Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: contemplative activist

Nothing Is Missing

Doria_010H-90X60-copy_670It has been about one month since I did a retreat with Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, in which we spent 40 hours in silence over the course of a weekend. During the retreat it was communicated that the fruits and gifts of the silence will not be seen in the midst of the practice, but will be reveled in your active life in the world. It is through the ordinary moments of everyday life that we will have epiphanies that move our souls to deeper levels of our true self. This is beautiful and painful, but necessary.

  • Deeper levels of paradox, mystery, listening, and compassion

So over the past month, I am having an awakening that is so good for me. It is moving me into deeper levels of paradox, mystery, listening, and compassion. I have always looked at life through what is missing. It is the filter and the lie that I have protected myself with for so long.

  • A different question

When I am constantly looking at what is missing in life this causes me suffering, misery, melancholy, hopelessness, and leaves me unaware of my true self. I lose a sense that the deepest ground of my being is love. So I recently started to wonder about a different question because living through what is missing is so exhausting and depleting to who I am. Why have I believed in this illusion for so long?

  • What if nothing is missing?

I don’t know for sure, but I am understanding that it is so easy, comfortable, and what I have done most of my life. But recently I started to wonder, what if nothing is missing? What if nothing is missing in my relationships, in myself, in the world, in community? My intellect cannot understand this and shouts at me it is not true, don’t believe in it, there is too much pain in yourself and the world for it to be true.

  • Resonating so deeply

My thoughts and feelings are always trying to tell me that there is too much pain in me to believe, embody, and embrace the mystery that nothing is missing. How can I believe nothing is missing, it is ridiculous, unfamiliar, and backwards? I don’t know what that means. But my body is resonating so deeply with this deeper truth.

  • Peaceful, restful, and calming

It is peaceful, restful, and calming to hold within my body the truth that nothing is missing. This is a paradox that I cannot understand, but desire to embody. This is the mystery I am being called into in my everyday life in the present moment.

  • Nothing is missing in my pain

Nothing is missing in my pain. Nothing is missing is my loneliness. Nothing is missing in my context where I live.

  • Nothing is missing in my tears

Nothing is missing in my tears. Nothing is missing in my loss and grief. Nothing is missing in myself. Nothing is missing in the world.

  • Letting go of my false self

If I believe that nothing is missing how will my life be transformed? Do I really want to let go of my false self that says to me constantly everything is missing? But I am starting to feel some sense of joy and happiness in my body when I hold the mantra that nothing is missing. I am starting to love myself and others more deeply through this new paradigm of my true self that is telling me nothing is missing.

  • Want to openly embrace

This is so liberating because I am able to have space for gratitude instead of complaining. I am able to have space in myself to see the beauty around me and within me. I am able to make space for cultivating happiness instead of misery. I am able to start on my path of making sense of finding joy in the darkness which I am so unfamiliar with, but want to openly embrace.

How can we embody nothing is missing 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

The Peace of Silence – Celebrating My 600th Blog Post!

  • So beautiful

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

  • Longing for you

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

  • Gifts of wisdom

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

  • Changing myself

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

  • No more changing the world

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

  • Mindful and aware

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

  • Done with being clever

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

  • Living with courage

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

  • Don’t abandon me to my false self

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

  • Not much of anything in the noise

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

  • Authenticity, honesty, vulnerability, and humility

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

  • Dry my tears

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

  • You live within me

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

  • Worth more than money

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

  • No efficiency or productivity

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

  • The revealer of my true self

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

Have you embraced silence today?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Believing In My Compassion

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

  • Journal Entry: April 14, 2016

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

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

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

  • The joy of the true self

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

  • Dying to all my idealistic expectations of life

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

  • Am I completely lost?

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

  • Living in my vulnerability

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

  • Seeking God in my pain

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

  • Learning to smile a little more

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

  • We can’t skip over or outrun darkness

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

How have you been running from the difficult stuff of life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life 

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

  • Silence is the language of God

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

  • Gratitude and hospitality

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

  • See the gifts in my active, everyday life

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

  • Learning to love myself and others

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

  • I hope you had the time of your life

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

  • Silence, solitude, and stillness

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

  • Consent, gentleness, and letting go

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

  • The opinions of others threatening to define me

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

  • The seeds of community

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

  • Making choices based on love

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

Have we learned to love ourselves and others in everyday life?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist

Songs of the Birds

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

  • Deepening my awareness of my true self

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

  • The sacrament of the present moment

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

  • I have been wondering about

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

  • Songs of the birds

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

  • Cultivating happiness

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

  • An integration of happiness

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

  • Learning to value our own happiness

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

  • Contemplative expression

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

  • So mysterious and beautiful

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

  • Contemplative spirituality for the active life

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

  • Gravity, a center for contemplative activism

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

  • Connect in solidarity and unity

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

  • It’s difficult in the ache of longing

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

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

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist