Practice

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places and Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times [speaking here of spiritual practices like the breath prayer]: “As we practice, we begin to know the difference between our fantasy and reality. The more steadfast we are with our experience, the more aware we become of when we start to tighten and retreat. When we are denigrating ourselves, do we know it? Do we understand where the desire to lash out at another is coming from? Do we aspire not to keep going down that same old self-destructive road? Do we realize that the suffering we feel is shared by all beings? Do we have any longing for all of us to stop sowing the seeds of misery? Only the “principal one” knows the answers to these questions. We can’t expect always to catch ourselves spinning off into a habitual reaction. But as we begin to catch ourselves more frequently and work with interrupting our habitual patterns, we know that the bodhichitta (compassion) training is seeping in. Our desire to help not just ourselves but all sentient beings will slowly grow.”

Roger

Widening Circles

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places and Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times: “Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.  In essence the practice is always the same: instead of falling prey to a chain reaction of revenge or self-hatred, we gradually learn to catch the emotional reaction and drop the story lines. Then we feel the bodily sensation completely. One way of doing this is to breathe it into our heart. By acknowledging the emotion, dropping whatever story we are telling ourselves about it, and feeling the energy of the moment, we cultivate compassion for ourselves. Then we could take this a step further. We could recognize that there are millions who are feeling the way we are and breathe in the emotion for all of us with the wish that we could all be free of confusion and limiting habitual reactions. When we can recognize our own confusion with compassion, we can extend that compassion to others who are equally confused. This step of widening the circle of compassion is where the magic of bodhichitta [compassion] training lies.”

Roger

Prayer

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From Rowan Williams’ Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer: “Some kinds of instruction in prayer used to say, at the beginning, ‘Put yourself in the presence of God.’ But I often wonder whether it would be more helpful to say, ‘Put yourself in the place of Jesus.’ It sounds appallingly ambitious, even presumptuous, but that is actually what the New Testament suggests we do. Jesus speaks to God for us, but we speak to God in him. You may say what you want –but he is speaking to the Father, gazing into the depths of the Father’s love. And as you understand Jesus better, as you grow up a little in your faith, then what you want to say gradually shifts a bit more into alignment with what he is always saying to the Father, in his eternal love for the eternal love out of which his own life streams forth.

That, in a nutshell, is prayer –letting Jesus pray in you, and beginning that lengthy and often very tough process by which our selfish thoughts and ideals and hopes are gradually aligned with his eternal action; just as, in his own earthly life, his human fears and hopes and desires and emotions are put into the context of his love for the Father, woven into his eternal relation with the Father –even in that moment of supreme pain and mental agony that he endures the night before his death.”

Roger

Life over Death

q-8From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “Yes, there is a danger in trying to make meaning out of senseless deaths. What the resurrection points to, however, is not the meaning of Jesus’ death, but of his life. It is revealing that in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew the resurrected Jesus instructs the disciples to “go to Galilee” where he will be. Galilee was the site where Jesus’ life-affirming ministry began. As Jon Sobrino points out, “Galilee is the place of the poor and the despised.” The resurrection of Jesus thus solidifies God’s commitment to the restoration of life for the “crucified class” of people. It reveals that there are “no principalities or powers” that can frustrate or foil God’s power to overcome the crucifying death in the world that not only targets but also creates a “crucified class” of people. To restore to life those whose bodies are the particular targets of the world’s violence is to signal the triumph over crucifying violence and death itself. It is also noteworthy that none of the stories of Jesus’ resurrection takes the disciples back to Golgotha, the site of his death. The crucifixion–resurrection event points to the meaning found in Jesus’ life, not his death. By understanding the resurrection in light of the cross, we know that crucifying realities do not have the last word, and, thus, cannot take away the value of one’s life.”

Roger

Ultimate Concern

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From Amy-Jill Levine’s Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi: “Jesus, the historical Jesus, cared about prioritizing. In light of the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven, which is already here as his followers found manifested in his presence and yet to come as manifested by the full presence of justice, we are forced to act. We are forced to determine what we must do to prepare for this new reality. What do we keep and what do we divest? How would we live if we knew ultimate judgment was coming on Tuesday? What are our neighbors’ ultimate concerns, and what are ours? Once we know that material goods will only collect rust or dust, and once we know that the only thing that counts is treasure in heaven, surely we must find a new way to live.”

Roger

Untied Knots

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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society: “The flame of anger is as destructive as the flame of craving. When anger inhabits us, we have no peace, no capacity to be happy in the here and now. We have to practice concentration, looking deeply, in order to see that our anger arises from ignorance and wrong views. Understanding the First and Second Noble Truths—suffering and its causes—we will be able to overcome our anger and untie the knots of anger. If we feel anger arising in us, we can practice stopping and breathing in such a way that we can untie the knot of our anger.”

Roger

The Crucified Class

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From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “That Jesus was crucified affirms his absolute identification with the Trayvons, the Jordans, the Renishas, the Jonathans, and all the other victims of the stand-your-ground-culture war. Jesus’ identification with the lynched/ crucified class is not accidental. It is intentional. It did not begin with his death on the cross. In fact, that Jesus was crucified signals his prior bond with the “crucified class” of his day.”

Roger

Touch

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From Pema Chodron’s The Places and Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times: “Another factor we cultivate in the transformative process of meditation is attention to this very moment. We make the choice, moment by moment, to be fully here. Attending to our present-moment mind and body is a way of being tender toward self, toward other, and toward the world. This quality of attention is inherent in our ability to love. Coming back to the present moment takes some effort, but the effort is very light. The instruction is to “touch and go.” We touch thoughts by acknowledging them as thinking and then we let them go. It’s a way of relaxing our struggle, like touching a bubble with a feather. It’s a nonaggressive approach to being here.”

Roger

Unshattered

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From Kelly Brown Douglas’ Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God: “The verdict in the case of Trayvon’s killer was announced shortly after 10: 00 P.M. on a Saturday night. That next morning I went to church. That Sunday was like no other that I had experienced at my church. It was crowded more than usual for a Sunday in the middle of July. People came in quietly, as if something was weighing very heavily upon their hearts and trying their souls. No words had to be exchanged. Each person knew what the other was feeling and thinking. Prior to the service a time was set aside for people to express their feelings about the verdict. Numerous people got up to speak, men and women, young and old. Many people spoke through tears as they expressed their sadness, disappointment, fears, and incredulity. Many were bewildered by the verdict. Many questioned the nation’s commitment to black freedom. Many expressed fears for their children. Young black men spoke about their own fears. Some told stories of the assaults and humiliations they had endured in this stand-your-ground-culture war. There was an overall sense of anger and frustration. But what struck me the most in all of the testimonies was that no one lashed out at God. No one doubted God. No one blamed God. At the end of several of the statements, there was a proclamation of faith. The congregation affirmed each of the proclamations. The people were sure that what happened to Trayvon betrayed the purposes of God, and so their faith, like that of Tracy Martin, remained unshattered.”

Roger

 

Craving

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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Good Citizens: Creating Enlightened Society: “The danger of craving is that we believe that the object of our craving is what we really want, that it is what can truly bring us happiness. So we don’t see the danger of running after the object of our craving. But when craving arises in us, we’re no longer at peace. We’re not satisfied with what we have and who we are. The teaching of the Buddha is about living happily right now in the present. But when the flame of craving is inside us, we no longer have the capacity to do that. We believe that without the object of our craving we can’t be really happy, so we lose all our peace and the capacity to be happy in the here and now. How can we undo this fetter? The Buddha used many images to illustrate craving…[one] is that of a dog chewing on a bare bone. No matter how much he chews on the bone, he will never be satisfied, because on the bone there’s no meat, no juice left. Nowadays the bone may be made of plastic. The object of craving is like that. It can never satisfy us.”

Roger