Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: April, 2016

Obsession With Doctrinal Formulas – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Zen and the Birds of Appetite

51U9ehoviBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Distinguishing, judging, categorizing and classifying

“The trouble is that as long as you are given to distinguishing, judging, categorizing and classifying – or even contemplating – you are superimposing something else on the pure mirror. You are filtering the light through a system as if convinced that this will improve the light.”

2. To pay attention, to become aware, to be mindful

“Buddhist meditation, but above all that of Zen, seeks not to explain but to pay attention, to become aware, to be mindful, in other words to develop a certain kind of consciousness that is above and beyond deception by verbal formulas – or by emotional excitement. Deception in what? Deception in its grasp of itself as it really is. Deception due to diversion and distraction from what is right there – consciousness itself.”

3. Obsession with doctrinal formulas

“This obsession with doctrinal formulas, juridical order and ritual exactitude has often made people forget that the heart of Catholicism, too, is a living experience of unity in Christ which far transcends all conceptual formulations. What too often has been overlooked, in consequence, is that Catholicism is the taste and experience of eternal life… Too often the Catholic has imagined himself obliged to stop short at a mere correct and external belief expressed in good moral behavior, instead of entering fully into the life of hope and love consummated by union with the invisible God ‘in Christ and in the Spirit’ thus fully sharing in the Divine Nature.”

4. Grounded in authentic truth and love

“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.”

5. The Kingdom of God within us

“The Recovery of Paradise is the discovery of the ‘Kingdom of God within us,’ to use the Gospel expression in the sense in which it has been applied by the Christian mystics…”

6. What was there all along

“In any case 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.”

How have you moved from obsession with doctrinal formulas to living experience in your spirituality?

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

Look Within Ourselves – 10 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Springs of Contemplation

41uoFywPbuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Require a break with the establishment

“…sooner or later we will be faced with choices which require a break with the establishment.”

2. Getting your hands dirty

“…it’s more common for people to realize that the contemplative life doesn’t consist in being turned on all the time and in having special experiences. Or to see that contemplation doesn’t rule out getting your hands dirty.”

3. The best part of the day

“In the hermitage, I go to bed at nine and get up at four. The reason for getting up early is not to impress ourselves or other people but to enjoy those early hours. Sometimes I do stay up late at night and then sleep late in the morning. But when I do, I really miss the early morning. It’s the best part of the day.”

4. In order for the contemplative life to be serious

“You have to have some responsibilities in order for the contemplative life to be serious. Very few people can live a contemplative life without any other responsibility whatever; that’s a special thing…”

5. We look within ourselves

“Now it’s time to ask again: Where do we look for the new thing? We look within ourselves. We have potentialities…”

6. Touched the lives of most people so little

“It is amazing to me that Christianity is the most wonderful thing that has ever come to us and yet it seems to have touched the lives of most people very little.”

7. We listen to the depths of our own being

“This is where silence comes in. We listen to the depth of our own being, and out of this listening comes a rich silence, the silence of God…”

8. We have to rock the boat

“We have a prophetic task. We have to rock the boat…”

9. To love someone on a simple, non-productive sort of way

“There are so many other things we think are more important than listening to others or giving them time. We think we could be using our time much better. Well, we couldn’t. We need the conviction that we can’t do better than to love someone in a simple, non-productive sort of way. In our society you have to produce, period. Being kind to someone or sympathetic, we think is not getting anything done…”

10. Train people not to judge

“For us, it all comes down to the gospel: ‘Judge not.’ One of the important things about spiritual formation is to train people not to judge, to teach them not to box others in. It’s easy in… life just to live on the constant activity of judging and classifying others, putting people in their place, mentally keeping them down.”

Have you looked within to find 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

Learning To Love Each Other Well – 12 quotes from Christopher L. Heuertz’s book – Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community

51-6b52lH4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The poverty of our friendships

“Until we confess the poverty of our friendships, many of our attempts to foster inclusion run the risk of becoming awkward and inappropriate efforts of tokenism. It doesn’t feel good to be the ‘token’ anything in any community. It diminishes everyone’s humanity to be misled by communities that appear to be inclusive but are actually using minority members for cosmetic purposes.”

2. Toward grace or bitterness

“However it happens, all of us betray our communities and friendships, and all of us are betrayed by them. It’s part of the metanarrative of all great human stories. Betrayal is one of the perplexing and peculiar gifts that comes from weaving our lives together with others. And our response to betrayal can be a powerful force, setting our life trajectories toward grace or bitterness.”

3. Explore the unique gifts each person brings

“If we want to be in true community, we have to make the choice to not give in to what’s easy but instead to explore the unique gifts each person brings…”

4. To give more freely

“Gratitude also allows us to give more freely in community.”

5. Deeply unsatisfying times

“In the midst of vocational faithfulness, there will be long periods of what seem to be deeply unsatisfying times marked by difficult or unexciting duties or responsibilities.”

6. When doubt forces its way in

“What happens in our communities when doubt forces its way in? How do we get through these times together in community?”

7. Something greater than ourselves

“…community is not just a collective of people united around a cause. Rather, it’s a group of people bound by a commitment to one another – and community becomes the loom that weaves them together. A loom that takes all our colors and pieces, fabrics and faults, and interweaves us to create something greater than ourselves.”

8. Questions rather than answers

“I’ve been enamored by questions rather than answers, allowing those uncertainties to press me deeper into faith.”

9. Overidentify people by their differences

“Sure, it’s possible, and more likely probable in most cases, that our false centers are simply an identification with the groups to which we belong. It’s usually unintentionally fortified and almost always perpetuated without negative or harmful motivations. But when we don’t recognize the false center we’ve created in ourselves, we perpetuate exclusive environments that overidentify people by their differences in relation to us.”

10. To be exclusive

“Is it ever okay to be exclusive?…”

11. Immature expressions of love

“It’s important to note that in authentic relationships and dynamic communities, most betrayals are simply immature expressions of love.”

12. Learning to love each other well

“Discovering new kinds of friendships – that dismantle our unfair expectations and take the focus off of ourselves – helps ground our other relationships. And learning to love each other well, accepting the best and worst of each other, focusing on our relationships as they are rather than what we think they should be, helps us stay faithful to our friendships, relationships, and communities.”

Have you loved others well in your community?

Christopher L. Heuertz is the founding partner of Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, and coauthor of Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, author of Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World 

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

Mutual Appreciation – 10 quotes from Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl’s book – Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission

  • 51ZWPHXNysLIt takes years

“It takes years to build the kinds of relationships that result in transformation.”

  • Friends are God’s gifts to us

“Friends are God’s gifts to us, and without them we are incomplete…”

  • Change our orientation

“But we could ask ourselves as we seek to change our orientation: Could I invite my friends who are poor into my home and lifestyle and have a good time with them? Would I be ashamed of my comforts or expenditures? Is the embarrassment I feel an expression of my conflicted commitments and divided loyalties?”

  • To be present to those we love

“When we allow ourselves to be disarmed, we become both vulnerable and strong. The only weapons then at our disposal are those of the Spirit. We choose the way of Jesus, laying aside all the earthly resources that give us power – in order to be present to those we love.” 

  • Deep relationships, mutual appreciation and communion

“An emphasis on friendship is, in a sense, an effort to round out our understandings of love that focus exclusively on self-giving and self-sacrifice – lots of sacrifice – but it also involves deep relationships, mutual appreciation and communion…”

  • Staying faithful over a lifetime

“What spiritual practices help us sustain friendships at the margins?… What will help us to stay faithful over a lifetime?”

  • How we use our free time

“How we think and act in regard to justice for people who are poor and exploited is surely part of holiness. But so is what we do with our leisure time and recreation. With what do we fill our minds when we have a chance to relax? The things we find humorous and entertaining matter to God and matter to the sort of persons we are becoming. Sometimes there is a sizable gap between what we claim as our commitments and how we use our free time.”

  • Exposes our excess

“Friendship with people who are poor often exposes our excess… Getting a handle on simplicity that is full of grace is often challenging.”

  • Slowing down

“Real friendship involves movement in and out of one another’s worlds, but our privilege, location and busyness often make us inaccessible to friendships with people outside our world. Sometimes we don’t even see possible friends who, though not far away, are distanced from us by class or illness, status or capacity. Putting ourselves in places where people on the margins can find us involves slowing down, taking time to be where people can befriend us, and taking risks to be dependent on the kindness of strangers.”

  • What we often take for granted

“Without gratitude and celebration our lives shrivel up. While it would be inaccurate to suggest that people who are poor or have been exploited have a special handle on gratitude, it is a grace and practice often evident among people who are poor. Sharing life with those who are grateful for the most basic things in the midst of their ongoing difficulties challenges us and our more comfortable communities to reflect deeply on what we often take for granted – God’s goodness and provision.”

Have you discovered mutuality in your service and mission in the world?

Christopher L. Heuertz is the founding partner of Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, and coauthor of Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, author of Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World 

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 Peace of Silence – Celebrating My 600th Blog Post!

  • So beautiful

images (37)Silence, you are so beautiful. You nourish my body. You help me to live from a place of love and compassion. I have never known anything so beautiful.

  • Longing for you

Longing for you makes me happy. Peace lives with me at the remembrance of you. Never leave me. I need you so much.

  • Gifts of wisdom

Without you my true self cannot live. I cry out for you in the day and throughout the night. You bring to me your gifts of wisdom. You are the light in my eyes.

  • Changing myself

The great sufi mystic Rumi writes, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

  • No more changing the world

art-projects-for-kids-2No more changing the world. No more changing others. No more frustration and angst at the thought of you. I want to dream of you.

  • Mindful and aware

I want to be mindful and aware of you throughout my days. May I live and die in silence. May your truth lead me to care for myself.

  • Done with being clever

I am done with being clever. I am done with trying to figure things out. Being lost is okay with you. There are no more words to be addicted to. I want to rest in you in everyday life.

  • Living with courage

I search for your wisdom, to live in my true self. The false self is fading away at your sight. You are authentic and kind. May I carry you with me as I live my life with courage.

  • Don’t abandon me to my false self

Don’t abandon me to my false self. I need your beauty to light my eyes. You are subversive and shatter the status quo. How I miss your touch when I ignore you by my fast paced life.

  • Not much of anything in the noise

Everything is so fast and busy. I am done with all of that. I desire your peace and comfort. There is not much of anything in all the noise.

  • Authenticity, honesty, vulnerability, and humility

Teach me of authenticity, honesty, vulnerability, and humility. You are a friend. You are the most beautiful nourishment I have found. There is peace in you.

  • Dry my tears

Dry my tears and help me to cope with my pain. I trust in you. There is no one else. I am running to you with grace and hospitality.

  • You live within me

You always seem to be kind to me. In all kinds of ways you are near, you are present. You live within me all the time. I am truly grateful for all your wisdom and gifts.3816206-Bamboo-leaves-over-abstract-blurred-background-Stock-Photo-buddhism-bamboo

  • Worth more than money

You are worth more than money. I happy to know something of you. You show me gifts of compassion within myself. I will never forget you.

  • No efficiency or productivity

You are beautiful to me. I am pausing to embrace you. Just doing nothing is so good for me. Because there is no efficiency, productivity, and accumulation of money, many think you are a waste of time, but I don’t care about all of that.

  • The revealer of my true self

You are worth more than money to me. I long for you with my whole self. You are the revealer of my true self. For that I am grateful all my days!

Have you embraced silence today?

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 Movement of Longing – 5 quotes from Phileena Heuertz’s book – Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

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  • The movement of longing

“The movement of longing makes us vulnerable…”

  • The darkness of night

“During the darkness of night, there was a restorative work taking place in the dark and hidden places of the body – a sign of the genius of God’s creation… The secret work of God was transforming me.”

  • Death is the culmination of darkness

“We want the fruit, the new life, but we resist the dying. Death is the culmination of darkness. During a season of darkness, I wrestled with God, trying to hold on to that which needed to die – my preconceived notions of who God is and who I am. Much of what my identity had been based in was being shattered and I fought to hold onto the crumbling pieces – having no guarantee of who I’d be without my false-self security blanket. The burning away (purgation) of my false self was a horrible experience. At times, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I was sad and disorientated, and all seemed dark. I was losing grasp on who I was. I questioned all my life’s decisions, wondering which of them had been connected to my true self and which had been motivated by my false self. I was just trying to keep my head above water in the sea of darkness when everything about my identity seemed to be fading away.”  

  • The one who neglects contemplation

“…the one who neglects contemplation is at risk of being motivated and driven by false-self compulsions. When one neglects giving attention to his interior life, he is not master of his house. His ‘programs for happiness’ control him, and he goes through life unaware that his ‘service’ is more truly frenetic activity. He is not only blind to the real needs of those he serves but to his own needs as well. True acts of service do not build up our egos but bring us into deeper solidarity with the poor, marginalized and victims of injustice…”

  • Allows for space within to be carved for intimacy

“The spiritual journey allows for space within us to be carved for intimacy. Intimacy is about knowing and being known. But sadly there are a lot of obstacles that keep us from achieving this most necessary of human needs. ‘Programs for happiness’ that our false selves cling to threaten to prevent us from reaching our hearts’ desires for intimacy. We seek power and control, affection and esteem or security and survival, and none of these pursuits leave us fulfilled. At the end of life’s journey, it doesn’t matter what we have, what we do or what others say about us. What will matter is whether or not we are known and loved for who we are, and whether or not we have known and loved our family and friends well. This is why family and old friends are the dearest. They know us – the good, the bad and the ugly – and they still love us. We want to be known, and we want to know and love others well – this is the truest success in life…”

What is the movement of longing leading you to?

Phileena Heuertz is the founding partner of Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active 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

Believing In My Compassion

114701740204911777tsNbL8fcIt has been a few days now since I got back from Nebraska from an amazing silent retreat. In my home at the Tacoma Catholic Worker I am learning to breathe deeply, walk mindfully, and live from my true self. A day before I went on the deepening retreat with Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, I wrote in a journal on April 14, 2016 the following thoughts.

  • Journal Entry: April 14, 2016

Staying present in the now takes me to a place of courage, compassion, honesty, humility, and groundedness. When I have feelings of frustration, anger, pain, and grief I need to step back and believe in my compassion. I need to be more “selfish” in a way, to be aware of my deepest needs and feelings, not to get focused on others, but lean into my own “selfishness” and my own truth. I want to be so grounded in this with sensitivity, intuition, and honesty.

This is where my gifts lie. My experiences always leave a trail of gifts behind them that come out in beautiful, mysterious ways. Sometimes I can see them and sometimes I can’t. Generosity, patience, humility, sensitivity, and responsibility are so alive in me in these moments.

I believe in my gifts, in the intuitive, sensitive, and compassionate person that I am!

  • The joy of the true self

At the retreat, I experienced a lot of joy and that joy is coming from my true self. My life has been so bombarded with melancholy the past several years and often it leaves me confused, disorientated, and lost. I feel like the prodigal son who has lost his true self. My expectations have made me resentful, angry, and depressed.

  • Dying to all my idealistic expectations of life

So I am learning to die to all my idealistic expectations of life, to be grateful for what is, to take joy in the present moment. This is so hard and painful, but beautiful. I seem to hate the dark nights of the soul that God seems to be leading me to. I don’t understand them at all.

  • Am I completely lost?

img_1333Am I losing my faith? Am I completely lost? Am I really loved by God? These are the questions that I am living in.

  • Living in my vulnerability

Maybe I’ll never have answers and I am coming to see that I am okay with that. Living in the humility, vulnerability, and loss of it all is leading me to find the kingdom of God within. My feelings and needs are speaking to me of something deeper, something I don’t quite understand yet. Maybe it has something to do with community, engagement in the world, and a practice of contemplative spirituality.

  • Seeking God in my pain

The deepening retreat has brought to my attention that I need to seek God in my pain, especially when I am embedded in loneliness. As I remember Dorothy Day and her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, it is always comforting to know that her presence and legacy goes before me to create some kind of path for authenticity, peace, community, and hope.

  • Learning to smile a little more

But I am learning to smile a little more, be more gentle with myself, and connect with what I love in life. These are some of the fruits that have come from this beloved deepening retreat. I am thankful to God for the possibility to become a contemplative activist in the world!

  • We can’t skip over or outrun darkness

Phileena Heuertz writes, “When I set out on the Camino, I hadn’t fully realized what I was getting into. Darkness came in waves. I couldn’t avoid or go around the dark physical and mental feats I faced. I had to pace myself with it and go through it. We can’t skip over or outrun darkness; neither can we hide from it in the busyness of life or in a time of extended rest…”

How have you been running from the difficult stuff 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

I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life 

170495-bigthumbnailAt the 2016 Spring Deepening Retreat with Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, I experienced profound joy. It was so incredible, so simple, and so peaceful. As Phileena Heuertz shared, the gifts of the silence will not happen in the silence itself, but will be revealed in our active lives.

  • Silence is the language of God

Some of the mystics say that silence is the language of God. On this retreat, I really experienced living in the present moment, learning to love myself, and discovering deeper dimensions of my true self. The silence was a gift from God.

  • Gratitude and hospitality

So today, I am holding the silence with gratitude and hospitality within myself. I long for more silence, solitude, and stillness. This nourishes my soul and gives me the courage to know that the deepest ground of my being is love.

  • See the gifts in my active, everyday life

I am remembering the joy of Schuyler, Nebraska that I experienced on this retreat. My life has sometimes become too lonely, sad, and melancholy for me to see the gifts of what God has placed in me and around me. So I cry for the freedom to live out of my true self and see the gifts in my everyday, active life in the world, in the context where I live.

  • Learning to love myself and others

My false self has had too much manifestation in me and I want to escape the traps of the status quo. Learning to love myself and others is what the silence is leading me to. I am happy as I learn to seek God in contemplation, in mystery, in silence. A contemplative spirituality is my happiness and liberation.

  • I hope you had the time of your life

Sometimes, I like to listen to music so I turned on the radio this morning and I heard an old Greenday song that I haven’t heard in a long time. The chorus stated: “I hope you had the time of your life.” When I think about my time in Nebraska, it felt like the time of my life. I always want to remember the joy I experienced there and integrate that into who I am in the world.

  • Silence, solitude, and stillness

Who would’ve thought that someone could have the time of their life connecting with others through silence, solitude, and stillness, but it happened. Does a contemplative spirituality create in us the time of our lives right here in the present moment? Did Jesus really mean that the kingdom of God is within you, not outside of you, so I don’t have to go around looking for it? Is the deepest ground of our being really love?

  • Consent, gentleness, and letting go

Small Smooth StonesConsent, gentleness, and letting go were themes that really stood out to me. As I discovered that I need to be more gentle with myself and others in everyday life. Gentleness is big in learning to love myself so that I can love others as I live out of my true self.

  • The opinions of others threatening to define me

I discovered that the heart centers need solitude to learn who they are without getting their identity by what others think of them. I always want to be unique, stand out, and push the edges of what I perceive is not authentic. So solitude mellows me out and leads me to find who I am alone without the opinions of others threatening to define me.

  • The seeds of community

Thank You Gravity for the gift you are to the world! We need to be more grounded on the earth that we live on, be more aware of our true self, and deepen our practice of seeing all of life as sacred. This is where the Spirit of love is leading. Contemplative spirituality are the seeds of community within the world we live in.

  • Making choices based on love

Chris Heuertz states in his book Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community, “What I’ve learned is that making choices based on love – love of people – is always the safest way to nurture friendships and community.”

Have we learned to love ourselves and others 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

Songs of the Birds

I went on a deepening retreat through Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, this past weekend in Schuyler, Nebraska. It was one of the best experiences of my life! I was so happy to be there as we spent 40 hours in silence, solitude, and stillness together.15

  • Deepening my awareness of my true self

On the retreat, I felt like I deepened my awareness of my true self. I was wanting to read the book Coming Home To Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions by Albert Haase before I came on the retreat and when I got there the book was in the gift bag in my room. That was amazing! So I was able to read the book throughout the retreat and on the way back to Tacoma, Washington where I live.

  • The sacrament of the present moment

Here is a great quote from the book that I really love, “…there is nothing to ‘get’ in the spiritual life because we already have it! We simply need to become aware of the Presence who dwells within and in whom we dwell. We need to be attentive to the sacrament of the present moment,” states Albert Haase.

  • I have been wondering about

I love that wisdom of being present to the sacrament of the present moment. This is something that I have been wondering about for a long time now. How do we embody this sacrament of the present moment? It is a mystery that I long to live into throughout my life.

  • Songs of the birds

On the retreat, I was thinking a lot about the themes of vulnerability, cultivating happiness in myself, humility, compassion, my true self, listening, awareness, and courage. I loved hearing the Nebraska birds sing in the mornings as we sat in silence together and as I write this I hear the songs of the birds outside of my window in my little Catholic Worker room in Tacoma, Washington. The songs of the birds seem to speak to me of the unity of God, our solidarity together, and the connectedness of our world.

  • Cultivating happiness

01Before coming on the retreat, I was reflecting a lot about cultivating happiness in myself. I was learning that happiness is not something outside of me, but is something I have to cultivate within myself. And only I can do this. No person or circumstance in life will give it to me. I must find it by myself alone.

  • An integration of happiness

I must learn to value cultivating my own happiness or I will live my life in misery. It is up to me, no one will do it for me. Going on this retreat was an integration of this theme for me. In being at the retreat, I was cultivating my own happiness.

  • Learning to value our own happiness

This quote speaks deeply to me, “…learning to value our own happiness,” writes Joan Chittister, “may be one of the most important lessons we ever learn – both for our sake and for the happiness of others around us, as well.”

  • Contemplative expression

The happiness that I experienced in Nebraska was based on my need to connect to a deeper contemplative life in myself. I believe this is what my true self is crying out for. This retreat met a need in me for that connection to the cry of my true self and a contemplative expression.

  • So mysterious and beautiful

How beautiful that was for me! I have been reading about contemplative experience from Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, Dorothy Day, and Simone Weil for years, but now I was in the midst of some twenty-first century contemplatives: Phileena and Chis Heuertz. The work they are doing is so needed and amazing! Thank you for everyone who was a part of this retreat! I will never forget the silence we shared together. It was so mysterious and beautiful!

  • Contemplative spirituality for the active life

Back in the fall of 2010, I remember reading Phileena’s book after it first came out. I was so intrigued about the theme of a contemplative spirituality for the active life. Then I read Chris’s books on Simple Spirituality, Friendship at the Margins, and recently Unexpected Gifts about discovering the way of community. Such powerful books for me as I read them.

  • Gravity, a center for contemplative activism

They are two of my favorite writers. So it was an honor to learn from them over the weekend on this amazing retreat. It was exciting for me when I learned a few years ago that they were starting a center for contemplative activism in Nebraska called Gravity and some of their mentors are Richard Rohr and Thomas Keating (some of the deepest contemplatives in the United States).

  • Connect in solidarity and unity

Lastly, I got to do a spiritual direction session with Phileena Heuertz on the retreat where I talked a lot about longing. She told me about her experience of how the contemplative life is lonely. I so appreciated that because that has been my experience too, but I am hoping that more of us who long for a contemplative life can find ways to connect in solidarity and unity.

  • It’s difficult in the ache of longing

Phileena Heuertz says in her book Pilgrimage of a Soul, “Longing signifies a desire for more. It stands in stark contrast to the complacent life. Complacency is a stalemate to the journey. Longing propels us forward. It’s difficult to sit in the ache of longing, so sometimes we avoid it. But when we embrace that gut-level discontent, we are moving and growing.”

Have you longed to become a contemplative activist in the world?

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

Refusing To Be Discouraged 

IMG_7606As I have lived at Guadalupe House for the past six years, I am learning not to be discouraged in our work. When I allow myself to embrace the spirit of criticism or discouragement, I lose my sense of humility, vulnerability, and compassion. And that is the worst hell I can possibly create for myself as I live out my life as a Catholic Worker. It is a betrayal of my true self because the deepest ground of my being is love.

  • Learning through mistakes 

“We should not be discouraged at our own lapses… but continue.” Dorothy Day writes, “If we are discouraged, it shows vanity and pride. Trusting too much to ourselves. It takes a lifetime of endurance of patience, of learning through mistakes. We are all on the way.”

  • Embrace my own vulnerability 

Learning through my mistakes is difficult, but it helps me to embrace my own vulnerability and learn what it means to love.

  • Love is a mystery 

The word love is a mystery to me. Do I understand what it means? Do I even care to ask the question of this profound mystery?

  • Why am I so afraid of love?

Am I truly afraid to embody it? Why am I so afraid of love? Honestly, I don’t know.

  • We are afraid of the word love 

“We are afraid of the word love and yet love is stronger than death, stronger than hatred. If we do not emphasize the law of love, we betray our trust, our vocation. We must stand opposed to the use of force,” states Dorothy Day.

  • Live into the mystery of the unknown 

3d-abstract_other_the-mystery_61883It is hard to live up to these words of Dorothy Day, but my longing is to try the best I can. Maybe the fear of love will be too much, but maybe I might be surprised what happens if I continue to live into the mystery of the unknown.

  • Workers, guests, friends, and strangers 

I am always seeing God’s love through the people I encounter at the Catholic Worker in everyday life. It is truly a mystery that is hard to explain. Workers, guests, friends, and strangers all have something to give.

  • So much hospitality 

It all is amazing and never ending. I am so grateful to be a part of a community with so much hospitality. It makes me happy when I think about it. This gives me hope and meaning in my life.

  • God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion 

“The longer I live,” says Dorothy Day, “the more I see God at work in people who don’t have the slightest interest in religion…”

  • The most authentic expressions of God

Sometimes, the people who have the least interest in religion are the most authentic expressions of God to us. I was never taught this, but my life experience at age forty two is showing me how true this is in life. How weird! How backwards!

  • Refusing to be discouraged 

So I am refusing to be discouraged in this season of my life. Even though others may think my life is strange or unconventional, I am really grateful for what my life has become as a Catholic Worker. I am learning to see the sacredness of all of life and am finding God in all my relationships and experiences. And I am learning that I do not have to shy away from love as I do my best to embody it in our community in everyday life together.

Why is it so hard to refuse to be discouraged?

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