Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

The Wholeness and Simplicity of Nirvana – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Zen and the Birds of Appetite

51U9ehoviBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The importance of direct experience

“…we must nevertheless remember the importance of direct experience…”

2. The wholeness and simplicity of Nirvana

“When man is grounded in authentic truth and love the roots of desire themselves wither, brokenness is at an end, and truth is found in the wholeness and simplicity of Nirvana: perfect awareness and perfect compassion. Nirvana is the wisdom of perfect love grounded in itself and shining through everything, meeting with no opposition. The heart of brokenness is then seen for what it was: an illusion, but a persistent and invincible illusion of the isolated ego-self, setting itself up in opposition to love, demanding that its own desire be accepted as the law of the universe, and hence suffering from the fact that by its desire it is fractured in itself and cut off from the loving wisdom in which it should be grounded.”

3. The product of Ignorance

“Buddhist philosophy considers discrimination of any kind – moral or metaphysical – the product of Ignorance…”

4. A ground of openness

“The metaphysical intuition of Being is an intuition of a ground of openness, indeed of a kind of ontological openness and an infinite generosity which communicates itself to everything that is… Openness is not something to be acquired, but a radical gift that has been lost and must be recovered (though it is still in principle ‘there’ in the roots of our created beings)…”

5. Contemplatives are always being reproached

“In the East and West alike, contemplatives are always being reproached for idleness, escapism, quietism, misanthropy and a hundred other sins. And more often than not they are accused of despising ordinary ways of ethical and ascetic discipline and of throwing morality and politics completely out of the window…”

6. The dissipation of an illusion

“…the ‘death of the old man’ is not the destruction of personality but the dissipation of an illusion, and the discovery of the new man is the realization of what was there all along, at least as a radical possibility, by reason of the fact that man is the image of God.”

7. Opening oneself to the other

“The only salvation, as Christ said, is found in losing oneself – that is by opening oneself to the other as another self…”

8. As long as we are inauthentic

“As long as we are inauthentic, as long as we block and obscure the presence of what truly is, we are in delusion and we are in pain…”

9. The same Christ who lives in all

“Union with Christ means unity in Christ, so that each one who is in Christ can say, with Paul: ‘It is now not I that live but Christ that lives in me.’ It is the same Christ who lives in all…”

10. The new creation

“The world was created without man, but the new creation which is the true Kingdom of God is to be the work of God in and through man…”

Do you live in the wholeness and simplicity of awareness and compassion?

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To Participate In Creation – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

thomasmerton1. Thank God that I am like other men

“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others’…”

2. Finding ourselves

“If we are going to be personally free and productive human beings we need to recover some kind of interest in the possibility of attaining a relatively human and civilized condition, in which we ourselves can find ourselves and help others do the same. And that we might even be able to communicate something of what it means to attain these goals.”

3. No real access to the truth

“In the long run, no one can show another the error that is within him, unless the other is convinced that his critic first sees and loves the good that is within him. So while we are perfectly willing to tell our adversary he is wrong, we will never be able to do so effectively until we can ourselves appreciate where he is right. And we can never accept his judgment on our errors until he gives evidence that he really appreciates our own peculiar truth. Love, only love, love of our deluded fellow man as he actually is, in his delusion and in his sin: this alone can open the door to truth. As long as we do not have this love, as long as this love is not active and effective in our lives (for words and good wishes will never suffice) we have no real access to the truth…”

4. A failure of love

“Only he who loves can be sure that he is still in contact with the truth, which is in fact too absolute to be grasped by his mind. Hence, he who holds to the gospel truth is afraid that he may lose the truth by a failure of love, not by a failure of knowledge. In that case he is humble, and therefore he is wise…”

5. We are part of nature

“We are part of nature and our knowledge of nature is nothing if not knowledge of nature as known by us, who are parts of it.”

6. To participate in creation

“…to refrain from destruction is to participate in creation…”

7. Cooperation in violence

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence…”

Do you participate in creation with your life?

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The More You Come To Know Yourself – 7 quotes from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book – The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom

41cyddmtl-_sy344_bo1204203200_1. Two extremes to avoid

“There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.”

2. Deeper into the heart of God

“Every time you close another door – be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection – you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and thus deeper into the heart of God.”

3. The more you come to know yourself

“The more you come to know yourself – spirit, mind, and body – as truly loved, the freer you will be…”

4. It is not going to be easy

“It is not going to be easy to listen to God’s call. Your insecurity, your self-doubt, and your great need for affirmation make you lose trust in your inner voice and run away from yourself. But you know that God speaks to you through your inner voice and that you will find joy and peace only if you follow it.”

5. A great deal of time and patience

“It will take a great deal of time and patience to distinguish between the voice of your wounded self and the voice of God, but as you grow more and more faithful to your vocation, this will become easier…”

6. Your heart is greater than your pain

“The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down into your heart. Then you can live them through and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your pain.”

7. How you decide to remember the past

“As you conclude this period of spiritual renewal, you are faced once again with a choice. You can choose to remember this time as a failed attempt to be completely reborn, or you can also choose to remember it as the precious time when God began new things in you that need to be brought to completion. Your future depends on how you decide to remember your past. Choose for the truth of what you know. Do not let your still anxious emotions distract you. As you keep choosing God, your emotions will gradually give up their rebellion and be converted to the truth in you.”

Have you come to know yourself – spirit, mind, body?

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Silence is Essential – 8 quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book – Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

download (17)1. Silence is essential

“Silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us.”

2. Colored by perception

“To let go implies to let go of something. The something that we’re holding on to may simply be a creation of our mind, an illusory perception of something, and not the reality of the thing itself. Everything is an object of our mind and is colored by our perception. You get an idea, and before you realize it, you’ve become stuck in that idea. You may get scared because of that idea you’re believing in. You might even get sick because of it. Perhaps that idea brings you a lot of unhappiness and worries, and you would like to be free. But it’s not enough that you want to be free. You have to give yourself enough space and quiet to become free.”

3. Time is life

“Many people cannot allow themselves the time to sit and do nothing but breathe. They consider it to be uneconomical or a luxury. People say ‘time is money.’ But time is much more than money. Time is life. The simple practice of sitting quietly on a regular basis can be profoundly healing. Stopping and sitting is a good way to focus on mindful breathing and nothing else.”

4. Developing understanding and compassion

“If we never suffer, there is no basis or impetus for developing understanding and compassion. Suffering is very important. We have to learn to recognize and even embrace suffering, as our awareness of it helps us grow.”

5. Sincerity and mindfulness

“With sincerity and mindfulness, we can express our desire to begin anew.”

6. Protect our peace

“But we can always make the choice to protect our peace. That doesn’t mean shutting all our windows all of the time, for there are many miracles in the world we call ‘outside.’ Open your windows to these miracles. But look at any one of them with the light of awareness. Even while sitting beside a clear, flowing stream, listening to beautiful music, or watching an excellent movie, don’t entrust yourself entirely to the stream, the music, or the film. Continue to be aware of yourself and your breathing. With the sun of awareness shining in you, you can avoid most dangers – and you will experience the stream of being purer, the music more harmonious, and the soul of the artist completely visible in the film.”

7. If we listen from the mind of silence

“If we listen from the mind of silence, every birdsong and every whispering of the pine branches in the wind will speak to us.”

8. The eyes of compassion

“Waking up this morning I smile. Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me. I vow to live them deeply and learn to look at everything around me with the eyes of compassion.”

Do you believe silence is essential to life?

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Divided No More – 7 quotes from Parker J. Palmer’s book – Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

41se8bsdql-_sx367_bo1204203200_-11. Surrounded by expectations

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts – then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.”

2. Divided no more

“…the people who plant the seeds of movements make a critical decision: they decide to live ‘divided no more.’ They decide no longer to act on the outside in a way that contradicts some truth about themselves that they hold deeply on the inside. They decide to claim authentic selfhood and act it out – and their decisions ripple out to transform the society in which they live…”

3. We are all made in God’s image

“If, as I believe, we all are made in God’s image, we could all give the same answer when asked who we are: ‘I Am who I Am.’ One dwells with God by being faithful to one’s nature. One crosses God by trying to be something one is not. Reality – including one’s own – is divine, to be not defied but honored.”

4. A place of hidden wholeness

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.”

5. The seed of authentic vocation

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity – the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.”

6. I must listen to my life

“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.”

7. Attending to my own truth

“When I ignored my own truth on behalf of a distorted ego and ethic, I led a false life that caused others pain – for which I can only ask forgiveness. When I started attending to my own truth, more of that truth became available in my work and relationships. I now know that anything one can do on behalf of true self is done ultimately in the service of others.”

Have you come to the place of desiring to be divided no more?

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Open Eyes – 10 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Eager To Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi

41YwunJqU-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Connection and relationship

“The entire universe is about connection and relationship – from the smallest atom to the galaxies and everything in between…”

2. The inner, the soul, intuition, connection

“The feminine principle has greater interest in the inner, the soul, the formless, deeper feeling, intuition, connection, harmony, beauty, and relationality in general; it is more identified with lunar subtlety and not the over-differentiating light of the masculine sun god or the literalism and linearity of the left brain. Not all women fully identify with the feminine principle, of course, and some men do, but these descriptors give you a sense of what I mean by the feminine…”

3. Humility commonly looks like

“In the male world, humility commonly looks like weakness, lack of exposure to the ‘real world,’ or even low self-esteem; but it is not an admirable virtue or any kind of needed strength…”

4. The demand for certitude

“It is important to know that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but in fact, certitude and the demand for certitude…”

5. The deeper levels

“…the soul needs living models to grow, and quite precisely exemplars with the expansive energies of love. People who are eager to love change us at the deeper levels; they alone seem able to open the field of both mind and heart at the same time… When we are in this different state, and that is what it is, we find ourselves open to directions or possibilities we would never allow or imagine before or after.”

6. Open eyes

“We all know love’s absence as hell, and its presence goes by the name of heaven. We all know the difference intuitively and energetically between people who are in heaven now and people who are in hell now. This demands no ‘belief’ or theology whatsoever, but only open eyes that mirror God’s eternal eagerness to love, and the imaginal world that such eyes create within us.”

7. The dualistic and contentious mind

“One wonders, however, if the dualistic and contentious mind that we now take as normative can understand, allow or support this kind of radical spirituality…”

8. Learn to offer life a foundational yes

“…we all must learn to offer life a foundational yes before we offer our critical no. If we start with no, it is almost impossible to ever get back to a full yes.”

9. An act of solidarity

“A simple lifestyle is quite simply an act of solidarity with the way most people have lived since the beginning of humanity. It is thus restorative justice instead of the world’s limited notion of retributive justice.”

10. Inner authority

“…the real authority that ‘authors’ people and changes the world is an inner authority that comes from people who have lost, let go, and are refound on a new level. Twelve-step programs have come to much the same conclusion in our time.”

Do you live with open eyes in everyday life?

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Rigidity and Prejudice – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

81MA-v3wVDL1. Contemplation is the work of love

“Contemplation is the work of love, and the contemplative proves his love by leaving all things, even the most spiritual things, for God in nothingness, detachment, and ‘night.’ But the deciding factor in contemplation is the free and unpredictable action of God…”

2. Our true self

“…we must become detached from the unreality that is in us in order to be united to the reality that lies deeper within and is our true self – our inmost self-in-God.”

3. A life of unity

“The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to reach a unity beyond division…”

4. What real freedom means

“It is the contemplative who keeps this liberty alive in the world, and who shows others, obscurely and without realizing it, what real freedom means.”

5. Only from the inner self

“Only from the inner self does any spiritual experience gain depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability…”

6. The teaching of Christ is essentially contemplative

“The fact that ‘contemplation’… is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us. We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

7. The price of our liberty

“At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods – all can be enriched with contemplation… This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not ‘look’ to see if it is there… It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.”

8. The paradox of the illuminative way

“The paradox of the illuminative way is, then, that the awakening and enlightening of the inner man goes with the darkening and the blinding of the exterior man. As our inner spiritual consciousness awakens, our exterior… consciousness is befuddled and hampered in its action…”

9. Rigidity and prejudice

“The great obstacle to contemplation is rigidity and prejudice. He who thinks he knows what it is beforehand prevents himself from finding out the true nature of contemplation, since he is not able to ‘change his mind’ and accept something completely new. He who thinks that contemplation is lofty and spectacular cannot receive the intuition of a supreme and transcendent Reality which is at the same time immanent in his own ordinary self. He who needs to be exalted and for whom mysticism is the peak of human ambition will never be able to feel the liberation granted only to those who have renounced success. And since most of us are rigid, attached to our own ideas, convinced of our own wisdom, proud of our own capacities, and committed to personal ambition, contemplation is a dangerous desire for any one of us…”

Are you stuck in rigidity and prejudice in your life?

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Truth is Not an Abstraction or an Idea – 6 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps

9781616361570_p0_v1_s260x4201. You cannot heal what you do not acknowledge

“As any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge, and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control of you from within, festering and destroying you and those around you…”

2. Truth is not an abstraction or an idea

“The longer I live the more I believe that truth is not an abstraction or an idea that can be put into formulas or mere words. Our real truth has to do with how we situate ourselves in this world… There are ways of living and relating that are honest and sustainable and fair, and there are utterly dishonest ways of living and relating to life. This is our real, de facto, and operative ‘truth,’ no matter whose theories or theologies we believe. Our life situation and our style of relating to others is ‘the truth’ that we actually take with us to the grave. It is who we are, more than our theories about this or that…”

3. Fear-based problem solving

“I do believe our religious history has been too guilt-based and shame-based, and not enough of what some would call ‘vision logic,’ which is a broader, positive, and out-in-front kind of motivation. Jesus’ metaphor and draw was a positive vision he called ‘the kingdom of God,’ which he seemed to be constantly talking about. For Bill W it was a ‘vital spiritual experience.’ Neither of these were a negative threat, but a positive allure, promise, and invitation. For me, this is crucial and necessary or the spiritual journey largely becomes fear-based problem solving.”

4. Our explanations, our preferences, our theologies

“We all seem to bind up both God and one another inside of our explanations, our preferences, and even our theologies. The patterns never seem to change.”

5. Not just to make amends

“Skillful means is not just to make amends but to make amends in ways that ‘do not injure others.’ Truth is not just factual truth (the great mistake of fundamentalists), but a combination of both text and context, style and intent. Our supposed right to know every ‘truth’ about our neighbor too often feeds those with preexisting malice, bias, or mental imbalance, and leads to spin, distortion, and misinterpretation of supposed facts.”

6. Meditation and contemplation

“The mind is the normal control tower, so it must be educated first… Most practices of meditation and contemplation have to do with some concrete practices to recognize and to relativize the obsessive nature of the human mind. The small mind cannot deal with Bigness and Newness, which God always is! Even most addiction counselors recognize that many addicts are ‘all or nothing thinkers.’ I call this dualistic thinking, and is the normal labeling, rational mind that is good for things like science, math, and turning left or right. But it is at a complete loss with the big five of God, death, suffering, love, and infinity.”

Do you believe truth is an abstraction or an idea? Or is it how you relate to life?

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Our Curiosity About Our True Self – 10 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Immortal Diamond: The Search For Our True Self

immoral_diamond1. God and consciousness and Being

“Perhaps God and consciousness and Being are the same thing. This ever-flowing abundance that we call God clearly loves and revels in endless manifestation, fecundity, and diversity. The Formless One is forever seeking new and fantastic forms… There is surely no indication of any divine interest in blandness, uniformity, exclusion, mindless repetition, or sameness.”

2. Delusional and counterproductive

“Remember, please remember, you do not (you must not!) fear, attack, or hate the False Self. That would only continue a negative and arrogant death energy, and it is delusional and counterproductive anyway… In the great economy of grace, all is used and transformed, and nothing is wasted. God uses your various False Selves to lead you beyond them…”

3. The lie of separation

“Jesus never appeared to believe the ‘lie of separation,’ which is the core meaning of sin. He said without hesitation, ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). That made him indeed unique – and the ultimate model and leader for all of humanity.”

4. The most inclusive system of all

“Healthy religion should be the most inclusive system of all, making use of every discipline, avenue, and access point for Big Truth…”

5. The death of our ever fading False Self

“The ego self is the self before death; the soul is real only after we have walked through the death of our ever fading False Self and come out larger and brighter on the other side…”

6. Divine breath passing through you

“Your True Self is that part of you that is going to live forever and sees truthfully. It is divine breath passing through you. Your False Self is that part of you that is constantly changing and will eventually die anyway. It is in the world of passing forms and looks out with itself as the central reference point – which is never true. The False Self is passing, tentative, and, as the Hindus and Buddhists say, ‘empty.’ Mature religion helps us speed up this process of dying to the False Self – or at least to stop fighting its clear demise. This is why saints live in such a countercultural way…”

7. Inside our “conventional wisdom”

“We pulled Jesus inside our ‘conventional wisdom’ and seldom allowed him to be the teacher of alternative wisdom that he has always been.”

8. If a person keeps growing

“If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light.”

9. A dark and dangerous risk

“Both God and the True Self need only to fully be themselves and generously show themselves… To allow yourself to be grabbed and held by such a divine wholeness is a dark and dangerous risk, and yet this is exactly what we mean by ‘salvation’…”

10. Our curiosity about our True Self

“Our ongoing curiosity about our True Self seems to lessen if we settle into any ‘successful’ role. We have then allowed others to define us from the outside, although we do not realize it. Or perhaps we dress ourselves up on the outside and never get back inside…”

Are you curious about your True Self?

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A Desert of Questioning and Paradox – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. A desert of questioning and paradox

“Are our efforts to be more ‘communal’ and to be more of a ‘family’ really genuine or are they only new ways to be intolerant of the solitude and integrity of the individual person? Are we simply trying to submerge and absorb him and keep him from finding an identity that might express itself in dissent and in a desire for greater solitude? Are we simply trying to guard against his entering a ‘desert’ of questioning and paradox that will disturb our own complacencies?”

2. A more authentic and honest way

“The question remains: can we adjust our life and our view of our life in such a way that it will be capable of being lived in a more authentic and honest way…”

3. Interior and personal

“True discipline is interior and personal…”

4. The pursuit of power for its own sake

“The great problem of our time is not to formulate clear answers to neat theoretical questions but to tackle the self-destructive alienation of man in a society dedicated in theory to human values and in practice to the pursuit of power for its own sake…”

5. Something essential is missing

“But if there is no sense at all of the urgency of inner development, no aspiration to growth and ‘rebirth,’ or if it is blandly assumed that all this is automatically taken care of by a correct and lively communal celebration, something essential is missing.”

6. Contemplation is a bad word

“‘Contemplation’ is a bad word… We are failing in the prophetic aspects of our vocation. Why? Perhaps because we belong to a Christianity so deeply implicated in a society which has outlived its spiritual vitality and yet is groping for a new expression of life in crisis…”

7. What is meant by openness?

“Now an important question: What is meant by ‘openness’? As a matter of fact, it is not quite certain just what openness is going to mean in practice for contemplatives: that is something we have to discover by experiment…”

8. An opportunity to be quiet, to reflect

“Being ‘open to the world’ means being more accessible to people of flesh and blood… The poor, materially and spiritually. Our relatives and friends. Men and women who are looking for something they need, without being able to identify it precisely… What people seek today is not so much the organized, predigested routine of conferences and exercises, but an opportunity to be quiet, to reflect, and to discuss in informal, spontaneous and friendly encounters the things they have on their minds…”

9. A real depth of interior experience

“Few have a real depth of spiritual consciousness and a real depth of interior experience…”

10. The foundation of everything familiar are menaced

“We’re living in a world in revolution. The foundations of everything familiar are menaced…”

Do you live in a desert of questioning and paradox?

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