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Preparation For Great Light: Recollections Of A Christian Mystic Paperback – March 14, 2017
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“Or, to put it another way, it takes a lot of inner work to be able to tolerate the full force of God’s love on a daily basis.” I agree! I practice centering prayer twice per day. That is my inner work. I have been at it for almost three years now. Centering prayer slows me down. It allows me to see the full force of God’s love: the sun, the trees, a casual conversation, a cup of coffee, a walk around the block with my wife and kids. I need my inner work so I can better see God’s beautiful outer work that is all around me.
See With New Eyes
“I lay on the bed that day, 21 years old, knowing then and there that something life-changing had occurred, something that would forever alter the way I looked out of my own eyes.” I think if we open ourselves to God, the Divine will reveal Itself. Silence is a portal to the Divine. We will begin to look out of our eyes in a new way.
“That’s good,” she said. “But if you want to go really deep, you need to stick with just one tradition.” We hear this quote from a woman whom Clint held a discussion with while he sat on a bench in a sunlit plaza. I have decided to stick with one tradition. I always liked silence. I just did not know what to do with it. I stumbled into centering prayer. This became my container for silence. Centering prayer is my portal to the Divine. For now, I will continue to dig deep into this well!
“There is something, too, about living in the midst of other people being silent that creates a stronger silence than if I am just being quiet by myself.” Silence in community is powerful. A few years back, I sat in an old meeting house that was built in 1823. The service had no minister. I sat in silence with 100 others. We sat for one hour in a simple room. It had only benches, windows and wooden floors.
Quaker silence is filled with holy expectation. The Quakers anticipate and expect that Jesus will show up. I heard the rain gently hit the windows. I listened to human sounds: coughing, sniffing, breathing. The wind blew outside despite the indoor silence. The wooden floors creaked. I heard my thoughts. Sometimes I had no thoughts, just the spaces between thoughts. The meeting room was a container filled with peace, love, community.
Of course God is in the noise too. It feels good to be silent. We need silence. It nourishes our souls. When we are silent we are naked before God. We empty our mind of its thoughts and emotions. We let God’s loving gaze shine directly upon us. I do this as part of my daily centering prayer sit but have never done so in solitude with a group this large. We are meant to have silence. Silence with our God. Silence in community is powerful! We need silent community! I enjoyed my Quaker experience. I must do it again.
“Paradoxically, with no pressure to do a “good job,” I usually did a good job.” It is a shame that the work world does not operate in this manner. We must compete. We must perform. That is how we are rated. We are under pressure to perform and meet deadlines so we can get a good bonus and raise at the end of the year. What if we did not have this pressure? Will we still do a good job? I think we just might because we will be relaxed. I think it is within our Inner Nature to want to do a good job.
Let Go And Let Be
“Well, I’ve learned that just ‘being’ can be an enjoyable thing. Not doing something, not working at something, but just being present, that that is actually not only doable but also enjoyable…” I paused. “And acceptance. Accepting the full range of life for what it is – myself, others, the outside world, not expecting anything to be some certain way but just letting go and letting things be.” This is true freedom. We are open to what life throws at us. If we are present and can let things be, we will experience the diversity and beauty of life that the Creator has chosen to gift us. We miss much of what life has to offer when we judge, divide, split the field and make critical remarks. God wants us to just be with and enjoy life. All of it. Everything belongs as Richard Rohr speaks.
“In the years since, the contemplative tradition of Christianity has served as my anchor through seasons both difficult and joyous.” Centering Prayer will serve as my anchor and portal to the Divine. I hope you too can find your anchor and portal to the Divine. I encourage you to read this short but powerful book!
What I liked most about the book is that Sabom wrestles with the creative tension that exists between the monastery and the world. For example, what is the relationships of contemplative practices such as yoga and centering prayer to the traditional prayer and vespers services of the monastery with their hymns and scripture readings that echo through the centuries? I also appreciate how Sabom directly engages the major pulls on our souls such as our deep yearning for God and our mortality.
Sabom's book is well written and gracefully brief. The monastery has a deep gravitational pull on Sabom as it does me. And I too struggle with how to hold the creative tension between the monastery and the world. May more people like Sabom attempt to bridge these two worlds that have so much to offer each other. May more like Sabom, be anchored in Contemplative Christianity. I highly recommend this book, Preparation For Great Light, to all seekers. I also highly recommend the courses on Contemplative Christianity that Sabom spearheaded. You will find the courses at contemplativelight.teachable.com
-Amos Smith (author of Healing The Divide)
Author of "Pray Without Ceasing: The Transformative Power of a Prayerful Attitude"