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All great spirituality is about letting go.
The spiritual journey is a journey into Mystery, requiring us to enter the “cloud of unknowing” where the left brain always fears to tread.
A daily practice of contemplative prayer can help you let go and fall into the Big Truth that we all share, the big truth that is God, that is Grace itself, where you are overwhelmed by more than enoughness!
Unless we learn to let go of our feelings, we don’t have the feelings, the feelings have us.
Forgiveness is simply the religious word for letting go.
Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God.
When someone hurts us, offends us, ignores us, or rejects us, a deep inner protest emerges. It can be rage or depression, desire to take revenge or an impulse to harm ourselves. We can feel a deep urge to wound those who have wounded us or to withdraw in a suicidal mood of self-rejection. Although these extreme reactions might seem exceptional, they are never far away from our hearts. During the long nights we often find ourselves brooding about words and actions we might have used in response to what others have said or done to us.
It is precisely here that we have to dig deep into our spiritual resources and find the center within us, the center that lies beyond our need to hurt others or ourselves, where we are free to forgive and love.
Meister Eckhart said, “The spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition.” All great spirituality is about letting go. But we have grown up with a capitalist worldview, and it has blinded our spiritual seeing. We tend to think at almost every level that more is better, even though, as E. F. Schumacher said years ago, “less is more.”
There is an alternative worldview. There is a worldview in which all of us can succeed. It isn’t a win/lose capitalist worldview where only a few win and most lose. It’s a win/win worldview—if we’re willing to let go and if we’re willing to recognize that this, right here, right now, is enough. This is all I need. But that can only be true if we move to the level of being and away from the levels of doing and acquiring.
True religion is always pointing us toward being. At that level we experience enoughness, abundance, more than enoughness. If we’ve never been introduced to that world, we will of course try to satisfy ourselves with possessions, accomplishments, important initials after our names, fancy cars, beautiful homes—none of which are bad in themselves. They’re only unable to satisfy; and that’s exactly why we need more and more of them. As the Twelve-Steppers say, “We need more and more of what does not work.” If it worked, we would not need more of it!
from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of St Francis
JC: You titled your 3rd full length collection “Facing a Lonely West” can you tell us a little bit about how you picked the title?
HL: I planned to call the book Escape Through Vance Tunnel, but when I was talking with Mike Thomas, a long-time friend and professor of languages and Great Texts at Baylor University, who had written a blurb for the book, he suggested Facing a Lonely West, which is the name of the book’s first poem….
Our own experience with loneliness, depression, and fear can become a gift for others, especially when we have received good care. As long as our wounds are open and bleeding, we scare others away. But after someone has carefully tended to our wounds, they no longer frighten us or others.
When we experience the healing presence of another person, we can discover our own gifts of healing. Then our wounds allow us to enter into a deep solidarity with our wounded brothers and sisters.
Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not “How can we hide our wounds?” so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but “How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?” When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.
Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.
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The most obvious change that results from the holding and allowing that we learn in the practice of contemplative prayer is that we will naturally become much more compassionate and patient. Compassion and patience are the absolutely unique characteristics of true spiritual authority, and without any doubt are the way both Francis and Clare led their communities. They led not from above, and not even from below, but mostly from within, by walking with their brothers and sisters, or “smelling like the sheep,” as Pope Francis puts it.
A spiritual leader who lacks basic human compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she does not represent the Divine or Big Truth. Such leaders have to rely upon role, laws, and enforcement powers to effect any change in others. Such change does not go deep, nor does it last. In fact, it is not really change at all.
With great wisdom, St. Francis was able to distinguish between institutional evil and the individual who is victimized by it. He still felt compassion for the individual soldiers fighting in the crusades, although he objected to the war itself. He realized the folly and yet the sincerity of their patriotism, which led them, however, to be unpatriotic to the much larger kingdom of God where he placed his first and final loyalty.
In Francis, as in Jesus, the turnaround of consciousness was complete: the bitter enemy of our small self is actually seen as the friend of the soul. Admittedly, only people in the later stages of the journey can finally see it that way. Only such a new person can take on the social illnesses of one’s time, and even the betrayal of friends, and not be destroyed by cynicism or bitterness.
from Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of St. Francis of Assisi
Prayer: Let me go this deep.
How do we welcome home our lost brothers and sisters? By running out to them, embracing them, and kissing them. By clothing them with the best clothes we have and making them our honored guests. By offering them the best food and inviting friends and family for a party. And, most important of all, by not asking for excuses or explanations, only showing our immense joy that they are with us again. (See Luke 15:20-24).
That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It is forgiving from the heart without a trace of self-righteousness, recrimination, or even curiosity. The past is wiped out. What counts is the here and now, where all that fills our hearts is gratitude for the homecoming of our brothers and sisters.
Although the universally available paths to unitive consciousness are great love and great suffering, conscious inner prayer will deepen and maintain what we momentarily learn in love and suffering. But the mere reciting of prayers can also be, as St. John Cassian (360-435) called it, a pax perniciosa, or a “dangerous peace.” This early Christian monk, who brought the ideas and practices of Egyptian monasticism to the early medieval West, saw that even the way of prayer can be dangerous if it never leads you to great love and allows you to avoid necessary suffering in the name of religion.
Those who fall into the safety net of silence find that it is not at all a fall into individualism. True prayer or contemplation is instead a leap into commonality and community. You know that what you are experiencing is held by the whole and that you are not alone anymore. You are a part, and now a forever-grateful part.
Real silence moves you from knowing things to perceiving a Presence that has a reality in itself. Could that be God? There is then a mutuality between you and all things. There is an I-thou relationship. Martin Buber said an I-it relationship is when we experience everything as commodity, useful, utilitarian. But the I-thou relationship is when you can simply respect a thing as it is without adjusting it, naming it, changing it, fixing it, controlling it, or trying to explain it. Is that the mind that can know God? I really think so.
From Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation