Breathe In Breathe Out

I have always had a precarious relationship with breathing.  My very first breaths were problematic, or so I have been told.  My childhood and school years were punctuated by asthmatic episodes; I toted quick response meds as regularly as pencils and erasers.  Thankfully the constant challenges to breathe subsided in adulthood; however, I quickly remember those sensations when, like today, I wrestle with some virus that turns each inhale into a litany of spastic hacks and coughs.

Oh the reassurance of a deep, unhindered breath!

It enthuses the day with hopeful expanse.

It reinforces the essential rhythm of life.

It roots me deeply in the present moment.

It raises my chin and nudges me a connecting smile.

In our dispersed community of contemplative companions, named Selah, we desire to pause and nurture contemplative living with Jesus.  One of the regular, simple practices that supports this desire is simply pausing and focusing my attention on my breathing…whatever state it happens to be in at the time.  Disconnecting from everything else that spins and swirls around the moment…drawing my attention to what is going on in my body right here and right now…I settle in and direct my focus to breathing.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It reminds me that I am right here in this moment.

It reminds me what is essential in this moment.

Receiving the inflow of life.

Releasing what no longer supports life.

Inevitably I end up reconnecting much deeper with the Giver of All Breath and with this present moment where life is and is in its fullness.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that spontaneous.

It’s that accessible.

It’s that life-giving.

So be it.

Peace and love – and ample deep breaths – to you today.

 

 

Unfolding in Presence

I don’t know about you but I was a little startled the other day realizing that Thanksgiving dawns in a mere week.  This morning I stared out the kitchen window at the falling rain and noted that I keep waiting for that shimmery “we’re entering the holiday season!” feeling.  I generally love this season….the juxtaposition of Life in both the dark and the light suits me very well….but this year that love will extend from a different space inside me.  I’m entering this season in an unusual way for me.  Not so shimmery.  Yet, awakened.  I felt peaceful, grounded on the path toward Thanksgiving in that watching-the-rain-fall moment.  Accepting what is present in this time instead of waiting for how it’s been before is allowing me to wonder how I might experience the coming weeks in ways I haven’t before.  And as Advent approaches, I cannot help but hold the question — as Life unfolded into the world, how might Life be unfolding me?

I wonder where you are with this season?

 

Autumn Gold

It was dazzling!  I looked out in the early morning sunrise hours and everything — literally everything — was awash in autumn gold.  I paused and simply soaked in this moment blurred by golden light.  As the seconds melted into minutes, the sun’s unfolding ascent began to fade forward specific colors and details:  big morning stretches of lingering green, pressing fuchsia, harvest yellows, meandering rusts, lumbering browns.  There they were, vibrantly seeping from the gold.  Granted it’s what we see most of the day, yet underneath all the emergent variety I know there’s autumn gold.  The collective tone persists, waiting for the particular morning light that unlocks the dazzle.

I couldn’t help but think about Selah’s community.  Consistent with variety — innate hues of dazzling similarity along with other-lighted distinctions.  This year marked nine years that Selah has been together.  Nine years….with much unfolding and stretching….and yet whenever I sit and sip tea with one of our Companions, I sense the autumn gold we share.  Whenever I hear stories of soulcare groups holding one another with care and sharing a contemplative stretch together, I sense the autumn gold we share.  Whenever I read email questions or struggles or longings for contemplative companionship I sense the autumn gold that we share.  Do you see it?

One of the striking features of our Selah community is that as dispersed and diverse as we all are, our mutual desire for contemplative living in the way of Jesus colors everything — sometimes front and center yet always the undertone, the base layer upon which all other distinct and describing colors are added.  Indeed as a community we invest time and energy and resources into these program pieces we believe God has gifted us to hold and share.  Yet, not to be missed, these expressions rest solidly rooted in our very community.  That is why soulcare groups matter.  That is why regular Companion and friends gatherings matter.  That is why encouraging meaning-filled connections and communications matter.  These, and other opportunities for us to be community, realign us in such a way that we catch the golden glow accented by our Morning Light.

Pause.  Linger.  Savor.  Golden.

In this posture, I invite us to two things:

One, pause and become aware again of the golden glow of contemplative longing within your heart and life.

Two, become intentional in some way to reach out and connect with and express yourself within our Selah community.

Along this contemplative road, we need each other to catch the golden movements of the Great Artist of our living colors.

So be it.

Inner Freedom #2

It is my continuing pleasure to share with you some thoughts and ponderings from other companions in our Selah community.  This month we continue to hear from Troy Fenlason.  Thanks for sharing with us again, Troy!

As a dispersed community of contemplative companions, we share a common set of values and commitments as we live into the way of Jesus through this common purpose:  To invite all people to pause and to nurture contemplative living with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.

I am reminded of the words of Saint Paul who said, “it is precisely for freedom that Christ has set you free.”  The journey to inner-freedom seems to imply that we are imprisoned, trapped, and seeking a way out.  It also suggests to me that inner-freedom is something to be found since maybe it is something we had at one time but lost.  I think Paul is saying that our contemplative journey begins and ends with freedom.  It begins with God offering us freedom and ends with us fully living into that freedom.  I feel invited to live into that journey.

Inner-freedom is about freedom-from and freedom-to.  It is a freedom-from my preoccupations, my compulsions, my addictions, and the broken record that keeps playing in my head.  It is freedom-from my egocentric self.  It is freedom-to embrace the truth; the black and the white, and all the colors; the light and the dark, and all the shadows and contrast; the flesh and the spirit, and all that is real, natural, and living; the human and the godly, and the mystery of incarnation in all of its forms; the divine and the depraved, and all that comes between — It is the freedom-to belong to it all.

 

Inner Freedom #1

It is my continuing pleasure to share with you some thoughts and ponderings from other Companions from our Selah community.  This month’s reflection comes from Troy Fenlason.  Troy has written a few thoughts on our topic of “inner freedom” and I would like to share them with you in smaller bite-sizes leaving us plenty of room to ponder and reflect.  Today’s in the first of four parts.  Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us Troy!

As a dispersed community of contemplative companions, we share a common set of values and commitments as we live into the way of Jesus through this common purpose:  To invite all people to pause and to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.

Question:  What stirs in you as you hear “inner freedom”?

I can feel the longing and the power of the words inner-freedom.  Something resonates within me.  But it is frustrating to realize that every attempt to describe it leads me almost exclusively to what it is not.  It is much easier for me to express freedom as ‘freedom-from’ but I am troubled by my lack of capacity to express freedom as ‘freedom-to’.  I wonder if I am frustrated because I can’t find the words to describe the mysterious experience of freedom, but more likely it is because I still mostly experience life from within these prison walls and have only a taste of what it is like to be roaming around outside?  I feel that I have tasted inner-freedom for brief moments, but it still feels like I am searching for a door that stays open.  I am still hoping to see the prison from the outside, from a distance.  I am still longing for the capacity to stay and rest in freedom in contrast to the strange comfort I get from the same drab four walls that hem me in.

Day by Day

It is my sincere pleasure to share with you some thoughts and ponderings from other Companions from our Selah community.  This month’s reflection comes from Mary Pandiani.

As a dispersed community of contemplative companions, we share a common set of values and commitments as we live into the way of Jesus through this common purpose:  To invite all people to pause and to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.

One of my favorite songs in “Day by Day” from the musical Godspell.  The simplicity of the words speak to the kind of contemplative life I seek:  to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day.  With an ongoing hope for a growing and deepening life with Jesus, I desire to see more clearly with each new day.  I want to encounter God, to know the presence of the Holy One, and to see where God is at work in this world.  In seeing more clearly, I get a taste of the divine and holy.

With that desire, there’s a particular kind of seeing that challenges me.  It’s in the manner that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offers:  “By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.”

In my effort to see, it means that I must also look at that which might offend, or repulse, or simply lack the beauty I associate with God’s presence.  Where is God in the ugly?  In the scenes I see on the news that grieve my heart?  Even more, where is God in the discord we’re experiencing in our country of polarization and heightened agitation?  In my desire to see more clearly, am I able to see God there?

As I wrestle with these questions and the state of our world, I recall that my longing for sight is accompanied by the desire to love more dearly and follow God more nearly.  Perhaps “seeing” does not have to accept that which is profane, but rather, I have an opportunity to love in the midst of the sadness, the anger, the pain of knowing all is not as it needs to be.  While creation is God’s good gift, the present condition reflects a distorted world that no longer recognizes the gift.  But perhaps all is not lost.  Through the Incarnation of God’s presence, we get to participate in turning the profane into a place of holy and sacred reconciliation as we love more dearly and follow God more nearly.  And fortunately, I don’t have to get too overwhelmed.  All I’m asked to do is see for this day, day by day by day by day.

Thank you Mary.

Peace and love to you all this good day,

John

 

Cosmic Play

It is my deep pleasure to share with you some thoughts and ponderings from other Companions from our Selah community.  This month’s Selah Reflection is from Michael DeFronzo:

As a dispersed community of contemplative companions, we share a common set of values and commitments as we live into the way of Jesus through this common purpose:  To invite all people to pause and to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.

I’m on my second listening of “Following The Mystics Through The Narrow Gate” by the Center for Action and Contemplation (Richard Rohr).  The featured speaker is James Finley, who was a monk under Thomas Merton and an accomplished author.  My soul has been stirred by what I am hearing and has fueled my desire for intimacy with our Creator.  I hope that some of my thoughts, as well as from Finely, will fan your flames of desire to be one with the One Who gives life with every breath.

Believe Knowledge Be

Faith Know Oneness

To paraphrase Finley, what in God that appears to us as play are echoes of God’s cosmic game and dance.  A flock of birds descending or children, when they are being children, are glimpses of this cosmic dance.  These moments are fleeting, yet awaken something deep inside, and we stumble upon the holy nature of life — where nothing is missing and where everything joins in with Oneness and all things are expressed as love.

I try to be attentive to God’s presence, but I find that being spiritually awakened is more God’s doing (much like transformation) than my own.  Fortunately, God is relentless in awakening me and you.  She never gives up.  A flock of birds descending, a child being a child and it begins again.

Yesterday my grandson, as he was leaving our house with his Mom, yelled out “I love you.”  For a fleeting moment everything was in its place.  The world was right.  Love had put everything in order.  To be loved, to be a beloved.  I think God so much wants us to know and to experience this.  God will not rest until we are equal in and with Him as love (St. John of the Cross).

But how easily I forget and fall back on my fears and concerns — oh look! A flock of birds…

Inner Freedom Reflections

  I offered an invitation to some Selah companions to reflect on the phrase “inner freedom” and then lend their voice to these reflections for our consideration and encouragement.  Here is a reflection from Merrie Carson:   

As a dispersed community of contemplative companions, we share a common set of values and commitments as we live into the way of Jesus through this common purpose:  To invite all people to pause and to nurture contemplative experiences with Jesus, leading to inner freedom and loving service.

As I was reflecting on Selah’s mission statement and the experience of “inner freedom,” I asked myself what prevents me from experiencing the inner freedom Christ promises and what draws me towards it? Two phrases came to mind: “slavery to sin” (Romans 6) and “the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2; 96:9). When I recognize that I am in slavery to sin of some sort, my experience is that my mind is in turmoil, gnawing away, trying to free itself from the frustration and pain that the sin is causing.  There is no inner freedom. If I ignore it, it seems to get worse, but if I take the time to be still, think, pray, and listen, clarity eventually comes and I begin to understand the root of my bondage.  Then I can ask Christ to free me from it and begin to make changes to deal with it.

But this isn’t enough. Being freed from bondage to sin, has to be followed by being filled with Christ. The danger is that I will become like the man possessed by an unclean spirit who, once it was cast out, finds that seven more plus the original spirit have moved back in to his life because his “house” was unoccupied (Matt 12:43-45). I’ve found that meditating on the “beauty of God’s holiness” draws me into the freedom and fullness of Christ that I seek. “The Beauty of holiness” is an odd phrase, because I don’t usually associate holiness with beauty.  Instead I connect it with law, duty, blinding light, and judgement.  But what if holiness really is beautiful, life-giving, and freeing? What if as I seek holiness I am truly seeking to be the authentic person God has created and destined me to be? As I look at Jesus in Scripture, I see a loving, truth-filled man of great internal personal beauty because he is holy, set-apart for God, and the beauty of his holiness draws me to follow him more closely and deeply. May we all be drawn more closely to the One who truly loves us and frees us from slavery to sin as we gaze upon and worship the beauty of his holiness.

Thank you Merrie. 

Peace and love to you all this good day,

John