Friday, December 05, 2008

rhythming into silence & solitude: leaving addictions, busyness, and consumerism behind

We are all given an extraordinary & beautiful invitation to deeper meaning, to greater living, and to a more intentional loving of ourselves, the people around us, God's presence, and the earth we live with. What Robert Inchausti rightly formulates as pure gift, pure presence, pure love, absolute relationship. Yet it is doubtful that we will ever act upon this invitation unless we make room for these deeper and greater mysteries to unfold within us & around us. And to do so we must simply and profoundly walk away from our cluttered thoughts & agendas on a regular basis in order to listen to God's presence that is somehow always mysteriously present to us - despite our religious or non-religious affiliations & lifestyles.

However . . .

Silence & solitude are perhaps the most difficult faith formation practices for people living in western contexts. That is, people existing with certain ideological paradigms that assume that the absolute nexus of living is to obtain money or purchase power in order to consume goods & services in order to cause ego driven forms of happiness. In such contexts 'busyness' is fundamental & central to life rather than being a symptom of an addiction-prone culture.

Indeed we are apt to think to ourselves; 'Without busyness one can't work a job & make money. Without busyness one can't parent a toddler & manage a household. Without busyness one will never properly help the poor & the suffering in our world.' And on and on the list grows. But what if 'busyness' is not so much a cosmic reality for humanity but is something we unconsciously or even consciously thrust upon ourselves? That being frantic, hurried, & harried are not fundamental conditions of living in the 21st century but are lifestyle addictions we have inherited from a larger culture addicted to constant movement, incessant media exposure, talk, chatter, travel, consumption, waste, and violence?

Try telling someone who is always busy that you are not busy. 'What, is there something wrong with you? Are you on vacation? Sick? Lazy?' Immediately suspicions begin to surface and you become an outsider to the larger community of those invested & integrated into the labyrinth of 'busyness'. You now become a heretic or a radical. You now become a shady stranger in the neighborhood called 'Keep Moving, Keep Distracted.'

And yet.. .

And yet because you have perhaps tasted and discovered a bit of intentional silence & solitude you do not feel angry or castigated at being different. Rather, you feel somewhat hopeful for a different future and reality for humanity. Instead of feeling superior to your addicted & embattled neighbor or colleague you offer prayer & peace & shalom instead. This never comes perfectly or systematically but always in fits and starts. And you realize you are okay with that tension.

And that is certainly something to hold onto. Because in that process you discover the deeper wellspring of who you are and what moves you and what creates in you thirst for change in this world; what makes you truly weep, and also what causes you great laughter - so great it can move mountains.

So here are some simple notes on rhythming into silence & solitude whether you are 'religious,' 'spiritual,' or not:

  • It is best to be in a sitting position for this time but can also be accomplished while on a walk. Find a place where you will not be interrupted. Get away from or turn off all phones and instant email alerts; do your best to get away from your computer or TV and take off your wireless components.

  • Find a place where you can be alone; this can be inside a room, on a walk, on the beach, and even in a crowd of people whom you don’t know. But again, alone is best.

  • If you can sit this is also best. If you can close your eyes without falling asleep this too is best though not necessary.

  • It is better to be in solitude for fifteen minutes at a time as opposed to breaking it up into increments. But of course there are some who are pre-disposed to solitude and others who are not. For the naturally restless and extroverted, try not to break up the fifteen minutes but if need be give yourself permission to do two different sessions of seven to eight minutes each. Anything less than seven minutes of solitude tends not to accomplish much.

  • Surface worries usually predominate during the first five minutes of silent solitude – phrases like, “This is a waste of time. I have so much to do. I am so stupid. I feel like a loser. You forgot to return that call yesterday. And what about those emails? And that paper? You are so behind. This is utterly ridiculous. You’re not a freakin’ monk or guru. Get up and get on with your life. Time is money and you’re ripping up wads of it. Get going and do what you’re supposed to be doing;” tend to speed through one’s thoughts at a rapid rate alongside all of your agenda items for the day and the week and the month. Don’t panic. And don’t give up. This is entirely natural.

  • And yet . . . begin to learn to unmask those voices as the destructive voices of worry, anxiety, pressure, and fear uninviting you to the presence of all hope, love, and renewal. As you begin to learn to see them in this light the better off this practice becomes. Of course, the more stressed you are the more anxiety tends to fling itself at you which increases the likelihood of putting this off for another week until your “schedule frees up.” Don’t. This is the exact time you need silent solitude the most.

  • Often a single word such as peace, or love, or rest, or enter, or hope can become simple invitations to hold onto as your breathing becomes more centered and your mind becomes more relaxed and even if you are feeling anxious and fearful. Allow yourself to be graciously surprised that if deep inside of your spirit you begin to 'hear' those words being echoed back to you in ways that words cannot be expressed. Perhaps in images, perhaps in visions or deep-seated memories. The love of God is pervasive and as you accept God's invitation into presence you will begin to feel & sense overtime a deep & healing & vibrant energy & spirit enliven you into newer and grander places of your very being & existence.

  • Dan Rather in an interview with Mother Theresa: “What do you say to God when you pray?” Her answer was, “I don’t say anything; I just listen.” After Rather cleared his throat, he asked, “Well, what does Jesus say to you?” And Mother Theresa answered, “Oh, He doesn’t say anything, either. He just listens.”

  • We are creatures of habit and so it is best to find a regular weekly rhythm in this practice. If you have a fifteen minute break during the day and find this is a good time for you to practice solitude stick to that same time each week. If you have twenty minutes between classes use that time, if you can wake up earlier use that time, be creative – find what best works with you.

  • If participants are already in the habit of solitude they should look to increasing their solitude incrementally to an eventual fifteen minutes a day.

  • However, do not think too much of yourself and attempt to bite off too much solitude time in the beginning – it is best to acclimate oneself to solitude and silence in natural increments of an extra fifteen minutes every 2-5 months.

  • Solitude is very much like exercise. Thinking you can run a marathon is a good thing. Entering a marathon without any training is foolish and dangerous to your health. Good runners build their running distances incrementally. Therefore, after two or three months of fifteen minutes of weekly solitude allow yourself the permission to increase that time to thirty minutes every week – eventually getting to the point of fifteen minutes of silent solitude every day.

  • Remember, this is an invitation; not a mandate. Once this becomes a mere mandate all is lost. It is the hope of ever becoming more of who you are created to be that is the driving force behind this practice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Darfur and Climate Change

Another reason we need to take better care of God's beautiful world...

There has been discussion of climate impacts/causes on the situation in Darfur. I will say that from what I understand, this is still theory...,9171,1615171,00.html

How to Prevent the Next Darfur
Darfur, a barren, mountainous land just below the Sahara in western Sudan, is the world's worst man-made disaster. In four years, according to the U.N., fighting has killed more than 200,000 people and made refugees of 2.5 million more. The conflict is typically characterized as genocide, waged by the Arab Janjaweed and their backers in the Sudanese government, against Darfur's black Africans. But what is often overlooked is that the roots of the conflict may have more to do with ecology than ethnicity. To live on the poor and arid soil of the Sahel--just south of the Sahara--is to be mired in an eternal fight for water, food and shelter. The few pockets of good land have been the focus of intermittent conflict for decades between nomads (who tend to be Arabs) and settled farmers (who are both Arab and African). That competition is intensifying. The Sahara is advancing steadily south, smothering soil with sand. Rainfall has been declining in the region for the past half-century, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In Darfur there are too many people in a hot, poor, shrinking land, and it's not hard to start a fight in a place like that.

The devastation of Darfur highlights the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change on societies across Africa. The U.N. estimates that the lives of as many as 90 million Africans--most of them in and around the Sahara--could be "at risk" on account of global warming. Many of Africa's armed conflicts can be explained as tinderboxes of climate change lit by the spark of ancient rivalry. In Somalia, nearly two decades of anarchy have been exacerbated by eight years of drought. In Zimbabwe, relief agencies say President Robert Mugabe's disastrous rule is being overtaken by an even greater catastrophe, a three-month drought that wiped out the maize crop, fueling tensions between government-allied haves and opposition have-nots. Apart from drought, other environmental challenges can prove deadly. A growing number of experts believe the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is best understood as a contest between too many people on too little land.

SUDAN: Climate change - only one cause among many for Darfur conflict

JOHANNESBURG, 28 June 2007 (IRIN) - Climate change may be one of the causes of the Darfur crisis, but to consider it the single root cause would obscure other important factors and could hamper the search for solutions, climate and conflict analysts say.

A number of commentators, journalists and analysts have recently focused on competition for natural resources, increasingly scarce due to global warming, as the trigger of the conflict in western Sudan.
Among the earliest commentators to put a global warming spin on the Darfur crisis was economist Jeffrey Sachs. "Recent years have shown that shifts in rainfall can bring down governments and even set off wars. The African Sahel, just south of the Sahara, provides a dramatic and poignant demonstration," he wrote in an article on the Scientific American website in July last year.

"The deadly carnage in Darfur, Sudan, for example, which is almost always discussed in political and military terms, has roots in an ecological crisis directly arising from climate shocks," Sachs wrote.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

something beautiful . . .

from Eberhard Arnold:

“God is the source of life. On him and through him our common life is built up and led time and again through cataclysmic struggles to final victory. It is an exceedingly dangerous way, a way of deep suffering. It is a way that leads straight into the struggle for existence and the reality of a life of work, into all the difficulties created by the human character. And yet, just this is our deepest joy: to see clearly the eternal struggle – the indescribable tension between life and death, man’s position between heaven and hell – and still to believe in the overwhelming power of life, the power of love to overcome, and the triumph of truth, because we believe in God . . . This faith is not a theory for us; neither is it a dogma, a system of ideas, or a fabric of words, nor a cult or an organization. Faith means receiving God himself – it means being overwhelmed by God. Faith is the strength that enables us to go this way. It helps us to find trust again and again when, from a human point of view, the foundations of trust have been destroyed.” - Eberhard Arnold – Why We Live in Community

Friday, May 25, 2007

Once in a blue moon . . .

This is from today's Live Science Page - thought it was interesting . . . and sublime.

The Truth Behind This Month's Blue Moon

By Joe Rao, Skywatching Columnist

posted: 25 May 2007 06:59 am ET

Thursday, May 31 brings us the second of two full Moons for North Americans this month. Some almanacs and calendars assert that when two full Moons occur within a calendar month, that the second full Moon is called the "Blue Moon."

The full Moon that night will likely look no different than any other full Moon. But the Moon can change color in certain conditions.

After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the Moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth's atmosphere can sometimes make the Moon appear bluish. Smoke from widespread forest fire activity in western Canada created a blue Moon across eastern North America in late September 1950. In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991 there were reports of blue moons (and even blue Suns) worldwide.

Origin of the term

The phrase "Once in a blue Moon" was first noted in 1824 and refers to occurrences that are uncommon, though not truly rare. Yet, to have two full Moons in the same month is not as uncommon as one might think. In fact, it occurs, on average, about every 32 months. And in the year 1999, it occurred twice in a span of just three months!

For the longest time no one seemed to have a clue as to where the "Blue Moon Rule" originated. Many years ago in the pages of Natural History magazine, I speculated that the rule might have evolved out of the fact that the word "belewe" came from the Old English, meaning, "to betray." "Perhaps," I suggested, "the second full Moon is 'belewe' because it betrays the usual perception of one full moon per month."

But as innovative as my explanation was, it turned out to be completely wrong.

More mistakes

It was not until the year 1999 that the origin of the calendrical term "Blue Moon" was at long last discovered. It was during the time frame from 1932 through 1957 that the Maine Farmers' Almanac suggested that if one of the four seasons (winter, spring, summer or fall) contained four full Moons instead of the usual three, that the third full Moon should be called a "Blue Moon."

But thanks to a couple of misinterpretations of this arcane rule, first by a writer in a 1946 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, and much later, in 1980 in a syndicated radio program, it now appears that the second full Moon in a month is the one that's now popularly accepted as the definition of a "Blue Moon."

This time around, the Moon will turn full on May 31 at 9:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (6:04 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time).

But for those living in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, that same full Moon occurs after midnight, on the calendar date of June 1. So in these regions of world, this will not be second of two full Moons in May, but the first of two full Moons in June. So, if (for example) you live London, you'll have to wait until June 30 to declare that the Moon is "officially" blue.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Poem by Wendell Berry

A Meeting in A Part

In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: "How you been?"
He grins and looks at me.
"I been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Jesus the Mexican Boy


Iron & Wine have a song entitled 'Jesus the Mexican Boy'

I think it points to Jesus' forgiveness and love for us. Here are some lyrics:

Jesus the Mexican boy
Gave me a ride on the back of his bike
Out to the fair though I welched on a $5 bet
Drunk on Calliope songs
We met a home-wrecking carnival girl
He's never asked for a favor or the money yet

He never wanted nothing I remember
Maybe a broken bottle if I had two
Hanging behind his holy even temper
Hiding the more unholy things I do

Jesus the Mexican boy
Born in a truck on the 4th of July
I fell in love with his sister unrepentantly
Fearing he wouldn't approve
We made a lie that was feeble at best
Boarded a train bound for Vegas and married secretly

I never gave him nothing I remember
Maybe a broken bottle if I had two
Hanging behind his holy even temper
Hiding the more unholy things I do

Jesus the Mexican boy
Wearing a long desert trip on his tie
Lo and behold he was standing under the welcome sign
Naked the Judas in me
Fell by the tracks but he lifted me high
Kissing my head like a brother and never asking why

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Still Going & Still Getting Worse . . . a thought on peace from Merton

UN Envoy Says Conditions in Darfur Make Children Especially Vulnerable

01 February 2007
VOA News

The U.N.'s special representative on children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, says boys in Darfur are increasingly being recruited into armed groups, while the threat of sexual violence against girls remains a top concern, .

The U.N. envoy says that, at an official level, the Sudanese government has shown greater recognition of threats to children but said little has changed on the ground.

Coomaraswamy charged that both the Sudanese government and rebel groups in Darfur are guilty of recruiting children to fight alongside adults.

She said, "Independent monitors have pointed to us through verified data that child recruitment is increasing in Darfur and that all parties to the conflict engage in child recruitment."

Coomaraswamy says sexual violence against girls is also continuing in Darfur.

"Medical reports and other forms of verifiable information show that there are high rates of sexual violence," she said. "We again repeat that a security framework is absolutely necessary that is more protective of women and children."

The Darfur conflict will soon enter into its fourth year.

Sudan is charged with arming Arab militias, known as janjaweed, to crush a 2003 rebellion.

Rebels complained remote Darfur was neglected by Sudan's powerful central government.

Experts estimate 200,000 people have died and more than two-and-a-half million others have been displaced in Darfur and eastern Chad.

"We prescribe for one another remedies that will bring us peace of mind, and we are still devoured by anxiety. We evolve plans for disarmament and for the peace of nations, and our plans only change the manner and method of aggression. The rich have everything they want except happiness, and the poor are sacrificed to the unhappiness of the rich. Dictatorships use their secret police to crush millions under an intolerable burden of lies, injustice and tyranny, and those who still live in democracies have forgotten how to make good use of their liberty. For liberty is a thing of the spirit, and we are no longer able to live for anything but our bodies. How can we find peace, true peace, if we forget that we are not machines for making and spending money, but spiritual beings, sons and daughters of the most high God?"

Thomas Merton. The Monastic Journey. Patrick Hart, editor. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1978: 62..