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Devotion: Weekly Summary

Week Fifty Summary and Practice

Sunday, December 12—Friday, December 17, 2021

Sunday
Put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightened you, the thing that afflicted you is nothing: Do not let it disturb you. . . . Am I not here, I, who am your mother?Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, 1513

Monday
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!Howard Thurman

Tuesday
I want to encourage the uncovering of what we mean by the word devotion. We have to somehow live a life that’s connected to the heart. —Richard Rohr

Wednesday
As devotional practices turned into repetitive obligations, they degenerated; and most people came to understand them magically as divinely required transactions. Instead of inviting people into new consciousness, they often froze people in their first infantile understanding of those rituals, and transactions ended up substituting for transformations. —Richard Rohr

Thursday
“Prayer of the heart” occurs when the Prayer moves from merely mental repetition, forced along by your own effort, to an effortless and spontaneous self-repetition of the Prayer that emanates from the core of your being, your heart. —Frederica Mathewes-Green

Friday
An opened heart is boundless; that is, unconditional in its scope. Once we are awakened to love as the lifelong purpose of our hearts, then feeling love for all the world becomes the meaning—and greatest joy—of living. —David Richo

 

Mindfulness to Heartfulness

Devotional practices have opened believers’ hearts for millennia, and we now understand the mind-body-heart connection within us in a deeper way. Researcher and therapist Dr. Alane Daugherty suggests a body-based practice to create a sense of heartfelt awareness:

The force of deep love, compassion and other heartfelt emotions can literally unite our brain, our heart, and all of the cells in our body. By experiencing what these heartfelt states are like inside of us we can then activate the dormant impulses, cultivate them, and embody them in an integrated way of being. This union feels harmonious and expansive; like we are all at once in touch with the depths of our being, and connected to a much larger way of living. Done intentionally and routinely they form an even greater union, become our primary way of operating, and profoundly change our world and us. . . .

[Heartful awareness] is the momentary choice, moment after moment, to let our truest sense emerge into our lived reality and intersect with the outside world. It allows us to be the best that we can be, in whatever we do. . . .

We invite you to try these practices from Daugherty:

The following are suggestions for specific tangible ways you might implement heartful awareness into your everyday life. . . .

  • Pay attention to attention. Stop and pause several moments during the day and just notice where your attention is. Make an overt intention, when you are authentically capable, to become heartfully engaged with yourself, your surroundings, or others. . . .
  • Savor what you already have. The ‘spiral of becoming’ shows us that we physiologically change to any state we are routinely in. When we are already in states of heartful engagement, focused attention and awareness to ‘cement’ these states further imprints them in our cellular memory.
  • Micro-moments add up! Momentary choices of engagement make profound shifts. They re-wire our neural nets and habitual ways of being, create oxytocin-rich changes in our blood chemistry, as well as dopamine and serotonin the hopeful outlook neurotransmitters, and foundationally change our perception to one of expansiveness and possibility. . . .
  • Continually tap into the deepest sense of who you are and let that lead. The more moments we spend resting in our deepest potential or connected to our Inner Being, the more they become our primary ‘operating system.’ Pay attention, and shift when you can. When you cannot, hold yourself in a place of loving-kindness and awareness, and promise those ‘parts’ healing attention when you are able. Offer the love and support to yourself, as you would a best friend.

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference:
Alane Daugherty, From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: A Journey of Transformation through the Science of Embodiment (Balboa Press: 2014), 111, 112, 149, 150.

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.

Our Sacred Hearts

Devotion does not end at a shrine or image. It is only authentic when it reaches all the way into ourselves and into our lifestyle with an utterly transforming power. —David Richo, The Sacred Heart of the World

David Richo is a therapist, author, and teacher who integrates spirituality and psychology. In his book, The Sacred Heart of the World, he seeks to return the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to its cosmic origins. He writes:

As we look symbolically, the image of a divine open and grace-giving heart shows what our own inmost core looks like. It is a spiritual portrait of our hearts and the heart of the universe: strongly aglow with the divine fire, beaming light in every direction, and at the same time opened because it is wounded. . . .

It is ironic that a symbol of generous love became focused on our need to make reparation, that a powerful divine presence became associated with a saccharine image, that a liberating message became moralistic, that a call to universal compassion became a Jesus-and-I devotion. It is time to remove the past from the Sacred Heart and restore it to the meaning it had for the mystics and can have for us today. . . .

The heart of Christianity is the Heart of Jesus, a passionate devotedness to the well-being of humanity. To be a Christian is to be possessed by that same passionate intention. Indeed, to say that God created the world is to affirm that it vibrates at a pitch identical to the nature of God, who is love. Indeed, the pitch we were meant to live at is love. Life does not ever feel quite right unless love is the best and greatest part of it. . . .

Our heart is the soft center of our egoless self and it has one impelling desire: to open. The heart is the capacity to open. This is the force that complements our other powers. It takes us beyond our limits. It contains our ability to reach out so it is the antidote to despair. We are spiritually coded in ways we have not yet dared even to imagine. The depths of our spiritual capacity are still unplumbed. Contemplation of Jesus’ Heart shows us how deep we really are, how vast our potential for love, how high our aspiration for the light. . . .

An opened heart is boundless; that is, unconditional in its scope. Once we are awakened to love as the lifelong purpose of our hearts, then feeling love for all the world becomes the meaning—and greatest joy—of living. St. John Chrysostom [c. 347–407] says: “If you have found the way to your heart, you have found the way to heaven.” . . .

As we grow in spiritual consciousness, we move away from superstitions that seem to assure a stranglehold on God. The only promise of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is that we have not yet lost nor will we ever lose our capacity to love.

Reference:
David Richo, The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life (Paulist Press: 2007), 5–6, 8, 21, 22–23, 99.

Story from Our Community:
Each morning as the sun rises I have the privilege of sitting down to these daily meditations over a cup of coffee before work. They have been a game-changer for me in my walk, offering a breath of hope in a world that oftentimes feels hopeless. Thank you, CAC, for bringing these truths to light every day. —Elizabeth F.

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.

Prayer of the Heart

Search inside yourself with your intellect so as to find the place of the heart, where all the powers of the soul reside. —St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Three Methods of Prayer

Many of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, along with thinkers and mystics in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, have described prayer as bringing our thinking down into our heart. It is not the words themselves as much as the rhythmical repetition that localizes one in the heart. It is the same with the rosary. One cannot “think” Hail Mary 50 or 100 times. There is no content to “think” after a few recitations! Chants and repetitive prayers are, in fact, a technology to help you stop thinking! And it works. [1]

Greek Orthodox author Frederica Mathewes-Green describes the practice of the Jesus Prayer, which is the simple repetition of the phrase: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” She writes:

God doesn’t need [reminders from us] to be merciful; [God] is merciful all the time, even when we don’t ask. But unless we make a habit of asking for mercy, we forget that we need it. . . .

At first the Prayer is just a string of words repeated, perhaps mechanically, in your mind. But with time it may “descend into the heart,” and those who experience this will be attentive to maintain it, continually “bringing the mind” (the nous, that is) “into the heart.” . . . This “descent into the heart” does include reference to the physical heart (or the general region of the heart within the chest). This blending of matter and spirit can be surprising to Western Christians, but it came naturally to the earliest Christians, who inherited from ancient Judaism an expectation that God is present throughout Creation. “Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24).

“Prayer of the heart” occurs when the Prayer moves from merely mental repetition, forced along by your own effort, to an effortless and spontaneous self-repetition of the Prayer that emanates from the core of your being, your heart. You discover that the Holy Spirit has been there, praying, all along. Then heart and soul, body and mind, memory and will, the very breath of life itself, everything that you have and are unites in gratitude and joy, tuned like a violin string to the name of Jesus.

The simplicity of the Jesus Prayer makes it available to anyone at any time. The more we commit to it, the greater our heart’s capacity for God grows. Mathewes-Green continues:

The practice of the Prayer will initially take some serious self-discipline, but it gradually grows sweet, and then irresistible. The hope of protection from your own vicious or self-hating thoughts is alone a strong impetus to persevere. Day by day the healing advances, and continual immersion in Christ’s presence becomes your goal. One day you will find that the Prayer is starting up within you on its own, like a dearly loved melody.

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate: Seeing God in All Things, disc 8 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer That Tunes the Heart to God (Paraclete Press: 2009), 9, 18–19, 45.

Story from Our Community:
Each morning as the sun rises I have the privilege of sitting down to these daily meditations over a cup of coffee before work. They have been a game-changer for me in my walk, offering a breath of hope in a world that oftentimes feels hopeless. Thank you, CAC, for bringing these truths to light every day. —Elizabeth F.

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.

The Importance of Practice

Father Richard believes that contemplative practice is key to developing a heart-centered faith. He writes:  

Practice is an essential reset button that we must push many times before we can experience any genuine newness. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we are practicing all the time. When we operate by our habituated patterns, we strengthen certain neural pathways, which makes us, as the saying goes, “set in our ways.” But when we stop using old neural grooves, these pathways actually die off! Practice can literally create new responses and allow rigid ones to show themselves.

It is strange that we have come to understand the importance of practice in sports, in most therapies, in any successful business, and in any creative endeavor; but for some reason most of us do not see the need for it in the world of religion, where it is probably more important than in any other area. “New wine demands fresh skins or otherwise we lose both the wine and the container,” as Jesus put it (see Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37–38). Practices, more than anything else, create a new container for us, one that will protect the new wine we wish to take in.

Many are convinced that rituals and “practices” like a contemplative Eucharist, the rosary, processions and pilgrimages, repetitive chants, genuflections and prostrations, physically blessing oneself (as with the sign of the cross), singing, and silence have operated as a kind of body-based rewiring. Such practices allow us to know Reality mystically and contemplatively from a unitive consciousness. But, over time, as these practices turned into repetitive obligations, they degenerated; and most people came to understand them magically as divinely required transactions. Instead of inviting people into new consciousness, these practices often froze people in their first infantile understanding of those rituals, and transactions ended up substituting for transformations.

Mindless repetition of any practice, with no clear goal or purification of intention, can in fact keep us quite unconscious—unless the practices keep breaking us into new insight, desire, compassion, and an ever-larger notion of God and ourselves. Catatonic repetition of anything is a recipe for unconsciousness, the opposite of any real consciousness, intentionality, or spiritual maturity. If spirituality does not support very real growth in both inner and outer freedom, it is not authentic spirituality. It is such basic unfreedom that makes so many people dislike and mistrust religious people.

Such fear-based “spinning of prayer wheels” reflects the “magical” level of consciousness that dominated much of the world until it began to widely erode in the 1960s. Yet each of these practices can also be understood in a very mature way.

It’s a paradox that God’s gifts are totally free and unearned, and yet God does not give them except to people who really want them, choose them, and say “yes” to them. This is the fully symbiotic nature of grace. Divine Loving is so pure that it never manipulates, shames, or forces itself on anyone. Love waits to be invited and desired, and only then rushes in.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017), 94–97.

Story from Our Community:
In the past thirteen years as a pastor’s spouse, I saw the politics and wasted resources of my denomination. My faith slowly ebbed away. I no longer wanted to attend, but I do respect and recognize my husband’s calling. I’m now attending Quaker worship. Fr. Richard’s daily meditations and writings have encouraged me. I know my feelings are legitimate, and that God still loves me as I rebuild my faith. —Lori J.

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.

A Return to Devotion

Feast Day of St. John of the Cross

As we continue in the season of Advent, Father Richard shares why he believes devotion, or heart-centered faith, is essential to the Christian journey. 

I want to encourage the uncovering of what we mean by the word devotion. We have to somehow live a life that’s connected to the heart. Otherwise, we get into head ideology, righteousness, opinionatedness, and insisting on the right or wrong words. All are ways of avoiding the heart and staying in the head!

I have to admit that I’ve learned this kind of devotion from good old-time Catholics and healthy evangelicals. They’re invariably heart-based people who look out at reality with soft eyes. We can usually see it in their calm face or the natural smile on their lips before they even start talking. Trust that first impression, it is seldom wrong.

If our message at the CAC is not heartfelt and creating heartfelt people, I predict it will not last, and it doesn’t deserve to last. It’ll be another head trip that we can argue about. I think it was the gift of the early Franciscans, although I don’t know that we, as the later Franciscan Order, always kept it. Francis and the early friars had a heartfelt quality that made them dear to people. Not everyone always agreed with Francis on things such as not going to war or radical poverty—but authentic, heartfelt, devoted people cannot be dismissed.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about when he taught, “Blessed are the pure of heart” (Matthew 5:8). It’s having achieved a purity of intention, desire, and motivation that isn’t about me—how I look and whether people are going to like me or affirm me. I think we all have to purify our intention several times a day: “Why am I doing what I’m doing?” If we don’t localize our intention in the compassionate space that we call the heart, it all becomes about making an impression that will ultimately benefit ourselves. We are all attracted to those loving people who are concerned about others more than themselves and concerned about us specifically. It’s really quite beautiful. We feel softened, we feel held, we feel more tender around people like that.

We can’t fake devotion but sometimes I do suggest we “fake it till we make it,” as many say. We need to practice some kind of heart-opening prayer and practice being compassionate and kind toward others. Eventually our hearts, as John Wesley said, will surely be “strangely warmed” [1] and no one is more surprised than we are!

This is one of the hardest things in the teaching of spirituality because we cannot manufacture devotion. It is the work of grace, but of course we have to want it and create the conditions that can allow it to happen. Anything that helps us to be less willful, less pushy, less judgmental toward ourselves is a good place to start, because the face we turn toward ourselves is the face we turn toward the world.

References:
[1] The Journal of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M., vol. 1 (Carlton and Phillips: 1855), 74.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, with Brie Stoner and Paul Swanson, “Universal Christ Values (Part 1),” Another Name for Every Thing, season 3, episode 1, February 15, 2020 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2020), audio podcast.

Story from Our Community:
In the past thirteen years as a pastor’s spouse, I saw the politics and wasted resources of my denomination. My faith slowly ebbed away. I no longer wanted to attend, but I do respect and recognize my husband’s calling. I’m now attending Quaker worship. Fr. Richard’s daily meditations and writings have encouraged me. I know my feelings are legitimate, and that God still loves me as I rebuild my faith. —Lori J.

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.

Full-Body Knowing

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]

References:
[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.

Loving Mother of the Americas

Third Sunday of Advent
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

“Listen. Put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest son, that the thing that frightened you, the thing that afflicted you is nothing: Do not let it disturb you. . . . Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?” —Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, 1513, Nican Mopohua

One of the images of Mary that continues to inspire devotion throughout the Americas is Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast we celebrate today. In this passage, CAC friend and author Mirabai Starr writes about the transformation that Our Lady of Guadalupe brought to Mexico and the world:

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to the Indian Juan Diego [1474–1548] only a few short years after Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico for Spain. The conquistadors had initially presented themselves as friends. The Aztecs believed that Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, the divine savior figure who, legend had promised, would return one day when they needed him most, and so they welcomed him and his entourage with joy. Once the Spaniards had insinuated themselves among the indigenous people, however, they proceeded to destroy them. In a concerted act of genocide and enslavement, the conquistadors swiftly eradicated an ancient culture. . . .

Into this bloody mix of violent cultures, Our Lady of Guadalupe extended the hand of mercy, comfort, and protection. . . . She drew everyone—European and indigenous—under her blanket of love. . . .

Images of Our Lady of Guadalupe are found throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and the southwestern United States. . . Roadside grottos every few miles hold her image nestled in rock and concrete, a tall glass candle perpetually burning at her feet. She is emblazoned on tee shirts and tattooed onto biceps. She is borrowed to advertise taxi companies and hardware stores, women’s circles and bikers’ gangs. . . . She extends her unconditional love to all who reach for her merciful hand—believers and atheists, Latinos and Anglos, women and men—and they love her back, with equal intensity.

In a world struggling against senseless violence and growing economic disparity, Our Lady of Guadalupe offers a distinctly feminine antidote to the poisons of poverty and war. Where society demands competition, Guadalupe teaches cooperation. In place of consumerism, she models compassionate service. She is not the whitewashed Virgin of the institutional Church. She is the radical, powerful, engaged Mother of the People.

Our Lady is not merely a sociopolitical symbol, however. People of all faiths call her Mother. In times of deeply personal grief, they turn to her for comfort. They turn to her for insight. They turn to her for a reminder of what matters most, what endures when all else seems to be lost, what grace may yet be available when we meet fear with love.

Reference:
Mirabai Starr, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Devotions, Prayers and Living Wisdom (Sounds True: 2008), 14–15, 16–17.

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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