2014: A Year In Review

Beverly Lanzetta Meditations, Practice, Prayer, Study

Dear Friends:

February will mark the beginning of my free, year-long Invitation to Contemplative Study: Awakening the Mystic Heart.

During 2014, in the spirit of Lady Poverty, to whom St. Francis devoted his mission of love, I will be offering, at no cost, a series of podcasts and written reflections on deepening one’s contemplative practice. Weekly topics range from reflection on the mystics to emerging forms of spiritual thought and practice, along with prayers, questions for discernment and other resources to help awaken your mystic heart.

For those of you already on our mailing list, you will see new changes to the website and Facebook pages, along with a new Twitter account and Podcast channel.  You will still receive weekly meditations that will now be part of theInvitation to Contemplative Study.  For those of you who have just joined us, Welcome!

February’s theme will be on the Emerging Heart of Global Spirituality and the importance of reimagining our world to hold all religions and spiritual traditions as part of our collective inheritance, and one that honors the dignity of all species and life forms.

Please share this invitation with others, and join me in awakening the universal heart of contemplation.

Silence-is-calling-you

Art by Nelson Kane

 

FEBRUARY: The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World

This podcast is from a lecture I presented in March 2009 on “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries.

The lecture speaks about the importance of reimagining our world to hold all religions and spiritual traditions as part of our collective inheritance, and to honor the dignity of all species and life forms. The talk is divided into four areas: 1. What is Global Spirituality and why it is important today; 2. Global Spirituality as an Emerging Faith; 3. The contemplative heart of global spirituality  4. In what ways Global Spiritual transforms the spiritual journey.

I hope you enjoy the first free podcast of my Invitation to Contemplative Study: Awakening the Mystic Heart.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

February, Meditation 1
In my life and in those of others I know, there is a desire for a spirituality that is not austere and ascetic, but is directed toward flourishing of life and peace on earth.  We seek a spiritual worldview that embraces our humanness, rather than denies our bodies, and further unites mind and heart, reason and intuition, male and female. New faith experiences are initiating people in a spirituality that is not divisive, exclusionary, or superior, and a vision of truth that is not absolute, dogmatic, or punishing, but one which celebrates the unity and interdependence of all life forms, elevates female and male to their highest spiritual capacity and recognizes our daily struggles to be more compassionate, generous, and caring.  One that affirms and encourages new expressions of the sacred.

A question I am frequently asked is whether there exists a genuine spiritual foundation and sacred path for people who identify themselves as multi-religious, spiritual but not religious, nonbelievers, lapsed or dissatisfied members of their denomination, or simply seekers of a new way.

In some primary sense, these questions arise out of an old paradigm, a collective consciousness formed by the history of discrete religious identities, tribal affiliations, and formal declarations of truth.  The answers we seek require a different orientation to the inner life and to the subject of spirituality.  In order to understand the future born among us, we need to dispense with the belief that authentic faith is already determined and has a name.  We need to recognize with humility that we do not know nor can we control how divine love takes root in a person’s heart.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

February, Meditation 2
I use the term “global spirituality” or “global theology” to emphasize the emergence of a new planetary consciousness, breaking through traditional religious categories and disciplinary boundaries, that is affecting all life studies and systems. Global consciousness is revealing a new type of religious experience—what we might call multi-religious or interspiritual—that is giving rise to novel forms of spiritual practice, and new ways of living and approaching the spiritual journey/and God.

The current climate of global spiritual consciousness has been formed by the distinguished history of collaborative research, dialogue among faith communities, ecumenical movements, and spiritual struggles and insights of diverse individuals that have taken place over the last 150 years. The pioneering thought of feminist, womanist, and mujerista theologians, liberation theology, eco-theology, Black theology, third world theology, LGBT theology, and other voices have expanded tremendously our understanding of the multiple ways in which the divine spirit of life is worshipped, practiced, and transformed.

The word, “global,” as a modifier of traditional religious categories, can be defined as a way of relating to or embracing the whole of something—for example, the entire earth as a bio-spiritual planet floating in vast space. This consciousness of wholeness makes demands on our external actions but also, and more intensely, on our spiritual orientation and interior lives.

This means that global spirituality specifically highlights the celebration of difference, and the respect for diversity, that is central to accepting the pluralism of our world.  It directs this affirmation of diversity to the physical universe, as well as to the inner life of the person, the spiritual journey, and our views of God or Divine Mystery.  From a global vantage point, our theological orientation and faith experience is radically interdependent and dialogical, taking into account the relations among species, between humans and god, as a starting principle, rather than an end goal.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

February, Meditation 3
A globally sensitive spirituality practices heart consciousness by uniting in oneself the false distinction between holiness and materiality. The heart sees the entire creation in all its manifestations as subjects; therefore all things in the world, all human and more-than-human life forms have inherent dignity and worth. The mission of a spirituality of wholeness is to expand the individual kernel of a religious orientation to include the social, collective, and cosmic.  It labors to make actual the highest states of spiritual wisdom and thereby transform the consciousness of the planet through recognizing the crucial role humans play in honoring the sacred presence on earth.

Our work is to mine from the oppressions and violence of the world the invisible sustenance of love and humility that lead us to the promise of the Beloved Community.  This transfiguration of self and society occurs through activism and interiority.  It may be manifested through works of social good and through the inner life of prayer.  Whether active or interior, socially engaged or in meditative states, the spirituality of our future requires a contemplative attitude, one grounded in silence and solitude.
Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

February, Meditation 4
This call to religious openness, is initiated not by religions or masters, but by the action of the divine in the souls of people around the globe.  It is a direct touching of the inner spark of the soul by Divine Mystery that is calling contemporary pilgrims—many of whom never thought about leaving their tradition—to a deeper experience of the sacred that is related to but may be outside of formal religious community.  While individual in the context of life experience, this global spiritual movement shares common spiritual processes and virtues that herald the unfolding of a new revelatory consciousness for humanity.

In naming it “revelatory,” my intention is to emphasize that this multi-religious spiritual focus is not something constructed by people to assuage religious doubt and confusion or to be rebellious and prideful.  Rather, it emerges as a faith experience of the utmost seriousness that compels each person to give up whatever is oppressive, superior, exclusive, hurtful, or violent in his or her own religious worldview.  It is felt as a deep compunction in the soul to dispense with religious sectarianism, pride, or possessiveness.

This journey of openness to other religions or to a spiritual life without religion is born of prayers and tears.  It is not a superficial entertainment or a naïve belief.  Rather, it is a wounding felt deep within the self that calls into question and suffers over the violence of exclusion, indifference, superiority, injustice, and oppression—subtle and overt—that inhabits religions and turns the heart against itself.

Thus global spirituality is not a personal construction but an inflow from the divine, a re-vealing of a new way of being religious. It is a faith experience, a call from God, to become more loving, to become more holy.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

February Discernment on Global Spirituality
Rooted in contemplation and techniques of spiritual enlightenment—prayer, meditation, and self-sacrifice—global spirituality moves out of silence into a deep engagement with and appreciation for the other. Through silence the meeting place or convergence among religions is found; for in this pure openness we are capable of healing differences and holding multiple religious expressions in a unified whole.

Contemplation prepares the mind and soul of a person to seek truth with courage and ardor until Divinity becomes established as a center of awareness. Through silence the meeting place or convergence among religions is found; for in this pure openness we are capable of healing differences and holding multiple religious expressions in a unified whole.

Our work is to mine from the oppressions and violence of the world the invisible sustenance of love and humility that point toward the promise of healing on earth.  Whether active or interior, socially engaged or in meditative states, the spirituality of our future requires a contemplative attitude, one grounded in silence and solitude.  A contemplative heart is the means by which one lives and practices global spirituality.

On a practical level, global spirituality asks us to consider:

  • How can the spiritual disciplines I practice, and the value I derive from my personal relationship with the Divine be of assistance in the suffering and ills of the world?
  • How can the wisdom of other traditions enrich my own religion’s beliefs and practices and assist me in overcoming elements that are harmful or oppressive to others?

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Emerging Heart of Faith in a Multi-Religious World,” sponsored by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, World Mission Institute, and Chicago Center for Global Ministries. March 2009.

 

MARCH: INHABITING YOUR INNER MONASTERY

This podcast is the fifth lecture in a series of ten talks I offered on “The Longing Heart”. Here I share a spiritual practice I call an “inner monastery meditation.” This talk is designed to help you break down the barriers that prevent you from claiming silence and solitude.

The talk ends with a guided meditation that moves you away from the activity of the day and into the center of your being. I hope this month’s podcast helps you to fulfill your heart’s longing to be fully present in and passionate about your spiritual life.

March, Meditation 1

Like many of you, I’ve worked long and hard to figure out how to live an interior contemplation in the midst of a world of activity – of teaching, spiritual direction, raising children, and so forth.

I want to start by saying that at the center of the spiritual life is a paradox. To be truly intimate we need to be free to be alone. To be fully present and fully passionate, as we see in the mystics, requires a dispassion from self-gain. To be co-equal and co-loving in community requires a return to the singular, to our individual journey. To uphold the ideal of the contemplative life requires us to become radical in preserving our inner solitude with God. And the preservation of this inner solitude is a common longing across religious traditions: Jesus went out into the desert for forty days and nights; Buddha meditated alone under the Bodhi tree; Thomas Merton, a monk, sought refuge in a hermitage away from the main community.

This need is so central to the human person that we cannot really understand the spiritual life unless we begin to understand the longing in us for solitude, aloneness and silence.  We are taught that it is selfish to want aloneness; that it is a rejection of relationships – a rejection of community.  We often feel unworthy of it and sometimes think it is unkind or unloving to want to be separate, or still, or unrelated to others. Often we are told it is socially and spiritually irresponsible to seek the inner depth of our beings.

What we learn from the mystics, monastics and contemplatives is that all of these obstacles to achieving silence are really just the noise of the world. They are distractions trying to pull the heart away from its most profound need. Of course, the spiritual life is not meant to be selfish, unkind or unloving and we are not meant to be socially irresponsible. That is not what solitude demands. Rather we have to listen to the still voice, creating an opening for the divine to speak into our souls.  Only then will we realize how God’s longing and our longing are one.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 5. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

March, Meditation 2
The journey to this inner world is singular – meaning that no one outside yourself knows the mystery of how you are being called.  And so it is very easy for others to judge, to question, to wonder…why are you doing this?  Are you antisocial, do you not love your family or your community?  But the rhythm of the inner life, of God’s life in you, is not the rhythm of consensual life and the singularity of the journey is part of the courage it takes to live in the monastic heart. We each have to struggle toward finding the singular path. Therefore we have to be willing to withstand the criticisms and confusions that come our way.

Essential to travel along this divine road is the formation of a monastic heart; fostered by prayer, silence and solitude this monastic quality is applied to all relations and every question.  There is an invisible intimacy between God and the soul.  In the period of Christian medieval mysticism, this inner intimacy was often described as the virgin soul.  It was considered to be naked of all things and, having nothing in common with anything, opened the soul to the tenderness and oneness with divine love. The notion of the virgin soul helps us to understand something in our personal lives about how to preserve a hermitage in the center of our hearts.  It is a quality of consciousness that seeks emptiness of self, humbly offering oneself over to silence. It is the center from which all pure action forms.  For our inner monastery creates a window that opens in two directions: alone with the Alone in tender embrace, and from divine solitude into the world. Daily we pass through the window from solitude into the world; from the world into solitude. Out of the silence of communion with God comes community.  Out of the silence of aloneness with God comes relationship.

Silence and solitude are necessary for the mature spiritual life.  They prevent distractions from entering the tabernacle of the heart, healing the harsh words and noise of everyday experience. We know silence is vital because in our inner monastery, alone with God, all transformation occurs.  Here the desert father Ammonas, a disciple of St. Anthony says, “Behold, my beloved, I have shown you the power of silence, how thoroughly it heals and how fully pleasing it is to God. Wherefore I have written to you to show yourselves strong in this work you have undertaken, so that you may know that it is by silence that the saints grew, that it was because of silence that the power of God dwelt in them and because of silence that the mysteries of God were known to them.”

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 5. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

March, Meditation 3
Solitude is the center point in the life of a contemplative. Although solitude implies a time apart from worldly affairs, it also refers, and I think more accurately, to a quality of heart that is focused on longing for closeness to the Divine. The work of the monk or contemplative is to foster one’s inner longing for God, such that God becomes established as the center of awareness. The vow of the monk continually works toward removing the barriers of ego in order to give one’s full attention to the deep emotional need to love and to be loved.

When we initially consider solitude, perhaps a question arises: how do I put my attention on God alone when I have family, spouse, partner, or work commitments? The question illuminates a belief that the Divine is separate from us, so that loving God alone would somehow negate loving others or our freedom. But this is the miracle found in the solitude of one’s inner monastery! That Spirit guides us in a direction that the ego may fear is against our freedom of choice, but is, instead, our great blessedness, our greatest gift. The whole movement of the solitary life comes out of faith and trust that the Divine, our true Self, is calling us home. And we don’t know what our greatest freedom is because it’s so immensely tender and benevolent, we can’t conceive of it.

Here is the precious gift of contemplative solitude: we discover in the hidden mystery of our own being, that we are being drawn by divine love to what is truly good for us, what is best for us. And we resist. We don’t trust that there actually is a force in the universe, a seamless web of being that loves us unconditionally. This lack of trust and its attendant fear fracture the heart’s pure intention, generating an inner dividedness that makes what is most natural appear difficult or impossible.

But, when in confusion or fear meditate on this: the impulse of each breath is toward the Holy. First and foremost the heart of every person is seized by a longing for God. 

Beverly Lanzetta © 2006. Blessed Solitude, lecture conducted in Santa Fe, NM.

March, Meditation 4
It is quite a paradox to be fully open and fully loving and yet fully alone; the paradox of being with God in our daily lives. Some call this inner solitude detachment, some call it emptiness, and some call it annihilation.  But the name doesn’t matter. The only thing of vital importance is that daily we practice being radically open and radically in love with the world, at the same time that we center our hearts on the Divine. For it is precisely this centering that gives us the strength and courage to devote our lives to the holy, without distraction.

Therefore we can say that every one of us contains within an inner monastery or an inner hermitage where we are alone with our Beloved.  No one is allowed to disturb this primary relationship, this bond of intimacy that makes all other intimacies what they are and long to become.  So vital is this solitude to our full presence in the world that the attainment of inner quiet is critical on every spiritual path.  Yet, for most of us, we are defined as a self for others, distracted by the numerous roles we perform, the many commitments imposed, and the demands internalized.  To find the monastery within is to discover the place of rest from which all other relations flourish and grow, and to bask in the palace of inner quiet claiming our right to be alone.

Solitude is solace and silence is food necessary for the nourishment of the whole person and the actualization of our deepest possibility. Here, no other speech is allowed to enter the enclosure where God and the soul are one. Here, silence washes away the harsh and violent words that humiliate and shame. Silence is a balm that assuages whatever falsely names or blames. It flows out of untarnished Beauty into the beauty of the face, and into the mystery of being.  When we dwell in silence other people are drawn to rest in the eternal presence.

In the inner monastery we celebrate our un-naming in order to be renamed as Beloved.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 5. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

March Discernment on Inhabiting Your Inner Monastery

If you have already listened to this month’s podcast, you have heard my Inner Monastery Meditation.  For this month’s discernment, I have recorded just the meditation in the hopes that it will help you find that singular path.

Below is one of my favorite prose poems from Thomas Merton (I read in the podcast).  May Merton’s poem and this meditation foster a return to the palace of quiet, alone with the Alone.  Amen.

One might say I had decided to marry the silence of the forestThe sweet dark warmth of the whole world will have to be my wife. Out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all of the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world.  So perhaps I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all our other loves. I attempt to cultivate this plant without comment in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence.  It becomes the most rare of all the trees in the garden, at once the primordial paradise tree, the axis mundi, the cosmic axle, the Cross.  There is only one such tree.” ~Thomas Merton

 

APRIL: COMMUNION THAT SURPASSES WORDS

In today’s world we desperately need a mysticism that speaks to our human condition. A new mysticism that is rooted in the depth of our wisdom traditions, but is also wildly open to the diversity of our earth and human needs.

This podcast is lecture number 10 from “The Longing Heart” series. I address how this vision of unity was actualized in the lives and thought of the social mystics, including Thomas Merton, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and others.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 10 “Communion That Surpasses Words”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

April, Meditation 1

One of highest aspects of the spiritual life arises from an existential fact: the greater the effacement of the ego self, the more we are open to universal divine consciousness.

Those who follow the monastic way realize that humility is the great equalizer and the bitter medicine necessary to draw out the sweetness of our beings. For the vow of the monk, and by extension the unspoken oath of every sentient being, is to be for others and not for the self. In this way we come to love each other. When we let go of our egos, we let go of religious exclusiveness where we harbor superiority and hidden violence toward the other. This is how we know truth intimately: when there is no division or separateness.

Self-emptiness is the key to the mystery of our existence, for in a fleeting glimpse, we know and understand how profoundly loved, connected, and desired we are.

April, Meditation 2

If we refuse to violate the code of humility and mercy, if we refuse to cause suffering to others through religious exclusion or domination or superiority, we will find the mystical desert where all our religions meet, and the mystical heart that draws us to love.

Given the inequalities in our world today and the ways those inequalities are created and sustained by structures of economic, political and military power, the mystic in us must be committed to creating an environment in which those who are historically left out of the conversation feel welcomed and unthreatened to speak at the table of discourse.

The mystic understands that part of our job as humans is to bring forth and lift up the divine spark in each thing. We are called to actualize divine concern in our everyday relations through our commitment to bringing the voices absent from the conversation to speech—those voices that are voiceless because of death, persistent hunger, or systematic distortion of their lives. We are challenged to work together to bring the Spirit’s gifts of unity and reconciliation to building a sacred and beloved community on earth. We are challenged to mend the rift between rich and poor, spirit and body, injustice and compassion, and to work toward the alleviation of ecological degradation, violence against women, war, and moral temerity.

We are called to mystical solidarity with the entire earth community, striving to be votaries of peace. We are called to be bear witness to the great benefit that the mystical life affords us at this time in history.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 10 “Communion That Surpasses Words”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

April Discernment on Communion That Surpasses Words

Much of the writing of the 20th century monk, Thomas Merton, deals with the realization that spiritual authenticity requires a journey from the false to the true self, by following a path of renunciation from the “inner egoism” of the person and of religions. It is this path that transforms not only personal limits, but also the collective egoism, lack of charity, and violence masked within religions and their symbols, sacraments and rites. In entering the dark night of collective religious identity, our souls are sensitized to others’ suffering and experience a new depth of compassion.

One of Merton’s most important insights is that if we mend the divisions in our own hearts, we contribute to the healing of the world. This lead Merton to the conviction that the contemplative practice of self-emptying was accessible to all people, and already embedded in the world’s traditions. Wherever life exists, the contemplative person longs for communion.

“The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion.  It is wordless.  It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept.  Not that we discover a new unity.  We discover an older unity.  My dear [brothers and sisters], we are already one.  But we imagine that we are not.  And what we have to recover is our original unity. . . . I think it is something that the deepest ground of our being cries out for, and it is something for which a lifetime of striving would not be enough.” – Thomas Merton

Being-born-in-Union

Art by Nelson Kane

 

MAY: MYSTICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

The title of this month’s podcast is: A Mystical Anthropology or Who Are We in God’s Eyes?

In this talk, I address several core insights of Christian Mysticism: The divine and eternal Presence of God in the ground of the soul; the inseparable unity of God and the soul; the transformation and deep pain that this insight brings; and how the ultimate longing to know God allows us to revision who we are from the eyes of Spirit and not from the eyes of the world.

In the lives of the mystics, we also will learn how this inner illumination of divine-human intimacy gives them the courage and the strength to bear suffering, because they understand suffering is but nothing compared to the Light of the Divine Heart.

And, more importantly, their vision of the inseparable union of God and the soul is true for all of us, not just for the special or chosen, but for each and every one of us.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, Lecture 2 “Mystical Anthropology”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

May, Meditation 1

The divine and eternal Presence and the inseparable unity of God in the soul are not metaphorical statements, but are seen in Christian mysticism as facts of our natures: who we are and how we are made. We are created with closeness to God. In the depth of our souls there is a spark, a place where God dwells that touches neither time nor space. This inner spark is completely one and simple, as God is one and simple.

Because the center of the soul is infused with God’s love, and remains untouched and pure, many of the Christian mystics look upon our sins and our errors as a fracture or wound in the soul that separates the divine spark from our conscious awareness, but is not a permanent condition. To heal this divide in the soul, the anonymous author of “The Cloud of Unknowing” instructs that we give up rationality and knowledge for the “blind stirring of love” that activates a person’s longing to experience inner truth.

Because our souls always are in touch with God’s love within, even when we do not feel or remember our origins, we suffer the internal division. If we could but glimpse the luminescent beauty of a soul, we would realize the profound majesty and goodness that created us, and devote ourselves to healing whatever stands in the way of the sacred presence in our lives.

In a sense, we could say that the whole journey of a spiritual life is to realize the special goodness and splendor of the soul always united with its creator. It is the process of moving from outer, affective prayer into deeper dimensions of contemplative prayer that lead us to mend the divisions and restore our original faith.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 2 “Mystical Anthropology”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

May, Meditation 2

The whole of the mystical life is an affirmative process of transforming the old self, and growing closer to the Divine self within. But, it is also a journey of negation, where we dismantle falsehood, cynicism, and denial, and confront our fears that God is not truly one with us, in order to realize the blessing of being created in the Divine image.

This is the freedom that cannot be taken away, the freedom of letting go of everything that is less than God.  For the contemplative process of affirmation and negation is necessary to combat the soul’s greatest obstacle: believing that we are beloved by God, that we are worthy of this love, and that this love is for the sake of our freedom.

The pain and suffering that we go through is because in the depth of our beings we cannot believe or imagine that this is true. So the dark night, the great doubt, and other types of purgative transformation, are in great measure not only about purging the sins we commit, but also, and even greater, about healing the anguish and disbelief that we could be loved in this way. The dark night is that “glad night— that night more lovely than dawn”, as John of the Cross says, because even though it is painful it is where we come back to our original nature: lover and beloved reunited.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 2 “Mystical Anthropology”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

May, Meditation 3

In the Living Flame of Love, John of the Cross says, “The soul’s center is God. When it has reached God with all the capacity of its being and the strength of its operation and inclination, it will have attained its final and deepest center in God, it will know, love, and enjoy God with all its might.  When it has not reached this point, it still has movement and strength for advancing further and is not satisfied.  Although God is in its center, it is not in its deepest center, for it can go deeper in God.”

John is saying that the restlessness in our souls represents this unfulfilled longing, because we know we can go deeper, we know we haven’t given all.

In contemplation God teaches us very quietly, very secretly, without us knowing how, without the sound of words, without the help of any bodily or spiritual faculties. As we move deeper into God, deeper into silence, at times the consolations and the joy found in prayer are taken away. We are being drawn to a deeper solitude that is beyond all of our faculties: both the sensory faculties of sight, hearing, taste and so forth, as well as the spiritual faculties of memory, intellect and will. And in this dark passage, silence overcomes our attractions and identities to bring us to a love that only can be experienced by self-surrender, by letting go.

Through love, fear, anguish, happiness, and pain, through life’s challenges and joys, the soul yearns to draw closer to its Divine Source. Until we are able to open our hearts to God’s love, our souls will be restless, longing to experience divine intimacy.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 2 “Mystical Anthropology”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

May Discernment on Mystical Anthropology

It is not the method we pursue, the stages of the spiritual journey, whether we are in a dark night or illumined, or whether we’re beginners or we’re advanced— this is not important.  What is important is the sincerity of the quest and the longing to know God.  The lives of the great mystics demonstrate that it is the pure heart that longs for love, and the humble heart that seeks without self-interest, which draws God to work in us and to bestow blessing. No one can give you the path to self-wisdom, because it is within you. The way of love is interior, so interior to your being that until you come upon it and until it works itself through you, you don’t have a home, really. It is this “way” that is within the way that is within each of us.

Perhaps in prayer or meditation you might ask: “Help me Holy One to understand the blessedness in which I was created.”

“Let your longing restlessly be about the cloud of unknowing that lies between you and your God. Pierce that cloud with the keen shaft of your love. Spurn the thought of anything less than God and do not give up this work for anything. For the contemplative work of love by itself will eventually heal you of all the roots of sin.  Fast as much as you like, watch far into the night, rise long before dawn, discipline your body, plug up your ears and nose, chastise your body with every discipline and you would still gain nothing.  The desire and tendency toward sin would remain in your heart.  But it is the work of love and the longing of love that not only heals the roots of sin but nurtures practical goodness.  Anything you attempt to do without this love will be imperfect and therefore we go by way of love to the center of our being.” – Cloud of Unknown, Anonymous

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 2 “Mystical Anthropology”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003

 

JUNE: LIVING WITHOUT WHY

The title of this month’s podcast is “Living Without Why”, a phrase taken from the great 14th century Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart.

The talk examines some of the characteristics of mystical union. What does it feel like?  What does it do inside of us?  What kind of life do we live form that place?

Once we have found that intimacy, every breath we take, every act we perform, every moment of life is God.  It is the divine in us.  It is that momentary expression of the beautiful which dwells in us, which we offer over to each other.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 7 “Living Without Why”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

June, Meditation 1
A central theme in Meister Eckhart’s mysticism is the notion of sunder warumbe, meaning “without a why.” A fourteenth century Dominican mystic, Eckhart’s phrase describes the innermost ground of being, and the manner in which the true self responds to the promptings of the spirit. It is a spiritual practice that focuses on living life in the present moment—letting go of the need to achieve results from our prayers or power and prestige from our acts.

This vision that Meister Eckhart had helps us to understand how deeply integrated contemplative awareness is in daily life. He describes a change so complete, so illusive, and so deep, that nothing in our conscious behavior can be grasped without realizing how far removed our lives are from living without a why, truly free to respond to God’s grace. It is an experience of naughting the self, of letting go of ourselves so that we are all Self. Eckhart says, “In this ground where God and I are one all works are created and wrought without why. I say truly as long as you do all works for the sake of God, or of heaven, or eternal bliss, you will not achieve this place. Whoever sees God in a special way that is the way he sees God who lies hidden in it.  But whoever sees God without any special way, knows God as God is in himself.”

Meister Eckhart reminds us that, in those moments when we have been open and without motive, our hearts longing for God, perhaps we suffered embarrassment, shame, or bewilderment.  And, because of these painful feelings, we turned off our longing, hid our desire to be free to love the Holy, and to live at our fullest. There are times when we felt a bit withheld, or cautious, where we are afraid to throw everything to the wind and say “Yes! Here I am.  Here I am God.”

The longing to experience truth gives us the courage to claim dignity and equality with God. It gives us the courage to shout out, “Yes, this is what my life is about and this is the life of all of us!”

To live without a why is to realize that we throw ourselves into the arms of the unknown, and take the courage to seek this eternal place, without knowing at the outset where we will end up.  Once we have experienced sunder warumbe, everything we do, every breath we take, every act we perform, and every moment of life is God.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 7 “Living Without Why”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

June, Meditation 2
On this path of living without why, where does the mystical journey lead?

The first is it leads to freedom in the soul, a freedom to live as our own beings without the weight of historical traditions or other people’s opinions pressing on us. As Meister Eckhart reminds, it is when we break through established modes of theology and behavior, something in the soul is released, and we glimpse what it means to live free and unencumbered, without why. We become adept at spiritually dying, no longer afraid to just let go, let be, and let God be. We can really just cross over and break through.  To be this free in one’s self is God.

It leads to strength of soul, a spiritual resilience that refuses to be oppressed or pushed down. This strength of soul develops from a great determination to follow the path no matter what obstacles one finds on the way, for love, for God. Further in Eckhart’s spiritual practice we discover a deeper poverty and a deeper detachment from name, identity, and accomplishment. It frees us to experience what Eckhart means when he says that detachment brings us closer to God, because the empty soul must be filled by God.

Another fruit of the mystical path “without why” is the ability to remember joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of turmoil. It is a balancing of the truth of the world and the truth of inner unity. We still understand that the world is fractured and pained but in the midst of that we also know that the Divine Unity is calling us continually to see another way, to be another way, and to live another way. The great strength of the mystical life is to recognize that we can bear Divinity in the world, now. Every time we live without why, we contribute in our own way to bearing the divinity of the world. Every attempt we make and strength we develop to work through our pain—and every moment of love and kindness—helps others in some way. This efficacy of spiritual presence is enhanced by emptiness of self. The mystic heart turns its attention to everything it sees because everything it sees is a reflection of God in the world.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 7 “Living Without Why”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

June, Meditation 3

                Dedication
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I have great faith in all things not yet spoken.
I want my deepest pious feelings freed.
What no one yet has dared to risk and warrant
will be for me a challenge I must meet.

If this presumptuous seems, God, may I be forgiven.
For what I want to say to you is this:
my efforts shall be like a driving force,
quite without anger, without timidness
as little children show their love for you.

With these outflowing, river-like, with deltas
that spread like arms to reach the open sea,
with the recurrent tides that never cease
will I acknowledge you, will I proclaim you
as no one ever has before.

And if this should be arrogance, so let me
arrogant be to justify my prayer
that stands so serious and so alone
before your forehead, circled by the clouds.

June Discernment on Living Without Why
The title of this month’s podcast is “Living Without Why”, a phrase taken from the great 14th century Dominican mystic, Meister Eckhart.  The talk examines some of the characteristics of mystical union. What does it feel like?  What does it do inside of us?  What kind of life do we live from that place?  These are some themes covered in this podcast. Perhaps you will want to spend time thinking or praying further on how to live “without a why.”

Where does this mystical union lead?

  • Freedom of Soul (“We break through and then we are released. When we break through and are released, we live without a why.” -Eckhart)
  • Deeper detachment or emptiness
  • Eternal Joy amidst the turmoil and suffering of the world
  • Efficacy of presence
  • Acceptance of contemplative personality, the desire for solitude and silence
  • “The Mystic Heart, the unitive heart turns its attention to everything it sees because everything it sees is a reflection of God in the world.”

How do we get there?

  • Prayer (Please god, make me empty. Show me emptiness. Show me how to be nothing.)
  • Emptiness, letting go of false self
  • Passionately giving all, not just a part, of ourselves

How do we do this?

  • Prayer (“Show me God. Please God give me the strength to give all. Sometimes I do not know how. Sometimes I am afraid. But you can give that strength…When we loose courage, pray for determination. When we love hope, pray for wisdom and insight.”)
  • Determination & strength to break through everything that is less than god, and even from our names and images of the divine.
  • Honoring the heart’s longing for the divine, and not succumbing to the world’s shaming of this soul desire.

Freedom of soul is the fruit of this union.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 7 “Living Without Why”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

 

JULY: CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

Podcast study guide outline

The depth and scope of Christian mysticism is so vast that it is not possible to cover its history and development, or the many mystic scholars and practitioners in any systematic way in a short period. Instead, my intention in this lecture is to speak about the implications Christian mysticism has for our individual lives and longing to know God.  My hope is that by enlisting the spiritual foundation that gave rise to Christian mysticism, you will find in your own life something of the passion the mystics had to grow closer and more intimate with the divine nature.

The Christian mystics had a vision that compelled them, that drove them from the cities out into the desert to be in silence and solitude.  This vision of oneness was that each one of us was in some way participating in God’s incarnation in this world.  The efficacy of the mystic notion that the mystical dwells within us, that the very things we do every day are a reflection of divinity, is paramount in reuniting with God. Even though we may not know it, even though we fear the divine is not within us, or have given up hope, or lost faith, the Christian mystics are one voice in the wilderness saying, “Come with me, come with us.”

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 1 “Christian Mysticism”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

July, Meditation 1
“What is mysticism?” While there are varied definitions, perhaps the most consistent definition is that mysticism refers to a person who has had a direct and immediate experience of the presenceof God. And the mystic is a person who doesn’t just know about this reality, but who has struggled toward intimate unity with it, so it’s not just a one-time experience, but has transformed one’s whole being in longing to be like God. It is an embodied process of self-transformation to probe beneath the façade of daily life, to uncover the true hidden meaning and purpose of existence—Who are we?  Who are we in the eyes of God?  What are we doing here?  That is the mystic quest.

In the history of Christianity mysticism, the path toward divine union involved participation in the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The mystic was an initiate who sought purity of heart, and was associated with contemplation, the silent gazing of the divine, and with leaving behind activities of the intellect and of the senses, to prepare oneself for the action of the divine in one’s soul. Mystical experience was not one type, because the individual person contacted the divine presence through various mediums: in nature; through reading; through contemplation or meditation; through study; in visions; in auditory encounters (where you hear that inner voice); through silence; through art and music; through participation in the sacraments, the Eucharist, and so forth. Further, although mysticism refers to a seemingly trans-historical, transcendent experience, modern scholars tell us that mysticism is also socially constructed. That is, the kind of experiences we have, and what counts as mystical, is often dependent upon the definitions and the endorsements ascribed to and enforced by dominant religions.

From its beginnings, Christianity contained a mystical element, although explicit development of what we now call Christian mysticism did not occur until the mid to late part of the 4th century.  And it really was not until the medieval period that mysticism began to take on a notion of the individual seeker, the individual person seeking the divine. Even though we have accounts of the individual journey in the early church, mysticism or the presence of God was practiced primarily in community—through scripture, through the reading of the liturgy, through the Eucharist and the sacraments.
Mystics had a vision that drove them into solitude and a belief that the very things we do every day are a reflection of divinity.  A central idea of Christian mystics is this idea that we are made in movement toward perfection, we are made in movement toward divinity.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 1 “Christian Mysticism”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

Unionwithgod

July Discernment on Christian Mysticism
The whole trajectory of Christian mysticism is to encourage us, to inspire us, to impassion us to long for intimacy, to long for this union for which we were made.  And when we think of the mystics, we tend to think of them as abstract people, these great beings that we could never totally identify with.  But, in actual fact, when you really get inside their lives, you discover that they lived very ordinary lives as well as extraordinary lives and what propelled their lives was this intense desire to come to union with God.  It was not an intellectual pursuit; it was the whole passion of their beings—to be this, to participate in the divine life.

This idea of union is to make us understand that our lives are holy, that we can sanctify our lives and that every day we live is an inscribing of divinity in the world. If God has been made human, it is so that humans can be made God. The incarnation, the meaning of the incarnation, is this understanding that we have been given the gift, we are stamped with the gift of the image, the icon, to return to that icon.  This sinking in of the belief that this is meant for us, this is us, this is our journey.  It is not just a phrase that’s been given, a hope in the future, but here now.

I like to think of mysticism as a lover’s tale in search of the Beloved, a tale lived in countless hearts throughout history, a desire to go beyond the ordinary things to experience those transient moments of the extraordinary, the awe that makes life meaningful and beautiful.  In this quest that the mystics have for God, they understood that we ourselves are a gift—that our life is a gift, given to experience truth, that we are reflections of God.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Longing Heart” series, lecture 1 “Christian Mysticism”. Series conducted at St. Benedict’s Monastery, June 2003.

 

AUGUST: MYSTICAL UNION OF IBN AL-‘ARABI

This month’s talk is on the stages of mystical annihilation or fana in the thought of Ibn al-‘Arabi.  One of the most influential mystics in the history of Sufism, Arabi was born in Spain to a religious family in 560/1160, and at an early age was singled out for his mystical wisdom. In subsequent years, he travelled and taught throughout the Middle East, attracting followers and disciples.

Ibn al-‘Arabi was initiated into Sufism when he was about twenty and throughout his life various women saints influenced his spiritual development.  Of Fatima of Cordova, who was in her nineties and only ate scraps of food left by people at her door, Arabi writes: “Of those who come to see me I admire none more that Ibn al-‘Arabi.”  She said the reason for this is “that the rest of you come to me with part of yourselves, leaving the other part of you with your concerns, while Ibn al -‘Arabi is a consolation to me, because he comes to me with all of himself.  When he rises up, it is with all of himself and when he sits it is with his whole self, leaving nothing of himself elsewhere.”

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Mystic Path” series, lecture 5 “Mystical Union in Ibn al-‘Arabi”. Series conducted in Tucson, Arizona, 1999.

August, Meditation 1
Ibn al –‘Arabi, one of the most influential Sufi mystics in Islamic history, was born in Spain to a religious family in 1160. Singled out at an early age for his mystical wisdom, Arabi was noted for his doctrine on the Oneness of Being, which describes the ‘seamless garment’ of the divine, an undifferentiated reality in which subject-object and cause-effect do not exist. Life is a process of unveiling the primordial unity of being and, in which, the human person actualizes the comprehensiveness of the Divine Names in miniature and is a microcosm of the universe. The Absolute’s self-manifestation out of love is reflected in the consciousness of the person, who acts as a mirror for the unveiling of the Absolute.

Ibn Arabi highlights the importance of human consciousness, as spiritual realization is dependent on the clarity of a soul’s “mirror”: polished, clear, or cloudy. The most polished mirror belongs to the mystics and reflects in unveiling the true nature of the universe. Second, a person whose consciousness is like a clear mirror sees reality sporadically and inter-mixed with human reason, while one whose consciousness is clouded perceives the Absolute only within the confines of reason and logic.

Our task or work in life is to polish the mirror of consciousness, such that the spotless surface of the Absolute within our deepest nature becomes manifested in us, in both our inner and outer aspects. The inner aspect is the Imago Dei, the image of God, the perfect human, a cosmic being. At the individual, or outer, level there are different degrees of humans, each predetermined by the latent potentiality of their inner archetypes. Thus each person reflects God and is a true servant of God and, in a certain sense, is the Absolute.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Mystic Path” series, lecture 5 “Mystical Union in Ibn al-‘Arabi”. Series conducted in Tucson, Arizona, 1999.

August, Meditation 2

Allah says, “I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known.” This hadith qudsi (or extra-Qur’anic Word of God) spiritually represents the primordial pathos that draws human beings to the Absolute in a passion of sympathy. It is the pathos or Divine sympathy between humans and God that instills in our hearts a desire for God and activates ascension toward the Absolute. It is this sympathy in humans, reflecting the divine pathos, which links the visible and invisible worlds. It is this yearning for the Divine that reenacts the Divine’s original yearning for us. For this reason, through love we experience the primordial longing and love of the Divine for us. We love God, because God loved us first. And because we were loved we know love and return to love.

Divine pathos is a central focus of Ibn ‘Arabi’s mystical corpus, without which we cannot bridge the visible and invisible worlds and return to our origins, to Divine unity (tawhid). The focal point of this return is the mystical heart in each person. Therefore, Ibn Arabi’s places great emphasis on a person’s capacity for knowing and returning to the source of this divine state of being, which, in its own way, is a kind of messianic revelation. It is in us that we become the microcosmic, perfect mirror of the divine and therefore it is in each of us that the prophet, the messiah, the mystic, and so forth has the potential to become that perfect image, a polished mirror of the Absolute.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Mystic Path” series, lecture 5 “Mystical Union in Ibn al-‘Arabi”. Series conducted in Tucson, Arizona, 1999.

August, Meditation 3

The reflection of the Absolute in the mirror of human consciousness calls each person to a life of Oneness beyond the veils of separation. Ibn Arabi uses three terms to discuss the process that returns the soul to the primordial oneness: Unveiling, immediate tasting, and self-annihilation. Union with the Absolute occurs through a process of self-annihilation, which is revealed to human consciousness through unveiling, wedded to consciousness through immediate tasting, and united with consciousness through mystical dying.

Self-annihilation is not the destruction of the separate self but the pathos of the self, yearning toward God that activates the dissolution of separateness. In passing through to the deepest states of self-annihilation, oneness becomes a permanent dimension of being, and our emanation from and return to the Absolute is conscious. The separation of self from God still occurs at a certain level but it is not a separation of a wound, but a separation because we need to be present on earth, and cannot sustain illumination or ecstasy all the time. The mystic who is self-annihilated is able to pass back and forth through that membrane of dying and not get lost– “I am both separate as an individual and united simultaneously.”

It is not sufficient to see or be illumined, but the union has to be wedded to a person’s consciousness: the deeper the annihilation, the deeper the illumination, and the deeper the wedding. This is not to be conceived as a progression toward something outside the self but rather a reintegration of the absolute condition that is already inside the self. Again it is an integration of the divine and human in us, consciously, the polishing of the mirror of consciousness.

Some, however, fear letting go, and experience fleeting glimpses of unveiling, only to return to their ordered way of perception, seeing God-ness, but from within their own self-ness.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Mystic Path” series, lecture 5 “Mystical Union in Ibn al-‘Arabi”. Series conducted in Tucson, Arizona, 1999.

August, Meditation 4

Unveiling is a mystical state in which one has a direct insight into the nature of Reality, and sees the world as many reflected mirrors of the infinite Oneness.

Unveiling is in all human beings in different times and in different places, but in the mystic person it becomes a permanent state of consciousness, a permanent form of knowing according to Ibn Arabi. Through unveiling the mystic perceives the world as reflected mirrors of the infinite oneness. The veils of illusion have been parted and a person sees that all appearances are so many facets of divine oneness, and reason and imagination are brought into complete harmony.

Immediate tasting is the marriage of the transcendent intellect and the creative imagination with the human form, and leads to the attainment of perfect knowledge. For Arabi, these successive annihilations are the source of all wisdom, grace and love. It is the royal road to mystical awareness because it implies the dying to the old self. What feels like destruction or dying to the self is, in fact, a kind of focused attention on the passion that underlies our transient emotions, our pathos for God. And it is this pathos that dissolves the illusion of separation. Many people feel abandoned, alone in the world whereas the unitive mystic view tells us that we are never alone, that we are infused with the Divine spark of being.

Ibn Arabi says the way to knowing our oneness with God is by praying to rediscover your passion for the Divine, because it is the hidden key, the secret mystery that will break apart the illusion of separation. At the highest levels of spiritual passion we become concentrated into a spiritual power that gathers together all of the planes of being, all of the divine names so that we experience for an instant that we are a microcosm of the Absolute. By the passion of our beings, the love of our beings we have the capacity to experience all that is—the comprehensiveness of all that is–all that we are, all that the Divine is.

Beverly Lanzetta, “The Mystic Path” series, lecture 5 “Mystical Union in Ibn al-‘Arabi”. Series conducted in Tucson, Arizona, 1999.

August Discernment on Mystical Union of Ibn Al-‘Arabi
Reading poems and prayers can be a good way of centering oneself or aiding in the ritual of meditation or prayer.  Here are a couple of my favorites from Ibn al-‘Arabi.

“By God, I feel so much love that it seems as though the skies would be rent asunder, the stars fall and the mountains move away if I burdened them with it: such is my experience of love.

I am the slave of passion and the slave of the Beloved.
The fire of passion burns my heart
And the One I love is in my mind.
Passion has seized hold of the reins of my heart
So wherever I turn my gaze
Passion is facing me.

My heart has become capable of every form
It is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Ka’ba and the tables of the Torah, and the book of the Qur’an.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love’s camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.”

 

SEPTEMBER: THE PATH
This week’s post is taken from a commentary on the spiritual path from my book, Path of the Heart. As always, I hope that these writings bring you closer to the divine nature and allow you the freedom to follow your inner calling.
The contemplative journey is an interior and organic process of spiritual growth, encoded in bio-spiritual pathways of the deep self. Activated by the soul’s longing for its Creator, each path is forged in the context of life experience, and thus each is unique. At the same time, all true seekers join in the universal path of spirit. Anywhere in the world, at any time in history, when people have sought the Divine, they have traveled the eternal path. It is said, as well, that the heart longs for God with such intensity because God has longed for it first.

The principles of the journey follow a universal pattern, of which two elements are most essential: Yearning for Truth with unconditional intention, and letting go of the false or egocentric self. For, surely, you already know that barren, lonely place when we realize how little we understand and how ungenerous is our love. But, it is also here, in confrontation with selfishness and pride that the heart is pierced by infinite mercy, and the soul flooded with divine wisdom.

Why do we take this journey, why venture on such a daunting path? Because there is something in the human spirit—in your spirit—that is constituted to turn toward the divine light. Nothing less than this inner necessity is sufficient. It is this thirst for freedom that fortifies the soul, and provides the resilience to pursue the Divine with one’s whole heart. And what a wonderful attribute of the human spirit! That we are curious and want to know what is possible, striving forward to what lies ahead, searching for the highest and most holy consciousness.

Path of the Heart, commentary

September, Mediation 2
The Divine Heart belongs to God alone, and does not adhere to any creed, religion, or sect. It is the light that shines through life’s veils, calling us to something more. We know something more is possible, and we yearn for it, for total, pure communion. As the foundation of every spiritual quest, the method of the heart is a force that gives one the strength to proceed along the arduous path that lies ahead.

The method of the heart is intrinsic to our natures. We never can be diverted from love’s sacred way, which follows a pattern of spiritual growth that is more interior than emotion and deeper than the conscious mind. For the path of the heart does not follow our dictates, but only its own Way.

The Heart is quiet. It is non-aggressive, silent, and gentle. It is subtle, and its wisdom cannot be heard above the daily noise and distraction. It is so peaceful that if we really listened to the heart we would be incapable of violence and war, incapable of harm. To embark on this path you have to be a pioneer willing to ask questions and to challenge time honored or conventional truths, because the mystical heart answers to no one but God within.

In the first instance, the Way of the Heart teaches that we simply must seek truth, with our entire being, with all our love. This is precisely the path: follow the heart’s way and you will be guided. Because the mystical heart is an organ of perception, and a force of light that cuts through illusion; it is a longing in which “like seeks like”—the commonality of divine love in each thing. Just as in this moment, the energy of my heart is reaching out to your heart: “like seeking like.” This movement of the heart is totally neutral, without will or intent. The heart seeks to know for love’s sake alone, without judgment.

Like the physical heart regulates the circulatory system and cardiac output by rhythmically contracting and relaxing, the mystical heart, the seat of the divine, pulses through the energetic pathways of spiritual consciousness and into the finely tuned atmosphere of soul and body. Vestiges of the mystical principle of love are imprinted into spiritual and physical matter, from the smallest atomic particle to the grand cosmic expanse. It is this high mystical principle that seeks expression in daily life and that sustains the holiness of creation in its various manifestations.”

Commentary, Path of the Heart

Photo by Bill Walton

 

OCTOBER: NINE JEWELS OF NIGHT
The month of October will feature excerpts from my recently published spiritual autobiography, Nine Jewels of Night : One Soul’s Journey into God.

I harvested long stretches for study and practice. I continued to practice meditative endurance and worked to subdue my emotional turmoil. Many nights, camping in remote places, nestled in a sleeping bag on the ground, I placed myself in divine trust, unafraid. It may have been pure folly, but I slept with such abandon that my dreams were weightless, filled with light. Years later I would look back on my travels in Mexico as marking a pilgrimage from spiritual ignorance to the edge of awareness.

To be sure, a releasing of false attachment was necessary to survive the voice that summoned during those nights, and the feelings that welled up and threatened to capsize my small boat. My only safe harbor was to admit the passion I felt for life, while I clung in desperation to my raft of nothingness. I prayed to remain steady, to advance beyond convention toward the distant shore of the immeasurable.

Yet I did not have foreknowledge of the magnitude of change initiated by the nocturnal call. Or that it would tear up everything I knew about myself, exposing a depth of being from which I would never again be free. It would demand a constant search for truth, in others and in the world, but mostly in a continuous examination of my motives and foibles, of the “poisons” or “deadly sins” that thwarted dedicating one’s life to the Holy. And through all this I would be astonished: every deed plants a seed of virtue or iniquity.

At the time the word held no meaning, but if I’m honest with myself, it was faith that kept me going. It pulled me from the morass of my own making and rescued me from a woman’s lot. Faith, not the kind that knew where it was going, but faith that had no way of knowing anything, saved me.

Like the watcher of a doe sipping water from a stream, I approached faith holding my breath lest I startled her wild presence. Strident voices portrayed faith as conventional, a matter of choice. But faith was not unbounded trust in something or someone. It was not striving for finalized things or naming names. Neither was faith self-congratulatory pride in having found truth or the absolute. In its pure state, faith was not about god or the name of god, but finding out for myself if there was anything outside my own mind. Faith required I take away props, shuck off comfort, and find out whether whatever I was seeking was real.

What I called faith was not limp or weak, not the suspension of reason or humor. It appeared through a suspension of doubt, which was just another way of saying: openness to the “not yet” and the “to come.” Faith was an unfinished narrative, a text of becoming—a free fall into the flow of life. Everything I am and everything I have done has been possible only because I threw my whole self onto its pyre.

Nine Jewels of Night excerpt, pp. 49-50

October, Meditation 2
Several days later I had dropped off the kids at a play date and was taking a break before driving home with provisions for dinner. I rested my groceries on a shiny park bench, which afforded the anonymity I needed to write. I took out my notebook. Observing leaves drift lazily onto the sidewalk or a toddler wobble unsteadily on the grass, I knew that a fundamental shift in my relationship to self, divinity, and cosmos had occurred.

If I were to summarize in one phrase, I would have said: All life is pregnant with intimacy. We swim in the cosmic amniotic sea; we are connected through an umbilicus to Source, to Mystery that never withdraws. Bending down to embrace our broken, swollen hearts, Divine Mercy leads us to a palace of forgiveness. Holy Benevolence quickens us from within, enticing us to shed ancient stories of retribution, fear, and sin. An inescapable cosmic unity invades stars and heavens, subatomic realms, and every living form. “God” was the name we applied to an intimacy and tenderness beyond comprehension, to a divine bearing of creation in all its beauty, messiness, and glory.

More than anything my experience of holy passion set the stage for a new practice of spiritual transformation. Instead of probing my nature to rout out sin and dispel the devil within as I was taught, I now understood that the true method of inner growth was predicated on inner goodness, in which every genuine impulse of the human heart came from the divine and desired to be holy. Thus whatever impeded the heart’s purity was an aberration of one’s original nature. Many religions considered this aberration to be ontological, the taint of sin that in a sense defined “human.”

By viewing my life through the lens of divine pathos, I suddenly realized that human error was the result or effect of a prior wound to a soul’s divine integrity. Only by a willingness to suffer, by an expression of one’s own pathos that was God’s pathos in the soul would our wounds be uncovered and transformed. Renunciation, repentance, and other ascetic practices had their place, insofar as they peeled away layers of social consensus and habitual untruths, but they were not sufficient to bring about healing. It was our identification with the suffering inflicted on divine tenderness—both in God and in us—that opened our hearts to love and strengthened our capacity for grace.

Yet the usual descriptions of spiritual events hardly convey what happened to my soul in mystical rapture. The overwhelming impact of divine suffering upon my mind and heart completely gripped my personality as if I had assimilated the divine pathos into my own emotional life and it had become the focal point of my relationship with the world.

During the midnight grace of my transformation, when stars stood still and stones were soft, I was given an injunction: Do not privilege one religion over another. The claim of absolute truth or exclusive salvation violated the secret teachings of love, tearing a hole in the fabric of creation and wounding the universal heart. Here was something else astir in that command: The unimaginable and universal mercy of God was not to exclude anyone, believer or unbeliever. So powerful was this commandment that I vowed to uphold it. The Divine not only was the source of religious diversity and dialogue, the foundation of nonviolence and peace, the fount of benevolence and mercy, but God also suffered—with us and for us—our possessive and narrow hearts.

Nine Jewels of Night excerpt, pp. 102-103

October, Meditation 3
That afternoon, returning to my hermitage to savor our discussion, I read Merton’s critique about the materialism of the West and the “stupor of the collective mind,” spurned by his lament that the West had shown the world its economic prowess, religious zealotry, and technological wizardry, but not its spiritual treasures and ancient wisdom. How many people had I met who were hostile to religion, but knew little of its mystical depth? Merton identified monkhood as a rejection of and protest against the crimes of war and political tyranny. “By my monastic life and vows I am saying NO to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction.”He taught that deep social engagement was not only possible but also essential to monasticism. Prayer, silence, and solidarity with the oppressed were forms of activism empowered by the pure action of love.

Now eight years since the October revelations, I believed they had been granted solely to help others, to serve as a bridge-builder between spirit and soul. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could hope to fulfill my longing for solitude, to be a monk outside religion. Yet more and more lately I turned inward. There was nothing left to prevent me from embracing the monastic call, not parenting, not fear of lost relationships, not my need to make a living, not graduate school demands. The traditional distinction between ordained and laity, vowed religious and lay religious was flawed. The monastic heart informed every circumstance. I would forge a new monastic way of living outside walls.

The moon midway in the sky illuminated my feet when several hours later I decided to take a walk in the desert. Leaning against a boulder, I took in the vast dome of stars suddenly aware of how small and insignificant life was in comparison to All That Is. Precisely because of the very smallness of things, I dared to glimpse the immensity, against which nothing anyone has ever done measured up. Only the wisest among us knew that freedom was on the other side of nothingness, of being released from our own insufficiency.

Exhilarated, for a moment every name was my name. No name could refute the immeasurable. Even when names were wielded to harm the holy excess, when they were meant to exclude, even then names could not offend me. To which name was I called? The One who bends down to kiss the brow of every disciple of peace; who anoints us with the elixir of uncreated light. Amen.

Having voiced what had been true all along, I needed to establish a new reference point. Ambition and accomplishment had their place, but this was not the way of the monk who strove to be useless on the world’s terms and thus humble in the eyes of God. The monk rejected the mind’s aggressive nature and abstained from the clamor of self, intent to possess, conscript, and claim for one’s own. Traveling in a completely different direction, away from false individuality, the contemplative way opened the heart and emptied the false self. It was not a rejection of the individual will, but rather recognition that it was of little importance. “Complaining is nothing,” Rilke wrote, “fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”7

6. Thomas Merton, Introductions East & West: The Foreign Prefaces of Thomas Merton, edited by Robert E. Daggy. Preface to the Japanese edition of The Seven Storey Mountain, August 1963 (Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1981), 45.
7. Rainer Maria Rilke, in Sunbeams: A Book of Quotations , edited by Sy Safransky (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2012), 51.

Nine Jewels of Night excerpt, pp. 163-164

October, Meditation 4
Walking the palm-lined quad to the Social Sciences building, I found it hard to believe I was in graduate school on a scholarship at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It had been more than fifteen years since the disastrous undergraduate events. Distracted by an iridescent green salamander wriggling its long tail under a bush, I wondered, Will I ever be fine? Last night I had been reading Terrence des Pres’ study of survivors of the Holocaust. Des Pres raised a question that constantly had occupied my thoughts: When all we believe is fractured into shards, when atrocity is so heinous it is absolute like God, what kind of language makes silence speak? Only “a kind of archaic, quasi-religious vocabulary,” he wrote, “. . . only a language of ultimate concern is adequate to facts such as these.”2

Rifling through documents loaned from the National Library, I had lost count of the number of human beings killed worldwide through government-sanctioned exterminations. Not to mention the estimated 187 million persons lost in the numerous wars since 1914.No theorist could explain this level of atrocity. It was outside reason, alone and unto itself. Reading accounts of mass murders by one citizenry over another, or the methods of torture used to dehumanize prisoners, many of whom were intellectuals caught in the machinations of a government’s latest ideology, the demonic was no longer an abstraction. Yet while evil had reality, it was not the Real. Even in the depth of tragedy, we did not suffer alone. Like post-holocaust Jewish writers who searched for new notions of divine agency in the seeming absence of God, I also had discovered Shekhinah weeping with victims in an outpouring of divine limitlessness. I was surer than ever that the Holy One was not the author of human ruin. Whatever malignancy grew in the soul, it was an aberration of the will to power. Wepermitted atrocity to spread. We authorized and valorized cruelty.

I wondered if belief in God as a transcendent being who experienced no pain contributed to human callousness. What if we took to heart the equally strong scriptural tradition of a God who not only cared about human suffering, but suffered our suffering? In Jewish Scripture, Yahweh suffered with the enemy, and mourned and wept over the distress and destruction of his people; humans pled and argued with God. Likewise, Jesus entered into the brokenness of the world and “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil 2:7) An Iranian friend introduced me to similar passages of divine pathos in the Qur’an: Allah is closer to a human being “than his jugular vein,” he “careth for all” and listens “to the prayer of every supplicant.” These holy books reminded me that love entails responsibility in the face of suffering, reordering the human ideal toward compassionate solidarity with our suffering earth and its inhabitants.

Over the last months, I despaired of completing my thesis on the genocidal massacres in Rwanda and Burundi within the confines of the statistical analysis required by the Sociology Department. Statistics could not account for individual turnings of heart, and the spiritual response, which saw into things with compassion. It did not further our moral responsibility, or our commitment to stand against all forms of violence and oppression. If not for my discovery of the social mystics, among them Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King, Jr., I never would have found the courage to finish my degree.

Once again I would draw sustenance from great minds, individuals who sacrificed personal comfort and political threat to proclaim the Spirit’s power over nihilism and fear. They, more than anything, helped me to reclaim my place in society by reconciling the prophetic world of justice and the mystical world of compassion, convinced that the true religious person was also prophet. “Prophecy,” Heschel wrote, “is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. . . . A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers in himself harms done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.”4

In the years ahead, I would take to heart Rabbi Heschel’s commitment to the dignity we owed survivors by retitling my Human Rights Seminar, “The State of World Suffering.” It was important that students recognize that our approach would not exploit survivors’ witness for personal gain, whether to assuage our guilt by becoming “concerned citizens,” or by doing our duty as intellectuals. No, these events defied the pretense of clinical objectivity and demanded instead solidarity with sufferers. Only through a personal bearing of another’s pain, in whatever small way, could we hope to find our deep humanity. Des Pres was right: “only a language of ultimate concern is adequate to facts such as these.”

2 Terrence des Pres, The Survivor: Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), vi.
3 Eric Hobsbawm, “War and Peace in the 20th Century,” The Guardian 24: 4–21 (February 2002), 16.
4 Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets: An Introduction (vol. I), (New York: Harper & Row, 1955), Idem, The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966), 183.

Nine Jewels of Night, excerpt pp. 158-160

 

NOVEMBER: THE WAY OF SPIRITUAL NONVIOLENCE

In September, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by my dear friend and colleague, Adam Bucko.  This month’s podcast is that interview titled “The Way of Spiritual Nonviolence”.

Below is the description from Unity Radio’s Radical Spirituality and Sacred Activism with Adam Bucko.

The Way of Spiritual Nonviolence
Monday, September 15, 2014

Description: A conversation with theologian and spiritual teacher Beverly Lanzetta about the essence of her spirituality, which takes one beyond the exclusive boundaries of religion and into a spirituality that combines the solitary depth and commitment of mothers and fathers of the desert with the justice-oriented way of spiritual nonviolence, exemplified by pioneers like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. For more information about Beverly Lanzetta’s work, please visit www.beverlylanzetta.net.

November, Meditation 1
[When my twins were born, they] were so tiny that the smallest disposable diaper ballooned around their little bowed legs. . . . Overwhelmed by the prospect of feedings and diaper changes for two infants, and barely able to sit from the stitches…another night of nursing one baby and then another, I was exhausted by the time they both fell asleep…. It was now 5 a.m.

Unable to sleep, there were too many thoughts. Lately little prayers scratched the surface of my activities, please make me worthy; help me be a good mother. I needed these unclaimed moments.

Wandering into the living room, sunlight streaming across the wood floors, I leaned against the wall to look out the window. Thinking about the girls, their sweet, warm faces, an understanding jolted me from grogginess. I knew with utter certainty that responsibility for my daughters’ lives was sacred and forever. I saw through my charade and, perhaps, that of my generation. Freedom from social constraints, maintained by a delusion that I was not really present in my own life, was not the same as true liberation.

It came to me then that no one and nothing can destroy the soul’s freedom. Circumstances don’t matter. Freedom comes when it’s supposed to come: in a prison camp; saddled with ten kids; wielding a weapon in some godforsaken hellhole; struggling to buy a crumb of bread. Freedom comes; no one can take it away and no one can prevent you from having it.

After nursing and changing diapers and putting the girls down for a nap, I returned to a book I was reading on the prison letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian jailed and eventually executed by the Nazis for participating in a plan to assassinate Hitler. But while physically imprisoned, Bonhoeffer found inner freedom: “It’s as if, in solitude,” he wrote, “the soul develops organs of which we’re hardly aware in everyday life. So I haven’t for an instant felt lonely and forlorn….I live in a great, unseen realm of whose real existence I’m in no doubt.”

I, too, was afforded a time of enclosure, able to nurture the “great, unseen realm” through a discipleship to my children. The seriousness of motherhood was not the curtailment of creativity and self-identity that I’d feared, but my chance at happiness. [The] unconditional trust [of my girls], their tender vulnerability, released me. I experienced love I’d never felt before. There was no defense, no barrier between us. Fully myself, no one curtailed or demeaned the pulse of my devotion. I glimpsed God’s wish for me: to love unbounded, without fear or shame.

Pregnancy and birth opened a mysterious understanding of incarnation: a theology of bodily knowing. Every aspect of physical life contained a sacramental, even mystical counterpart if only we had the courage to bear our sacred origins. This was my goal: to see in everything the divine imprint, its luminous geography waiting to be mapped….

I was drawn to you, Dear God, then. I saw your divine seed in my daughters. You entrusted them to me. How could I not give everything of myself? How could I justify withholding my love, my hope? I could not. There was no choice. I would protect their Light, the Light you gave them.

At once through your Motherhood I knew in my heart that all creatures were my children. You alone showed me how we deny your infinite mercy, damaging the holy spark and severing our children from the sacred circle of life. It was your Motherhood that cried out in me against injustice, destruction, and war, your Motherhood that protested in me the defilement of the innocent ones. Through you I committed my motherhood to the alleviation of suffering and to the protection of creation. You, Holy Mother, tenderly set fire to my soul.

Nine Jewels of Night excerpt, pp. 58-62

November, Meditation 2
Priests and altar boys dressed in Good Friday vestments emerged from the side door of the vestry. The organ sounded a dirge of lament. I stood in the back of the church, my gaze fixed on the blue-robed Madonna painted in a semi-circular arch behind the front altar. Gilded angels kneeling on pillars were covered with purple cloth. This was the season of mourning.

It was dark outside, and the procession slowly advanced along the side aisle. A priest chanted the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John. Behind him another priest carried a large wooden crucifix, stopping to allow worshippers to venerate the cross. By the time the procession reached the back of the church, my face was stained with tears. When they got to me the priests cast down their eyes. I didn’t know if my tears troubled them, but I was not ashamed of my feelings. It didn’t matter to me whether I was in a synagogue, ashram, cathedral, or kiva, I honored the ones who bore humanity’s sins. I kissed my fingers and touched Christ’s feet.

I hadn’t been to a church service in over twenty years. But I had come this evening because a few weeks ago, while walking by Immaculate Conception, I felt drawn to grasp the handle of the large wooden door and enter. Kneeling on a padded riser in a back pew, I was offering silent words of gratitude when suddenly two angels floated into view. Approaching me on each side, they drew me out of myself to an otherworldly region. We descended to witness the suffering of those who were branded by their own form of hell. Pain governed the darkness. Conceit and despair ruled the hearts of these fated beings. Their damaged souls were tormented by combat and greed. My mind was reeling. Why must the sorrow be so great or the price so steep? If only we could tear down all the crucifixes, swastikas, and other emblems of our insufferable cruelty.

As quickly as my descent began, the twin angels wrapped their arms in mine and carried me aloft. I was facing a translucent wall of energy. People were suspended in a wall of limits, a consciousness of “I can’t go any further” or “the end.” A purgatory of neither here nor there, no one was touched and no one could touch anyone else. I focused on a person who looked familiar and realized that all the suspended people were crucified, arms outstretched, heads slightly bent. But their penance was illusory. It was nothing but thoughts. Out of fear, despair, loneliness or pain, they were trapped by their own negation.

Arm in arm, the angels and I floated through the wall. On the other side was a flowering meadow of never-ending beauty beyond beauty, and love, pure love. From all directions, radiant figures, angels and archangels, appeared. . . .

For weeks I struggled to understand the meaning of my dreams and visions. . . . I was constantly questioning: Did the merciful God I experienced cause souls to suffer in hell? Why was I so affected by the crucifixion narrative? When the twins were at school and the little ones on a play date, I spent hours in meditation. I prostrated on the living room rug and prayed. Watching candles flicker on my home altar, I begged God not to abandon me in my quest.

Slowly I detected a thread uniting my Good Friday experience with the crucifixion dream [I’d had] and the journey through the lower and upper worlds. Attachment to self was the cause of suffering. No higher authority condemned souls. Even the torments of hell I witnessed were illusory, magnifications of self-will, replayed and made real by distorted minds. Divine Love was All That Is.

Nine Jewels of Night, excerpt pp. 129-131

November, Meditation 3
Monasticism requires a reverse perspective, one that looks at oneself and the world through God’s eyes. In order words, it requires a consciousness of humility, of compassion and love that seeks the transformation of whatever is diminished by the world into a higher, more spiritual mode of being. It is to submit oneself to the palace of wisdom and to evaluate one’s life and activities from the vantage point of the holy. The process of moving into a divine perspective takes time and grows incrementally in one’s consciousness, as the person learns to let go of ego attachments, practice humility and merciful conduct, spend time in prayer, and purify one’s heart.

It is an unlearning of the personality characteristics and social advancement valorized in culture, and the quest to achieve that marks the climate of contemporary life. It is an unlearning of the false self, the self that seeks its own will at the expense of meaning or love. It is an unlearning of how we consider the divine and what we attribute to god consciousness. It is a deconstruction of dualism, from the most personal to the most esoteric levels of awareness; it is sinking into passive or receptive consciousness, where Spirit works in the soul, and activates the quest for authenticity and truth.

The passive action of contemplation in the soul is so counter to how we appropriate and live out our lives, that the reverse perspective of true monasticism can be unsettling, challenging how and why we do things. But it is also the great motivator of faith, for it is only when the will of the person is taken away, when one can no longer “do” anything; when the normal activities of life seem hollow and cease to work, that our false definitions unravel and we open to the inflow of an illuminating light.

But even more than this, the reverse vantage point of monasticism establishes a hermitage within, an intimacy of being in the “cave of the heart.” One whole’s life now radiates from a center of silence, bringing a fragrance of the holy into daily life. In this emptiness of self, which is also, finally, everything, one participates in the inner life of divinity—as a particular expression of god’s presence on earth—that is the absence of specialness, identity, or grandeur.

It is being alone with God in the everyday, of offering one’s soul as a home for the homeless and a birthplace for the divine experiment, and of devoting one’s life to the pursuit of humility, love, and nonviolence, that is the call of the monk.

© Beverly Lanzetta, forthcoming in The Mystical Cloister, Essays in New Monasticism, 2015.

 

DECEMBER: ELEVEN CONTEMPLATIONS

“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” ­­­–– Meister Eckhart

Our deep self longs for the silence and stillness that comes from contemplation. The Eleven Contemplations speak to this longing. May they help on your journey to reap the harvest of a contemplative heart.

December Mediation 1
The following excerpts are taken from the new 2nd edition of Path of the Heart, which includes expanded commentary on each chapter.  This month’s meditations include one original passage followed by the corresponding commentary.

Fortified with spiritual strength and firmly upon the path of divine yearning, one begins the ascent in God’s Way,…in darkness, amid the Unknown.  Here, one is left to contemplate, for only in the still darkness can one come to know that which has no name….

…More than a word, more than a sight, this darkness is Everything: both the primordial seed and the cosmic essence so full of Itself, that it cannot manifest. Inside, yet outside, one and the same, God spirals within the Self. Deeper and deeper into the recesses of one’s being is one drawn. Darker and darker are the passageways; no light shines forth; no sound beckons one’s attention. One is left with the stark mystery of the Unknown (59-60).

Commentary
The soul has progressed through active engagement with self-abandonment, prayer, and shedding of false image. Now, it is left to contemplate. While the soul’s journey to this point has been fueled by an active desire to know God, it now becomes receptive or passive, as God seeks and acts in the soul. It is the Divine Light working in the soul, a light so rarified and holy that it is experienced as darkness.

Every spiritual journey follows a pattern of illumination, purification, darkness, and intimacy. At some point along the path, everything you believe to be true will appear useless, empty. This stage of not knowing or un-knowing is a mystical precursor of divine intimacy, for darkness is, in fact, everything:  It is an emptiness of conceptualization. It is empty in the sense that it cannot be grasped, because it lacks separate identity, it is one. We cannot say what it is, and we cannot say what it is not. Without any sense of duality, it cannot be conceived by the mind. Yet this nothing is everything, it is whole. It is the primordial sea. It is the cosmic essence, so complete in itself, it cannot manifest. It is pure potential, pure wholeness. And thus, to the dualistic mind, it is pure darkness, pure emptiness.

This process of being drawn deeper into darkness has been called “mystical unknowing.” The soul encounters a reality that exceeds language, destabilizing the mind and confusing the psyche, to arrive at the highest form of knowing: unknowing. Awed by the grandeur of the Holy, the soul is humbled (161-162).

Lanzetta, Beverly. Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union. 2nd ed. San Diego: Blue Sapphire Books, 2014. Print.

December Mediation 2
The following excerpts are taken from the new 2nd edition of Path of the Heart, which includes expanded commentary on each chapter.  This month’s meditations include one passage from the original text followed by the corresponding commentary.

Like an infant learning the native tongue, the spiritual seeker slowly and arduously forms the language of God.

Letter by letter and word by word, one begins to comprehend the vocabulary of Love, and the magnificent, sacred sentences….Each letter, each word, touches the very core of one’s existence, resonating into sound and spilling over into form. One speaks, and one begins the journey from darkness into light….

…It is within the depths of the dark contemplation that the self comes to know the divinity of its nature (63-64).

Commentary:
From the dark womb of silence the language of love is stamped into being. And because it is whole and indivisible, it is difficult to express. It is like condensing infinity in order to accommodate the finite mind. Like infants learning language, we find it difficult to speak. But, letter by letter and word by word, we begin to comprehend the vocabulary of Love and the magnificent, sacred sentences.

Because of the intensity and power and wholeness and profundity of the divine realm, we struggle to express the inexpressible. Yet as art can create a doorway into a universe of beauty, we have the capacity to open a doorway from our lives into the divine.

Within your heart is the abode of divinity.  Our mission is to articulate and to celebrate the coming of divinity into form. We, as humans, are a microcosm of the absolute. Within each being is a particular spectrum of the absolute, and thus each person is a unique expression of the sacred on earth. And so we tenuously attempt, however faultily and gropingly, to put together the sacred sentences. This is our work. We are the co-architects of sacred words. Each one of us is a unique configuration of sacred letters and each one of us, in thought, word, and deed, births them into form. This is how and why we each have the capacity to know the divine and to transform consciousness.

You are a being that stands at the juncture between time and eternity. You are a prism of the entire spectrum of divine light, a unique expression of the ultimate.

Your life is a mystical unfolding—your existence is an integral part of the divine’s journey from formlessness into form. Your life expresses the immensity. Your capacity to search for truth and be truth is your calling. By entering the abyss of dark contemplation and drawing out the sacred letters, you heal a rift in consciousness….

You can never exhaust the language of love (165-166).

Lanzetta, Beverly. Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union. 2nd ed. San Diego: Blue Sapphire Books, 2014. Print.

December, Meditation 3
There is much for which we can pray. Let us contemplate our capacity to love the world without limit, remembering to preserve and protect the sacred. Let us not allow the world to dictate our capacity for giving, because such openness is the gift of divine, incomprehensible love within. Let us not let ignorance and pain rob us of our tender longing for God, because if we do, they are taking our heart (103-104).

Lanzetta, Beverly. Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union. 2nd ed. San Diego: Blue Sapphire Books, 2014. Print.

December, Meditation 4
The following excerpts are taken from the new 2nd edition of Path of the Heart, which includes expanded commentary on each chapter.  This month’s meditations include one original passage followed by the corresponding commentary.

Here in the Sanctuary, at rest in the Unknown, Love coalesces in divine contemplation and breathes life…It is Love that serves as catalyst, igniting the unknown emptiness and birthing forth creation (67).

Commentary:
Stop for a moment, take a breath, and contemplate the mystical heart. As you read the following sentence, envision the sanctuary of the heart within you.

Here in the sanctuary, at rest in the Unknown, Love coalesces in divine contemplation and breaths life upon the nothingness.  Find the place in your heart where the sacred words reside. Divine Love is the principle that brings formlessness into form, and returns living to dying. Love is the catalyst that ignites the dark light of emancipation. It is the womb of creation and the spark of life.

We know that physical bodies are composed of many smaller components: organs, cells, chemical structures, DNA, and subatomic particles. In a similar way, your spiritual body is composed of divine emotions and divine laws. These are the basic units of consciousness, the principles that make up the structure and function of every metaphysical or mystical life. Like sub-atomic particles form the substrate for atoms, these subtle states of divine consciousness form being, they are the building blocks of the spiritual self, which operate according to subtle spiritual laws….

…Divine Love and other exalted virtues are living realities imprinted in your higher self. You draw on these elements because you have been created of them. So when you act with humility or compassion, you are being drawn toward the higher principles of which you are composed—the spiritual building blocks of being….

…That is why the spiritual path is so splendorous. We fail to see the grandeur because we seldom pierce the veil of religious imagery to the real splendor: our lives are an enactment of the divine. These divine elements come together in specific, unique ways, making each of us a singular configuration of divine possibility….

…You are that Child of Being’s own Self, you contain the sacred science within (169-172).
Lanzetta, Beverly. Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union. 2nd ed. San Diego: Blue Sapphire Books, 2014. Print

DecPQ

Art by Nelson Kane

 

JANUARY: PAVING NEW SPIRITUAL TRAILS

Last month I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Rabbi Rami Shapiro on his show “How to Be a Holy Rascal”.

Rabbi Rami asked me to talk about the mystical experience that opened my soul to a new path – a path devoted to unity and spiritual nonviolence. There are so many people who wish to live a deep religious life, but struggle to find a home within the world’s religions. We are in a new revelatory landscape with new forms of spiritual consciousness and new understandings of what it means to be merciful, loving, and fully human. Join Rabbi Rami and me as we discuss these and other issues impacting spiritual life today.

How to Be a Holy Rascal with Rabbi Rami Shapiro:
Paving New Spiritual Trails
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Description: Beverly Lanzetta, author of many books, including Nine Jewels of Night. What is triggering the new paradigm in religion? She advocates a new spiritual model that affirms oneness in life.

January, Meditation 1
Those of you who have been pursuing a spiritual path know that your body and spirit demands change. It becomes intolerable to continue to abuse the true self and to deny the soul’s desire.

The journey of self-healing, the path of the heart, requires that you pursue the dark night of faith, without knowing where you are going or if you will arrive. This journey requires that you develop spiritual strength, resisting the pull of the “real” world of spiritual limitation. Only you can affirm, “I seek the beloved, and I am not settling for anything less. I don’t care who ridicules me; I am going to find the true self.”

Whether or not you’ve had a moment of clarity, cleave to this notion with all your being: for in every moment of self-emptiness a seed of love is planted. If you can understand that, you will eventually understand suffering. Because suffering arises when divine love confronts your conditional heart. Of course, deep suffering is not merely the result of a constricted heart, but also of the collective limitation of human consciousness. In both cases, the refusal to be open and vulnerable generates suffering in your inner and outer experience.

We have to learn radical openness, relinquishing the limits of self-identity in each moment of life. But realize that opening to all life means opening to every feeling: despair, fear, anger, survival, betrayal, abandonment, jealousy; as well as joy, love, grace, desire, peace. Be open to feelings. Let them pour out. Be willing to bear suffering. This is true freedom because this is life.

Excerpt from Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union, pp. 127-128

January, Meditation 2
If you have the strength, courage, and commitment to enter solitude, to confront despair, loneliness, and other devastating emotions, you will come to wisdom and understand the suffering of the world. You will be drawn beyond your loneliness or despair into the loneliness or despair that every human suffers. Through understanding the universality of suffering, the heart grows in compassion and mercy.

This method of spirit is true for every pain, and for all suffering. When you let go of attachment to your suffering and realize that this is how all humankind suffers, you will be awakened to a very high and profound path, and be drawn into the heart of the sacred. Your heart will open to the mystical reality of life. Then instead of suppressing or crushing the heart’s vulnerability, you will understand its strength. When you are able to withstand self-sacrifice, which the world considers to be a weakness, you will participate in the divine life, and enter a sanctified place.

Your heart has the capacity to transform suffering, to bring the potential into the actual. Ask yourself what you want to bring into the world? Do you want to contribute to pain and suffering or to gentleness and compassion? Do you want to experience love?  Do you want to live differently on Earth? If, in your heart, you truly desire to be holy, then you will be given the strength of love to sustain suffering, and to be transformed by divine light.

Excerpt from Path of the Heart: A Spiritual Guide to Divine Union, pp. 128-129

Thank you for joining me on this year-long journey in awakening the mystic heart.