Crisis Contemplation Archives — Center for Action and Contemplation
×

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

×

See the schedule and event session details for the final CONSPIRE conference (Sep. 24 – 26)

Theme:
Crisis Contemplation

Crisis Contemplation

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Week Thirty Summary and Practice

Sunday, July 25—Friday, July 30, 2021

Sunday
Living in a transitional age such as ours is scary: things are falling apart, the future is unknowable, so much doesn’t cohere or make sense. Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.”

Monday
When the ordinary isn’t ordinary anymore and the crisis is upon us, the self can center in this refuge that I am calling “crisis contemplation,” a space that is neither the result of spiritual seeking nor the voluntary entry into meditative spaces. —Barbara Holmes

Tuesday
Ultimately, we can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit as it guides us toward mutual care and love of God, neighbors, and creation. —Barbara Holmes

Wednesday
It takes great trust and patience to remain stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events.

Thursday
In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in joy is a revolutionary act. —Valarie Kaur

Friday
Mysticism reminds us that the boundaries between this life and the life beyond are permeable, and that our power is not seeded in what is bestowed by politicians and society, but to everyone willing and ready to recognize the moves of an active Holy Spirit. —Barbara Holmes

 

Stillness

Each day at the CAC we begin our morning sit by repeating a line from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” With each repetition, we drop a word from the verse until we finally say only “Be,” before entering the silence together. It is a reminder that no matter how we arrive that day, we are called to be, and be still, before God. Barbara Holmes affirms that stillness is important for all who want to transform their pain instead of transmit it: “Stillness is a state of wholeness, an antidote to the fragmentation of BIPOC people that comes with marginalization. . . . Sitting in stillness may allow the pieces of us to reassemble.” [1]

Meditation teacher Eckhart Tolle offers this insight:

Silence is helpful, but you don’t need it in order to find stillness. Even when there is noise, you can be aware of the stillness underneath the noise, of the space in which the noise arises. That is the inner space of pure awareness, consciousness itself. . . .

We have forgotten what rocks, plants, and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be—to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is: Here and Now.

Whenever you bring your attention to anything natural, anything that has come into existence without human intervention, you step out of the prison of conceptualized thinking and, to some extent, participate in the state of connectedness with Being in which everything natural still exists.

To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.

Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in Being—completely at one with what it is and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself. [2]

Let us come to this place of rest, whether we are in crisis or at peace. If we keep breathing consciously, in connection with all that surrounds us, we will know that we are connected to all of humanity from cave dwellers to cosmonauts, to the entire animal world, and even to the trees and plants. As Barbara Holmes often reminds us, even the atoms we breathe are physically the same as the stardust from the Big Bang. Oneness is no longer experienced as merely a vague mystical notion, but rooted in scientific and embodied fact. [3]

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

References:

[1] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 56.

[2] Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (New World Library: 2003), 22, 77–78.

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (Crossroad: 2009), 26.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

God is Right Here
Friday, July 30, 2021

God is not out only “out there.” This week’s meditations have explored how God is radically “right here,” even in times of crisis. Just as it was hard to see the divine image in Jesus, it is hard to see it in ordinary people like ourselves. This insight really hit me the first time I was on retreat in Merton’s Kentucky hermitage. One of the ex-abbots had been a recluse, a hermit’s hermit, for years. The recluses come into the community only for Christmas and Easter. The rest of the time they stay in the forest alone with God and themselves.

I was going down a little trail from my hermitage, and I saw him coming toward me. I recognized him since I knew him from years before. I felt it was not my place to intrude on his privacy or silence, so I bowed my head, moved to the side of the path and was going to walk past him. When I was about four feet from him, he said, “Richard!” That surprised me. He was supposed to be a recluse. How did he know I was there? . . . He said, “Richard, you get chances to preach and I don’t. When you’re out there preaching, just tell the people one thing. God is not ‘out there.’ (And he pointed to the sky.) God bless you.” And he went on down the road. [1]

I have no doubt that the recluse I encountered so many decades ago was a mystic, someone who had encountered the Implanted Spirit within himself. This is the “putting together” that Jesus encouraged us all to do, particularly through his healing ministry when he repeatedly proclaimed, “Your faith has saved you, now go in peace!” (Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48). My colleague Barbara Holmes understands mysticism as the “putting together” of our own divided lives, providing hope for oppressed people and people everywhere and of all times. She calls it “cosmic rebirthing”:

Cosmic rebirthing requires a reclamation of everyday mysticism. . . . I was born into a family of shamans, root workers, and healers. These women and men saw beyond the veil and mediated the realms of life after life. They knew how to cure you of what ailed you, spiritually and in the natural world. The mystics that I knew could get a prayer through, birth a baby, and bring you a message or warning from the other side. They were amazing and sometimes a little bit scary. . . .

Mysticism reminds us that the boundaries between this life and the life beyond are permeable, and that our power is not seeded in what is bestowed by politicians and society, but to everyone willing and ready to recognize the moves of an active Holy Spirit. . . . By being receptive to the things that we don’t understand, we fling open the center of our being to the mysteries of the Divine. [2]

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (Crossroad: 1999, 2003), 117, 118.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 133, 134.

Story from Our Community:
In the early 1990s I met myself in a very elaborate lucid dream. Upon shaking my hand, I said, “I Am You.” I woke knowing that my personal identity is identical to everyone else’s. What if oneness means “I Am You”? The “I” with which God sees me is the same “I” with which “I” look for God. This is the mysticism of love of neighbor. From that dream on I treated my wife, family, friends, and patients as if “I Am You,” and learned that our core self-interests were as identical as our identity. —Roger K.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

Crisis Contemplation and Joy
Thursday, July 29, 2021

In my Franciscan tradition, joy comes from an inner realization of true experiential union with God (or Reality, Consciousness, and Life itself!). This realization descends upon us at ever deeper levels as we walk our faith journey. Authentic joy, however, takes place through our pain—not under it, to the right, left, or over it. There is much covering up, escaping, or denying our suffering in unhealthy religion. God calls us, instead, to the whole paschal mystery—passion, death, and resurrection. CAC teacher Barbara Holmes knows that such joy is for both the individual and the community, providing sustaining, life-giving power for marginalized people:

Our current circumstances require resilience and the steadfast belief that joy is a healing inner event and a spiritual practice. . . . BIPOC folks [1] who remember the ways of the elders have seen it in action. Performance of joy while the wounds are still being inflicted is not a display of otherworldly strength. It is an act of faith that God will not give us more than we can bear. . . .

Personal and communal joy require authenticity. We have to stop performing the blackness that whiteness created, the stereotypes and secret-keeping. We have to sing ourselves sane and dance ourselves free. Each act of public joy is one step closer to that risky leap toward transcendence. . . .

Performing joy offers healing from our addictive engagement with domination systems. We are not required to fight for our reality; we can just live it. . . . We are being invited to awaken to our true nature as spirit beings, energy sharers, and prophets of potential. The joy spoken of in Holy Scripture is accessible, but also has a certain “beyondness” to it: The world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. As we hear from Jesus in John 16:22: “So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” [2]

Sikh human rights activist and writer Valarie Kaur understands the healing power of joy, even amidst what she describes as the necessary “labors” of life:

Joy is possible even amid great labors—the labor of dying, the labor of birthing, and the labors between. We cannot force it. But when we create moments to breathe between labor pains, and surrender our senses to the present moment, notice the colors and light and feeling of being alive, here, together, joy comes more easily. It is a felt sense in our bodies. In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in joy is a revolutionary act. Joy returns us to everything good and beautiful and worth fighting for. It gives us energy for the long labor. . . . Joy is the gift of love: it makes the labor an end in itself. I believe laboring in joy is the meaning of life. [3]

References:
[1] The acronym BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 117­­, 119.

[3] Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020), 307.

Story from Our Community:
In the early 1990s I met myself in a very elaborate lucid dream. Upon shaking my hand, I said, “I Am You.” I woke knowing that my personal identity is identical to everyone else’s. What if oneness means “I Am You”? The “I” with which God sees me is the same “I” with which “I” look for God. This is the mysticism of love of neighbor. From that dream on I treated my wife, family, friends, and patients as if “I Am You,” and learned that our core self-interests were as identical as our identity. —Roger K.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

Communal Lament
Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Psalms of lament are powerful expressions of the experience of disorientation. They express the pain, grief, dismay, and anger that life is not good. They also refuse to settle for things as they are, and so they assert hope. —Walter Brueggemann, Praying the Psalms

Most of us have not been told that we could or should “complain” to God, but lamentation might be the most honest form of prayer. It takes great trust and patience to remain stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. My CAC colleague Barbara Holmes sees lamentation as a healing practice in the midst of crisis contemplation: 

Communal lament is important for several reasons. It wakes us up and, in doing so, makes us mindful of the pain of our neighbors, who no longer can go about business as usual when the women begin to wail. Their keening rattles both marrow and bone. Who can remain in a stupor with all of that yelling?! But lament is important for another reason: The collective wail reminds us that we are not alone. The sheer power and resonance of a grief-stricken chorus reminds us that we are beings of quantum potential. We still have agency in every cell of our being, enough to survive—even this!

Lament is risky business. . . . The reasons that lament is risky are because it challenges power structures, it calls for justice, and it makes demands on our relationships with the “powers that be,” one another, and God. Once lament is released, it cannot be recalled. Lament is risky because we never know until the act is done whether or not we have gone too far.

Lament allows the pain to escape and stitches us to our neighbors. We are called to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Our tears are our prayers when we can’t speak, a baptism of sorts, a salty healing, a sign of our vulnerability, and a liturgical response to violence. . . .

Lament is a collective response to tyranny and injustice. When we are confronted with the horror of our violence-laden society, our mindless killing of innocents, we shift from individual sob and solitary whine to collective moans. . . . In similar fashion, the Holy Spirit groans prayers on our behalf. In the Epistle to the Romans (8:26, NIV) Paul states, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit . . . intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Throughout Romans chapter 8, Paul writes of sacred utterances of creation and humankind in crisis. We don’t know what will emerge from this time of tarrying, but we do know that something is being born. Like a woman in labor, there is expectation in the darkness, anticipation amid the suffering, hope permeating the pain. Something new is being born and something old is being transformed.

Reference:
Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 95–96.

Story from Our Community:
As a theology student many years ago, I did my thesis on transformative transformation. Recently I revisited it and realized I only included points that confirmed what I already believed and made me feel good and “inspired.” The past 35 years have confronted and challenged my previously held assumptions; the Spirit reveals new truths and more ultimate meaning about myself and the workings of Christ in my life. With each day I find Spirit challenging me to shed biases that hold me back from experiencing and embracing all life presents with open eyes, ears, and heart. —Dennis K.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

Healing Generational Wounds
Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The wounds that we don’t know about or don’t remember are the deepest. It is through the wormhole of those wounds that we travel to arrive at the peace that surpasses all understanding. Healing is possible because we have the ability to spiritually veer from disaster, and to allow crises to make rather than break us. Ultimately, we can trust the leading of the Holy Spirit as it guides us toward mutual care and love of God, neighbors, and creation. —Barbara Holmes, Crisis Contemplation

All of us experience the absurd, the tragic, the nonsensical, the unjust, but we do not all experience this pain in the same way. Trauma researcher Joy DeGruy writes about the wounds caused by oppression that are passed down over generations, and says that the time has come to break the cycle of pain:

Throughout recorded history people have subjugated, enslaved, and at times even exterminated one another. Sometimes these acts were committed in the name of a king or queen, other times in the name of a tribe or country. Often they were committed in the name of God. Always they were done to consolidate and expand the power of a select few. Always, vast numbers of people died for no good reason. Always, even a greater number of people needlessly suffered to sate the appetites of that select group. These are crimes against humanity, and these crimes continue to be executed across our planet to this day.

Furthermore, these crimes are perpetrated in a seemingly never-ending cycle. The powerful oppress the less powerful, who in turn oppress those even less powerful than they. [RR: We see this often even within families!] These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity. . . .

The time has now come to . . . break the cycle, and once again claim our humanity. Breaking this cycle and claiming our humanity will require much work from all of us. Those who have been the victims of years, decades, and centuries of oppression first must heal from injuries received first-hand, as well as those passed down through the ages. Those who have been the perpetrators of these unspeakable crimes, and those who continue to benefit from those crimes, have to honestly confront their deeds and heal from the psychic wounds that come with being the cause and beneficiaries of such great pain and suffering. [1]

Whether we currently identify as a victim or a victor, we are all wounded. If we could see our wounds as the way through, as Jesus did, then they would become sacred wounds, and not something to deny, disguise, or export to others. I’ve frequently said that if we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it, usually to those closest to us. The given is that we will have pain! Spirituality is about transforming both history and individuals so that we don’t just keep handing on this pain to the next generation, consciously or unconsciously. [2]

References:
[1] Joy DeGruy, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (Joy DeGruy Publications: 2017), iv.

[2] Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017), 76–77.

Story from Our Community:
As a theology student many years ago, I did my thesis on transformative transformation. Recently I revisited it and realized I only included points that confirmed what I already believed and made me feel good and “inspired.” The past 35 years have confronted and challenged my previously held assumptions; the Spirit reveals new truths and more ultimate meaning about myself and the workings of Christ in my life. With each day I find Spirit challenging me to shed biases that hold me back from experiencing and embracing all life presents with open eyes, ears, and heart. —Dennis K.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

Crisis Contemplation
Monday, July 26, 2021

CAC faculty member Barbara Holmes brilliantly teaches about contemplation but not in the way we typically think about it. She understands contemplation as the soul’s arising even in the midst of the most challenging crises humanity faces. Her new book Crisis Contemplation describes how this is the case:

In the midst of devastating crises, we are asked to do the counterintuitive. When the times call for anxiety, flight, or fight . . .  [we are asked] to allow for the possibility of contemplative refuge, respite, and renewal. To slow down and be still is to allow both the source of our troubles and options for recovery to emerge. . . .

However, in its historically understood context, contemplation requires the privilege and time to retreat from the frontlines of everyday life, if only for a little while. For most people of color/culture and communities under siege, such comforts are inconceivable. We dare not shift our gaze for even a moment to consider an alternative reality. Survival requires an alert spiritual and embodied stance. To contemplate (in the ordinary sense of the word) during a crisis might increase the possibility that we miss or misread signs of danger in our immediate environment. . . .

Contemplation is not just an effective response to crisis. It can also arise during the most intense aspects of the event. When bodies are being tortured, when minds are pushed to the breaking point, the human spirit falls through the cracks of the crisis into the center of contemplation. Howard Thurman [1900–1981] referred to this inner space as an island, a place that cannot be breached without personal consent: “When all hope for release in this world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.” [1]

When the ordinary isn’t ordinary anymore and the crisis is upon us, the self can center in this refuge that I am calling “crisis contemplation,” a space that is neither the result of spiritual seeking nor the voluntary entry into meditative spaces. It is a cracking open, the rupture and shattering of self, community, expectations, and presumptions about how the world works. . . . When we let go, the only constants are God’s love and God’s promise that we will never be left alone.

Barbara’s naming of “crisis contemplation” expands the traditional understanding of contemplation, which has quite frankly been largely formed by educated, privileged (by time and resources if not by the circumstances of their lives), and often celibate male teachers. Crisis contemplation opens the door to an inclusive recognition of how God works in and through all things—even the worst things of life itself.

References:
[1] Howard Thurman, Deep River: Reflections on the Religious Insight of Certain of the Negro Spirituals (Harper & Brothers: 1945, 1955), 25.

Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 42, 44, 47.

Story from Our Community:
After reading Barbara Holmes, I pray that the world she describes—where people are interconnected in respect and love—will bring true equality. I am 76 and contribute to a food pantry, donate clothes, and recently participated in a peaceful protest, but I feel like I’m trying to build a sandcastle with tiny grains of sand. I am grateful for these daily meditations; I start each day with them and God soothes my spirit and I continue doing my tiny grains of sand. —Mary W.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry

Crisis Contemplation

When Crisis Comes
Sunday, July 25, 2021

Living in a transitional age such as ours is scary: things are falling apart, the future is unknowable, so much doesn’t cohere or make sense. We can’t seem to put order to it. This is the postmodern panic. It lies beneath most of our cynicism, our anxiety, and our aggression. Yet, there is little in the biblical revelation that ever promised us an ordered universe. The whole Bible is about meeting God in the actual, in the incarnate moment, in the scandal of particularity. It is rather amazing that we ever tried to codify and control the whole thing.

Chaos often precedes great creativity, and faith precedes great leaps into new knowledge. The pattern of transformation begins in order, but it very quickly yields to disorder and—if we stay with it long enough in love—eventual reordering. Our uncertainty is the doorway into mystery, the doorway into surrender, the path to God that Jesus called “faith.” In her work on “crisis contemplation,” CAC teacher Barbara Holmes confirms what we and others have long suspected—that great suffering and great love are the two universal paths of transformation. Both are the ultimate crises for the human ego. Barbara writes:

The crisis begins without warning, shatters our assumptions about the way the world works, and changes our story and the stories of our neighbors. The reality that was so familiar to us is gone suddenly, and we don’t know what is happening. . . .

If life, as we experience it, is a fragile crystal orb that holds our daily routines and dreams of order and stability, then sudden and catastrophic crises shatter this illusion of normalcy. . . . I am referring to oppression, violence, pandemics, abuses of power, or natural disasters and planetary disturbances. . . .

We can identity three common elements in every crisis: The event is usually unexpected, the person or community is unprepared, and there is nothing that anyone could do to stop it from happening. Even if there are signs everywhere that something is not right, we tend to ignore the warnings and the signposts. Not even sky writing, or messengers from other worlds, would be able to shift our gaze from the comfort of our daily routines. Thus, the slave catchers, the roundups for native removal, the pandemics, devastating hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions catch us off guard. . . .

When the unexpected happens during a communal crisis, we are not alone. We are with friends and neighboring villagers, and we all experience the same break in reality. Bereft of words, all of us hold the same question: How could this be happening? . . .

I consider crisis contemplation to be an aspect of disorder that prepares communities for a leap toward the future. This is a leap toward our beginnings. We are not just organisms functioning on a biological level; our sphere of being also includes stardust and consciousness. We all have a spark of divinity within, a flicker of Holy Fire that can be diminished, but never extinguished.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2020), 15–16.

Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Wounded Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 19–20, 21, 124.

Story from Our Community:
After reading Barbara Holmes, I pray that the world she describes—where people are interconnected in respect and love—will bring true equality. I am 76 and contribute to a food pantry, donate clothes, and recently participated in a peaceful protest, but I feel like I’m trying to build a sandcastle with tiny grains of sand. I am grateful for these daily meditations; I start each day with them and God soothes my spirit and I continue doing my tiny grains of sand. —Mary W.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
Read Full Entry
Join Our Email Community

Stay up to date on the latest news and happenings from Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation.


HTML spacer