Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Uncategorized

Silence is Essential – 8 quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book – Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

download (17)1. Silence is essential

“Silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us.”

2. Colored by perception

“To let go implies to let go of something. The something that we’re holding on to may simply be a creation of our mind, an illusory perception of something, and not the reality of the thing itself. Everything is an object of our mind and is colored by our perception. You get an idea, and before you realize it, you’ve become stuck in that idea. You may get scared because of that idea you’re believing in. You might even get sick because of it. Perhaps that idea brings you a lot of unhappiness and worries, and you would like to be free. But it’s not enough that you want to be free. You have to give yourself enough space and quiet to become free.”

3. Time is life

“Many people cannot allow themselves the time to sit and do nothing but breathe. They consider it to be uneconomical or a luxury. People say ‘time is money.’ But time is much more than money. Time is life. The simple practice of sitting quietly on a regular basis can be profoundly healing. Stopping and sitting is a good way to focus on mindful breathing and nothing else.”

4. Developing understanding and compassion

“If we never suffer, there is no basis or impetus for developing understanding and compassion. Suffering is very important. We have to learn to recognize and even embrace suffering, as our awareness of it helps us grow.”

5. Sincerity and mindfulness

“With sincerity and mindfulness, we can express our desire to begin anew.”

6. Protect our peace

“But we can always make the choice to protect our peace. That doesn’t mean shutting all our windows all of the time, for there are many miracles in the world we call ‘outside.’ Open your windows to these miracles. But look at any one of them with the light of awareness. Even while sitting beside a clear, flowing stream, listening to beautiful music, or watching an excellent movie, don’t entrust yourself entirely to the stream, the music, or the film. Continue to be aware of yourself and your breathing. With the sun of awareness shining in you, you can avoid most dangers – and you will experience the stream of being purer, the music more harmonious, and the soul of the artist completely visible in the film.”

7. 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.”

8. The eyes of compassion

“Waking up this morning I smile. Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me. I vow to live them deeply and learn to look at everything around me with the eyes of compassion.”

Do you believe silence is essential to life?

Purchase Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

Divided No More – 7 quotes from Parker J. Palmer’s book – Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

41se8bsdql-_sx367_bo1204203200_-11. Surrounded by expectations

“We arrive in this world with birthright gifts – then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations held by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit us into slots. In families, schools, workplaces, and religious communities, we are trained away from true self toward images of acceptability; under social pressures like racism and sexism our original shape is deformed beyond recognition; and we ourselves, driven by fear, too often betray true self to gain the approval of others.”

2. Divided no more

“…the people who plant the seeds of movements make a critical decision: they decide to live ‘divided no more.’ They decide no longer to act on the outside in a way that contradicts some truth about themselves that they hold deeply on the inside. They decide to claim authentic selfhood and act it out – and their decisions ripple out to transform the society in which they live…”

3. We are all made in God’s image

“If, as I believe, we all are made in God’s image, we could all give the same answer when asked who we are: ‘I Am who I Am.’ One dwells with God by being faithful to one’s nature. One crosses God by trying to be something one is not. Reality – including one’s own – is divine, to be not defied but honored.”

4. A place of hidden wholeness

“Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of ‘hidden wholeness’ because they have been there and know the way.”

5. The seed of authentic vocation

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity – the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.”

6. I must listen to my life

“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.”

7. Attending to my own truth

“When I ignored my own truth on behalf of a distorted ego and ethic, I led a false life that caused others pain – for which I can only ask forgiveness. When I started attending to my own truth, more of that truth became available in my work and relationships. I now know that anything one can do on behalf of true self is done ultimately in the service of others.”

Have you come to the place of desiring to be divided no more?

Purchase Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Rigidity and Prejudice – 9 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation edited by William H. Shannon

81MA-v3wVDL1. Contemplation is the work of love

“Contemplation is the work of love, and the contemplative proves his love by leaving all things, even the most spiritual things, for God in nothingness, detachment, and ‘night.’ But the deciding factor in contemplation is the free and unpredictable action of God…”

2. Our true self

“…we must become detached from the unreality that is in us in order to be united to the reality that lies deeper within and is our true self – our inmost self-in-God.”

3. A life of unity

“The contemplative life is primarily a life of unity. A contemplative is one who has transcended divisions to reach a unity beyond division…”

4. What real freedom means

“It is the contemplative who keeps this liberty alive in the world, and who shows others, obscurely and without realizing it, what real freedom means.”

5. Only from the inner self

“Only from the inner self does any spiritual experience gain depth, reality, and a certain incommunicability…”

6. The teaching of Christ is essentially contemplative

“The fact that ‘contemplation’… is not mentioned in the New Testament should not mislead us. We shall see presently that the teaching of Christ is essentially ‘contemplative’…”

7. The price of our liberty

“At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods – all can be enriched with contemplation… This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not ‘look’ to see if it is there… It never attracts anybody’s attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.”

8. The paradox of the illuminative way

“The paradox of the illuminative way is, then, that the awakening and enlightening of the inner man goes with the darkening and the blinding of the exterior man. As our inner spiritual consciousness awakens, our exterior… consciousness is befuddled and hampered in its action…”

9. Rigidity and prejudice

“The great obstacle to contemplation is rigidity and prejudice. He who thinks he knows what it is beforehand prevents himself from finding out the true nature of contemplation, since he is not able to ‘change his mind’ and accept something completely new. He who thinks that contemplation is lofty and spectacular cannot receive the intuition of a supreme and transcendent Reality which is at the same time immanent in his own ordinary self. He who needs to be exalted and for whom mysticism is the peak of human ambition will never be able to feel the liberation granted only to those who have renounced success. And since most of us are rigid, attached to our own ideas, convinced of our own wisdom, proud of our own capacities, and committed to personal ambition, contemplation is a dangerous desire for any one of us…”

Are you stuck in rigidity and prejudice in your life?

Purchase The Inner Experience

Our Whole Life is a Mystery – 5 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

51LKHuSQTjL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. The man who lives in division

“The man who lives in division is living in death. He cannot find himself because he is lost; he has ceased to be a reality. The person he believes himself to be is a bad dream. And when he dies he will discover that he long ago ceased to exist…”

2. Something deep in the soul

“As far as the accidentals of this life are concerned, humility can be quite content with whatever satisfies the general run of men. But that does not mean that the essence of humility consists in being just like everyone else. On the contrary, humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God, and since no two people are alike, if you have the humility to be yourself you will not be like anyone else in the whole universe. But this individuality will not necessarily assert itself on the surface of everyday life. It will not be a matter of mere appearances, or opinions, or tastes, or ways of doing things. It is something deep in the soul.”

3. Our whole life is a mystery

“What is the dimension of this depth? It is the incorporation of the unknown and of the unconscious into our daily life. Faith brings together the known and the unknown so that they overlap: or rather, so that we are aware of their overlapping. Actually, our whole life is a mystery of which very little comes to our conscious understanding. But when we accept only what we can consciously rationalize, our life is actually reduced to the most pitiful limitations, though we may think quite otherwise. (We have been brought up with the absurd prejudice that only what we can reduce to a rational and conscious formula is really understood and experienced in our life. When we can say what a thing is, or what we are doing, we think we fully grasp and experience it. In point of fact this verbalization – very often it is nothing more than verbalization – tends to cut us off from genuine experience and to obscure our understanding instead of increasing it.)”

4. To become attached to the “experience” of peace

“To become attached to the ‘experience’ of peace is to threaten the true and essential and vital union of our soul with God above sense and experience in the darkness of a pure and perfect love.”

5. The courage to risk everything

“What you most need in this dark journey is an unfaltering trust in the Divine guidance, as well as the courage to risk everything… In many ways the journey seems to be a foolish gamble. And you may well make many mistakes… What matters in the contemplative life is not for you… to be always infallibly right, but for you to be heroically faithful to grace and to love…”

Do you experience your whole life as a mystery?

Purchase New Seeds of Contemplation

Questioning Everything – 12 quotes from Meredith Gould’s book – Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice

261134981. Remarkably resistant to change

“Spiritual growth involves changing perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. It’s that annoyingly simple but not at all easy because humans aren’t especially keen on change. Even longtime Seekers aspiring to total transformation can be remarkably resistant to change…”

2. Wrestling with paradox

“You might also be comforted by knowing that wrestling with paradox is an inescapable aspect of spiritual growth. Every religious tradition has core teachings firmly fixed in paradox. In at least one Eastern tradition, pondering paradox is itself considered a key practice.”

3. Questioning everything

“What we think is our path to God, may not be our path to God. Turns out the ‘dark night of the soul’ lasts much longer than one night and the metaphor is as accurate as it is lyrical. Feelings of wanting to withdraw and isolate while questioning everything are typical at this stage…”

4. The whole world is a spiritual practice field

“The whole world is a spiritual practice field and opportunities to practice curiosity abound. God’s grace is always somewhere in the messiness of life, and asking increasingly pointed questions about what, where, when, why, and how will help you discover it. Become willing to opt for being curious the next time you feel bored, bothered, and bewildered.”

5. We’re all connected

“…we’re all connected and beloved creatures of God…”

6. Exploring whatever diminishes, blocks, or may completely obliterate delight

“Practicing this practice of being involves exploring whatever diminishes, blocks, or may completely obliterate delight, and then healing whatever needs to be healed to encounter and recognize it…”

7. Whatever emerges

“…plan to practice curiosity and delight about whatever emerges during your solitude and behold how self-care has become a spiritual practice.”

8. Essential forms of self-care

“Relaxation and rest are essential forms of self-care…”

9. Focusing on actually being rather than doing stuff

“For a change try focusing on actually being rather than doing stuff that promises to get you there eventually…”

10. All beings share a sacred heritage

“Big questions get bigger: Why am I here? What am I called to do? Other people – their needs and sorrows – are becoming more intriguing. You’re realizing that ‘it’ isn’t even about you. Spiritual life, it turns out, is ultimately about understanding and acting upon the knowledge that all beings share a sacred heritage.”

11. Ongoing and never-ending

“…your spiritual growth will stay somewhat stalled unless and until you become open to seeing and doing things differently. Willingness, then, is an essential practice for Seekers that’s ongoing and never-ending – something else you might need to muster some willingness to accept. It’s also a radical practice, the taproot from which every other practice is nourished. Plan on recommitting to the practice of willingness whenever resistance shows up, and it will show up, usually but not exclusively during times of life cycle transition.”

12. View your own pain and suffering as a gift

“You’ll need to explore self to go beyond self, be willing to see and feel your own brokenness before being able to recognize it in others, be willing to view your own pain and suffering as a gift. Empathy is a practice of being that will help you shift from feeling for to feeling with in a healthy way that might not feel especially terrific, but will reveal what you already know – that the Divine is fully present in all of it.”

Have you been questioning everything about life?

Purchase Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice

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 Deep And Sustained Questioning Arises – 7 quotes from Peter Rollins book – The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

41WaxxiBLsL1. Abuse and devalue a person’s actual presence

“If we think that a person can be adequately understood as a purely biological system then we do an injustice to that person’s subjectivity, while if we seek to move beyond the flesh of a person and engage in some ‘pure’ relationship unsullied by their physical manifestation then we abuse and devalue that person’s actual presence. The flesh is both our means of encountering the other and the barrier that prevents full exposure to the other’s subjectivity. The exteriority of the other’s flesh acts as a type of semi-permeable membrane that allows a type of partial access to the subjectivity of the other, exposing the other in an oblique and partial manner, as if through a glass darkly.”

2. Only in action

“God is made known only in action…”

3. A mystery to participate in

“God is not a problem to be solved but rather a mystery to participate in…”

4. Be ready to critique our ideas and practices

“Christianity thus ought not be understood as either purely religious or irreligious, and the church should not be fully embraced as necessary or rejected as unnecessary. Rather, Christianity is structured as ir/religious and the church as a structure attempting to live with its un/necessary status. Christianity grounds us and yet invites us to gaze beyond its walls. As we attempt to understand our faith, we will develop ideas and practices that help us. Yet the point is that we must always be ready to critique these ideas and practices, for they are forever provisional. To display our fidelity to them we must always be ready to betray them.”

5. Radical doubt and absolute certainty

“Christian faith teaches us, if we are sensitive and able to be taught, that the seemingly opposite and opposed realms of radical doubt and absolute certainty are reconciled in a knowing beyond knowledge…”

6. The individual’s inner world

“Because a miracle takes place at a radically subjective level that cannot be objectified or analyzed, it is not, strictly speaking, something that is believed in. Rather it is lived. Indeed it can easily be lived and not believed in. The evidence of such a miracle is in the way in which it transforms the individual’s inner world, changing the entire trajectory of that person’s life in a positive, healing way. How one names this miracle, or even if one wishes to baptize it with any name, is irrelevant. What matters is the occurrence. It is this miracle that the church is there to affirm by engaging in creative acts of remembrance concerning this immemorial event. However, instead of these acts of humble remembrance, much of the church has emphasized the importance of what we think…”

7. A deep and sustained questioning arises

“The affirmation of an intervention amidst all our doubt and uncertainty concerning its source thus represents the Christian idea that we have been marked by a life-giving event that invites us to passionately respond with our entire being. It is out of this that a deep and sustained questioning arises.”

Do you live with a deep and sustained questioning?

Purchase The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

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

Something I’d Rather Not See In Myself – 6 quotes from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book – Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

accidentalsaints1. A fear of being really known

“I often think that the effort we put into trying to pretend something about us is true – that we are less than we are or more than we are or that one aspect of ourselves is the whole story – is based in a fear of being really known, of being truly seen, as we actually are. Perhaps we each have a wound, a vulnerable place that we have to protect in order to survive. And yet sometimes we overcompensate so much for the things we are trying to hide that no one ever suspects the truth… and then we are left in the true aloneness of never really being known.”  

2. Something I’d rather not see in myself

“Whenever people annoy me beyond reason, I can guarantee it’s because they’re demonstrating something I’d rather not see in myself.”

3. Risking an openness

“Sometimes I wonder if that is what faith is: risking an openness to something bigger than ourselves…”

4. We get to believe in each other

“And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of it… all of it is completely worth it.”

5. The best shitty feeling in the world

“And receiving grace is basically the best shitty feeling in the world. I don’t want to need it. Preferably I could just do it all and be it all and never mess up. That may be what I would prefer, but it is never what I need. I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve. I need the very thing that I will do everything I can to avoid needing.”

6. Changed by loving someone

“My spirituality is most active, not in meditation, but in the moments when: I realize God may have gotten something beautiful done through me despite the fact that I am an asshole, and when I am confronted by the mercy of the gospel so much that I cannot hate my enemies, and when I am unable to judge the sin of someone else (which, let’s be honest, I love to do) because my own crap is too much in the way, and when I have to bear witness to another human being’s suffering despite my desire to be left alone, and when I am forgiven by someone even though I don’t deserve it and my forgiver does this because he, too, is trapped by the gospel,… and when I end up changed by loving someone I’d never choose out of a catalogue but whom God sends my way to teach me about God’s love.”

What is the one thing that you’d rather not see in yourself?

Purchase Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

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

In Oneness With All That Is – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – Mystics and Zen Masters

41WXKyiIpJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Hold instinctively to our prejudice

“We of the West still hold instinctively to the prejudice that our world and our civilization are the ‘whole world’ and that we have a mission to lead all others to the particular cultural goals we have set for ourselves. But the world is bigger than we have imagined, and its new directions are not always those that we ourselves have envisaged…”

2. The true dark night

“The true dark night is that of the spirit, where the ‘subject’ of all higher forms of vision and intelligence is itself darkened and left in emptiness: not as a mirror, pure of all impressions, but as a void without knowledge and without any natural capacity for the supernatural…”

3. In oneness with all that is

“…my ‘identity’ is to be sought not in that separation from all that is, but in oneness (indeed, ‘convergence’?) with all that is. This identity is not the denial of my own personal reality but its highest affirmation…”

4. Contemplation is both a “gift” and an “art”

“…we can say that contemplation is both a ‘gift’ (a ‘grace’) and an ‘art.’ Unfortunately, we must also admit that it can almost be said to be a ‘lost art’…”

5. All religions aspire to a “union with God”

“To put it in grossly oversimplified language, all religions aspire to a ‘union with God’ in some way or other, and in each case this union is described in terms which have very definite analogies with the contemplative and mystical experiences…”

6. Preserving our status as spectators

“Yet we refuse healing because we insist on preserving our status as spectators. This is the only identity we understand. Once we cease to ‘stand against’ the world, we think we cease to exist. Furthermore, we manipulate the world as we contemplate it, we rearrange it to suit the whim and yearning of our vision. Always, do what we may, we are condemned to ‘retain the attitude of someone who’s departing.’ That is to say, we can never really believe ourselves fully at home in the world that is ours, since we are condemned to dwell in it as spectators, to create for ourselves the distance that establishes us as subjects fully conscious of our subjectivity.”

7. Destroying authentic human community

“…the Church must not implicitly betray man into the power of the irresponsible and anonymous ‘public.’ If it does so, it will destroy itself in destroying true freedom and authentic human community.”

8. Free and authentic response

“But maturity cannot be acquired in withdrawal and subjective isolation, in fear and in suspicion. Maturity is the capacity for free and authentic response. Once again, this demands something more than psychological adjustment. It calls for divine grace. And our openness to grace is proportionate to our sense of our need for it. This in turn depends on our awareness of the reality of the crisis we are in.”

Do we live in oneness with all that is?

Purchase Mystics and Zen Masters

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

Our Real Journey in Life is Interior – 7 quotes from Thomas Merton’s writings – The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton

515hzuKaCUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Compassion is proportionate to detachment

“Compassion is proportionate to detachment; otherwise we use others for our own ends under the pretext of ‘love.’ Actually, we are dominated by illusion. Love that perpetuates the illusion does no good to others or to ourselves…”

2. Our real journey in life is interior

“Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts. Never was it more necessary for us to respond to that action…”

3. A witness to life

“The marginal person, the monk, the displaced person, the prisoner, all these people live in the presence of death, which calls into question the meaning of life. He struggles with the fact of death in himself, trying to seek something deeper than death; because there is something deeper than death, and the office of the monk or the marginal person, the meditative person or the poet is to go beyond death even in this life, to go beyond the dichotomy of life and death and to be, therefore, a witness to life.”

4. To admit our loneliness

“It is not that we go out into the world with a capacity to love others greatly. This too we know in ourselves, that our capacity for love is limited. And it has to be completed with the capacity to be loved, to accept love from others, to want to be loved by others, to admit our loneliness and to live with our loneliness because everybody is lonely…”

5. Let us be bound together with love

“Oh God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious…” 

6. Entangled in our own mind

“What is important is not liberation from the body but liberation from the mind. We are not entangled in our own body but entangled in our own mind.”

7. The old splitting-up process that leads to mindlessness

“Too much movement. Too much ‘looking for’ something: an answer, a vision, ‘something other.’ And this breeds illusion. Illusion that there is something else. Differentiation – the old splitting-up process that leads to mindlessness, instead of the mindfulness of seeing all-in- emptiness and not having to break it all up against itself…”

Do you agree that our real journey in life is interior?

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