Contemplative Responses to the World – Reflection One

Our SoulStream community is growing very beautifully in our desire to link our contemplative posture with very practical responses to life around us. It has been hugely important to focus on opening our hearts to receive the love of God so richly present in our lives. We have come to realize that it is not only in the good times but also in times of great suffering that our hearts are opened up in this way – sometimes even broken open into God, as the Jewish tradition says! It seems now that, by a wonderful grace of the Spirit among us, we are hungry to deepen our contemplative posture and practice in our responses to the world in which we find ourselves. As we say in the course on Living From The Heart, the fourth pillar of the Way of the Heart is, “Contemplative Transformation Leads to Compassionate Living.”

In this first reflection I will seek to delineate two core and complementary themes at the heart of our contemplative responses to the world.

In recent SoulStream conversations we have talked about dancing and weeping in the face of our present world situation. The imagery comes from Dorothee Soelle’s book, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. It is a great image to help us process the whole spectrum of responses. Let’s look at both sides of the image.

Two Core Themes Of Contemplative Response

Theme One: Dancing For Joy Within The Interconnection Of All Things.

I think we are all aware that there is a deep contemplative response to the beauty and interconnectedness and joy in the goodness of God’s life present in creation. We know this response as gratitude, or awe, or joy, or ecstasy for the ways in which our world is so filled with goodness and beauty.

We have all had experiences like that: during a walk in the park, the wedding of two dear friends, or a time when we got so caught up in some wonderful activity that we lost track of time passing and even of where we were! Let’s call these our contemplative response of dancing! We are swept up in joy at the goodness of God’s presence. God is alive and creating a web of interconnection in all things. “Christ is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). And we get glimpses of that beauty that fill our hearts with joy.

It is true – we might not be fully attuned to these moments. We might take them for granted or pass by them so quickly we hardly even notice. Or we might trivialize them as something less than a contemplative or mystical experience. But we have the privilege of naming and cherishing them, if we take time to do so. And this is at the heart of a contemplative and receptive posture is helping us – noticing, receiving, and praising!

Theme Two: Weeping In Sorrow Over The Tearing And Destruction Of The Connection Of God’s Presence Within Creation.

The other reality we all know only too well is that joy and ecstasy aren’t our only responses to the world. We also respond from our hearts to the travail of our lives. We experience times of tragedy or sorrow our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

The fabric of life has been deeply torn and we cannot help but weep. Our contemplative and receptive posture that helps us see the fabric of God’s presence in creation also deepens our sensitivity to this reality of breakage. We are filled with grief as much at the tearing of the fabric of life as we are filled with joy at the beauty of the web of life that we experience.

We reach out to a person who is sick and needs to be taken to a doctor appointment and are with her as she hears the diagnosis of a terminal illness. We experience the tearing of life in our religious disagreements. We grieve over the terrible chaos of political polarization. We are dismayed by the terrible acts that pollute and destroy the creation around us.

Here is the important thing – this sorrow is a genuine contemplative response to life as we experience it. We learn in our contemplative process both to weep over the tearing of our lives and we learn to find the power of Christ to stand up to the evil that would seek to dominate us.

In the next reflection we will add another dimension to our contemplative response to the world. Thank you for your continued sensitivity and care.

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