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We embrace the process of transformation in Christ, both in ourselves and in others, through the practice of Centering Prayer.

Contemplative Hospitality

Series: 
Voices of Community

     In contemplative consciousness, one is equipoised, in balance, at the center of one’s house welcoming what arises in quiet hospitality, free of prejudice and attempts to change, possess or reject.  In the silent interior, guests gather, are witnessed, and given respect, acknowledgement and clarity, as they birth into consciousness for healing and transformation.

     Existing everywhere, rooted into the stationary earth and aligned with the spiritual Source, we are radically home providing a joyous homecoming for all who return, and a place into which spirit can descend. The soul is given boundaries, a center, and the safe container required for protection from external and internal chaos and distraction.

     Without abandoning center, one makes friendly contact with guests at the door of the house, marking the beginning of (ego) sacrifice and death while the protector guards the house from thieves that might rob it or encroach on its boundaries by keeping guests in limini and limiting the contact.  A detached quality allows for necessary separation and letting go as guests can come to rest, incorporated into the whole. These two intentions of devotional service, centering and welcoming, must share the same interior space. The territory of one appears to end where the other begins. Where there is an unchanging, permanent center, there is also flow; in stillness and movement, they stand together to make an outsider, an insider and protect the inner work. When the tension of the opposites is held, the eternal living flame is tended and a harmonizing transmutation can take place, orienting the earthly to the divine, resulting in the gifts and blessings of peace, mercy, freedom, forgiveness, and new life for the soul.

Presence

   We dwell in the body of the indwelling sacred presence.  This presence resists being a personified, conceptualized object of our imagination. It simply “is,” veiled in a “cloud of unknowing,” the ultimate mystery, hidden from view. And yet, one can sense an unattached quality, along with being nurturing, generous, and benevolent, loving everyone who comes to visit. This presence provides kindness, compassion, shelter and protection to what went before: the wounded, orphaned little ones, the exiled parts of self and the world, along with a promise of becoming transformed in love. Its body gives soul and spirit place, and enables a sympathetic merging with the world.

Poverty

     Spiritual poverty is necessary for hospitality – we give up our selves, our ideas, concepts, opinions, convictions, desires, prejudices, worries, and concerns, to offer ourselves from emptiness.  In the practice of kenosis, or self-emptying, we prepare ourselves for not knowing, by not clinging.

     Western contemplative traditions have described this place as "le point vierge," literally translated as “the virgin point”, an apex, or still point. According to Thomas Merton, a 20th century Cistercian monk, “at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth…which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us” (1968, p. 142).  At this still point, there is a sense of being in kairos time, aware of the deep mystery. Thirteenth century theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart believed that when you come to God, “the soul must exist in unhampered nothingness.” In the kenotic path, you can welcome everything fully but must not attach to anything. “You preserve your chastity simply by not clinging. In the free flow of this coming and going you dwell in safety” (Bourgeault, 2008, p. 79).    In reverent practice, a foundation of natural peace and contentment in Beingness is strengthened.  We take on the beginner’s mind and the role of the one who welcomes without judgment, rejection, or entanglement while being devoted to the non-dual human/divine union – the kingdom of God on Earth.

Silence    

     We relate from a place of freedom and serve the world from the holy presence of silence. Robert Sardello, phenomenological psychologist (2008) believes that silence is not empty but “an alert unfocusing focus on subtle rhythms” that join us to others. “In perceiving through the depth of silence, we come to discover the invisible body of the world, the spiritual flesh within which everything is nurtured into existence at every moment” (p. 67). By continuously clearing away obstacles to silence, we enter into deep relationship with ourselves and others through empathic resonance. In silence, we have greater intuitive receptivity and capacity to receive and welcome what crosses the border into consciousness as both autonomous, mysterious and as an intimate part of self.

     It may be difficult to open to the divine invitation to silence, but with practice and in time, silence can become a presence in whom one can rest. Merton states that:

In solitude we remain face to face with the naked being of things. And yet we find that the nakedness of reality which we have feared, is neither a matter of terror nor for shame. It is clothed in the friendly communion of silence, and this silence is related to love (1958, pp. 85-86).

     Contemplative silence is filled with quiet, warm activity. It is dead unless in it we are listening for and embedded in a deeper reality, the eternal voice.  In Silence we experience the infinite while in the finite; we listen, poised in expectant waiting, for that still small voice, the sought-for Other, to pierce the veil.

Robin Gates, M.A. (Depth Psychology) is an educator, writer and workshop facilitator from Sonoma County, CA.  In her courses, she weaves together contemplative spirituality and depth psychology with experiential learning.


References

Bourgeault, C. (2008). The wisdom Jesus: Transforming heart and mind. Boston, MASS:
     Shambhala.

Merton, T.  (1958). Thoughts in solitude. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

     (1968). Conjectures of a guilty bystander. Colorado Springs, CO: Image Classics.

Sardello, R. (2008).  Silence: The mystery of wholeness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Category: 
Centering PrayerWelcoming PrayerContemplative Spirituality