I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life 

by Mark Votava

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