Spiritual Materialism

We are all in danger of spiritual materialism.
There are times where we feel that we need to gain more knowledge, read more books, listen to more inspirational talks. It is like a fascinating road with all these amazing sightseeing, like a kid going into the candy store, eyes widened and mesmerized.

But after a while, you will realize that it is an endless road and you cannot savour all that there is. It will just become a feeling of lacking and not enough. It would eventually become a distraction from where you truly need to go.
Just like a seed or an acorn, that can one day grow into a huge tree towering over the sky, rooting deep into the ground.

Be Still, and know.
God has already given us all that we need inside of us.
We just need to take time to look deep within that sacred space,
So vast yet hidden,
So deep yet narrow.

Empty ourselves of worries, anxieties,
Empty ourselves of ego and pride,

And know, that we are limited and helpless by ourselves,
And know, that we need to trust and surround
Our whole being to
The Great Love and Mystery of God.

 

Thomas Keating – A Life Surrendered to Love from Contemplative Outreach on Vimeo.

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GO Where our old maps no longer works

We have often been asked what we would like to become when we grow up ever since we are little kids. What is your dream? What is your passion?

We have been told that you just need to dream big, reach for the stars, even though we may not be able to reach the stars, we are still able to achieve “something” near there.

But as we grow up and experience the reality of life, there are so many things that are not the way we thought it should be.

Life is not just about getting a good education, getting a job, getting a house, getting married and having kids. We soon realized that all the “getting” and “having” cannot satisfy the longings of our hearts.

Religion and beliefs also no longer seem to help at times when life gets tough, when sickness looms, deaths and tragedies strike to those dearest to us, the god that we grew up with may no longer be able to answer our prayers and questions about life and our purpose of existence.

Where do you go from there when our old maps no longer work?
Have the old maps always been wrong, I wonder?
Or is it that people just wanted to make sense of the mystery of life, and even though we tried our very best, we finally realized that we understand nothing at all?
Is it finally time to let go of our old beliefs and worldviews that we held onto so vigorously, only to realize that the grounds beneath our feet have shifted and a new world is at hand.

Old Maps No Longer Work

I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-traveled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“Toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

So there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.

No map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers:
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims traveled by the stars.”

It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

~ Joyce Rupp

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GO Where Newness Begins

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“A new beginning!
We must learn to live each new day, each hour, yes,
each minute as a new beginning,
as a unique opportunity to make everything new.
Imagine that we could live each moment
as a moment pregnant with new life.
Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises.
Imagine that we could walk through the new year
always listening to a voice saying to us:
“I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it! Imagine!”

~ Henri Nouwen

Imagine that instead of waiting for one “special” day out of the 365 days, where “New Year” happens, imagine that each moment, each day, each minute is new,
“pregnant with new life” and new possibilities.
How would that change the way we see things and live?

 

GO Where We Prepare for His Coming

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The Census at Bethlehem (1566), Painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Bruegel the Younger

This painting is based on the passage in Luke 2:1-5, where Joseph is taking Mary and the soon-to-born baby Jesus back to Bethlehem for the census ordered by Caesar Augustus.

Just take a moment and mediate on the painting.

Whose character may you be in the painting? What activity are you engaged in?
Do you see the family of Joseph and Mary riding into town, looking for shelter for the night?

The scenery depicts how all the citizens of the town are engaged in the busyiness of life without realizing that the Holy in their midst. No one even laid an eye on Joseph or Mary, and they never expected baby Jesus be born next to them. They have missed the opporunties to witness what God is doing in this historical moment of human history, where the heaven touched the earth.

In the season of Advent, as everyone is counting down to the days till Christmas, how have we prepare ourselves for His coming? The painting closely resembles the busyness of our preparations for the holidays, as we are busy with winter vacations, organize family gatherings, parties, setting up the Christmas trees and decorations, shopping for the last minute gifts.

Have we forgotten what the real purpose of Christmas is today?
Do we see the presence of God in our midst and how He works in those around us?
Do we see the needy amongst us to offer them comfort and warmth?
How are we preparing ourselves as we wait for the Second Coming of Jesus?

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration.
It may also be a time of deep pain and sadness for people who have lost their loved ones, hurtful experiences and broken relationships.
During this season, let’s go and share a meal with those who may be neglected, marginalized, or alone this time of year and offer our warmest hospitality.

 

Go Where the Past is in the Present

For Each Moment
Our Past is Present

Can the hundred year old tree sprout overnight?
Can the water shed be drawn back?

Can the time be turned back?
Can life lost be given back?

Can scars be undone?
Can one unlearn what life has taught?
Can love and emotions be refunded?

Cause and effect
Actions and consequences
Choices and outcomes

Love and Mercy
Acceptance and Forgiveness
Grace and Gentleness

The Body remembers
The Mind speaks
The Soul desires

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It is naive to believe one’s past do not have influence on one’s present and future
The way one acts, thinks, behaves, even speaks
Are all embedded and triggers in every moment

Go Where our being meets life

Be a student of that vibrant edge where our inner life meets the world… where we all live on the shore between the depths of being and the dangers of experience.” Mark Nepo

The world is getting more chaotic everyday. At times, life does not make sense to us. Our minds are not able to process what is going on, and the reasons behind the happenings in life.

Education, media, and the governments are telling us one thing, that everything is alright, we just need to follow the path of life, and we will lead a “good life”, they keep saying”peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Their consideration of the “good life” is based on the myth of progress, where science and growth will make everyone better; based on the myth of consumerism, where you can buy and consume happiness with material things.

The myth of progress only benefited those in power, it may help the standard of living, but it is certainly draining people’s inner life as we are expected to strive to oil the machine to run day and night.

No matter what material things we buy, the satisfaction and happiness lasted only for seconds, till the next new thing comes along, with we get deeper and deeper into debt, buying things that we do not need.

We have become enslaved to our debts, to our mortgages, to our credit card bills, which bounded us to our job having to live off paycheck to paycheck, and castrated our ability to dream and actually live a life that we wanted.

Our inner being becomes dry and hollow as we know deep down that this is not our purpose in life, not the reason why we are put here on earth. There seem to be no other way around it.

What our minds tell us and the distance to our utmost true desire have a great gulf in between. How do we make sense of this hole, this emptiness inside of us?

We don’t. We can’t make sense of it. And the first step to closing this gap is to learn that we can’t understand and make sense of everything in life. Life is a mystery.

It is only then, when we feel the pain and suffering of the soul, that we are on the edge of our inner being, we are on the edge of the deep abssy. Take a close, hard look at this gap. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what is your deepest desire in the depth of the clutters. What is the most important thing you wish in life? What is blocking you from that?

Move forward and live dangerously. Living dangerously in the sense of not to living under the status quo and the norm, but to take courage and walk a path where very few have walked.

Take a deep breath… and appreciate all that you have and give thanks.
Take a deep breath… and love the people around you.
Take a deep breath…. and live.