Theme:
Ways of Knowing

Ways of Knowing

Sunday, February 9–Friday, February 14, 2020

God calls us to “not conform to the pattern of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds” through relationship with those who see differently than we do (see Romans 12:2). (Sunday) 

The vast majority of people throughout history have been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have read history in terms of a need for change. (Monday) 

As a pastor I refuse to separate the reality of this world from the reality of the Bible by preaching a “cheap gospel” that neither challenges the present reality nor is challenged by it. —Mitri Raheb (Tuesday) 

She takes my face gently in her hands and holds me in Her gaze as She tells me what She thinks I need to know, forming the words slowly so I can remember them and let them sink in. —Steven Charleston (Wednesday) 

Black Theology is the story of black people’s struggle for liberation in an extreme situation of oppression. Consequently there is no sharp distinction between thought and practice, worship and theology, because black theological reflections about God occurred in the black struggle of freedom. —James Cone (Thursday) 

What a gift to be on earth during an era when the universe is making itself known to and through the human race. —Barbara Holmes (Friday) 

 

Practice: Meditation and Prayer 

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form—without filters, judgments, or commentaries. The ego doesn’t trust this way of seeing, which is why it is so rare, “a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14, New Jerusalem Bible). The only way we can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing our own compulsive mental grids—our practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything 

Depth psychologist David G. Benner offers the following framing of Christian contemplative practices in a way that can help deepen our experience of them: 

The Christian forms of meditation bring us to the question of the relationship between meditation and prayer. This is an important question because I think there are limits to what meditation can, in itself, accomplish that are overcome when meditation is placed within a context of prayer.  

Although contemplative prayer and meditation may share many features, contemplative prayer is wordless openness to God. Hence it involves a relationship. It is this intentional openness to God while setting aside thoughts that makes contemplative prayer so deeply transformational.  

Contemplative prayer always requires hospitality to your deep self, to the deep parts of your self. It demands the openness to receive whatever might arise in you and then gently release it into God’s hands. But in prayer you are not alone as you open yourself to whatever might emerge. You do so in a relationship that provides a safety and support in holding whatever emerges. That which arises might come with a flood of emotional intensity. Sometimes, being still before self and God releases a torrent of emotions. Tears may be intermixed with joy. . . . But whatever emerges in silence and stillness before God emerges in the place within you in which you are held within God. It emerges, therefore, within the context of prayer, whether or not you are thinking of God or talking to God. Your openness to God makes it prayer. 

Thomas Keating describes what happens in stillness and silence before God in unworded presence as divine therapy. It may involve an unloading of the unconscious, but this is only the visible face of the invisible process of reworking your unconscious, a process that is going on as you sit in stillness before God and yourself. . . . This isn’t the time to try to understand the things that float to the surface of your consciousness. Instead, it’s the time to simply note them and then release them to God. But as you recognize their presence, you become aware of what exists within you, and you have an opportunity to peek at the deep hidden work of healing and transformation that God is doing in your soul. This is the transformational way in which contemplative prayer works.    

Reference:
David G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self (Brazos Press: 2012), 226-227. 

For Further Study:
Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus (Morehouse Publishing: 2015)  

James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed (Orbis Books: 1997)  

Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos, rev. ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020) 

Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes (Orbis Books: 2014) 

Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2019) 

Richard Rohr, Scripture as Liberation (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

Stardust and A Divine Spark 
Friday, February 14, 2020

In her book Race and the CosmosDr. Barbara Holmes presents a new way for us to address oppression by recognizing who we are and the commonality we share as members of the human raceWhen we encounter other ways of knowing, we may find ourselves discomforted and even distressed by the pain that our nation, our church, or even we ourselves have caused others. Today, I want to offer a perspective that can lead to healing and wholeness, instead of our too ready defensiveness. Holmes writes:  

So much has changed since Dr. King expressed [in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”].  his hope for a “not too distant tomorrow” of radiant human mutuality. . . 

However, the clouds of race and racism in American continue to loom, threatening and dangerous. . . . The ghosts of oppression are shape-shifting into new forms and expanding their territory. . . . Despite the apparent advances of women, people of color (POC), and the LGBTQIA+ community, racism, violence, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant tropes seem to be on the rise. 

Although this is a discouraging reality, I am convinced that a community-called-beloved is possible. This is an admittedly fragile possibility, but it is not a utopian dream. I believe that people of good will harbor a persistent hope that our planet can be a place of belonging for all its inhabitants. To view the world differently is to recognize the delusions that we have willingly embraced and admit our own complicity in the empowerment of systems of oppression. 

In America, we have encoded the languages of equality, freedom, and justice into our myths of national “goodness,” yet we remain infatuated with power and privilege. Also, we support corrupt and rapacious political and economic systems that prey on the vulnerable. It will take a shift in language and purpose to free us from this limited and materialistic view of human potential. 

Perhaps the language of science, cosmology, and physics can help us to see our plight and our opportunity. . . . [With] chaos in our social systems, we are in such dire need of vision, imagination, and love of neighbor that this rhetorical experiment is worth a try. Currently, we are using language to disguise our commonalities and exacerbate our differences. Narratives about POC often emphasize inherent inferiority and criminality, when the truth is that all of us embody stardust and a divine spark with cosmic origins. 

We come from mystery and return to it at the end of the life journey. What a gift to be on earth during an era when the universe is making itself known to and through the human race. We are part of an unfolding that is ongoing, yet, around the planet, people and systems are in crisis and we don’t seem to know what to do. . . . Perhaps the first steps require that we free ourselves from negative stereotypes and recognize our common cosmic origins. 

Reference:
Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos (CAC Publishing: 2020) 17-19. Race and the Cosmos was originally published in 2002 but has been revised by the author and is now available at store.cac.org. 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

Liberation
Thursday, February 13, 2020

James Cone (19382018) is one of the greatest American theologians of this past century, yet sadly many Christians have never heard of himHis work laid the foundation for a liberation theology that spoke directly to the injustice, oppression, and violence faced by the Black community in the United StatesJesus made it clear that he came to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18), showing that if we liberated the people on the margins, the good news would float upwardsin the opposite direction of the “trickle down” economic model, which is largely an illusion. Jesus’ teaching empowered Rev. Dr. Cone to write, “Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.” [1] Cone reflects: 

Like white American theology, black thought on Christianity has been influenced by its social context. But unlike white theologians, who spoke to and for the culture of the ruling class, black people’s religious ideas were shaped by the cultural and political existence of the victims in North America. Unlike Europeans who immigrated to this land to escape from tyranny, Africans came in chains to serve a nation of tyrants. It was the slave experience that shaped our idea of this land. And this difference in social existence between Europeans and Africans must be recognized, if we are to understand correctly the contrast in the form and content of black and white theology. 

What then is the form and content of black religious thought when viewed in the light of black people’s social situation? Briefly, the form of black religious thought is expressed in the style of story and its content is liberation. Black Theology, then, is the story of black people’s struggle for liberation in an extreme situation of oppression. Consequently, there is no sharp distinction between thought and practice, worship and theology, because black theological reflections about God occurred in the black struggle of freedom.  

White theologians built logical systems; black folks told tales. Whites debated the validity of infant baptism or the issue of predestination and free will; blacks recited biblical stories about God leading the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, and the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. White theologians argued about the general status of religious assertions in view of the development of science generally and Darwin’s Origin of Species in particular; blacks were more concerned about their status in American society and its relation to the biblical claim that Jesus came to set the captives free. White thought on the Christian view of salvation was largely “spiritual” and sometimes “rational,” but usually separated from the concrete struggle of freedom in this world. Black thought was largely eschatological [focused on the ultimate destiny of humanity] and never abstract, but usually related to blacks’ struggle against earthly oppression. [2] 

References:
[1] James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (Orbis Books: 2010), ix.  

[2] James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed (Orbis Books: 1997), 49-50. 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

Grandmother God 
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Since first working at Acoma Pueblo as a deacon in 1969 and making my permanent home in New Mexico in 1986, I have learned much from our Native American pueblos and tribes. I encourage you to learn about the history surrounding your home. [1] Settler colonial—and primarily Christian—countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa tried to destroy or at least seriously marginalize indigenous culturesThis now seems undeniable. Yet indigenous people and their practices persist, opening body and heart to deep wisdom. Today’s meditation introduces Steven Charlestonan elder of the Choctaw Nation and a retired Episcopal bishop. His way of knowing God and the Gospel reflect both his Christian and Choctaw heritage and his contemplative practice. 

The irony is I did find what I was looking for, but not in the place I expected. In my romantic imagination, I believed I would find my answer in a religious ritual or ceremony, either Christian or Traditional. I thought the answer might come to me high on a hill doing a vision quest, in the womb-like darkness of a Sweat Lodge, or in a camp meeting out on the prairie. The vision I had from God had been a little like that; it had surprised me during my ritual of morning prayers in Cambridge. But in the end, the answer found me sitting in a chair. I had been reading the gospel according to Matthew, letting the familiar words of his story slip through my mind like a gentle stream, when suddenly the holy voice I had first heard on the rooftop returned and shook me awake in my spirit. [2] 

You have just read the first vision quest of Jesus. 

I smile now because I can remember scrambling to come awake when those words caught me off guard. I consider this voice to be from God because it appears from some place other than my own consciousness. It announces itself. It speaks in a clear, simple, uncomplicated way. 

When I have attempted to explain this experience to others I have often laughed at myself because the voice I hear sounds as if it is speaking to a small child. I do not receive long and elaborate messages from God, probably because God is not sure I could understand them. Instead, I get the brief, direct words needed by a prophet with a short attention span. One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise old Native woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth. She takes my face gently in her hands and holds me in Her gaze as She tells me what She thinks I need to know, forming the words slowly so I can remember them and let them sink in. 

I embrace this feminine image in the same way Hebrew tradition refers to the voice of God as the bat kol, the daughter of the voice. It is that mysterious presence that comes from some source beyond, a communication that defies our ability to categorize. Therefore, like the theologians of ancient Israel, I give the voice a female personification because I experience it in that way. 

References:
[1] See “Tribal Nations Map,” https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/06/24/323665644/the-map-of-native-american-tribes-youve-never-seen-before, and the Native Land website and app, https://native-land.ca/. 

[2] Charleston may be referring to one of the following: Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 17:1-8, Matthew 26:36-46, or Matthew 27:32-55. 

Steven Charleston, The Four Vision Quests of Jesus (Morehouse Publishing: 2015), 44-45. 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

A Fascinating Discovery 
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Those of us who live in the West and experience the privilege of being white tend to gloss over the important fact that Jesus lived in an occupied territoryHe was not part of the dominant cultureRather, his familial and cultural land was occupied by a powerful adversary. This is essential to understanding his teachings and the Gospel. Text without context is dangerous! Imagine how different Christianity would look today if we had acknowledged this truthMitri Raheb is a Palestinian Christian, author, and Lutheran pastor who lives and works in Bethlehem. This context offers him unique way of knowing and interpreting the Gospel, one that we in the West can certainly learn from. 

As a Palestinian Christian, Palestine is the land of both my physical and my spiritual forefathers and foremothers. The biblical story is thus part and parcel of my nation’s history, a history of continuous occupation by succeeding empires. In fact, the biblical story can best be understood as a response to the geo-political history of the region. . . .   

Jesus was a Middle Eastern Palestinian Jew. If he were to travel through Western countries today, he would be “randomly” pulled aside and his person and papers would be checked. The Bible is a Middle Eastern book. It is a product of that region with all of its complexities. While it might seem that I am stating the obvious, I firmly believe that this notion has not been given enough attention. In fact and in spite of being a Middle Easterner, I have come to discover the importance of the geo-politics of the region only in the last ten years. I began to sense that it was not merely by chance that the three monotheistic religions and their sacred scriptures, for good or for bad, hailed from the same region. . . . For me, as a Palestinian Christian, the realization of this fact made for a fascinating discovery. 

This discovery did not come to light in an academic setting somewhere in the West, and it was not the outcome of a study I undertook in a research center. It was, instead, the gradual accumulation of knowledge I gained “in the field” by observing the movements and processes occurring in Palestine over a prolonged period. In short, I was observing, analyzing, and trying to understand what was happening around me. . . .   

Empires create their own theologies to justify their occupation. [Just as the early American empires chose to overlook its mistreatment of the Native tribes who already lived here and then justified a slave holder form of Christianity in much of the Americas. RR] Such oppression generates a number of important questions among the occupied: “Where are you, God?” and “Why doesn’t God interfere to rescue [God’s] people?” When, under various regimes, diverse identities emerge in different parts of Palestine, the question arises, “Who is my neighbor?” And finally, “How can liberation be achieved?” is a constant question. . . . These questions and the differing responses can be found in the Bible, just as they are found in Palestine today. . . . 

As a pastor I refuse to separate the reality of this world from the reality of the Bible by preaching a “cheap gospel” that neither challenges reality nor is challenged by it.  

Reference:
Adapted from Mitri Raheb, Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes (Orbis Books: 2014), 1-2, 3. 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

Knowing from the Bottom
Monday, February 10, 2020 

The vast majority of people throughout history have been poor, disabled, or oppressed in some way (i.e., “on the bottom”) and would have read history in terms of a need for change, but most of history has been written and interpreted from the side of the winners. The unique exception is the revelation called the Bible, which is an alternative history from the side of the often enslaved, dominated, and oppressed people of Israelculminating in the scapegoat figure of Jesus himself. 

We see in the Gospels that it’s the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, and the foreigners who tend to follow Jesus. It is those on the inside and the top—the Roman occupiers, the chief priests and their conspiratorswho crucify him. Shouldn’t that tell us something really important about perspective? Every viewpoint is a view from a point. Wmust be able to critique our own perspective if we are to see a fuller truth. 

Liberation theologywhich focuses on freeing people from religious, political, social, and economic oppressionis mostly ignored by Western Christianity. Perhaps that’s not surprising when we consider who interpreted the Scriptures for the last seventeen hundred years. The empowered clergy class enforced their own perspective instead of that of the marginalized, who first received the message with such excitement and hope. Once Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire (after 313), we largely stopped reading the Bible from the side of the poor and the oppressed. We read it from the side of the political establishment and the usually comfortable priesthood instead of from the side of people hungry for justice and truth. Shifting our priorities to make room for the powerless instead of accommodating the powerful is the only way to detach religion from its common marriage to power, money, and self-importance.  

When Scripture is read through the eyes of vulnerability—what we call the “preferential option for the poor” or the bias from the bottom—it will always be liberating and transformative. Scripture will not be used to oppress or impress. The question is no longer, “How can I maintain the status quo?” (which just happens to benefit me), but “How can we all grow and change together?” Now we would have no top to protect, and the so-called “bottom” becomes the place of education, real change, and transformation for all. 

The bottom, or what Jesus called “the poor in Spirit” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3), is where we have no privilege to prove or protect but much to seek and become. Jesus called such people “blessed.” Dorothy Day (18971980) said much the same: “The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose.” [1] From that place, where few would expect or choose to be, we can be used as instruments of transformation and liberation for the rest of the world. 

Reference:
[1] Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes: The Inspiring Story of the Catholic Worker Movement (Orbis Books: 1997), 86. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations(Franciscan Media: 2019), 37, 39; and  

Scripture as Liberation, disc 7 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2002), MP3 download 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

To Know Thee More Clearly
Sunday, February 9, 2020 

O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
And follow Thee more nearly. 
St. Richard, Bishop of Chichester (1197–1253) [1] 

Ways of knowing are inseparable from human existence. As Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our lives.” While Christians emphasize Tradition and/or Scripture as sources of truth, I believe we balance them with our own experiencesWe can only know God and reality within the context of our own personal experiences of time, place, culture, class, education, etc. There are as many ways of knowing as there are people who have lived 

This week we pay attention to the wisdom of those “on the bottom. Throughout history, some people have assumed unearned privilegemost often by denying the inherent God-given dignity of others. Christians and so-called Christian nations have been and continue to be responsible for this violence just as much as other religions and societies. Why do we continue to get it so wrong when Jesus told us that loving God and our neighbor are the first commandments (see Matthew 22:34-40)? His teachings turned power on its head: the last will be first and the first will be last, Jesus reminded us (see Matthew 20:16).  

How we know and what we know are shaped by our experience. Speaking for myself, it is clear that my privilege as a white, formally educated, financially secure man (even though I am a Franciscan) influences what I see and how I understand itMy privilege also limits my perspective in many waysWhile I didn’t choose to “have” while others “have not,” if I’m not actively working toward equity, even my passive participation enables systems of inequality and injustice. Jesus continually invites me to see differently by encountering and engaging with those on the bottom 

The system benefitting me was never intended to benefit all. And because the system benefits me, I don’t need to see it clearly. On the other hand, those who do not receive its benefits are required to see it for their very survival. Thus, God calls us to not conform to the pattern of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds” through relationship with those who see life from a different perspective than we do (see Romans 12:2).   

This week’s meditations will introduce some other ways of knowing the Gospel which are grounded in the experiences of people who have been marginalized in some way. As I share the work of these writers, keep in mind: 

  1. Injustice results from systems, structures,and institutions more than individual choices and actions.  
  2. Each person has a uniquestory, so no single individual can represent an entire group.  
  3. Be aware that oppression, like the ego,shape-shifts and is hard to pin down. It will always find a new manifestation. 
  4. Each created beingis made in God’s imageand this God is love. 

As we journey together, be patient with the messages and yourselfSimply notice and observe reactions rather than resist or judge them. Expanding our perspective moves us out of comfort zones, so this may be an important time to practice some form of contemplative prayer or meditation.  

Reference:
[1] Attributed to St. Richard of Chichester in The Churchman’s Prayer Manual, G. R. Bullock-Webster (London: 1913), 31. 

Image credit: Anna Washington Derry (detail), Laura Wheeler Waring, 1927, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Washington, DC. 
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: One of my images of God is that of Grandmother, the wise . . . woman with gray hair and eyes as ancient as the Earth.  Steven Charleston 
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Ways of Knowing

Summary: Sunday, October 13—Friday, October 18, 2019

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form—without filters, judgments, or commentaries. (Sunday)

Head and heart, rational and spiritual, need not stifle or silence one another. —Maria S. Guarino (Monday)

This means engaging in dialogue with the Bible—bringing our questions to it, hearing its questions to us, examining our answers in its light, and taking its answers very seriously, particularly when they conflict with our own, which will be most of the time. —Robert McAfee Brown (Tuesday)

What does it mean to “know God”? Who are the ones who know God? —Robert McAfee Brown (Wednesday)

You cannot believe in or practice unitive consciousness as long as you exclude and marginalize others—whether it is women or people of different sexual orientations or people of religious or ethnic minorities or, in my experience, people with intellectual disabilities. —Tim Shriver (Thursday)

It came to me through senses unfamiliar, claiming me with a knowledge I did not know. That it was not within my rational understanding did not make it any less real. —Kent Nerburn (Friday)

 

Practice: Eating One Raisin: Mindful Eating

Because the rubber of transformation meets the road in practice, in actual encounters with real life, I continue to encourage you to try something new: change sides, move outside your comfort zone, make some new contacts, let go of your usual role and attractive self-image, walk or take a bus instead of drive, make a friend from another race or class, visit new neighborhoods, go to the jail or to the border, attend another church service, etc. Without new experiences, new thinking is difficult and rare. After a new experience, new thinking and behavior comes naturally and even becomes necessary. [1]

Today’s practice, Eating One Raisin, encourages us to do something we have probably done hundreds of times but in a new way. It comes from The Mindful Way Through Depression:

Mindfulness is not paying more attention but paying attention differently and more wisely—with the whole mind and heart, using the full resources of the body and its senses.

Holding
First, take a [single] raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Focusing on it, imagine that you’ve . . . never seen an object like this before in your life.

Seeing
Take time to really see it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.

Touching
Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture, maybe with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.

Smelling
Holding the raisin beneath your nose, with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.

Placing
Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.

Tasting
When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in the mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment, as well as any changes in the object itself.

Swallowing
When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.

Following
Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how the body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise in mindful eating. [2]

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The Eight Core Principles,” Radical Grace, vol. 25, no. 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: Fall 2012), 44-45. No longer in print. See cac.org/about-cac/missionvision.

[2] Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Guilford Press: 2007), 55-56.

 

For Further Study:
Robert McAfee Brown, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (The Westminster Press: 1984)

Maria S. Guarino, Listen with the Ear of the Heart: Music and Monastery Life at Weston Priory (University of Rochester Press: 2018)

Kent Nerburn, Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way (New World Library: 2016)

Richard Rohr, Yes, And . . . : Daily Meditations (Franciscan Media: 2013)

Image credit: Tableau No. 2/Composition No. VII (detail), Piet Mondrian, 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Perhaps it was the strangeness of the setting, perhaps it was the power of the moment, but, as I stood there, those stones began to speak. It was a clacking sound, a clattering sound, like the fluttering of wings, the descent of birds, the pounding of a hundred thousand hooves across the frozen tundra. —Kent Nerburn
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Ways of Knowing

Senses Unfamiliar
Friday, October 18, 2019

One of the gifts of Native traditions is their openness to wisdom from many avenues beyond rational thought—community, ancestors, dance, drumming, nature, and symbols that speak deeply to the unconscious. I am humbled to learn from our Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo brothers and sisters here in New Mexico, and I invite you to learn about the indigenous peoples who live near you or have been forcefully removed from the land you now call home. [1]

Read the following passage from Kent Nerburn’s book Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way with your heart wide open to unfamiliar and unexplainable ways of knowing. Imagine you are there with him:

I am standing in a lonely field, far from the nearest road, in the open prairie country of northwestern Minnesota. Just beyond me, the Ojibwe man who brought me here is overseeing the reburial of the bone fragments of two young girls, maybe fourteen or fifteen years of age, that were unearthed by a farmer during an excavation on his land.

We know they are girls and their approximate ages because modern science, with its tools and technologies, has analyzed their anatomical structure and drawn this conclusion. Yet beyond those facts we know nothing about them. They are thought to have lived over a thousand years ago. . . .

How wrong it felt to watch the bones of children being placed in a pit and covered by a front-end loader. These bones had once been young girls who had run and laughed and played on this very land. . . .

Who were they? How did they live? And are their spirits still present, as my friend who oversaw the burial believes?

I do not know. I cannot know. I can only bear witness and hope that my witness somehow does honor to their memory.

We are quick to draw lines where our awareness stops. Our streets, our alleyways, our history on the land—these form boundaries enough for us.

But there are truths that lie beneath our consciousness, just as there are truths that lie beneath our feet. That we do not know them does not mean that they do not exist, only that we do not have the patience and humility to hear.

Many years ago I stood in a dry creek bed in Alaska north of the Arctic Circle, staring out over a river of stones that wound, sinuous, into the purple arctic twilight.

Perhaps it was the strangeness of the setting, perhaps it was the power of the moment, but, as I stood there, those stones began to speak. It was a clacking sound, a clattering sound, like the fluttering of wings, the descent of birds, the pounding of a hundred thousand hooves across the frozen tundra.

I could not name it, but neither could I deny it. It came to me through senses unfamiliar, claiming me with a knowledge I did not know. That it was not within my rational understanding did not make it any less real.

The bones of these girls and the forgotten thousands of people who walked on these lands before us and gave their bodies and spirits to this soil speak with that same voice. We hear it, if we hear it at all, with a sense that lies far below our conscious awareness.

References:
[1] See “Tribal Nations Map,” https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/06/24/323665644/the-map-of-native-american-tribes-youve-never-seen-before, and the Native Land website and app, https://native-land.ca/.

Kent Nerburn, Voices in the Stones: Life Lessons from the Native Way (New World Library: 2016), 125, 130-132.

Image credit: Tableau No. 2/Composition No. VII (detail), Piet Mondrian, 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Perhaps it was the strangeness of the setting, perhaps it was the power of the moment, but, as I stood there, those stones began to speak. It was a clacking sound, a clattering sound, like the fluttering of wings, the descent of birds, the pounding of a hundred thousand hooves across the frozen tundra. —Kent Nerburn
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Ways of Knowing

To Love Unconditionally
Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tim Shriver, a friend and Chair of Special Olympics, works with many people whom our culture excludes or disregards. Through their eyes he has come to see God’s presence in every human being. As you read Tim’s words, imagine how you might stand in solidarity with someone “on the edge,” someone who has been excluded, and see that individual through God’s eyes. 

You cannot believe in or practice unitive consciousness as long as you exclude and marginalize others—whether it is women or people of different sexual orientations or people of religious or ethnic minorities or, in my experience, people with intellectual disabilities. My work is largely with and in support of people who have significant vulnerabilities because of intellectual disability. In many cultures these people are excluded and oppressed, though often unconsciously, even more so than other marginalized groups. . . . They are thought to be hopeless. Mostly they are ignored and forgotten.

For twenty years I have been mentored by these same people. Some might not be the best-spoken, the most articulate writers, the most celebrated thinkers, the fastest runners. And yet, despite all of that, I have met person after person who emanates a kind of radiant light. After a while, even the densest of us may have our eyes opened to that something which transcends all superficial distractions of disability: the unimaginable beauty of every person. That beauty is ours for the seeing if only we have the eyes to see, if only we pay attention.

I try to maintain those eyes as I engage in this work. At times I will pull myself out of whatever I’m doing and try to remember that I’m united with all that is. I give myself license to step away and reconnect. I fail mostly, but once in a while I succeed, and when I do, I feel like I am touching a “sweet spot” of wonder and peace. It enables me to be present to people in a way that I can communicate to them that I love them unconditionally. There are no conditions to our unity, to our oneness.

Many times I’ve watched, for instance, as a person with Down syndrome stands with a gold medal around her neck, arms raised high to a cheering crowd. I can’t look at that child, at that human being, without slipping out of dualistic thinking. Those moments are a kind of sacrament of unitive consciousness. They are “both-and” moments where shadow and light coexist in the same experience. . . . Divine energy shoots vertically through me like a force, and says, “See! Look! Pay attention to what is right in front of you! That is all you need to know!”

Reference:
Tim Shriver, “Ripples in the World: CAC Multipliers,” the Mendicant, vol. 4, no. 4 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 3-4.

Image credit: Tableau No. 2/Composition No. VII (detail), Piet Mondrian, 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Perhaps it was the strangeness of the setting, perhaps it was the power of the moment, but, as I stood there, those stones began to speak. It was a clacking sound, a clattering sound, like the fluttering of wings, the descent of birds, the pounding of a hundred thousand hooves across the frozen tundra. —Kent Nerburn
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