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 in the above video, when I sat down with a small group of Christians, most of whom are engaged in some form of contemplative practice, for a “contemplative conversation.” That may seem like a contradiction in terms — after all, isn’t the point of contemplation to be silent, to let go of the impulse to talk?
But communication is such an essential part of being human, so even the most taciturn of mystics sooner or later is invited to engage in, connect with, others. Indeed, we could make the argument that contemplation is, in essence, training in the art of listening — in silence we practice our capacity to listen to silence, as a discipline of being present to the God whose presence may seem hidden or “mystical” yet nevertheless is truly there, and can be seen by those “who have eyes to see.” But part of the beauty of this training-in-the-art-of-listening is that it equips for the far messier, yet vital, task of listening to one another. In a contemplative conversation we seek to truly listen to one another as we share our respective longing for the mystery we call God.
I love the opportunity to interact with people who participate in events where I am a speaker or retreat leader. One of the challenges of being a full-time writer is a necessary solitude — I spend my workdays alone with just my computer and a few cats for company — and even though blogs and social media do allow for interaction, they pale compared to the richness of engaging both verbally and nonverbally with others who share my interest in contemplative and mystical spirituality. And while I love the solitude of my daily work, how enriching it is for me to learn of the joys and concerns that shape the spirituality — and contemplative practice — of others who bless me by engaging with me in conversations like the one captured in this video.What questions shape your contemplative journey? What kind of conversation would you like to have with kindred spirits who share your longing for the Divine Mystery, and for silence, solitude, and inner stillness? Please share your questions with me, either as a comment to this post or via social media — you can find me on Twitter or Facebook.
This is the final of six videos of me giving a talk in the summer of 2015. If you’re interested in seeing the previous videos, they’re all here on Patheos — I talk about Julian of Norwich, Mysticism, Contemplation, Silence, and Monastic Spirituality. These videos were filmed at a studio located at the headquarters of Presence International, a ministry devoted to exploring evolutionary theology and the intersection between Christianity and other wisdom streams such as spiral dynamics or integral theory. The Presence folks are doing good work, so check them out.