This book is not how to practice contemplative prayer but more about the learnings that have come out of this unique way of listening to the divine. I have listened to the audio recording of this book a little bit at a time while walking my dog, and then again poured over it in the book form because it needed further digesting. An important book for the times we live in, as there is a message in it for all of us.
Richard Rohr writes about how God is in everything and everything is in God. God is perfectly hidden in the material world and all we need is the awareness to see the divine in everything. Even the difficult and ugly things belong and have purpose. He talks about the third way where we hold the tension of opposites trusting that everything is in union. We can come to everything with a beginner’s mind, realizing that we do not know as much as we think we do. For example, when in conflict with another, we could say, “Could 10% of what she said be true?” And that can open the door for a greater understanding. And when it comes to beliefs about God, we can remember that “God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we shouldn’t waste too much time protecting the boxes.” When it comes to our wounds, they are our way through to grace and freedom. Later in life many see their wounds or weaknesses as the greatest thing that happened to them because it broke their heart open to let in a greater love.
What I like about this book:
- You don’t need to read it all in one sitting. You can pick up on any page and find some nuggets of wisdom.
- The simple mantra he gave for awareness: God’s life is living itself in me. I am aware of life living in me.
- The idea that “most problems are psychological in nature. But in fact, most solutions are spiritual. Therefore we have to eventually move from trying to solve them (which is good and needed) to knowing that we cannot finally solve them at the level that matters. Maybe we can only forgive them, embrace them, or weep over them.”
- The importance of being centered. “When we aren’t centered, we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
- Transformation is uncomfortable. Inner crisis waken us up. Liminality, or being in an in-between state that is out of the usual (eg. COVID), helps us to grow because it shakes us up. When we are in that place it will be uncomfortable but we can know that we are on the brink of transcending to something greater.
- How he talks about the purpose of prayer. It isn’t about attaining the presence of God, because God is always present. It is about shifting our awareness to the presence of God in the present moment. Prayer is not self observation because watching and judging (especially myself) do not change what is. Prayer is just about allowing ourselves to fall into the hands of a living God…surrendering. Richard makes that point that when we choose powerlessness, we are the most powerful (like Jesus on the cross).
- What he says about knowing who we are and our identity. He reminds us about how as infants our idea of ourselves was what we saw reflected in our mother’s (or caregiver’s) eyes. When we are held in a loving gaze, we are the beloved. This is one of the benefits of contemplative prayer…allowing God to gaze at us lovingly and seeing ourselves with Love’s eyes. And then as we mature, we learn how to listen to our inner voice and be true to who we are. We learn when to maintain or surrender boundaries by listening to this inner voice. “Calmly held boundaries which neither need to be defended constantly or abdicated in the name of friendship” keep us true to ourselves.
- This does not teach you how to do contemplative prayer.
- Some have trouble with the rambling, stream of conscious writing not being organized and clear cut.
- He is a Catholic priest, so there are references to church and scriptural quotes throughout the book.
I believe contemplation shows us that nothing inside us is as bad as our hatred and denial of the bad. Hating and denying it only complicates our problems…Everything belongs; God uses everything. There are no dead-ends. There is no wasted energy. Everything.” -Richard Rohr
About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences and learnings with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.