Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: February, 2016

Pure Love – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The fullness of contemplation

“But as long as there is this sense of separation, this awareness of distance and difference between ourselves and God, we have not yet entered into the fullness of contemplation.”

2. The true inner self

“As long as there is an ‘I’ that is the definite subject of a contemplative experience, an ‘I’ that  is aware of itself and of its contemplation, an ‘I’ that can possess a certain ‘degree of spirituality,’ then we have not yet passed over the Red Sea, we have not yet ‘gone out of Egypt.’ We remain in the realm of multiplicity, activity, incompleteness, striving and desire. The true inner self, the true indestructible and immortal person, the true ‘I’ who answers to a new and secret name known only to himself and to God, does not ‘have’ anything, even ‘contemplation.’ This “I’ is not the kind of subject that can amass experiences, reflect on them, reflect on himself, for this ‘I’ is not the superficial and empirical self that we know in our everyday life.”

3. One spirit

“This inmost self is beyond the kind of experience which says ‘I want,’ ‘I love,’ ‘I know,’ ‘I feel.’ It has its own way of knowing, loving and experiencing which is a divine way and not a human one, a way of identity, of union, of ‘espousal,’ in which there is no longer a separate psychological individuality drawing all good and all truth toward itself, and thus loving and knowing for itself. Lover and Beloved are ‘one spirit.’”

4. Any kind of stability and peace

“The most unusual entrance to contemplation is through a desert of aridity in which, although you see nothing and feel nothing and apprehend nothing and are conscious only of a certain interior suffering and anxiety, yet you are drawn and held in this darkness and dryness because it is the only place in which you can find any kind of stability and peace…”

5. It is a great mistake to confuse the person and the ego

“It is a great mistake to confuse the person (the spiritual and hidden self, united with God) and the ego, the exterior, empirical self, the psychological individuality who forms a kind of mask for the inner and hidden self. This outer self is nothing but an evanescent shadow. Its biography and its existence both end together at death. Of the inmost self, there is neither biography nor end. The outward self can ‘have’ much, ‘enjoy’ much, ‘accomplish’ much, but in the end all its possessions, joys and accomplishments are nothing, and the outer self is, itself, nothing: a shadow, a garment that is cast off and consumed by decay.”

6. Our true self

“Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness and void. What we are not seems to be real, what we are seems to be unreal. We can rise above this unreality, and recover our hidden identity. And that is why the way to reality is the way of humility which brings us to reject the illusory self and accept the ‘empty’ self that is ‘nothing’ in our own eyes and in the eyes of men, but is our true reality in the eyes of God…”

Have you discovered your own reality, your true self?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Sharing the Fruits of Contemplation – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. True mystical experience of God

“True mystical experience of God and supreme renunciation of everything outside of God coincide. They are two aspects of the same thing. For when our minds and wills are perfectly free from every created attachment, they are immediately filled with the gift of God’s love…”

2. One of the worst things

“One of the worst things about an ill-timed effort to share the knowledge of contemplation with other people is that you assume that everybody else will want to see things from your own point of view when, as a matter of fact, they will not. They will raise objections to everything you say, and you will find yourself in a theological controversy – or worse, a pseudo-scientific one – and nothing is more useless for a contemplative than controversy. There is no point whatever in trying to make people with a different vocation get excited about the kind of interior life that mean so much to you. And if they are called to contemplation, a long, involved argument full of technicalities and abstract principles is not the thing that will help them to get there.”

3. Minding our own business

“Often we will do much more to make men contemplatives by leaving them alone and minding our own business – which is contemplation itself – than by breaking in on them with what we think we know about the interior life…”

4. Learn to leave the results to God

“Therefore the best way to prepare ourselves for the possible vocation of sharing contemplation with other men is not to study how to talk and reason about contemplation, but withdraw ourselves as much as we can from talk and argument and retire into the silence and humility of heart in which God will purify our love of all its human imperfections… And by that time the work will not absorb us in a way that will disturb our minds. We will be able to keep our tranquility and our freedom, and above all we will learn to leave the results to God, and not indulge our own vanity by insisting on quick and visible conversions in everyone we talk to.”

5. Letting God work in us and through us

“Perhaps it looks easy on paper, and perhaps it would really be easy if we were altogether simple and made no difficulties about letting God work in us and through us. But in actual practice one of the last barricades of egoism, and one which many saints have refused to give up entirely, is this insistence on doing the work and getting the results and enjoying them ourselves. We are the ones who want to carry off the glory for the work done…”

6. Be content to let God take care of its development

“Be careful, then, of assuming that because you like certain people and are naturally inclined to choose them for your friends and share with them your natural interests, that they are also called to be contemplatives and that you must teach them all how to become so. The aptitude may or may not be there. Perhaps there is a strong likelihood that it is there: but if it is, be content to let God take care of its development in them…”

Do you struggle with minding your own business?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Inward Destitution – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The whole meaning of our life

“…as peace settles upon the soul and we accept what we are and what we are not, we begin to realize that this great poverty is our greatest fortune. For when we are stripped of the riches that were not ours and could not possibly endow us with anything but trouble, when we rest even from that good and licit activity of knowing and desiring which still could not give us any possession of our true end and happiness, then we become aware that the whole meaning of our life is a poverty and emptiness which, far from being a defeat, are really the pledge of all the great supernatural gifts of which they are a potency.”

2. Once we begin to find this emptiness

“Once we begin to find this emptiness, no poverty is poor enough, no emptiness is empty enough, no humility lowers us enough for our desires.”

3. Our greatest sorrow

“…our greatest sorrow is to find that we still attach importance to ourselves, still can be great in our own eyes, for we have begun to know that any shadow cast upon the transparency of a pure and empty soul is an illusion and an obstacle…”

4. The noise of our own temporal activity

“When the Gift of Understanding has opened our eyes in contemplation, we ought not to disturb God, in our souls, by the noise of our own temporal activity…”

5. Nourished by emptiness

“The contemplative, nourished by emptiness, endowed by poverty and liberated from all sorrow by simple obedience, drinks fortitude and joy from the will of God in all things.”

6. Unity and emptiness and interior peace

“But in the contemplative, all complexities have now begun to straighten themselves out and dissolve into unity and emptiness and interior peace.”

7. God is present to our deepest hunger

“The more our faculties are emptied of their desire and their tension toward created things, and the more they collect themselves into peace and interior silence and reach into the darkness where God is present to their deepest hunger, the more they feel a pure, burning impatience to be free and rid of all the last obstacles and attachments that still stand between them and the emptiness that will be capable of being filled with God.”

8. Hoping for hope

“And yet, strangely, it is in this helplessness that we come upon the beginning of joy. We discover that as long as we stay still the pain is not so bad and there is even a certain peace, a certain richness, a certain strength, a certain companionship that makes itself present to us when we are beaten down and lie flat with our mouths in the dust, hoping for hope.”

9. True peace

“God’s will enters into the depths of our own freedom… True peace is only found by those who have learned to ride and swim with the strong current of this stream. For them life becomes simple and easy. Every moment is rich in happiness. All events are intelligible, if not in their details at least in their relation to the great wholeness of life.”

How have you found emptiness to be valuable in your journey of life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Renunciation – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. How to mind your own business

“One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business.”

2. An impatient desire

“Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men.”

3. Become human

“Before you can be a saint you have got to become human.”

4. A dangerous condition of blindness

“When a man is virtuous enough to be able to delude himself that he is almost perfect, he may enter into a dangerous condition of blindness in which all his violent efforts finally to grasp perfection strengthen his hidden imperfections and confirm him in his attachment to his own judgment and his own will.”

5. Whether or not we live by faith

“But when the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light – then we find out whether or not we live by faith.”

6. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty

“It is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure.”

7. You have not yet begun to live

“Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for spiritual JOY. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy you have not yet begun to live.”

8. Unselfish joy suffers from nothing but selfishness

“Pleasure, which is selfish, suffers from everything that deprives us of some good we want to savor for our own sake. But unselfish joy suffers from nothing but selfishness. Pleasure is restrained and killed by pain and suffering. Spiritual joy ignores suffering or laughs at it or even exploits it to purify itself of its greatest obstacle, selfishness.”

9. True joy

“True joy is found in the perfect willing of what we were made to will: in the intense and supple and free movement of our will rejoicing in what is good not merely for us but in Itself.”

10. Sometimes pleasure can be the death of joy

”Sometimes pleasure can be the death of joy, and so the man who has tasted true joy is suspicious of pleasure. But anyone who knows true joy is never afraid of pain because he knows that pain can serve him as another opportunity of asserting – and tasting – his liberty.”

Do you think that pleasure can be the death of joy?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

 

The Wrong Flame – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book –New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. This taste for “experiences”

“For anyone who is really called to infused contemplation this taste for ‘experiences’ can be one of the most dangerous obstacles in his interior life. It is the rock on which many who might have become contemplatives have ended in shipwreck…”

2. Passions and emotions

“Passion and emotion certainly have their place… but they must be purified, ordered, brought into submission to the highest love. Then they too can share in the spirit’s joy and even, in their own small way, contribute to it. But until they are spiritually mature the passions must be treated firmly and with reserve… When are they spiritually mature? When they are pure, clean, gentle, quiet, nonviolent, forgetful of themselves, detached and above all when they are humble and obedient to reason and to grace.”

3. A spirit liberated in God

“And when there is nothing you can do to prevent these feelings of inebriation and spiritual joy you accept them with patience and with reserve and even with a certain humility and thankfulness, realizing that you would not suffer such excitements if there were not so much natural steam left in you. You withdraw your consent from anything that may be inordinate about them, and leave the rest to God, waiting for the hour of your deliverance into the real joys, the purely spiritual joys of a contemplation in which your nature and your emotions and your own selfhood no longer run riot, but in which you are absorbed and immersed, not in the staggering drunkenness of the senses but in the clean, intensely pure intoxication of a spirit liberated in God.”

4. Attach the wrong kind of importance

“But the danger is that you will attach the wrong kind of importance to these manifestations of religious emotions. Really they are not important at all, and although sometimes they are unavoidable, it does not seem prudent to desire them. And as a matter of fact, everyone who has received any kind of training in the interior life knows that it is not considered good sense to go after these consolations with too heavy an intensity of purpose. Nevertheless, many of those who seem to be so superior to the sensible element in religion show, by their devotions, their taste for sentimental pictures and sticky music and mushy spiritual reading, that their whole interior life is a concentrated campaign for ‘lights’ and ‘consolations’ and ‘tears of compunction,’ if not ‘interior words’ with, perhaps, the faintly disguised hope of a vision of two and, eventually, the stigmata.”

5. The healthiest reaction

“Therefore the healthiest reaction to these outbursts is an obscure repugnance for the pleasures and the excitements they bring. You recognize that these things offer no real fruit and no lasting satisfaction. They tell you nothing reliable about God or about yourself. They give you no real strength, only the momentary illusion of holiness. And when you grow more experienced, how much they blind you and how capable they are of deceiving you and leading you astray.”

How do you deal with the emotions when it comes to contemplation?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Journey Through the Wilderness – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Through the wilderness

“The man who does not permit his spirit to be beaten down and upset by dryness and helplessness, but who lets God lead him peacefully through the wilderness, and desires no other support or guidance than that of pure faith and trust in God alone, will be brought to the Promised Land. He will taste the peace and joy of union with God. He will, without ‘seeing,’ have a habitual, comforting, obscure and mysterious awareness of his God, present and acting in all the events of life.”

2. Beyond the sphere of our natural powers

“But contemplation lifts us beyond the sphere of our natural powers.”

3. Interior activity

“…if God is the source of your interior activity, the work of your faculties may be entirely beyond conscious estimation, and its results may not be seen or understood.”

4. The courage to risk everything

“What you most need in this dark journey is an unfaltering trust in the Divine guidance, as well as the courage to risk everything… In many ways the journey seems to be a foolish gamble. And you may well make many mistakes… What matters in the contemplative life is not for you… to be always infallibly right, but for you to be heroically faithful to grace and to love…”

5. Below the surface

“Below the surface, the mind and will are drawn into the orbit of an activity that is deep and intense and supernatural, and which overflows into our whole being and brings forth incalculable fruits.”

6. Peace will establish itself in your soul

“If… you find positive peace and derive fruit from resting in a simple and faithful expectation of help from God, it would be better to do that than to persecute your mind and will in a vain effort to beat a few thoughts and affections out of them. For if you reflect on your state, you will easily see that your mind is absorbed in one vast, obscure thought of God and your will is occupied, if not haunted, with a blind, groping, half-defined desire of God. These two combine to produce in you the anxiety and darkness and helplessness which make lucid and particular acts at once so hard and so futile. And if you allow yourself to remain in silence and emptiness you may find that this thirst, this hunger that seeks God in blindness and darkness, will grow on you and at the same time, although you do not yet seem to find anything tangible, peace will establish itself in your soul.”

7. To remain at peace

“As soon as there is any reasonable indication that God is drawing the spirit into this way of contemplation, we ought to remain at peace… This waiting should be without anxiety and without deliberate hunger for any experience that comes within the range of our knowledge or memory, because any experience that we can grasp or understand will be inadequate and unworthy of the state to which God wishes to bring our souls.”

Have you journeyed through the wilderness?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

 

The Night of the Senses – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. Slow progress in the darkness of pure faith

“It is more ordinary for the spirit to learn contemplation from God not in a sudden flash but imperceptibly, by very gradual steps. As a matter of fact, without the groundwork of long and patient trial and slow progress in the darkness of pure faith, contemplation will never really be learned at all…”

2. A desert without trees and without beauty and without water

“Let us never forget that the ordinary way to contemplation lies through a desert without tress and without beauty and without water. The spirit enters a wilderness and travels blindly in directions that seem to lead away from vison, away from God, away from all fulfillment and joy. It may become impossible to believe that this road goes anywhere at all except to a desolation full of dry bones – the ruin of all our hopes and good intentions.”

3. The experience of defeat

“…the experience is often not so much one of fulfillment as of defeat.”

4. The shadow of a strange and silent night

“The mind finds itself entering uneasily into the shadows of a strange and silent night. The night is peaceful enough. But it is very frustrating. Thought becomes cramped and difficult. There is a peculiarly heavy sense of weariness and distaste for mental and spiritual activity. Yet at the same time the soul is haunted with a fear that this new impotence is a sin, or a sign of imperfection. It tries to force acts of thought and will. Sometimes it makes a mad effort to squeeze some feeling of fervor out of itself, which is, incidentally, the worst thing it could possibly do. All the pretty images and concepts of God that it once cherished have vanished or have turned into unpleasant and frightening distortions…”  

5. Peace lies in the heart of this darkness

“On the other hand they sense, by a kind of instinct, that peace lies in the heart of this darkness. Something prompts them to keep still, to trust in God, to be quiet and listen…; to be patient and not to get excited. Soon they discover that all useless attempts to meditate only upset and disturb them; but at the same time, when they stay quiet in the muteness of naked truth, resting in a simple and open-eyed awareness, attentive to the darkness which baffles them, a subtle and indefinable peace begins to seep into their souls and occupies them with a deep and inexplicable satisfaction. It cannot be grasped or identified. It slips out of focus and gets away. Yet it is there.”

6. Recapture the old consolations that are beyond recovery

“If a man in this night lets his spirit get carried away with fear or impatience and anxiety, he will come to a standstill. He will twist and turn and torture himself with attempts to see some light and feel some warmth and recapture the old consolations that are beyond recovery. And finally he will run away from darkness, and do the best he can to dope himself with the first light that comes along.”

Have you experienced the night of the senses?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

The Gift of Understanding – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. Contemplatives

“All those who reach the end for which they were created will therefore be contemplatives…”

2. The true light that shines in everyone

“This is the gift of understanding: we pass out of ourselves into the joy of emptiness, of nothingness, in which there are no longer any particular objects of knowledge but only God’s truth without limit, without defect, without stain. This clean light, which tastes of Paradise, is beyond all pride, beyond comment, beyond proprietorship, beyond solitude. It is in all, and for all. It is the true light that shines in everyone…”

3. The function of this abyss of freedom

“For already a supernatural instinct teaches us that the function of this abyss of freedom that has opened out within our own midst, is to draw us utterly out of our own selfhood and into its own immensity of liberty and joy.”

4. A door opens in the center of our being

“A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us…”

5. A reality that is dark and serene

“God touches us with a touch that is emptiness and empties us… Our minds swim in the air of an understanding, a reality that is dark and serene and includes in itself everything. Nothing more is desired. Nothing more is wanting…”

6. A new level of awareness

“The utter simplicity and obviousness of the infused light which contemplation pours into our soul suddenly awakens us to a new level of awareness. We enter a region which we had never even suspected, and yet it is this new world which seems familiar and obvious…”

7. The moment we demand anything for ourselves

“Only the greatest humility can give us the instinctive delicacy and caution that will prevent us from reaching out for pleasures and satisfactions that we can understand and savor in this darkness. 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…”

8. A pure gift of God

“If there is one thing we must do it is this: we must realize to the very depths of our being that this is a pure gift of God which no desire, no effort and no heroism of ours can do anything to deserve or obtain. There is nothing we can do directly either to procure it or to preserve it or to increase it. Our own activity is for the most part an obstacle to the infusion of this peaceful and pacifying light, with the exception that God may demand certain acts and works of us by charity or obedience, and maintain us in deep experimental union…”

9. Deep movements of love

“In the vivid darkness of God within us there sometimes come deep movements of love that deliver us entirely, for a moment, from our old burden of selfishness…”

How have you moved to new levels of awareness in everyday life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Distractions – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. Really learned in the hour

“Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone.”

2. The level of language or affection

“If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection…”

3. The distractions that do harm

“The distractions that do harm are the ones that draw our will away from its profound and peaceful occupation with God and involve it in elaborations of projects that have been concerning us during our day’s work…”

4. Most helpful

“…humor is one of the things that would probably be most helpful…”

5. Often unavoidable

“…it is useless to get upset when you cannot shake off distractions. In the first place, you must realize that they are often unavoidable…”

6. No matter how distracted you may be

“No matter how distracted you may be, pray by peaceful, even perhaps inarticulate, efforts to center your heart upon God, Who is present to you in spite of all that may be going through your mind…”

7. Acquire the agility and freedom of mind

“The best thing beginners in the spiritual life can do, after they have really acquired the discipline of mind that enables them to concentrate on a spiritual subject and get below the surface of its meaning and incorporate it into their lives, is to acquire the agility and freedom of mind that will help them to find light and warmth and ideas and love for God everywhere they go and in all they do. People who only know how to think about God during fixed periods of the day will never get very far in the spiritual life…”

8. Our true liberty is something we must never sacrifice

“Liberty, then, is a talent given us by God, an instrument to work with. It is the tool with which we build our own lives, our own happiness. Our true liberty is something we must never sacrifice… Our true liberty must be defended with life itself for it’s the most precious element in our being. It is our liberty that makes us Persons, constituted in the divine image… How few people realize this!”

9. Famished by a crude hunger for results

“How many there are who are in a worse state still: they never even get as far as contemplation because they are attached to activities and enterprises that seem to be important. Blinded by their desire for ceaseless motion, for a constant sense of achievement, famished by a crude hunger for results, for visible and tangible success, they work themselves into a state in which they cannot believe that they are pleasing to God unless they are busy with a dozen jobs at the same time. Sometimes they fill the air with lamentations and complain that they no longer have any time for prayer, but they have become such experts in deceiving themselves that they do not realize how insincere their lamentations are. They not only allow themselves to be involved in more and more work, they actually go looking for new jobs. And the busier they become the more mistakes they make. Accidents and errors pile up around them. They will not be warned. They get further and further away from reality… So having no interior strength left, they fall apart.”

What kinds of distractions do you experience in life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Detachment – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. Not so easy to recognize

“Sometimes contemplatives think that the whole end and essence of their life is to be found in recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God. They become attached to these things. But recollection is just as much a creature as an automobile. The sense of interior peace is no less created than a bottle of wine. The experimental ‘awareness’ of the presence of God is just as truly a created thing as a glass of beer. The only difference is that recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God are spiritual pleasures and the others are material. Attachment to spiritual things is therefore just as much an attachment as inordinate love of anything else. The imperfection may be more hidden and more subtle: but from a certain point of view that only makes it all the more harmful because it is not so easy to recognize.”

2. The desire of 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…”

3. Attached to the “experience” of peace

“To become attached to the ‘experience’ of peace is to threaten the true and essential and vital union of our soul with God above sense and experience in the darkness of a pure and perfect love.”

4. The risk of losing what is essential

“If we attach too much importance to these accidentals we run the risk of losing what is essential, which is the perfect acceptance of God’s will, whatever our feelings may happen to be.”

5. Light, courage and strength

“When we consider the fidelity, the resoluteness, the determination to renounce all things for the love of God, without which we cannot pass over to the higher levels of purity and contemplation, we remain aghast at our own weakness, our own poverty, our evasions, our infidelity, our hesitancy. Our very weakness clouds our vision. We are left helpless, knowing very well that we are asked to give up everything, yet not knowing how or where to begin. In such a condition there is no use in forcing the issue. Great patience and humility are needed, and humble prayer for light, courage and strength.”

6. Union with the will of God

“But if I think the most important thing in life is a feeling of interior peace, I will be all the more disturbed when I notice that I do not have it. And since I cannot directly produce that feeling in myself whenever I want to, the disturbance will increase with the failure of my efforts. Finally I will lose my patience by refusing to accept this situation which I cannot control and so I will let go of the one important reality, union with the will of God, without which true peace is completely impossible.”

7. Transcends all satisfaction and all experience

“True contemplation is the work of a love that transcends all satisfaction and all experience to rest in the night of pure and naked faith…”

Is detachment a struggle for you?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist