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Center for Action and Contemplation

Full-Body Knowing

Monday, December 13, 2021

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. —Ezekiel 36:26

Jesus is our model for what it means to live from our hearts. Father Richard teaches:

In Jesus, God gave us a human heart we could love. While God can be described as a moral force, as consciousness, and as high vibrational energy, the truth is, we don’t fall in love with abstractions. So God became a person “that we could hear, see with our eyes, look at, and touch with our hands” (1 John 1:1).

Love—God incarnate—always begins with particulars: this woman, this dog, this beetle, this Moses, this Virgin Mary, this Jesus of Nazareth. It is the individual and the concrete that opens the heart space to an I-Thou encounter. Without it, there is no true devotion or faith but only argumentative theories.

This is the simple religious knowing that the West is going to have to rediscover, both on the Right and on the Left. It’s always a whole-body knowing. Since the Enlightenment and argumentative Reformation we have situated our “knowing” in the mind, illustrated by Descartes’ notorious “I think therefore I am.” The mind is good but it’s only a part of what Jesus recommended: “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole mind” (see Matthew 22:37). That’s full-body knowing! That is devotion.

Love lives and thrives in the heart space. It has kept me from wanting to hurt people who have hurt me. It keeps me every day from obsessive, repetitive, or compulsive head games. It can make the difference between being happy and being miserable and negative. Could this be what we are really doing when we say we are praying for someone? Yes, we are holding them in our heart space. Do this in an almost physical sense, and you will see how calmly and quickly it works.

We invite you to pray for the ability to be more loving with modern mystic Howard Thurman (1900–1981):

I want to be more loving in my heart! It is often easy to have the idea in mind, the plan to be more loving. To see it with my mind and give assent to the thought of being loving—this is crystal clear. But I want to be more loving in my heart! I must feel like loving; I must ease the tension in my heart that ejects the sharp barb, the stinging word. I want to be more loving in my heart that, with unconscious awareness and deliberate intent, I shall be a kind, a gracious human being. Thus, those who walk the way with me may find it easier to love, to be gracious because of the Love of God which is increasingly expressed in my living. “I want to be more loving in my heart!” [1]

[1] Howard Thurman, Meditations on the Heart (Beacon Press: 1953, 1981), 168–169.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Franciscan Mysticism: I AM That Which I Am Seeking, disc 3 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2012), CD, MP3 download;

Intimacy: The Divine Ambush, disc 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download;

unpublished “Rhine” talk (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2015); and

Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 204–205.

Story from Our Community:
Someone told me that in the midst of all the confusion, planet destruction, civil division, and lack of empathy, the seeds of love have been sown. Hearing that opened another door for hope in me—it is why I read these daily meditations before I start the rest of my day. We are all part of one great whole, we have everything we need within us. Fr. Richard’s meditations remind me of that each morning. —Marie A.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: The pattern of the leaves and colors of this succulent invite us inward to its center. We yield to the call of its presence—so also with God.
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