The Inner Journey

“If you ask for grace to realize who you are, ask also for the courage you will need to do so. To realize who you are, you will have to walk through all the shadows in your inner landscape. It is not easy. You will need to give up all your views about yourself again and again, each time they crystallize into a pattern. You will have to experience and release all the pain in your life. You will have to embrace your death. You will have to bear everything to realize everything. A perfect divine economy”.  James Thornton,  in: ‘A Field Guide to the Soul: A Down-to-Earth Handbook of Spiritual Practice’.

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The most important, and arduous path we take, comprises of the inner journey that the world knows nothing of, and only God can see:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”’ 1 Samuel 16:7.

Thinking Poetry: St. Brendan

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This is the first of a regular posting focusing on spiritual poetry/reflective writing of note. Today I will be reading ‘The Questions’, attributed to St. Brendan.

There is very little concrete biographical information concerning the life of Brendan, but he was a contemporary of St. Columba of Iona.

A printed version of the poem can be found in: ‘The Wisdom of Saint Columba of Iona’ by Murray Watts.

‘But The Silence In The Mind’

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R.S. Thomas was a welsh clergyman and talented poet. It’s hard to think of a more beautiful and evocative poem on silence.  ‘But the silence in the mind’ is, in my opinion, one of his best:

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

Note: This poem, and several others of Thomas’ can be found in Roger Housden’s ‘For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems Of The Christian Mystics’

‘It Is Still A Beautiful World’

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Amidst the turmoil of life, the triumphs and the frustrations, the laughter and the pain, we are called to introspection.  Such self-examination takes many forms, and occurs at different points in our journey; it is a reflection the growing awareness of the truth of Carl Jung’s insightful observation: ‘who looks outside dreams who looks inside awakes’.

Desiderata, a wonderful poem by Max Ehrmann, is a beautiful expression of that reality; I personally find the first and the last verses, reproduced here, as being especially meaningful:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Taking Time to Reflect on What is Important

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The question of how we best use our time, and the direction our energies are focused on, are not new. Yes, the pace of life has changed, but the core principles are the same.  The biblical narrative – in both the Old and New Testaments – bares witness to this.  There is, for example, the beautiful and poignant words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

‘3 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.’

And then in the New Testament we have a number of verses reflecting on time, responsibility, wisdom and the Divine imperative to live a full life mindful of our calling. Consider James 4:14, where it is written:

’14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’

Wise words indeed.

In the Beginning Was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax

From Templegate Publishers:

‘Robert Lax, (1915-2000), was a poet, hermit, sage, and peacemaker. Thomas Merton said of Lax, “He had a natural, instinctive spirituality, an inborn direction to the living God.” Jack Kerouac called him “a Pilgrim in search of beautiful innocence.”

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A native of New York, Lax graduated from Columbia University in 1938 with a degree in English Literature. After much wandering he traveled to Greece where he made Patmos, Isle of the Revelation, his spiritual and creative workshop. There he quietly resided for over three decades, writing the “ascetic” and experimental verse that would rank him “Among America’s greatest poets, a true minimalist who can weave awesome poems from remarkably few words” (New York Times Book Review).

In the Beginning Was Love is a unique introduction to Lax as contemplative. These spiritual selections, mostly gathered from his poems and journals, portray Lax as a mystic filled with a deep love for both Creator and creation’.

This new book is edited by a friend – S. T. Georgiou, Ph.D.  He is the author of some very significant publications: The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit-Lessons with Robert Lax, (Templegate), Mystic Street, and The Isle of Monte Cristo. He teaches religion and spirituality in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You can order the book on Templegate Publishers website: www.templegate.com, and it should soon be available via Amazon.com.

I’m looking forward to reading it!

Celebrating World Poetry Day!

Since today is world poetry day, I thought I would post one of my poems – God In All Things – published in ‘The Other Side of Light’:

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The great dialectic,

Immanent, yet transcendent,

mysterious, yet knowable,

God in all things.

 

God within, God without,

God above us, God before us,

ever about us.

God in all things.

 

Accessible through prayer,

contemplation and meditation,

revealed in Scripture.

God in all things.

 

In the setting of the sun,

In the budding of a flower,

In beauty of new life.

God in all things.

 

In the faces of those we meet,

In forgiveness offered,

or in any act of love.

God in all things.

 

Look,

Listen,

Reflect.

God is in all things.