Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: May, 2016

Real Human Pain – 6 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. If you do not do the first half of life well

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

2. In the second half of life

“In the second half of life, we can give our energy to making even the painful parts and the formally excluded parts belong to the now unified field – especially people who are different, and those who have never had a chance. If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can now do it for just about everybody else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others…”

3. Fresh air and spacious breathing room

“The bottom line of the Gospel is that most of us have to hit some kind of bottom before we even start the real spiritual journey. Up to that point, it is mostly religion. At the bottom, there is little time or interest in being totally practical, efficient, or revenue generating. You just want to breathe fresh air. The true Gospel is always fresh air and spacious breathing room.”

4. A strange and even wonderful communion in real human pain

“Failure and suffering are the great equalizers and levelers among humans. Success is just the opposite. Communities and commitment can form around suffering much more than around how wonderful or superior we are… There is a strange and even wonderful communion in real human pain, actually much more than in joy, which is too often manufactured and passing. In one sense, pain’s effects are not passing, and pain is less commonly manufactured. Thus it is a more honest doorway into lasting communion than even happiness.”

5. Limit situations and boundaries

“…we ironically need limit situations and boundaries to grow up. A completely open field does not do the job nearly as well or as quickly…”

6. Failure and humiliation

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

Are you constantly driven by your ego?

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

Until We Have Begun To Fail – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Thoughts in Solitude

41e9ou6sQ0L1. Men who know no interior solitude

“When men are merely submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination. When society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and abusive authority. But when men are violently deprived of the solitude and freedom which are their due, the society in which they live becomes putrid, it festers with servility, resentment and hate.”

2. The wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere

“If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. Let us not fear the responsibilities and the inevitable distractions of the work appointed for us by the will of God. Let us embrace reality and thus find ourselves immersed in the life-giving will and wisdom of God which surrounds us everywhere.”

3. Humility sets us free

“Humility sets us free to do what is really good, by showing us our illusions and withdrawing our will from what was only an apparent good.”

4. Until we have begun to fail

“The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reasoning and analysis, but first of all by living. For until we have begun to live our prudence has no material to work on. And until we have begun to fail we have no way of working out our success.”

5. I have no idea where I am going

“I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

6. My greatest potential distraction

“Suppose my ‘poverty’ be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience – what then? Then everything becomes a distraction. All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience. I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart. What is worse – I myself am a distraction. But, unhappiest thing of all – if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction…”

Have you begun to fail 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

Protecting Our Ego – 5 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. Protecting your present ego position

“If change and growth are not programmed into your spirituality, if there are not serious warnings about the blinding nature of fear and fanaticism, your religion will always end up worshipping the status quo and protecting your present ego position and personal advantage – as if it were God… This resistance to change is so common, in fact, that it is almost what we expect from religious people, who tend to love the past more than the future or the present. All we can conclude is that much of organized religion is itself living inside of first-half-of-life issues, which usually coincides with where most people are in any culture. We all receive and pass on what our people are prepared to hear, and most people are not ‘early adaptors.’ Yet even the intelligence of animals is determined by their ability to change and adjust their behavior in response to new circumstances. Those who do not, become extinct!”

2. Sacred wounds

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

3. We move forward in ways we do not even understand

“God has to undo our illusions secretly, as it were, when we are not watching and not in perfect control, say the mystics. That is perhaps why the best word for God is actually Mystery. We move forward in ways that we do not even understand and through the quiet workings of time and grace. When we get there, we are never sure just how it happened, and God does not seem to care who gets the credit, as long as our growth continues…”

4. This discovery of our True Self

“It is religion’s job to teach us and guide us on this discovery of our True Self, but it usually makes the mistake of turning this into a worthiness contest of some sort, a private performance, or some kind of religious achievement on our part, through our belonging to the right group, practicing the right rituals, or believing the right things. These are just tugboats to get you away from the shore and out into the right sea; they are the oars to get you working and engaged with the Mystery. But never confuse these instruments with your profound ‘ability to share in the divine nature’ itself… It is the common, and in this case tragic, confusion of the medium with the message, or the style with the substance.”

5. Do not have enough experience of wholeness

“After almost seventy years, I am still a mystery to myself! Our youthful demand for certainty does eliminate most anxiety on the conscious level, so I can see why many of us stay in such a control tower during the first half of life. We do not have enough experience of wholeness to include all of its parts yet. First-half-of-life ‘naivete’ includes a kind of excitement and happiness that is hard to let go of, unless you know there is an ever deeper and tested kind of happiness out ahead of you. But you do not know that yet in the early years! Which is why those in the second half of life must tell you about it! Without elders, a society perishes socially and spiritually.”

Are you protecting your present ego position?

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

Our Own Noise – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. A solitude that cannot be communicated to anyone else

“A person is a person insofar as he has a secret and is a solitude of his own that cannot be communicated to anyone else. If I love a person, I will love that which most makes him a person: the secrecy, the hiddenness, the solitude of his own individual being, which God alone can penetrate and understand.”

2. Created in the image of God

“This respect for the deepest values hidden in another’s personality is more than an obligation of charity. It is a debt we own in justice to every being, but especially to those who, like ourselves, are created in the image of God.”

3. Those who love their own noise

“Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone. The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all out fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion.”

4. If we fill our lives with silence

“If we fill our lives with silence, then we live in hope, and Christ lives in us and gives our virtues much substance…”

5. Exhausted ourselves in speech

“If our life is poured out in useless words we will never hear anything in the depths of our hearts, where Christ lives and speaks in silence. We will never be anything, and in the end, when the time comes for us to declare who and what we are, we shall be found speechless at the moment of the crucial decision: for we shall have said everything and exhausted ourselves in speech before we had anything to say.”

6. Frequently think about death

“If at the moment of our death, death comes to us as an unwelcome stranger, it will be because Christ also has always been an unwelcome stranger… Those who love true life, therefore, frequently think about their death. Their life is full of a silence that is an anticipated victory over death. Silence, indeed, makes death our servant and even our friend. Thoughts and prayers that grow up out of the silent thought of death are like trees growing where there is water. They are strong thoughts, that overcome the fear of misfortune… They turn the face of our soul, in constant desire, toward the face of Christ.”

Have we been entangled in our own noise?

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 Ordinary Way To Contemplation – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

7275781. Preparing for global suicide

“When I pray for peace I pray God to pacify not only the Russians and the Chinese but above all my own nation and myself. When I pray for peace I pray to be protected not only from the Reds but also from the folly and blindness of my own country. When I pray for peace, I pray not only that the enemies of my country may cease to want war, but above all that my own country will cease to do the things that make war inevitable. In other words, when I pray for peace I am not just praying that the Russians will give up without a struggle and let us have our own way. I am praying that both we and the Russians may somehow be restored to sanity and learn how to work out our problems, as best we can, together, instead of preparing for global suicide.”

2. We so separate the humanity and divinity of Christ

“If in our contemplation we so separate the humanity and divinity of Christ that we ‘pass beyond the humanity,’ to ‘rest in the divinity,’ we will tend to divide Christ into ‘A Man’ and ‘A Divine Person,’ whereas in actuality God and man… are completely indivisible and inseparable…”

3. Our true liberty must never be sacrificed

“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…”

4. Acquire the agility and freedom

“The best thing beginners in the spiritual life can do, after they have 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 own 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 that 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…”

5. The ordinary way to contemplation

“Let us never forget that the ordinary way to contemplation lies through a desert without trees and without beauty and without water. The spirit enters a wilderness and travels blindly in directions that seem to lead away from vision, away from God, away from all fulfillment and joy. It may become almost 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.”

How do you experience the ordinary way 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

Meaningful Human Experiences – 10 quotes from Brene Brown’s book – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead

81-qH1O69UL (1)1. Honest conversations about vulnerability

“I believe honest conversations about vulnerability and shame can change the world… The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time…”

2. If you’re not in the arena

“If you’re not in the arena with the rest of us, fighting and getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

3. Embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing

“…we are inextricably connected to one another by a force greater than ourselves – a force grounded in love and compassion. For some of us that’s God, for others it’s nature, art, or even human soulfulness. I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.”

4. If we’re willing to dare greatly

“There is a quiet transformation happening that is moving us from ‘turning on each other’ to ‘turning toward each other.’ Without question, that transformation will require shame resilience. If we’re willing to dare greatly and risk vulnerability with each other, worthiness has the power to set us free.”

5. We need to feel trust to be vulnerable

“We need to feel trust to be vulnerable and we need to be vulnerable in order to trust.”

6. Dismiss vulnerability as weakness

“It starts to make sense that we dismiss vulnerability as weakness only when we realize that we’ve confused feeling with failing and emotions with liabilities. If we want to reclaim the essential emotional part of our lives and reignite our passion and purpose, we have to learn how to own and engage with our vulnerability and how to feel the emotions that come with it. For some of us, it’s new learning, and for others it’s relearning…”

7. Meaningful human experiences 

“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”

8. The vulnerability of not knowing

“…the unwillingness to engage with the vulnerability of not knowing often leads to making excuses, dodging the question, or – worst-case scenario – bullshitting. That’s the deathblow in any relationship…”

9. Uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure 

“When we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be. Experiencing vulnerability isn’t a choice – the only choice we have is how we’re going to respond when we are confronted with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure…”

10. Empathy and understanding 

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. Self-compassion is also critically important, but because shame is a social concept – it happens between people – it also heals best between people. A social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm. Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect, and experience empathy.”

How have you showed up in life being vulnerable?

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

Letting Go of Preconceived Prayers and Theology – 9 quotes from Mirabai Starr’s book – God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

51DfoLMQwkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Tending the earth that sustains us

“We are called to balance the cultivation of our own spiritual liberation with our dedication to tending the earth that sustains us.”

2. The catalyst for my longing for God

“I have simply experienced an unusual number of tragic losses, which propelled me to plunge into spiritual practices as if my life depended on it, which in many ways it did. As the years went by, death after death continued to reveal traces of grace. As long as I can remember, my sorrow has been the catalyst for my longing for God.”

3. How do we strike a balance?

“How do we strike a balance between tending to our own welfare and serving the endless needs of humanity and the earth, between pouring ourselves out into the world and seeking to refill our own cup? How do we ensure that we are not rolling down a path of convenience, showing up to serve when it suits our comfort and boosts our prestige, and withholding our gifts when we are feeling impoverished and underappreciated?”

4. Losing our connection to the Feminine

“What is it in the psyche of the human family that now so deeply yearns for the Divine Feminine? Why has She been shunned, ridiculed, and buried alive for millennia? Perhaps by revitalizing our relationship with the Holy She, in the form of Mother, of Lover, of most intimate female Friend, we may unfold the treasure map that leads to the resources we need to heal the ravaged planet and all who dwell on her. Tribal peoples have always understood the sacred nature of Mother Earth, but the technological world, in losing its connection with the land, has lost its connection to the Feminine. It’s time to reclaim our birthright.”

5. Letting go of prescribed prayers and theology

“The Christian contemplative tradition involves letting go of prescribed prayers and theology…”

6. Loosen the grip of the ego

“Prolonged periods of silence and solitude loosen the grip of the ego…”

7. The boxes human beings so elaborately construct

“…the Holy One does not live in the boxes human beings so elaborately construct to contain her…”

8. Making room for the Mystery

“But when we say yes to the God of Love in an unfamiliar, and potentially uncomfortable form, locks fly off the doors of the heart, making room for the Mystery to dwell there.”

9. Our life in the world

“We lose patience with ourselves for not being enough; we condemn ourselves for being too much. We forget that the path to God is bound up with our life in the world. Evidence of our spiritual mastery lies in our ever-deepening, continuously expanding humanity. The trick is to be as fully present as possible to the holiness of the moment. We are challenged to embrace, yet not identify with, all that is. This requires practice: meditation practice, relationship practice, social action practice. It is built on nobodyness training and yet is dependent on somebodyness experience.”

Have you let go of preconceived prayers and theology?

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

People Who Have No Inner Struggles – 6 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

download (8)1. Everything Belongs

“This new coherence, a unified field inclusive of the paradoxes, is precisely what gradually characterizes a second-half-of-life person. It feels like a return to simplicity after having learned from all the complexity. Finally, at last, one has lived long enough to see that ‘everything belongs,’ even the sad, absurd, and futile parts.”

2. People who have no inner struggles

“One of the great surprises is that humans come to full consciousness precisely by shadowboxing, facing their own contradictions, and making friends with their own mistakes and failings. People who have had no inner struggles are invariably both superficial and uninteresting. We tend to endure them more than communicate with them, because they have little to communicate. Shadow work is almost another name for falling upward…”

3. A true friend and teacher

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

4. Caught up in the tragedy of it all

“The genius of the Gospel was that it included the problem inside the solution. The falling became the standing. The stumbling became the finding. The dying became the rising. The raft became the shore. The small self cannot see this very easily, because it doubts itself too much, is still too fragile, and is caught up in the tragedy of it all. It has not lived long enough to see the big patterns…”

5. Contradictions and adventures and challenges

“There is a deeper voice of God, which you must learn to hear and obey in the second half of life. It will sound an awful lot like the voices of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul, of ‘common sense,’ of destiny, of love, of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self… The true faith journey only begins at this point. Up to now everything is mere preparation. Finally, we have a container strong enough to hold the contents of our real life, which is always filled with contradictions and adventures and immense challenges…”

6. Live in the now that is given

“All that each of us can do is to live in the now that is given. We cannot rush the process; we can only carry out each stage of our lives to the best of our ability…”

What kind of inner struggles do you have?

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

Questions Are Not Asked – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. A “desert” of questioning and paradox

“Are our efforts to be more ‘communal’ and to be more of a ‘family’ really genuine or are they only new ways to be intolerant of the solitude and integrity of the individual person? Are we simply trying to submerge and absorb him and keep him from finding an identity that might express itself in dissent and in a desire for greater solitude? Are we simply trying to guard against his entering a ‘desert’ of questioning and paradox that will disturb our own complacencies?

2. Unidentified cogs in a huge impersonal machine

“Let us not forget that modern man, or modern woman, at least in the ‘advanced countries,’ is desperately concerned with the problem of giving meaning to a life that is so easily reduced to mere empty routine by the alienating pressures of commercial and technological organization. We are often very keenly aware of the danger of becoming mere ‘mass men,’ frustrated, unidentified cogs in a huge impersonal machine.”  

3. A complex of responsibilities and options

“That I should have been born in 1915, that I should be the contemporary of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Viet Nam and the Watts riots are things about which I was not first consulted. Yet they are also events in which, whether I like it or not, I am deeply and personally involved. The ‘world’ is not just a physical space traversed by jet planes and full of people running in all directions. It is a complex of responsibilities and options made out of the loves, the hates, the fears, the joys, the hopes, the greed, the cruelty, the kindness, the faith, the trust, the suspicion of all. In the last analysis, if there is war because nobody trusts anybody, this is in part because I myself am defensive, suspicious, untrusting, and intent on making other people conform themselves to my particular brand of death wish.”

4. Maturation and self-discovery

“Sometimes it may be very useful for us to discover new and unfamiliar ways in which the human task of maturation and self-discovery is defined…”

5. Take refuge in an area where questions are not asked

“To choose a value that is questioned and doubted is to place oneself in the position of being doubted. The mature person is able to assume this risk. He can embrace an unpopular idea, commit himself to it and to its consequences, and accept the fact that it means becoming a problem and even in some way a ‘scandal’ to others. It is in this way that most people today have to establish and affirm their identity. But it takes courage to do this. Hence all values are questioned, or can be; to embrace any of them is to become an object of questioning and doubt. Those who shrink from personal responsibility shrink from this also. They seek to rest on an infallible authority or else take refuge in an area where questions are not asked.”

Are we afraid to assume the risk of questioning?

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

Come Home To Yourself – 10 quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book – Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

download (17)1. Deep listening leads to understanding

“If we want to be more connected to others, we don’t need to text them more; we need to listen to them more. Deep listening leads to understanding. Understanding leads to greater connection. The way to listen more deeply is not simply to try harder. Rather, it is to take time in practice that starts with silence – that is, with quieting our internal Radio Non-Stop Thinking.”

2. Breathing mindfully

“Breathing mindfully and becoming aware of your responses to people and events around you is a deep practice. Instead of reacting, instead of even thinking, you allow yourself just to be. You practice mindfulness to be with your breath, your steps, the trees, the flowers, the blue sky, and the sunshine.”

3. A wonderful lightness and freedom

“Not talking, by itself, already can bring a significant degree of peace. If we can also offer ourselves the deeper silence of not thinking, we can find, in that quiet, a wonderful lightness and freedom.”

4. Listen deeply to yourself

“You can spend your whole life listening to internal and external messages without ever hearing the voice of your deepest desire… If you have the space and silence to listen deeply to yourself, you may find within you a strong desire to help other people, to bring love and compassion to others, to create positive transformation in the world…”

5. Beauty and silence

“All the sounds around us and all the thoughts that we’re constantly replaying in our minds can be thought of as a kind of food. We’re familiar with edible food, the kind of food we physically chew and swallow. But that’s not the only kind of food we humans consume; it’s just one kind. What we read, our conversations, the shows we watch, the online games we play, and our worries, thoughts, and anxieties are all food. No wonder we often don’t have space in our consciousness for beauty and silence: we are constantly filling up on so many other kinds of food.”

6. When you ask the question, “Who am I?”

“When you ask the question, ‘Who am I?’ – if you have enough time and concentration – you may find some surprising answers…”

7. Most of us don’t feel settled or quiet

“Even if we are not talking with others, reading, listening to the radio, watching television, or interacting online, most of us don’t feel settled or quiet. This is because we’re still tuned to an internal radio station, Radio NST (Non-Stop-Thinking).”

8. Hurrying, noise, or confusion

“If your daily life is full of hurrying, noise, or confusion, it’s easy to forget to be aware of the wholesome and supportive elements that are all around you, such as the fresh air, the sun, and the trees.”

9. If we listen from the mind of silence

“If we listen from the mind of silence, every birdsong and every whispering of the pine branches in the wind will speak to us.”

10. Come home to yourself

“With the act of breathing in mindfully, you go inside. Your body is breathing; and your body is your home. In each breath, you can come home to yourself.”

Have you practiced coming home to yourself?

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