Contemplify NonRequired Reading List Email for February 28, 2019
The February NonRequired Reading List
I have been prone to long walks for years. To duck out of a wedding reception, church service, or workday to stretch my legs is a habitual pleasure that connects me to the ground under foot. These strolls help me return to the engagement at hand with more cheer and fuller lungs. A big sky overhead to wonder under doesn’t hurt either. It is too easy for me to align with the function in front of me...and then Iose myself in the process. So when a moment of recollection winks at me, I grab my coat and saunter out of doors. This practice of disappearing into movement cuts the noise and shreds the unwanted agenda safety pinned to my shirt. On a walk, my humanity is restored and savored. So when I read the modern day mystic, Beverly Lanzetta, write “What I’ve learned over these years is that the spiritual quest is a fundamental orientation common to the human experience”, I dance with her on this earth.
The contemplative practices that orient me to this spiritual quest are deeply human and commonplace. They are so mundane it can feel embarrassing to jot them down here; meditation, drinking a beer, holding my kids, looking at the night sky and so forth. But these practices are the juice of life for me. In walking I am brought back to the world. I am nicked by presence as these lungs of mine fill with desert air, beads of sweat coalesce at my temples, and my thirst shouts to be reckoned with. My humanity truly is orientated by my spiritual quest, my own incarnate self in relationship with all of Reality. And I am grateful.
I tip my hat to the Bishop of Lyons who had the gull to name it back in the second century when he said God ‘become what we are, that [She] might bring us to be even what [She] is [Herself].’*
A phrase worth pondering on a long walk.
May this month bring you into your body; may its goodness reconcile any resentment you carry from the past.
*I attempted to use gender neutral language in that sentence, but it lost its poetics, so I shifted it to feminine language for a change. It was in high fashion in Irenaeus’ times to use masculine pronouns, I just reframed it to be read with fresh eyes.
Here is February's NonRequired Reading List...
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Stories of Contemplation and Justice edited by Therese Taylor-Stinson (Get it at the Public Library or IndieBound)
“In a world of resurgent racism and bias against those whose skin color, nationality, religion, gender, or sexuality are seen as “other,” these are voices that need to be heard.” That is the invocation on the book jacket of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Stories of Contemplation and Justice. I gravitate towards contemplative reading that reflects my experience and written by people who look like me, it's easier for me. Don’t read better, just easier. What I have come to learn as I challenge the white lens and ease from which I participate from is that I miss out on hearing the full choir of humanity, the multivocality of the spiritual quest.
There are twelve stories in Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around that draw from the embodied experiences of contemplatives that live their unique calling to social justice. Each story is as distinct as the next, so I will touch on just a few. Jung Eun Sophia Park deftly weaves the dynamism of relational flow between contemplation and action when she writes, “Contemplation and action are often thought of separately, but it is arguably almost impossible not to participate in creative action when one looks at the real in a loving and mindful way” (p.86). In Rosalie Norman McNaney’s piece, she masterfully connects God breathing life into humanity with Freddie Gray and Eric Garner’s last words - ‘I can’t breathe’. McNaney names the power of breath as a metaphor and physical reality, incarnating their power in words. It is also a calling to justice, which "means that, as we inhale the gift of the air surrounding us, we can exhale the hate and prejudice--that breath that restricts life in ourselves and in others...Breath is God-given, and we are to continue to breath and to fight for the breath of all" (p.34).
The essay that has stayed with me since I put the book down, was ‘Love and Kenosis: Contemplative Foundations of Social Justice’ by Gigi Ross. Beginning with kenosis and Jesus’ embodiment of it, Ross braids this theme with its biblical roots, a contemporary exemplar in John Francis, and her experience of homelessness as teachers on the path of love. And what arises on the path of love? Ross says its best, ‘Interdependence becomes communion’ (p.52). May it be so.
This book is wise counsel for anyone seeking to read, experience and inspire lives of contemplation and action.
The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life by Beverly Lanzetta (Get it at the Public Library or IndieBound)
Have you ever felt the pull to monastic life? It can be easy for an outsider to romanticize the monastic way when your life ‘in the world’ gets overwhelming. Eventually you snap out of that monkish urge because it dawns on you that becoming a cloistered monk requires sacrificing creature comforts, or you remember the vows you would never be able to keep. So you let that inner yearning fade. If the draw of the monk archetype reaches you in any way, read The Monk Within. Lanzetta charts a path that is at once interspiritual, mystical and rooted in tradition (I know, I never thought I’d be writing that sentence either).
The Monk Within begins with this inner call that many of us have felt towards the monk archetype (as elucidated by Raimon Panikkar) and ends with examples of reimagined lived monastic principles. The journey from the faint cry of the call to the embodied promise of principles is a ride propelled by the force of love, through theology, practices, historical examples, and new ways of being a universal monk.
The Monk Within is a poetic response for those of us called to be contemplatives in the world. It offers guidance and support for the uncharted territory ahead. As you work with this book you realize that the monastic tradition has always dared to put that first toe forward in exploring new wilderness in the service of love. The Monk Within may just be the latest edge of that wild and storied tradition.
Arts and Articles
'Resist Trump: A Survival Guide’ by Max S. Gordon (blog post): A deeply impactful first-person account of one man’s life experience during the Trump presidency as a Black, gay man in America. Thoughtful, poignant and with divinely inspired phrases to shout at your television such as, ‘The power of Fannie Lou Hamer compels you.’ (Hat tip to Cliff for sharing)
‘Mourning the Demise of a Zen Place to Die’ by Courtney E. Martin (NYT): This piece speaks to the heart of nonprofits with souls. How do they survive, thrive and die? I was sad to see the organizational child of Frank Ostaseski no longer have a place in this world. Though I trust the seeds of that vision will sprout elsewhere.
‘Gary Snyder, Zen Master’ by Dana Goodyear (The New Yorker) : I always thought I wanted to be Gary Snyder when I grew up. Truth be told, I still do.
The five most recent episodes of Contemplify…
The last 5 episodes are a part of series titled ‘Life of a Day’ on the intersection of contemplation and daily life in the world. There is one more episode coming down the pike about how to craft your own contemplative rhythm. Keep your eyes peeled, that should be ready in the coming weeks.
On this day and in your body, may you experience the fullness of love. May it be a wonder and celebration of your contribution to this planet. And if I'm honest, Mystery and I were just chatting out back, and we roundly believe that your presence here matters.
May you remember that with each step of your journey.
Heading out for a stroll,
P.S. If you are feeling the warmth around the Contemplify fire, please consider throwing another log on by reviewing it on Apple Podcasts or passing an episode along to a kindred spirit. If this message finds you ruminating on the grandeur of a sunset or eating a strawberry popsicle, disregard this message and carry on.