Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Month: June, 2016

Mystical Understanding and Love – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Contemplation in a World of Action

51Xo2PA2R+L._SL500_AA300_1. 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.”

2. A courageous spirit of faith

“The real purpose of openness is to renew life in the Spirit, life in love. A greater love and understanding of people is no obstacle to a true growth in contemplation, for contemplation is rooted and grounded in charity. A more generous sharing of the values of the contemplative life will increase our love instead of diminish it. It will also increase our understanding of and appreciation for our own vocation. Obviously, a great deal of prudence will be required, but we should not be so afraid of mistakes that we fail to make necessary changes. If we face change in a courageous spirit of faith, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.”

3. The capacity for mystical understanding and love

“It is by deepening this Christian consciousness and developing the capacity for mystical understanding and love that the Christian contemplative keeps alive… that pure and immediate experience without which theology will always lack one of its most important dimensions.”

4. Our imagination

“Our imagination must be able to click and find correspondences, symbols and meanings. It should point up new meanings. It should create nuclei of meaning around which everything can collect significantly.”

5. So obsessed with “answers” and “solutions”

“…we are so obsessed with the idea that we are supposed to possess ‘answers’ and ‘solutions’ for everything that we evade the difficult problems, which are all too real, by raising other less real problems to which we think we have the answer.”

6. A more authentic and honest way

“The question remains: can we adjust our life and our view of life in such a way that it will be capable of being lived in a more authentic and honest way…”

7. Growth in experience

“Growth in experience implies a serious self-doubt and self-questioning in which values previously held seem to be completely exploded and no other tangible values come to take their place…”  

8. A distortion of the contemplative life

“…it is a distortion of the contemplative life to treat it as if the contemplative concentrated all his efforts on getting graces and favors from God for others and for himself.”

9. The surest sign of immaturity

“The truly modern adult person will surely not allow himself to be treated as an alienated and helpless individual whose inner experience is dictated to him by another and imposed upon him from the outside. It is the surest sign of immaturity to be imposed on entirely by the ideas and ideals of others to substitute these for one’s own true personal experience… of life.”

What resonates with you in these quotes by Thomas Merton? Have you read Contemplation in a World of Action? Any thoughts?

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 Desire for Love – 10 quotes from Marietta Bahri Della Penna’s book – Song of a Christian Sufi: A Spiritual Memoir

Rev_Song of  a Christian Sufi1. Merciless honesty

“The process of becoming emotionally and intellectually conscious isn’t easy. It’s a little like when a limb that’s been asleep regains feeling: it feels worse before it feels better. The transformation requires merciless honesty. Meanwhile, the road ahead is elusive. We must stumble and fall. We think we have everything all figured out – and then we fall again.”

2. The damnedst places

“God seems to like hanging out in the damnedst places…”

3. My own particular brand of pretension

“As I used my voice to be a ‘bullshit detector,’ something else happened that I hadn’t expected: I couldn’t point out others’ phoniness without confronting my own. I had to take a long, hard look at my own particular brand of pretension and false holiness. My own shadow had dark depths I had never yet dared to probe.”

4. Love by its very nature gives itself away

“Love by its very nature gives itself away – and God is love. I had grown up with the image of a bloody, dying man on a cross as the central symbol of the Christian faith, but now I came to believe that even if the cross had not been necessary, the Incarnation would still have happened – because God is recklessly, wildly generous, giving God-Self to Creation endlessly, humbly, tenderly. Contrary to what I had been taught all my life, Jesus’ mission on Earth had nothing to do with guilt and morality. He has come for one reason only: to bring God’s love to us, through his own human flesh.”

5. Beings of glowing potential

“I came to understand forgiveness in a new way. We don’t receive Divine pardon because we are ‘bad,’ but so we can see ourselves in a new way, so we can begin anew with a clean slate. That pure, beautiful, and shining slate is what we are in God’s eyes, beings of glowing potential. We are the ones who place judgments on ourselves; we are the ones who created words like ‘immoral’ and ‘bad’ in the first place, and then we project those concepts onto God. God does not judge.”

6. In the helplessness and frustration

“In the helplessness and frustration of not knowing, I touch something deeper and more real than I can ever reach in the moments when I feel clear and strong. To use Rumi’s metaphor, without the dark, constricted days, I would be like a one-winged bird, unable to truly fly.”

7. Opening ourselves to the questions

“…as we open ourselves to the questions themselves, something begins to change within us. Unseen, unconscious, something is transformed…”

8. The desire for love

“The twelfth-century Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi prayed, ‘Oh Lord, nourish me not with love but with the desire for love’…”

9. Stroke our egos

“As Westerners, we’ve also come to expect that, at some level, the purpose of all social interactions is to stroke our egos…”

10. Creativity as another way to engage

“All my life, I had pursued God with my mind, relating to spirituality as though it were an academic inquiry, an intellectual problem that could be solved with enough thought. I had begun to use my creativity as another way to engage with the spiritual life…”

Have we longed for the desire for love?

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

An Increased Awareness – 6 quotes from Annemarie S. Kidder’s book – The Power of Solitude: Discovering Your True Self in a World of Nonsense and Noise

41IM-gHyTzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Recognizing Christ in others and ourselves

“…we need to halt our activities, sit down, and see. When we stop identifying with our doing, we can begin being, and as we stop doing just for the sake of doing, we can begin communing and seeing the stranger as part of ourselves. In communing with one another, we let down our defenses and preconceived notions of reality. We receive the true presence of the other, and in doing so, we also receive the presence of Christ. Communing presupposes an act of solitude in which we allow both ourselves and others simply to be. And in that being, in that sacred solitude, we recognize Christ in others and ourselves.”

2. Seeking out and cultivating solitude

“Seeking out and cultivating solitude is a discipline for the benefit of the soul… Pursuing solitude… may cause discomfort, largely because it runs counter to the dictates of Western culture. Mass production and mass consumption can flourish only in a society that places value on having what the other has, having more of it, and ultimately fitting in. Bent on selling goods to the greatest number of people, the consumerist mentality objects to the individual and autonomous self and hence views with suspicion the state of being alone and separate.”

3. An increased awareness

“…the spiritual discipline of solitude, when practiced consistently, educates and nourishes our souls to grow into an increased awareness and experience of God’s constant presence, the fruits of which are inner happiness and peace.”

4. We long for eyes

“We long for eyes to see ourselves, others, and our God more clearly…”

5. Our task is to ask questions

“Our task is to ask questions that fit our height and weight, questions also that are not bigger than life but come in bite-size format. No one can answer for me or offer a one-size-fits-all tool that will magically fix everything. The question for me – at this point… in my journey, in my interconnectedness with others – will be a gauge, a barometer of my internal state. Rather than being a springboard toward resolution and a defined end, it is a tool to measure my state of awareness, my being awake to the blinding and binding ties, inviting utter honesty to myself and to the God who made me. No one has to know how I am doing with the answers, or whether I am finding any answers at all. What I am concerned with is opening myself up to see and understand what has driven me and what has kept me asleep.”

6. Taking note of our painful emotions

“Connecting with our soul means to take note of our painful emotions and to sit with them without resorting to distracting activity. Unfortunately our soul often works slowly while our minds rush ahead and look for immediate explanations for everything…”

How are we growing into an increased awareness 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

A Spirit of Openness – 9 quotes from Christine Valters Paintner’s book – The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within  

516Zn1dJC5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_1. You can’t arrive at this discovery overnight

“There is a mystery here because you can’t arrive at this discovery overnight. We must journey for a lifetime to discover our deepest and most mysterious talents. However, there is a paradox that comes with these realizations. While we must venture far to find our ‘true self,’ it is also always with us. We must continue to learn how to let go of what is false in our lives. We must throw out what keeps us from offering our own healing balm to the world. The more we live from this awareness the more our gifts can bring peace and joy to others.”

2. Fasting from ideas that keep us from truly living

“We might consider, as part of this pilgrimage, fasting from ideas that keep us from truly living or thoughts that don’t nourish us in spirit. We hold onto ideas about ourselves that keep us limited from everything we can be in our lives.”

3. As our path unfolds

“On a true pilgrimage, we soon discover that the journey has its own rhythm and momentum. We realize, if our hearts are listening, that there are secret destinations that reveal themselves as our path unfolds.”

4. A spirit of openness

“Humility demands that we always come to our journey with a spirit of openness, knowing that there is always more to learn. Conversely, when we think we’ve fallen away too far to return, we are also doomed to never try at all. The path of humility is about holding these two dimensions in balance. We need to discover more and begin again when we stumble. When we reject both of these, we have lost our way completely.”

5. See God through risk

“Hospitality calls us to see God through risk. It shows us that God doesn’t just appear in familiar faces, people who make me feel comfortable and safe… When we invite others into our lives, it changes our view on how things should work.”

6. To be an outcast

“To be an outcast means that we don’t align ourselves with the dominant way of thinking. It means we live on the lush and fertile edges of life (which paradoxically is also right at the heart and center of things).”

7. Thresholds require that we be vulnerable

“Thresholds require that we be vulnerable, that we acknowledge that we simply do not know what is to come. They call us to surrender to something much bigger and more meaningful, even as it calls us away from familiar patterns that are loved.”

8. Stay with difficult experiences

“On a deeper level, the call is to not run away when things become challenging. Stability demands that we stay with difficult experiences and stay present to the discomfort they create in us.”

9. Stay committed to awakening each moment

“This is being a pilgrim: to stay committed to awakening each moment to the truth of life’s generosity. I’m to give myself over to the immense love beating through me…”

Have you entered into a spirit of openness 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

The Cosmic Dance – 6 quotes from Thomas Merton’s writings – Choosing To Love The World: On Contemplation edited Jonathan Montaldo

51xCsV9q73L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)1. Crossing the abyss that separates us from ourselves

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we cannot cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?”

2. The cosmic dance

“The more we persist in misunderstanding the phenomenon of life, the more we analyze them out into strange finalities and complex purposes of our own, the more we involve ourselves in sadness, absurdity and despair. But it does not matter much, because no despair of ours can alter the reality of things, or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.”

3. The meaning of my life

“Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and ‘one body,’ will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time. It is seen, above all, in my own integration in Christ.”

4. See life in a different perspective

“Some will seek clarity in isolation and silence, not because they think they know better than the rest, but because they want to see life in a different perspective. They want to withdraw from the Babel of confusion in order to listen more patiently to the voice of their own conscience…”

5. Direct and simple attention to reality

“We learn recollection which consists in listening for God’s will, in direct and simple attention to reality…”

6. Fully awake, fully active, fully aware

“Contemplation is life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent, and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes beyond reason and beyond simple faith… It is a more profound depth of faith, a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words, or even in clear concepts.”

How can we become fully awake, fully active, fully aware?

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 Common Responsibility – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Life and Holiness

thomas-mertonE (1)1. A spirit of love, humility, and service

“In all things, the Christian spirit is a spirit of love, humility, and service, not a spirit of violence in defense of absolutism and power…”

2. A way of love, of gratitude

“The Christian way of perfection is then in every sense a way of love, of gratitude, of trust in God…”

3. An interior revolution of one’s whole self

“The tendency of our modern society and of all its thought and culture is to deny and to deride this simple, natural awareness, and to make man from the very beginning both afraid of faith and shamed of it. The first step to living faith is then, as it has always been one way or another, a denial and a rejection of the standards of thought complacently accepted by rationalistic doubt. And in actual practice what this usually amounts to is not the rejection of “reason” and the acceptance of ‘faith’ but rather a choice between two faiths. One, a human, limited, external faith in human society with all its inert patrimony of assumptions and prejudices, a faith based on fear of solitude and on the need to ‘belong’ to the group and to accept its standards with passive acquiescence. Or, in the second place, a faith in what we do not ‘see,’ a faith in the transcendent and invisible God, a faith that goes beyond all proofs, a faith that demands an interior revolution of one’s whole self and a reorientation of one’s existence in a contrary sense to the orientation taken by mundane prejudice…”  

4. Without love and compassion

“Without love and compassion for others, our own apparent ‘love’ for Christ is a fiction.”

5. Love one another

“The will of Christ is above all that we love one another…”

6. The humanity and fragility of man’s actual condition

“…until we realize that before a man can become a saint he must first of all be a man in all the humanity and fragility of man’s actual condition, we will never be able to understand the meaning of the word ‘saint.’ Not only were all the saints perfectly human, not only did their sanctity enrich and deepen their humanity, but the Holiest of all Saints, the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, was himself the most deeply and perfectly human being who ever lived on the face of the earth…”

7. Our common responsibility

“Christian holiness in our age means more than ever the awareness of our common responsibility to cooperate with the mysterious designs of God for the human race…”

8. Are we really supposed to be saints?

“Are we really seriously supposed to be saints? Can a man even desire such a thing without making a complete fool of himself in the eyes of everyone else? It is not presumptuous? Is such a thing even possible at all?…”

What do you think our common responsibility is 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

Live My Way Into A New Life – 5 quotes from Kathy Escobar’s book – Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart

97816014254301. Any kind of passion still feels buried pretty deep

“Passions fall into categories other than love, justice, and beauty, but these are great places to start. As we ignite our passions, our tender faith strengthens. Some of us have already found ways to live out what we love… Others may feel too scared to step out without the support and encouragement of the systems they used to be part of (or maybe still are). And some are unsure yet – any kind of passion still feels buried pretty deep. Regardless of where we find ourselves, part of rebuilding faith is igniting our passions – ones lying underneath a lot of rubble or ones recently discovered.”  

2. We have to make ourselves vulnerable

“…many people are completely shut down about anything churchy. But when we’re trying to come back to life, we will have to engage with people and our faith somehow, or we’ll never get to a new place. There’s no way around it. We have to make ourselves vulnerable.”

3. Despite the costs

“Some people might have given up on us, but God hasn’t. There is so much hope! A huge sign of life is that we are actually still in, trying to talk about this hard stuff and willing to engage with difficult questions and painful realities. People may criticize us and call us lost, angry, or a host of other adjectives, but the most enduring thing is that we’re still trying to find our way toward God… It’s glorious that you are wrestling with cultivating a freer faith despite the costs.”

4. A significant part of our unfolding story

“As we continue to move toward greater hope and freedom in our faith as part of Rebuilding, it’s important not to reject or remain bitter about the past. Healing can come as we find ways to celebrate what was as a way to move toward the future. Some things about our past experiences are worthy of respect and honor. There are ideas, events, and/or people we can celebrate for forming who we are today. Celebrating what was isn’t about looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, creating false memories to feel better, or forcing ourselves to go where we can’t emotionally go. Rather, it’s about remembering that what we left behind is a significant part of our unfolding story.”

5. Live my way into a new life

“I keep discovering that I can’t think or study my way into a new life. No book, retreat, or conference will make it all better. Trust me, if it existed, I would have found it already. My only hope moving forward is to live my way into a new life. Renewed living requires investigating our passions and finding ways to act on them. We all have dreams – things we’d like to do, build, try, or be part of. These can be big or small, exciting or simple… Regardless of the size or type, part of Rebuilding is acknowledging our desires to pursue some of these things…”

How can we live our way into a new 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

The Avoidance of Pain – 2 quotes from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book – Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life  

Henri-Nouwen-Reaching-Out1. The avoidance of pain

“It is this most basic human loneliness that threatens us and is so hard to face. Too often we will do everything possible to avoid the confrontation with the experience of being alone, and sometimes we are able to create the most ingenious devices to prevent ourselves from being reminded of this condition. Our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. We not only bury our dead as if they were still alive, but we also bury our pains as if they were not really there. We have become so used to this state of anesthesia, that we panic when there is nothing or nobody left to distract us. When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch or no record to play, and when we are left all alone by ourselves we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and are so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again and continue the game which makes us believe that everything is fine after all. John Lennon says: ‘Feel your own pain,’ but how hard is that!”

2. The movement from loneliness to solitude

“But what can we do with our essential aloneness which so often breaks into our consciousness as the experience of a desperate sense of loneliness? What does it mean to say that neither friendship nor love, neither marriage nor community can take that loneliness away? Sometimes illusions are more livable than realities, and why not follow our desire to cry out in loneliness and search for someone whom we can embrace and in whose arms our tense body and mind can find a moment of deep rest and enjoy the momentary experience of being understood and accepted? These are hard questions because they come forth out of our wounded hearts, but they have to be listened to even when they lead to a difficult road. This difficult road is the road of conversion, the conversion from loneliness into solitude. Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. This required not only courage but also a strong faith. As hard as it is to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.”

Have you entered into your own movement from loneliness to solitude?

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

It Is In Letting Go, We Receive – 7 quotes from Henri Nouwen’s book – Turn My Mourning Into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times

51Kz00Of0tL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Does not echo the voice of wisdom

“Someone once said to me, ‘Never show your weakness, for you will be used; never be vulnerable, for you will get hurt; never depend on others, for you will lose your freedom.’ This might sound very wise, but it does not echo the voice of wisdom. It mimics a world that wants us to respect without question the social boundaries and compulsions that our society has defined for us.”

2. It is in letting go, we receive

“The great paradox is that it is in letting go, we receive. We find safety in unexpected places of risk. And those who try to avoid all risk, those who would try to guarantee that their hearts will not be broken, end up in a self-created hell.”

3. A unique expression of love for humankind

“No one can truly say with certainty where he or she will be in ten or twenty years from now. You do not know if you will be free or in captivity, if you will be honored or despised, if you will have many friends or few, if you will be liked or rejected. But when you hold lightly these dreams and fears, you can be open to receive every day as a new day and to live your life as a unique expression of God’s love for humankind.”

4. Act less out of genuine “suffering with”

“In so many encounters we try to look away from the pain. We try to help our friends quickly process grief. We hastily look for ways to bring cheer to a child or ailing aunt. All the while, however, we act less out of genuine ‘suffering with’ and more out of our need to stand back from the discomfort we fear we might feel. We secretly, restlessly want to move from the place where it hurts. Our evasions do not help others, of course, but rather cause them to put up defenses and drive away those who need someone to care.”

5. Living gratefully requires practice

“Living gratefully requires practice. It takes sustained effort to reclaim my whole past as the concrete way God has led me to this moment. For in doing so I must face not only today’s hurts, but the past’s experiences of rejection or abandonment or failure or fear…”

6. How will we relate to life’s turns and circumstances

“Our choice, then, often revolves around not what has happened or will happen to us, but how we will relate to life’s turns and circumstances. Put another way: Will I relate to my life resentfully or gratefully?…”

7. Invites us to dance

“Mourning makes us poor; it powerfully reminds us of our smallness. But it is precisely here, in that pain or poverty or awkwardness, that the Dancer invites us to rise up and take the first steps. For in our suffering, not apart from it, Jesus enters our sadness, takes us by the hand, pulls us gently up to stand, and invites us to dance…”

How have you experienced that it is in letting go, we receive?

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

Beauty in Ordinary Things – 13 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Without hope

“Nothing created is of any ultimate use without hope. To place your trust in visible things is to live in despair.”

2. The right attitude toward life

“If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first of all know what life is, and to know the purpose of my existence.”

3. A divine paradox

“Happiness consists in finding out precisely what the ‘one necessary thing’ may be, in our lives, and in gladly relinguishing all the rest. For then, by a divine paradox, we find that everything else is given us together with the one thing we needed.”

4. A capacity for love

“Both the poverty and the nobility of our inmost being consists in the fact that it is a capacity for love…”

5. True recollection

“True recollection is known by its effects: peace, interior silence, tranquility of heart…”

6. We can hardly see things in perspective

“Recollection is almost the same thing as interior solitude. It is in recollection that we discover the finite solitude of our own heart, and the infinite solitude of God dwelling within us. Unless these vast horizons have opened out in the center of our lives, we can hardly see things in perspective…”

7. Renounce this useless activity

“I cannot find God unless I renounce this useless activity, and I cannot renounce this activity unless I let go of the illusion it defends. And I cannot get rid of an illusion unless I recognize it for an illusion.”

8. God, Who is everywhere

“God, Who is everywhere, never leaves us…”

9. Gratitude for life

“For the full fruitfulness of the spiritual life begins in gratitude for life, in the consent to live…”

10. The value of our own loneliness

“If a man does not know the value of his own loneliness, how can he respect another’s solitude?”

11. Trying to run away from material things

“We cannot become saints merely by trying to run away from material things. To have a spiritual life is to have a life that is spiritual in all its wholeness – a life in which the actions of the body are holy because of the soul, and the soul is holy because of God dwelling and acting in it…”

12. We do not always know the will of God

“It is true that we do not always know what the will of God for us really is. Perhaps we know it far less often than we imagine. That does not mean that we must not seek to know it…”

13. To see the value and beauty in ordinary things

“One of the most important – and most neglected – elements in the beginnings of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality, to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things, to come alive to the splendor that is all around us in the creatures of God. We do not see these things because we have withdrawn from them…”

Have we withdrawn from seeing the value and the beauty in ordinary things?

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