Reality Has Its Own Nakedness – 10 quotes from my books – The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life and The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together
by Mark Votava
1. Contemplation is about listening deeply
“God is calling us to awareness as the body of Christ in the parish. We are being drawn into an awareness of place, conviviality, mystery, integration, neighborliness, love, humility, and beauty. Awareness is subversive. Awareness has an intuitive sense of imagination. The practice of contemplation cultivates the mystical imagination of awareness. Contemplation is about listening deeply without words, with a keen sense of mystery that cultivates awareness.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
2. As something beautiful, as something sacred
“’Humility is necessary,’ writes Martin Laird, ‘if we are to see into our wounds.’ Through humility we can start to understand our afflictions as something beautiful, as something sacred. They are shaping us into who we are becoming. We cannot see what we need to see in our wounds without humility, without brokenness. We cannot close our eyes to our wounds. It is important to embrace the pain of brokenness and just let it be.” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together
3. What did Jesus do in the desert for 40 days?
“What did Jesus do in the desert for 40 days? He probably found different ways to listen as he spent lots of time alone. It was something like just under 6 weeks that Jesus spent in the desert. That’s a long time for most of us! Maybe the desert was a combination of many things for him such as longing, dreaming, reflecting, crying, walking, resting, and sleeping. He probably was bored, lonely, tired, and hungry at times. But he kept going because this was the process of disciplining himself to listen deeply and face his temptations. This was essential to his whole life.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
4. Reality has its own naked existence
“Silence and solitude reveal reality. Our lives are based on too many illusions and idolatries. Our eyes are opened when reality is revealed and we listen. We need to be honest in our relationship with reality. We cannot make up or distort reality. Reality has its own naked existence.” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
5. To live compassionately is to become human
“To live compassionately is to become human. To live as an expression of love is to become human. To work out our salvation together is to become human. To live in the freedom of the Spirit of reconciliation and grace toward others is to become human. Our reflection and rest help us to become human. The mystical imagination is calling us to become human by showing us that our humanity is beautiful. We need to honor and cultivate this beauty within us at all times. It is a subversive practice to become an expression of love, grace, and humility as we live restful lives. Brene Brown states, ‘Making the choice to rest… is at best, counterculture.’” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
6. Show proper respect to everyone
“’Show proper respect to everyone’ (1 Peter 2:17). We all have the tendency to judge others. But to judge others is to deny them proper respect. When we judge one another we discriminate against ourselves and lose our hold on love. Judging others hinders us from loving others. ‘Above all, love each other deeply’ (1 Peter 4:8). We need to love as the body of Christ, not judge. Judging others tends to be the religious thing to do nowadays. We don’t want to get caught up in all this religious stuff. Instead, we want to love others in a contextual way within the particulars of everyday life in the parish.” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together
7. Become expressions of grace and compassion
“Our humanity is honored when we become expressions of grace and compassion toward others in the parish. The Spirit is working within us to help us become this kind of expression in our everyday lives. There is nothing more beautiful than a life given over to expressions of grace and compassion in concrete, on-the-ground relationships. Our world takes notice one neighborhood at a time. ‘Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires’ (Romans 8:5). The communal imagination has a mind for the things of the Spirit. As we have seen, the mind of the Spirit is set on the local place we inhabit together. This is where relationships happen. This is where grace and compassion happen in everyday life. This is where relational revelations and ordinary miracles happen among us. James Finley, a former Trappist monk who studied under Thomas Merton, writes,’ You begin to appreciate that every time you compassionately engage with another person, your reason for being on this world is honored and expressed.’” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together
8. Our bodies identify intuitively with the ecology of life
“The lived body is meant to embody our redemption throughout our days. Our bodies are a gift from God, and it is a mistake to take them for granted. Our bodies identify intuitively with the ecology of life. They have an intuitive power beyond what we can sometimes understand. They are relational and interdependent. We need a mystical sense of discipline to live in our bodies in everyday life. This is such a subversive, countercultural practice for our time. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes, ‘A new spirituality is being born in you. Not body denying or body indulging but truly incarnational. You have to trust that this spirituality can find shape within you, and that it can find articulation through you.’” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
9. For many of us, listening is hard
“For many of us, listening is hard. Listening to others, listening to God, listening to our lives, listening to the true self, listening to our environment, listening to our local community, listening to mystery; these become problematic if we are not attuned to being silent together. There is always so much noise all around us. It’s like we are addicted to noise and hurried activity. And yet God is calling us into the mystical imagination of silence and solitude as the body of Christ in the parish. We will not be able to embrace these without listening to life’s mystery and beauty. They liberate us from our noise-addicted world. Paula Huston writes, ‘…we can take some practical steps to increase our capacity for listening.’” The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life
10. A desire for listening
“There is so much talk today within the body of Christ. There is an overemphasis on preaching and converting others through words and information. When will we ever learn how to listen instead of preaching so much? Listening is much harder than talking all the time. What would happen if we had an experimental approach to listening in the particulars of everyday life together in the parish? I think we would see amazing things happen. Love is intertwined with listening. Without listening, does love even exist within us? The communal imagination has a desire for listening. Listening is the foundation of all relational love in the parish.” The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together
Do you have a desire to listen deeply?
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