Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: awakening

A Story of Awakening: Redefining Life, Community and Mindfulness

Prismatic Awakening

In my own life, I have been experiencing awakening for quite some time now.  It has been a process of change, growth, shaping and listening.  Growing up as a Catholic, I went to a church building almost every Sunday with my parents and siblings.  I became an alter boy and rang the bells during the Eucharist at mass.  First communion, CCD and confirmation were all things I completed throughout elementary school, middle school and high school.

  • God was not relevant to me

After going to hundreds of masses growing up, I believed in God from a very young age.  Although thinking about God a lot was not something I liked to do.  I didn’t think God was relevant to this life.  I thought God was only present to the after life, as someone passes away.

  •  A profound awakening

Toward the end of my high school days, I had a profound awakening within myself.  I loved playing basketball.  It was what I lived for.  Playing year round was something that I did for years throughout middle school and high school.

  •  Facing a place of depression

When I was in high school, I played under a tough coach who made me want to quit the basketball team.  He yelled a lot and I experienced a lot of fear of making mistakes when I played.  I got to the point of hating practices so much that I quit the team for good.  This brought me to a place of depression.

  •  Alone and afraid in a state of withdrawal

It got so bad that I was having a difficult time wanting to finish my senior year of high school.  Dropping out of high school crossed my mind more than once.  I didn’t want others to call me a quitter.  Facing this within myself was extremely hard.  It seemed I was alone and afraid in this state of withdrawal and depression.  It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life up to this point.

  •  God cares for my life

Soon I met a youth worker within the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination hanging out at my high school.  I got to know this guy a little.  He would tell me that God cares for my life.  I would think to myself, “whatever.”  We started to spend time together.  He seemed to listen to me.  The guy was kind of strange to me, but became a friend.  I would listen to him talk about God’s love for me.  The kind of stuff now that I can see is very common among church culture.

  •  Engagement in listening carefully through loneliness and pain

My excruciating loneliness and pain kept me engaged in listening carefully.  Becoming even more depressed was something that I didn’t want to experience.  I didn’t want to turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve my pain, so I slowly became open to God.  I thought to myself, “I am so messed up I might as well try being open to God.  I don’t have a lot of options at this point.  Where will I be in a year?”  I kind of said this to myself out of a deep fear.  At the young age of 18, I was extremely scared and depressed.  Not a place you want to be right before graduating high school.  I didn’t know what to do.

  •  Starting to trust God in my own way

So I started to trust God in my own way.  I started to cry out to God.  Knowing pretty much nothing of theology at the time, all I knew was my pain and my need, but that was enough.  I had virtually no knowledge of the Protestant church.  All I knew was a little of the Catholic church.

  •  Beginning to practice reflection and rest

As I trusted in God and slowly began to practice reflection and rest, I experienced an awakening within myself.  I started to show signs of hope as the depression was receding within me over the course of the year.  Finding some kind of identity in God really helped me to ground myself in a sense of peace in life over my constant state of anxiety.  My identity as a basketball player had died when I quit the team.  This dream was crushed and gone forever which was hard to take.  But I wanted to live again.  Life was worth living.  I had a hope for the future of my life that I hadn’t thought was possible before.

  •  Becoming more mindful of God in everyday life

I couldn’t understand what happened, but I just wanted to keep seeking God more.  I had a conscious awakening over time to becoming more mindful of God in everyday life.

This was troubling in a way because what I experienced of church always seemed to have a sense of disconnection and disillusionment for me.  I never seemed to fit in.  It never really made sense to me.  I tried getting involved in Campus Crusade for Christ in college along with Christian Missionary Alliance and Calvary Chapel denominations.  But still things didn’t seem to work for me that well.

  •  Disillusioned with the experience of church

After I went through another stage of depression in the year 2000 after college, I explored the Emergent Church movement after realizing there were all these North Americans who were disillusioned with their experience of church.  Learning about postmodern culture through much reading, conversation as well as many new relationships in my life, I had an awakening to the context I was living in and being shaped by.  I soon had more awakenings to the Missional Church movement, New Monasticism and the Catholic Worker movement.

  •  What community means

And now I am having more awakenings toward what community means as embodied in a particular place of a local context together in everyday life.  The words or phrases  “parish,” “neighborhood,” “theology of place,” “rebuilding,” “authenticity,” “practices,” “faithful presence” and the concept of being “rooted and linked” have all been a part of my journey to understand the mystical body of Christ in the world today.  I am sure more awakenings will happen within me the longer I live and experience life.  I am sure more awakenings will happen as I practice reflection and rest in the parish where I live in community with my neighbors.

Does the term awakening resonate with you?  Does God give us ordinary awakening experiences in everyday life?

6 Ways to Awaken to the Presence of God in Our Context

AWAKENING      2000.  Oil and acrylic on cardboard.  50 x 70 cm.

I have come to find that all of life is about awakening.  In my own life awakening has taken on many different forms and expressions over time.  Sometimes it is something I embrace openly, and other times I resist its revelations.  I have to be vulnerable to the mystery of my own awakening because it is always changing and taking me places that I am afraid of sometimes.

But I am learning to place myself in a posture of faithful presence to God in my context in the world.  This opens up the possibilities of life within me.  When I do this, God is taken outside of the box of my intellectual definitions of theology and becomes a life-giving path of beauty that I cannot articulate with words.

There is no coming in and out of God’s presence.  God is present in our world, we are just not aware of it most of the time.  We need to awaken to this new paradigm shift.

Here are 6 ways we can awaken to the presence of God in our context.

1. Open yourself to connection, networks, relationship, imagination and story

God is always communicating to us through the mystical imagination.  God is always showing us reality.  Our awakening seeks us at every moment.  Our everyday lives are opportunities for awakening as the body of Christ.

Diana Butler Bass states, “…awakening is marked by insistence on connection, networks, relationship, imagination, and story instead of dualism, individualism, autonomy, techniques, and rules.”           

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). 

2. Seek to rest in the midst of life

We must learn that Christ is teaching us to rest in the midst of life.  In our rest comes a deep sense of reflection within ourselves.  In our reflection and rest we come to experience our lives in our sensuousness as the body of Christ in the parish.  Our sensuousness leads us to practice reflection and rest more.

3. Slow down enough to experience a reflective life

Christ is calling us to follow him into an interior reflection and rest within ourselves.  He is calling us to take this practice seriously.  If we do not rest, we will not have the strength to live into a way of love for ourselves and others.  If we do not rest, we will never slow down enough to experience our sensuousness as the body of Christ in the parish.  If we do not live a reflective life, we will never live authentically in our relational context.

4. Find some solitude where our sensuousness can be cultivated and nurtured

The need for reflection and rest is so crucial in our time.  We need to find some solitude where reflection and rest can be practiced, cultivated and nurtured.  Christ calls us to follow a way of life in our sensuousness.  Christ calls us to follow a way of life through the mystical imagination.  Christ is calling us into life in the parish.  Christ is calling us into the local.  Christ is calling us into the everyday together through reflection and rest.

Our reflection and rest will bring life to our weary bodies.  We will be grounded by the mystical imagination within us.  Christ is calling us to follow a way of life into reflection and rest.

5. Hunger and long for awakening

Through reflection and rest, we begin to experience awakening within ourselves.  We begin to hunger and long for awakening.  We will live into a posture of seeking awakening in all of life together.

Cynthia Bourgeault in her book Mystical Hope says, “From the first century onward there has been a subterranean but distinct vein of Christianity known as the ‘inner tradition.’  In contrast to the mainstream, which came to emphasize doctrinal correctness and institutional loyalty, the inner tradition kept its focus squarely on the path of inner awakening taught and modeled by Christ.”

We need an awakening to the presence of God.  We cannot come in and out of the presence of God in our world.  The presence of God is within us and all around us in the place we live in our everyday lives.

We need to live with this kind of awakening as the body of Christ in our everyday lives together.  This awakening could change everything about our lives.  This awakening could shape us in the place we inhabit.

6. Be faithfully present to the awakening within you

The presence of God lives within us and around us in our local community.  The body of Christ needs to experience this presence by being faithfully present to the awakening within us.  We cannot ignore God’s presence anymore by ignoring the context where we live.  We need to be present to our practice of reflection and rest to understand all of this.

How have you practiced awakening within you?

Have We Valued the Practice of Pilgrimage?


My experiences of traveling to new places to understand other parts of North America or the world have been profound for me.  I remember visiting the third world country of Romania and seeing the poverty of their suffering.  This redefined the word poverty for me here in the United States.  I now see poverty differently then what I used to know and understand about it.

The people there inspired me to love the poor.  They inspired me to live with greater simplicity.  I learned from them the importance of living interdependently toward one another.

This pilgrimage shaped me tremendously as it has been some fifteen years since I went there.  I have learned from this experience to foster a different way of life in the parish of Downtown Tacoma where I have lived for the past ten years.  I am practicing a way of life that cares for the poor, which values simplicity and interdependence in community.

  •  Seeing through new paradigms  

Pilgrimages help us to listen in new ways.  Pilgrimages help us to awaken to culture.  Pilgrimages help us to see through new paradigms in the parish.  Pilgrimages help us to become human.

  •  Pilgrimages can awaken us to reality

Pilgrimages help us to experience the parish imagination as rooted and linked.  Pilgrimages can be frightening.  Pilgrimages can shake us out of the status quo.  Pilgrimages can awaken us to reality.

  •  The mysterious process of awakening

Co-founder of The Gravity Center, Phileena Heuertz says, “Embarking on pilgrimage mirrors the initiation of awakening…”  We start a mysterious process of awakening that we never thought possible when we learn from other contexts.  When we see the on-the-ground stories with our own eyes and meet the real flesh and blood people that brought these stories to life, we are inspired beyond what we could have imagined.  This gives life to our local context when we come back home in new ways.

  •  Encouraged by the stories of practitioners from other contexts

Learning from another context gives life to our local context.  The parish imagination needs regular periods of inspiration from other local contexts around the country and around the world.  The parish imagination is encouraged by the stories of practitioners from other local contexts.  We gain so much wisdom and inspiration from these stories and experiences.

  •    Cultivating the dreams within us

God speaks to us through other local contexts.  God uses the stories, experiences and struggles of other places to encourage the parish imagination within our local context.  We learn immensely when we embark on pilgrimage to other contexts.  This practice cultivates the dreams within us for our parish.

  •  Opening us to new possibilities

This practice opens us to new possibilities.  Stories are so powerful from other contexts.  We need to hold these stories within us as we seek to integrate and collaborate within our parish.  This will build some sustainability and stability within the parish imagination among us.

How can we practice pilgrimage and learn from other contexts?

The Awakening Gift of Gratitude


Gratitude does not make sense to my rational, intellectual mind.  My mind cannot understand how to practice gratitude because it doesn’t make sense most of the time.  I often ponder, “How can I practice gratitude when I am frustrated, angry or grieving.”

I have found this to be one of the most challenging practices in everyday life.  It seems that I am learning to live into this more by taking on life in a lot lighter way.  I am learning to laugh, smile, dream again, show more of my humor, and accept the things I cannot change with a gracefulness.  This has been so good for me!

  • Practicing gratitude will open up our imaginations

Practicing the humility of gratitude in our local context will open up our imaginations to our connectedness and commonality.  Seeing our friends as gifts from God and allowing relational revelations to surprise us constantly will open our imaginations to see one another anew.  To say “Thank you” to one another is such a simple but profound practice of gratitude.

  • Showing gratitude could bring healing

Do we alienate ourselves from one another when we refuse to say “Thank you”?  Our culture suffers from a lack of gratitude.  We would rather push others away from us than show them some gratitude.  Showing gratitude towards one another could bring about some healing to our broken society.

  • Authentic community nurtures gratitude

The communal imagination needs a spirit of gratitude.  Henri Nouwen says, “Authentic Christian community nurtures the spirit of gratitude …”

  • Teasing out the beauty in life

Gratitude has an authenticity to it that will tease out all the beauty that life has to offer us. Gratitude nourishes our relationships and gives us a peaceful rest in the midst of the stress of life and the pain it can bring.  Gratitude restores our life’s balance, which helps us to be whole in the midst of our pain.  Our pain will not destroy us if we embrace gratitude.

  • The miracle and gift that gratitude is to us

What a miracle the practice of gratitude is among us.  It is a precious gift that we should never take for granted.  The humility it cultivates between us in the parish is amazing.  The communal imagination embraces gratitude in everyday life.

  • Gratitude is always awakening us to new wonder

Thomas Merton writes, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything.  Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.  Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder”

  • Seeing everything in life as a gift

Gratitude consists of responsiveness, awakening, and wonder.  When we see everything in life as a gift, this process of discovery never ends.  Every breath we take and every moment of our life are all gifts from God.

How have you practiced gratitude in everyday life?

Book Review – Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass


This is a great book by Diana Butler Bass about a spiritual awakening that is happening in our culture where we can awaken to reform, renew and reimagine Christianity in the twenty-first century.  She stresses that belonging, experiential faith, intentional practice and connecting relationally in community will be important for us as we participate in what the future holds.  Christianity After Religion is a wonderful book of contextualization, authenticity and wisdom.  Anyone who reads this book will have a new imagination for being human.

•  Living in a time of historical change

“We live in a time of momentous historical change that is both exhilarating and frightening. Christianity itself is becoming something different from what it was.”

•  A new fabric of authenticity

“It is up to each one of us to stich a new fabric of authenticity, meaning and purpose.”

•  Everything is connected

“The church, therefore, is not only a community, but it is also ‘communion,’ a ‘set of relationships making up a mode of being.’  In our world these relationships extend beyond other human beings and God.  We are not only related to other people, but we are in community with all of creation, with the animals who share life on the planet as well as forests, rivers, oceans, the earth itself.  Thus, the self is discovered in Christ, with others, through the nature, on the river of change.  Everything is connected.  A spiritual awakening entails experiencing the full range of prepositional relationships in which we live and move and discover our being.”

•  A new vision in the twenty-first century

“Relational community, intentional practice, and experiential belief are forming a new vision for what it means to be Christian in the twenty-first century, a pattern of spiritual awakening that is growing around the world.  We belong to God and to one another, connected to all in a web of relationships, and there we find our truest selves…”

•  The current awakening

“The current awakening is marked by its insistence on connection, networks, relationship, imagination, and story instead of dualism, individualism, autonomy, techniques, and rules.”

•  Actions of mutual creation

“There is no specific technique that can be employed, no set program to follow to start a great awakening.  If you want it to happen, you just have to do it.  You have to perform its wisdom, live into its hope, and ‘act as if’ the awakening is fully realized.  And you have to do it with others in actions of mutual creation.”

•  Participate in making our world more humane, just, and loving

“Every spiritual awakening seeks to make visible, even if only in some incomplete way, God’s dream for creation…  This awakening will not be the last in human history, but it is our awakening.  It is up to us to move with the Spirit instead of against it, to participate in making our world more humane, just, and loving.”

What are your thoughts on Christianity After Religion?

Embracing an Ongoing Awakening


Sometimes in my life I have lived as if I was asleep.  I’ve had experiences of depression where all I wanted to do was sleep my life away.  This has not been very healthy for me.  I am slowly learning to be present to my own awakening as it takes shape in my life.

•  Listening to our awakening

We cannot make awakening happen within us.  We have to listen to awakening and let it live through our bodies in the natural rhythms of our existence.  We need to trust awakening.  It will become a part of us if we follow it within the depths of our souls.

•  The awakening of reflection and rest

Christ is calling us to awakening in the depths of our being as the body of Christ in the parish. Reflection and rest call out to our awakening.  We need this.  We long for this.

•  Live the truth of our awakening

Stephan Bodian says, “In the end, the only conclusion we can make about the awakened life is that it assumes the form and personality of the person who lives it.  You can’t imitate it or will it to happen; you can only wake up, live the truth of your awakening and notice how life lives through you…”  We are called to live our awakening through our sensuousness.

•  Awakening is calling out within us

All of our lives need to touch awakening.  Not one of us can be content without embodying awakening in our local context.  Awakening is calling out to a local presence within us in everyday life.  Our reflection and rest is opening its hands to awakening.

•  The contextual form of awakening

Awakening always takes a contextual form in the parish.  Awakening does not hold back life within us.  Awakening is mysterious and uncontrollable.  Awakening shatters all holds on modernity that we might have as the body of Christ in everyday life.

•  Putting us in touch with the mystical imagination

Awakening can be frightful and unkind to our illusions.  But awakening will put us in touch with the mystical imagination in all of life.  The awakened life calls out to us in the place we inhabit together as the body of Christ.

•  Creating a posture of openness

Catherine Whitmire writes, “The opportunity before us in every moment is to choose to live awakened lives…”  We cannot make awakening happen within us, but we can create a posture of openness to awakening at all times.  We can practice reflection and rest as a way to be hospitable to awakening.  Awakening is bound to happen in all of us if we take this posture in everyday life.

•  An ongoing awakening in our local context

We are created for an ongoing awakening.  Every moment of our lives calls out to our awakening.  We can choose awakening.  We can choose to seek God as the body of Christ in our local context.

What seems to keep you from an ongoing awakening in everyday life?