What does a journey toward the contemplative life look like? What kind of work is involved in this journey?
Richard Rohr provides insight into these questions in The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (2009). Rohr says that for far too many people, no life journey is necessary because we think we already have all our answers at the beginning. Our way of seeing God and life is framed through dualistic thinking, dogma, and faith as belief. This way of seeing has lead to religious crises in the Western world.
Lacking such wisdom, it is very difficult for churches, governments, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing. Everything divides into oppositions such as liberal vs. conservative, with vested interests pulling against one another. Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation. Even theology becomes more a quest for power than a search for God and Mystery. (Naked Now, 28-29)
Contemplative spirituality, Rohr says, is a deeper and broader way of seeing that integrates the eye of the flesh (thought or sight), the eye of reason (meditation or reflection), and the eye of true understanding (contemplation). This way of seeing holds on to the truth of opposites. This way of seeing stays open to paradox and mystery as the place where God dwells.
So the contemplative life is about a journey toward God. It is about the journey toward honesty and authenticity. It is about encountering God’s presence and love in the midst of struggles and suffering, as well as experiences that bring joy. It is about a journey of surrender to things as they are, so that we might discover the gifts and graces of God’s presence in the here and now. In the midst of the experiences of life, the contemplative tradition offers a wisdom that helps us stay open to the mystery of God beyond our little point of view.
Over the last year a small group at Sunnyside Mennonite Church has been gathering on Sunday morning to practice Lectio Divina. Over this time, some have participated in Silent Retreat weekends. Others are students at Kairos School of Spiritual Formation. This blog is a space for sharing stories about the work they are doing and what they are discovering. Stories about going through. Cancer. Mid-life. Depression. Questions about church. Unsettledness about vocation.
The Work of Formation opens space for the sharing of stories about journeys into this way of seeing and engaging with self, others, the world and God. If you are interested in being a contributor to this blog, submissions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org