, here is an admittedly idiosyncratic list of books that I recommend for your consideration. Obviously I lead off with books on contemplation/mysticism, since that’s the main focus of this blog. But I wander a bit off topic as the list goes on… browse on, you’ll see for yourself. It’s an eclectic, ecumenical,... Read more

A Contemplative Conversation (Video)

Is God hidden? How do we see (or behold) the presence of God? What is the place of interfaith dialogue in religious or spiritual searching? What is the value of looking at a mystic who lived 500 or 600 years ago — what message does such a figure have for our time? What is the best way to respond to the contentious or divisive issues of our time? These are just a few of the questions that we touched on... Read more

Is it possible to “fail” at contemplative prayer?

Anyone who has ever trained with weights knows that form is important. If you lift heavy weights without proper form, you run the risk of a significant injury. The other day I was working with a trainer, and we were doing a fairly basic shoulder press, and he noted that my back was bowing. He mentioned it to me, and I immediately began to overcompensate. He pointed that out to me, and I said “I’m worried about my form.” “Your... Read more

Building Contemplative Community Online: An Interview with Jeff Genung

A common complaint I hear from contemplatives — especially people new to contemplative practice — is a sense of isolation, of not having a contemplative community. “The leaders in my church just don’t seem to resonate with me,” one budding contemplative recently told me. “I feel like they are disinterested in following this journey that I am on.” Contemplatives, even when actively engaged in their neighborhood church or faith community, often find that they don’t know where to turn to meet others who... Read more
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