Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: November, 2015

A Tremendous Grace – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

download (9)1. A tremendous grace

“It is a tremendous grace, then, and a great privilege when a person living in the world we have to live in suddenly loses his interest in the things that absorb that world, and discovers in his own soul an appetite for poverty and solitude. And the most precious of all the gifts of nature or grace is the desire to be hidden and vanish from the sight of men and be accounted as nothing by the world and to disappear from one’s own self-conscious consideration and vanish into nothingness in the immense poverty that is the adoration of God.”

2. Interior contemplation and external activity

“Far from being essentially opposed to each other, interior contemplation and external activity are two aspects of the same love of God.”

3. Interior peace and recollection

“You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection…”

4. The moment we demand anything

“The moment we demand anything for ourselves or even trust in any action of our own to procure a deeper intensification of this pure and serene rest in God, we defile and dissipate the perfect gift…”

5. The balanced life

“The ‘spiritual life’ is then the perfectly balanced life in which the body with its passions and instincts, the mind with its reasoning and its obedience to principle and the spirit with its passive illumination by the Light and Love of God form one complete man who is in God with God and from God and for God…”

6. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists

“Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.”

7. To hope is to risk frustration

“To hope is to risk frustration. Therefore, make up your mind to risk frustration.”

8. Never attempts anything

“Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything.”

9. A living and perpetual revolution

“The biggest paradox about the Church is that she is at the same time essentially traditional and essentially revolutionary. But that is not as much of a paradox as it seems, because Christian tradition, unlike all others, is a living and perpetual revolution.”

10. False psychology of mysticism

“It is the duty of anyone who has even the faintest glimpse of God’s love to protest against an inhumanly cruel and false psychology of mysticism, this psychology which presents ‘sanctity’ and ‘contemplation’ under the guises of riches to be acquired. As if sanctity and mysticism were ‘goods’ that one must have in order to be acceptable in the Kingdom of God – just as one must have a new car every two years, a ranch house and a TV set in order to be acceptable in the cities of men. The new car and all that goes with it seem to indicate that one is not a bum or a slacker. That one is faithful to all the acceptable standards. So too, spiritual consolations and very obvious virtues are supposed to be the sign that one has worked loyally in the service of God.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Nonattachment and Nonfear – 6 quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book – How To Love

51dsB9JVlLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Rest in your body

“If you can accept your body, then you have a chance to see your body as your home. You can rest in your body, settle in, relax, and feel joy and ease. If you don’t accept your body and your mind, you can’t be at home with yourself. You have to accept yourself as you are. This is a very important practice. As you practice building a home in yourself, you become more and more beautiful.”

2. We need to listen

“To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen…”

3. To accept ourselves

“To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are. The first practice of love is to know oneself… The practice of love meditation is not autosuggestion. We have to look deeply at our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. We can observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of compassion. Love will enter our thoughts, words, and actions.”  

4. Come home to yourself

“Once you know how to come home to yourself, then you can open your home to other people, because you have something to offer. The other person has to do exactly the same thing if they are to have something to offer you. Otherwise, they will have nothing to share but their loneliness, sickness, and suffering. This can’t help heal you at all. The other person has to heal themselves and get warm inside, so that they will feel better, at ease, and can share their home with you.”

5. Walk with true awareness of every step

“If you want to walk with true awareness of every step, without having a goal to get anywhere, happiness will arise naturally. You don’t need to look for happiness. When we’re in touch with the wonders of life, we become aware of the many conditions of happiness that are already there, and naturally we feel happy. The beauty around us brings us back to the present moment so we can let go of the planning and worries that preoccupy us… This is mindfulness; we become aware of what is happening now and we are in touch with the conditions of happiness that are there inside us and all around us.”

6. Nonattachment and nonfear

“One of the greatest gifts we can offer people is to embody nonattachment and nonfear. This is a true teaching, more precious than money or material resources. Many of us are very afraid, and this fear distorts our lives and makes us unhappy. We cling to objects and to people like a drowning person clings to a flouting log. Practicing to realize nondiscrimination, to see the interconnectedness and impermanence of all things, and to share this wisdom with others, we are giving the gift of nonfear. Everything is impermanent. This moment passes. That person walks away. Happiness is still possible.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Healing Silence – 7 quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book – Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise 

download (17)1. Learn more about yourself

“So each of us has a choice. You have a choice. Your thoughts can make you and the world around you suffer more or suffer less. If you want to create a more collegial, harmonious atmosphere in your… community, don’t start by trying to change other people. Your first priority should be to find your own quiet space inside so you can learn more about yourself. This includes getting to know and understand your own suffering. When your practice is solid and you’ve already harvested some of the sweet fruits of getting to know yourself, you can consider ways you can make more room to bring silence, deep looking, understanding, and compassion into your… community.”

2. The practice of mindfulness

“The surest way to give ourselves something really new – a feeling of being refreshed, of being happy, of being at ease – is by opening up the space within us for the practice of mindfulness.”

3. Having the space to listen with compassion

“Having the space to listen with compassion is essential to being a true friend…”

4. To manifest our true nature

“To manifest our true nature, we need to bring a stop to the constant internal conversation that takes up all the space in us…”

5. The suffering we have been hiding from

“The more often we’re able to practice coming home to ourselves, and the more time we spend in mindfulness, the more we are going to become aware of our own suffering. Even though mindful breathing and quiet do put us in touch with joy, they are also likely to bring us in contact with pain (especially at first) as we become more conscious of the suffering we have been hiding from.”

6. Healing silence

“We can’t find the peace of silence without stopping. Running faster and faster, pushing ourselves harder, will never bring it within our reach. We won’t find it anywhere but here. The moment we’re able to really stop, both the movement and the internal noise, we begin to find a healing silence. Silence is not a deprivation, an empty void. The more space we make for stillness and silence, the more we have to give both to ourselves and to others.”

7. Deep listening and mindful response

“Most of the time, our head is so full of thoughts that we have no space to listen to ourselves or anyone else. We have learned from our parents or in school that we have to remember lots of things, we have to retain a lot of words, notions, and concepts; and we think that this mental stockpile is useful for our life. But then when we try to have a genuine conversation with someone, we find it difficult to hear and understand the other person. Silence allows for deep listening and mindful response…”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Open and Undefended – 9 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self

51Y9Oq9eiML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Always beautiful – and healing

“…truth is on some level always beautiful – and healing – to those who honestly want truth. Big truth cannot be angry, antagonistic, or forced on anyone, or it will inherently distort the message…”

2. The unified field of love

“…only love can be entrusted with the Big truth. All other attitudes will murder and mangle truthfulness. Humans must first find the unified field of love and then start their thinking from that point.”

3. The good, the true, and the beautiful

“The good, the true, and the beautiful are always their own best argument for themselves – by themselves – and in themselves. Such beauty, or inner coherence, is a deep inner knowing that both evokes the soul and even pulls the soul into its oneness. Incarnation is beauty, and beauty always needs to be incarnate. Anything downright ‘good,’ anything that shakes you with its ‘trueness,’ and anything that sucks you into its beauty does not just educate you; it transforms you…”

4. Open and undefended

“Somehow the True Self in all humans has a natural access to that ‘hidden’ will of God – if the mind and heart and soul are open and undefended (which is always the spiritual task and not easily achieved).”

5. Trumped-up competition over any calm cooperation

“Why, oh why, did we make the Gospel into a competition instead of a joyous proclamation of this necessary but good process – of surrender into love? I think it is because the ego (the False Self) prefers win-lose over win-win, even strangely enough, when it ends up defining oneself as a loser. The ego will always choose trumped-up competition over any calm cooperation.”

6. Mere diversion or entertainment

“Once you experience the Real, the unreal is increasingly a mere diversion or entertainment, not substantial reality…”

7. We kill what we should love

“…we fear, and we kill what we should love…”

8. Union, contentment, and deep resonance

“For some damn reason, and I use the cuss word deliberately, we give and get our energy from dark clouds much more than from silver linings. True joy is harder to access and even harder to hold onto than anger and fear. The False Self is energized by problems and by self-created goals almost moment by moment; the True Self (the soul) needs and feeds on a different fuel: union and contentment itself and, especially, deep resonance (meaning) of any kind.”

9. 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…”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Vulnerability – 10 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self

51Y9Oq9eiML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. 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.”

2. God desiring in you and through you

“The Holy Spirit is God desiring in you and through you – until it becomes your desiring too.”

3. The separate self is the False Self

“The separate self is the False Self thus needs to overdefine itself as unique, special, superior, and adequate…”

4. Act on a truth

“Act on a truth, and only then does it become your truth…”

5. If a person keeps growing

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

6. The discovery of your True Self

“I promise you that the discovery of your True Self will feel like a thousand pounds of weight have fallen from your back. You will no longer have to build, protect, or promote any idealized self image. Living in the True Self is quite simply a much happier existence, even though we never live there a full twenty-four hours a day. But you henceforth have it as a place to always go back to. You have finally discovered the alternative to your False Self…”

7. Do not have even a minimum of self-knowledge

“The early Christian writers tell us that this discovery of our True Self is also at the same time a discovery of God. I have far too often seen the immature and destructive results of people who claim to have found God and do not have even a minimum of self-knowledge. They try to ‘have’ God and hold onto their false and concocted little self too. It does not work… I have also met many who appear to know themselves and do at some good levels, but not at the largest and divine level; they have to keep scrambling for private and public significance by themselves and in their mental ego. They still live in a separate and very fragile self.”

8. The worst danger of all

“After these smaller deaths, we know that the only ‘deadly sin’ is to swim on the surface of things, where we never see, find, or desire God and love. This includes even the surface of religion, which might be the worst danger of all…”

9. A very tiny American Jesus

“I can no longer wait for, or give false comfort to, the many Christians who are forever ‘deepening their personal relationship’ with a very tiny American Jesus – who looks an awful lot like them…”

10. Vulnerability levels the playing field

“It is almost impossible to fall in love with majesty, power, or perfection. These make us both fearful and codependent, but seldom truly loving. On some level, love can happen only between equals, and vulnerability levels the playing field…”

Which quote do you like the most?

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The Second Half of Life – 6 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. The supposed achievements of the first half of life have to fall apart

“We do not want to embark on a further journey if it feels like going down, especially after we have put so much sound and fury into going up. This is surely the first and primary reason why so many people never get to the fullness of their own lives. The supposed achievements of the first half of life have to fall apart and show themselves to be wanting in some way, or we will not move further. Why would we?”

2. Death is a threat

“Death is largely a threat to those who have not yet lived their life…”

3. Overly defensive and overly offensive

“In our formative years, we are so self-preoccupied that we are both overly defensive and overly offensive at the same time, with little time left for simply living, pure friendship, useless beauty, or moments of communion with nature or anything. Yet that kind of ego structuring is exactly what a young person partly needs to get through the first twenty years or so, and what tribes need to survive. Maybe it is what humanity needed to get started. ‘Good fences make good neighbors,’ Robert Frost said, but he also presumed that you don’t just build fences. You eventually need to cross beyond them too, to actually meet the neighbor.”

4. We really do find ourselves through one another’s eyes

“We really do find ourselves through one another’s eyes, and only when that has been done truthfully can we mirror others with freedom, truth, and compassion… It is all a matter of learning how to see, and it takes much of our life to learn to see well and truthfully.”

5. In the second half of life

“In the second half of life, you gradually step out of this hall of revolving and self-reflecting mirrors. You can usually do this well only if you have one true mirror yourself, at least one loving honest friend to ground you, which might even be the utterly accepting gaze of the Friend. But, by all means, you must find at least one true mirror that reveals your inner, deepest, and, yes, divine image. This is why intimate moments are often mirroring moments of beautiful mutual receptivity, and why such intimacy heals us so deeply. Thinking you can truthfully mirror yourself is a first-half-of-life illusion…”

6. All that you avoided

“In the second half of life, all that you avoided for the sake of a manufactured ego ideal starts coming back as a true friend and teacher. Doers become thinkers, feelers become doers, thinkers become feelers, extroverts become introverts, visionaries become practical, and the practical ones long for vision. We all go toward the very places we avoided for the last forty years, and our friends are amazed. Now we begin to understand why Jesus is always welcoming the outsider, the foreigner, the sinner, the wounded one. He was a second-half-of-life man who has had the unenviable task of trying to teach and be understood by a largely first-half-of-life history, church, and culture.”

Which quotes do you like the best?

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Our Deepest Inner Life – 7 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life 

download (8)1. Mysterious and unknowable

“I worry about ‘true believers’ who cannot carry any doubt or anxiety at all… To hold the full mystery of life is always to endure its other half, which is the equal mystery of death and doubt. To know anything fully is always to hold that part of it which is still mysterious and unknowable.”

2. Do not have enough experience of wholeness

“After almost seventy years, I am still a mystery to myself! Our youthful demand for certainty does eliminate most anxiety on the conscious level, so I can see why many of us stay in such a control tower during the first half of life. We do not have enough experience of wholeness to include all of its parts yet…”

3. The Great Compassion

“If we do not find that unified field, ‘our complex and inexplicable caring for each other,’ or what Buddhists call the Great Compassion, there is no healing to life’s inconsistencies and contradictions…”

4. Led to the edge of your own private resources

“Sooner or later, if you are on any classic ‘spiritual schedule,’ some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it; or to state it in our language here, you will and you must ‘lose’ at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey. I wish I could say this was not true, but it is darn near absolute in the spiritual literature of the world.”

5. Our deepest inner life

“The Holy Spirit is that aspect of God that works largely from within and ‘secretly’ at ‘the deepest levels of our desiring,’ as so many of the mystics have said… We never ‘create’ or earn the Spirit; we discover this inner abiding as we learn to draw upon our deepest inner life…”

6. Unknowing becomes another kind of knowing

“Wisdom happily lives with mystery, doubt, and ‘unknowing,’ and in such living, ironically resolves that very mystery to some degree. I have never figured out why unknowing becomes another kind knowing, but it surely seems to be…”

7. Inner abiding place

“The common word for this inner abiding place of the Spirit, which is also a place of longing, has usually been the word soul. We have our soul already – we do not ‘get’ it by any purification process or by joining any group or from the hands of a bishop. The end is already planted in us at the beginning, and it gnaws away at us until we get there freely and consciously…”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Leaving the Familiar – 7 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. Leaving the familiar

“The very first sign of a potential hero’s journey is that he or she must leave home, the familiar, which is something that may not always occur to someone in the first half of life. (In fact many people have not left home by their thirties today, and most never leave the familiar at all!) If you have spent many years building your particular tower of success and self-importance – your personal ‘salvation project,’ as Thomas Merton called it – or have successfully constructed your own superior ethnic group, religion, or ‘house,’ you won’t want to leave it. (Now that many people have second, third, and fourth houses, it makes me wonder how they can ever leave home.)”

2. No trouble with the exceptions

“Jesus had no trouble with the exceptions, whether they were prostitutes, drunkards, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors, or wayward sheep. He ate with outsiders regularly, to the chagrin of the church stalwarts, who always love their version of order over any compassion toward the exceptions. Just the existence of a single mentally challenged or mentally ill person should make us change any of our theories about the necessity of some kind of correct thinking as the definition of ‘salvation.’ Yet we have a history of excluding and torturing people who do not ‘think’ like us.”

3. To leave one’s particular comfort zone in life

“There is no practical or compelling reason to leave one’s present comfort zone in life. Why should you or would you? Frankly, none of us do unless and until we have to…”

4. Any attempt to plan or engineer your own enlightenment

“Any attempt to engineer or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. You will see only what you have already decided to look for, and you cannot see what you are not ready or told to look for. So failure and humiliation force you to look where you would never otherwise…” 

5. If you do not do the first half of life well

“If you do not do the first half of life well, you have almost no ability to rise up from the stumbling stone. You just stay down and defeated, or you waste your time kicking against the goad…  In much of urban and Western civilization today, with no proper tragic sense of life, we try to believe that it is all upward and onward – and by ourselves. It works for so few, and it cannot serve us well in the long run – because it is not true. It is an inherently win-lose game, and more and more people find themselves on the losing side…”

6. In the realm of freedom

“Love only happens in the realm of freedom.”

7. True spirituality

“True spirituality is always a deep ‘co-operating’ between two. True spirituality is a kind of synergy in which both parties give and both parties receive to create one shared truth and joy.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Western Dualistic Minds – 8 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. Led by Mystery

“None of us go into our spiritual maturity completely of our own accord, or by total free choice. We are led by Mystery…”

2. The first half of life

“Most of us are never told that we can set out from the known and the familiar to take on a further journey. Our institutions and our expectations, including our churches, are almost entirely configured to encourage, support, reward, and validate the tasks of the first half of life. Shocking and disappointing, but I think it is true. We are more struggling to survive than to thrive, more just ‘getting through’ or trying to get to the top than finding out what is really at the top or was already at the bottom…”

3. The rational mind is dualistic

“The merely rational mind is invariably dualistic, and divides the field of almost every moment between what it can presently understand and what it then deems ‘wrong’ or untrue. Because the rational mind cannot process love or suffering, for example, it tends to either avoid them, deny them, or blame somebody for them, when in fact they are the greatest spiritual teachers of all, if we but allow them.”

4. A well-disguised narcissist

“Basically, if you stay in the protected first half of life beyond its natural period, you become a well-disguised narcissist or an adult infant (who is also a narcissist!) – both of whom are often thought to be successful ‘good old boys’ by the mainstream culture…”

5. Off balance

“…you learn how to recover from falling by falling!… People who have never allowed themselves to fall are actually off balance, while not realizing it at all. That is why they are so hard to live with…”

6. Sacred wounds

“It has been acceptable for some time in America to remain ‘wound identified’ (that is, using one’s victimhood as one’s identity, one’s ticket to sympathy, and one’s excuse for not serving), instead of using the wound to ‘redeem the world,’ as we see in Jesus and many people who turn their wounds into sacred wounds that liberate both themselves and others.”

7. Western dualistic minds

“…very few Christians have been taught how to live both law and freedom at the same time. Our Western dualistic minds do not process paradoxes very well. Without a contemplative mind, we do not know how to hold creative tensions. We are better at rushing to judgment and demanding a complete resolution to things before we have learned what they have to teach us. This is not the way of wisdom, and it is the way people operate in the first half of life.”

8. Being comfortable with diversity

“Organized religion has not been known for its inclusiveness or for being very comfortable with diversity. Yet pluriformity, multiplicity, and diversity is the only world there is! It is rather amazing that we can miss, deny, or ignore what is in plain sight everywhere.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Finding Ourselves – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  

download (16)1. Alienated by the society

“Man is alienated by the society he lives in. He does not yet know what he will be when he becomes himself. But alienated man must be wiped out, and then man as he really ought to be will come into existence.”

2. To imprison ethics in the realm of division

“To imprison ethics in the realm of division, of good and evil, right and wrong, is to condemn it to sterility, and rob it of its real reason for existing, which is love. Love cannot be reduced to one virtue among many others prescribed by ethical imperatives. When love is only ‘a virtue’ among many, man forgets that ‘God is love’ and becomes incapable of that all-embracing love by which we secretly begin to know God as our Creator and Redeemer…”

3. Keep me in this silence

“…keep me in this silence so that I may learn from it the word of your peace and the word of your mercy and the word of your gentleness to the world: and that through me perhaps your word of peace may make itself heard where it has not been possible for anyone to hear it for a long time.”

4. Love is stronger than hate

“Even though we have the power to destroy the whole world, life is stronger than the death instinct and love is stronger than hate… Because there is love in the world,… there remains always the hope that man will finally, after many mistakes and even disasters, learn to disarm and to make peace, recognizing that he must live at peace with his brother. Yet never have we been less disposed to this.” 

5. 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.”

6. Fully healthy and fruitful spirituality

“But because of our mentality we block the ‘total response’ that is needed for a fully healthy and fruitful spirituality. In fact the very idea of ‘spirituality’ tends to be unhealthy in so far as it is divisive and itself makes total response impossible. The ‘spiritual’ life thus becomes something lived ‘interiorly’ and in ‘the spirit’… The body is left out of it, because the body is ‘bad’ or at best ‘unspiritual.’ But the ‘body’ gets into the act anyway, sometimes in rather disconcerting ways, especially when it has been excluded on general principles.” 

7. Lost touch with reality

“Yet if in resisting doubt we convince ourselves that we truly ‘know God’ we have lost touch with reality…”

8. Part of nature

“We have to have the humility first of all to realize ourselves as part of nature. Denial of this results only in madness and cruelties…”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Here are some other posts I have done on Thomas Merton and his writings.

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