The Hermit

From The Solitary Voice, Advent 1999, 

"There have always been persons who by temperament or situation are alone in the midst of people, without understanding why. But there are others who living active and rigorous lives in the world, leave it all behind and go into the desert. Such a hermit vocation is not for the young, for it dare not spring from either idealism or rebellion. Yet there comes a time when one simply becomes tired of pretenses and games. A thirst for integrity takes over, a passion to undertake the austerity of living in complete- honesty, without convenience, support, or distraction. This call into solitude is a pilgrimage into darkness and crucifixion, for it annihilates the self one once knew and fostered.

"It is a lonely path, hidden from the eyes of the world that neither knows nor cares - certain that the hermit is a failure. Free from the lure of possessions, power, and status, the contemplative life has no practical use or purpose whatever. Hermits are pilgrims, dependent on pure faith - that this is where God would have them be. To walk into silence is to be stripped of certainty that one has an answer to anything - until the questions that once plagued the mind nestle in the soul as friends.

"One would hardy enter such a valley of shadows willingly. Yet amidst all the options one has, strangely, there is no choice. Nothing else matters except to be a person of prayer. And some day, in the gentle quietness, standing among the ashes of dreams and ambition, one may be blessed with the only certitude likely to be given: that to seek is to be sought, and to find is to have been found.

"To be drawn into this dread solitude is really an invitation to keep company with God's loneliness - God emptied in total identification with us - ignored, hidden, forgotten profoundly poor. Drawn by this Presence, the hermit stands with rejected ones everywhere, living the joy of simplicity - freed to want nothing more than to grow old loving one's God"

Blueberries - Earth's crammed with heaven

Elizabeth Browning

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only -he who sees- takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries


Thomas Merton

Contemplation is the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is a deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life loses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One. He answers Himself in us and this answer is divine life, divine creativity, making all things new. We ourselves become His echo and His answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question, and in awakening us to contemplation He answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer. And all is summed up in one awareness-not a proposition, but an experience: "I Am."

On Merton

From the Introduction to “Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours”

The Ground of Praise:
The Conteplative Self

"May my bones burn and ravens eat my f1esh, If I forget thee, contemplation!"12

What Thomas Merton discovered in the Abbey of Gethsemani he desired to share with the whole world: a deeply experiential life in God that is the gift of our creation, the very reason we were born, a grace available to everyone. It meant for him "the search for truth and for God ... finding the true significance of my life and my right place in God's creation."13 Merton taught that the contemplative journey toward the indwelling and all encompassing God is made on the existential pathways of one's own self. The search for the One is the discovery of the Other in a transforrnative encounter with the divine image and presence at the core of our true self.

Yet as Merton faithfully reminded us, everyone is shadowed by a false or illusory self who wants to exist outside the reach of God's will and love, outside of reality and life. This counterfeit and evanescent creation is dedicated to the narcissistic cult of its own shadow in self-orbiting liturgies of egocentric adulation, ordering all things in its universe around itself. Over and over Merton warns us that the only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of this disturbing stranger who occupies our psyche, and enter by love "into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls."14 To live in this conscious communion is what Merton means by contemplative life that plants in us something of heaven.

Contemplative life, therefore, begins with the recovery of one's natural unity, a reintegration of our compartmentalized, colonized, traumatized, technologically entranced, and workaholic being. We must gather our fragmented selves from our distracted, exhausted, noise polluted, and frenzied existence, so that when we say "I" there is actually a unified human person present to support that pronoun. But this is only the preliminary work of salvation, because the deep transcendent self is a divine creature, shy and wild, secret and spontaneous, preferring the silence and humility of a pure heart in which to make its mysterious appearance. This true self "must be drawn up like a jewel from the bottom of the sea,"15 by a steady work of descent to recover the immortal diamond in whose every facet is reflected the invisible face of God.

Holy Week Readings

From A New Earth" Eckhart Tolle & Reading for Vigils on Holy Saturday
by an ancient author ( Unknown)

Humanity is destined to go beyond suffering, but not in the way the ego thinks. One of the ego's many erroneous assumptions, one of its many deluded thoughts is "I should not have to suffer." That thought itself lies at the root of suffering. Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness (the awakening) and the burning up of the ego. The man on the cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman. As long as you resist suffering, it is a slow process. because the resistance creates more ego to burn up. When you accept suffering, however, there is an acceleration of that process which is brought about by the fact that you suffer consciously. You can accept suffering for yourself, or you can accept it for someone else, such as your child or parent. In the midst of conscious suffering, there is already the transmutation. The fire of suffering becomes the light of consciousness.


From "The Book of Awakening" by Mark Nepo

It may have nothing to do with me, but if a friend or loved one is sad or angry, I can secretly wonder, What did I do? What can I do? .Why didn't I do it all better to begin with?

I am often surprised and humbled by how quickly in my insecurity I can begin to assume responsibility for all the wrongs and sufferings I see around me. When thrown off center, when old patterns return, when feeling exhausted or depressed, I so quickly become the exaggerated cause of all that is not right with the world . . I know I am not alone in this. Perhaps it is one of the laws of emotional weather: sudden lows result in isolated storms. It has happened to me enough over the years that I have to acknowledge the power of negative self-centeredness. We typically think of the ego-centered as being conceited and self inflated and quite selfish. But this recurring struggle with exaggerated responsibility has made me realize that more often we are ego-centered when feeling deflated, when feeling shaken from our sense of oneness with things. In that place of separation, we become darkly self-centered, blaming ourselves for not fixing things or making things right or for letting bad things happen. Underneath these self-recriminations is the grandiose assumption that we have the power, in the first place, to control events that are really beyond any human being's influence. Certainly, we affect each other, and often, but to assume that other people's inner moods hinge on my presence is an egocentric way to keep myself in a cycle of sacrifice and guilt. Further, to assume that another's condition or way of being in the world hinges on my presence is the beginning of self-oppression and codependence. In extreme moments of negative self-centeredness, we can even assume magical proportions of burden, in which we feel acutely responsible for a loved one's illness or misfortune because we weren't good enough or there enough or perfect enough. It is helpful to note here psychologist Michael Mahoney's definition of self-confidence. He traces confidence to the Latin confidere, "fidelity," and understands self-confidence as a fidelity to the self. Indeed, it is only a devotion to that sacred bottom beneath our moods of insecurity that brings us back in accord with the center of the heart which shares the same living center with all beings. This is what the Hindu tradition calls Atman, the shared immortal self. So now, when I trip into moments of low-esteem and feel certain that I am the cause of all this bad weather, I try to feel the pace of the Earth turning beneath my feet and the pace of the clouds drifting over my head and the pace of my heart opening after a lifetime of pain. When these align, I am weakened of my ordinary will and awakened into a power greater than any one heart, greater than the weather of any one day or the mood of any one life.



Then you shall take some of the blood, and put it on the door posts and the lintels of the houses ... and when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. -Exodus 12: 7 & 13

They thought they were safe that spring night: when they daubed the doorways with sacrificial blood. To be sure, the angel of death passed them over, but for what? Forty years in the desert without a home, without a bed, following new laws to an unknown land. Easier to have died in Egypt or stayed there a slave, pretending there was safety in the old familiar. But the promise, from those first naked days outside the garden, is that there is no safety, only the terrible blessing of the journey. You were born through a doorway marked in blood. We are, all of us, passed over, brushed in the night by terrible wings. Ask that fierce presence, whose imagination you hold. God did not promise that we shall live, but that we might, at last, glimpse the stars, brilliant in the desert sky. ~ Lynn Ungar

Burying and Planting

The culmination of one love, one dream, one self, is the anonymous seed of the next,

There is very little difference between burying and planting. For often, we need to put dead things to rest, so that new life can grow. And further, the thing put to rest whether it be a loved one, a dream, or a false way of seeing becomes the fertilizer for the life about to form. As the well-used thing joins with the earth, the old love fertilizes the new; the broken dream fertilizes the dream yet conceived; the painful way of being that strapped us to the world fertilizes the freer inner stance about to unfold. This is very helpful when considering the many forms of self we inhabit over a lifetime. One self carries us to the extent of its usefulness and dies. We are then forced to put that once beloved skin to rest, to join it with the ground of spirit from which it came, so it may fertilize the next skin of self that will carry us into tomorrow. There is always grief for what is lost and always surprise at what is to be born. Bur much of our pain in living comes from wearing a dead and useless skin, refusing to put it to rest, or from burying such things with the intent of hiding them rather than relinquishing them. For every new way of being, there is a failed attempt mulching beneath the tongue. For every sprig that breaks surface, there is an old stick stirring underground. For every moment of joy sprouting, there is a new moment of struggle taking root. We live, embrace, and put to rest our dearest things, including how we see ourselves, so we can resurrect our lives anew.

Oneness With All Life & Day Dreaming

An interesting thought from Eckhart Tolle, "Oneness With All Life", Selections from "A New Earth". I feel Simone Wiel says something similar in her poem "Daydreaming". Both authors inviting us to remain in the sacredness and reality of the now.


Oneness With All Life

Eckhart Tolle

To end the misery that has afflicted the human condition for thousands of years, you have to start with yourself and take responsibility for your inner state at any given moment. That means now. Ask yourself, "Is there negativity in me at this moment?" Then, become alert, attentive to your thoughts as well as your emotions. Watch out for the low-level unhappiness in whatever form, such as discontent, nervousness, being "fed up," and so on. Watch out for thoughts that appear to justify or explain this unhappiness but in reality cause it. The moment you become aware of a negative state within yourself, it does not mean you have failed. It means that you have succeeded. Until that awareness happens, there is identification with inner states, and such identification is ego.


Day Dreaming 

Simone Wiel

I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched, is daydreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the one solace that helps them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one's possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow Him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross; because time is the cross. In all its forms without exception, daydreaming is falsehood. It excludes love. 

A New Earth

Eckhart Tolle

The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. 'Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the fact, and here are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, "I am ruined" is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. "I have fifty cents left in my bank account" is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering. Be aware that what you think, to a large extent, creates the emotions that you feel. See the link between your thinking and your emotions. Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.

The Question Holds the Lantern

John O'Donohue - Find his books HERE

Humans have an uncanny ability to domesticate everything they touch. Eventually, even the strangest things become absorbed into the routine of the daily mind with its steady geographies of endurance, anxiety, and contentment. Only seldom does the haze lift, and we glimpse for a second the amazing plenitude of being here. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is suffering or threat that awakens us. It could happen that one evening you are busy with many things, netted into your role, and the phone rings: Someone you love is suddenly in the grip of an illness that could end their life within hours. It only takes a few seconds to receive that news. Yet, when you put the phone down, you are already standing in a different world. All you know has just been rendered unsure and dangerous. You realize that the ground has turned into quicksand. Now it seems to you that even mountains are suspended on strings.

If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is, that story is not a story; it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed. Plato says in the Symposium that one of the greatest privileges of a human life is to become midwife to the birth of the soul in another. When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk, and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become. The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown. Yet we are afraid of the unknown because it lies outside our vision and our control. We avoid it or quell it by filtering it through our protective barriers of domestication and control. The normal way never leads home.

Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realize how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the direction of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits.

You have come out of Plato’s Cave of Images into the sunlight and the mystery of color and imagination. When you begin to sense that your imagination is the place where you are most divine, you feel called to clean out of your mind all the worn and shabby furniture of thought. You wish to refurbish yourself with living thought so that you can begin to see. As Meister Eckhart says, thoughts are our “inner senses.” When the inner senses are dull and blurred, you can see nothing in or of yourself; you become a respectable prisoner of received images. Now you realize that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and you undertake the difficult but beautiful path to freedom. On this journey you begin to see how the sides of your heart that seemed awkward, contradictory, and uneven are the places where the treasure lies hidden. You begin to become true to yourself. And as Shakespeare says in Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

The journey shows you that from this inner dedication you can reconstruct your own values and action. You develop from your own self-compassion a great compassion for others. You are no longer caught in the false game of judgment, comparison, and assumption. More naked now than ever, you begin to feel truly alive. You begin to trust the music of your own soul; you have inherited treasure that no one will ever be able to take from you. At the deepest level, this adventure of growth is in fact a transfigurative conversation with your own death. And when the time comes for you to leave, the view from your deathbed will show a life of growth that gladdens the heart and takes away all fear.