If you…

Richard Rohr – If you want others to be more loving, choose to love first. If you want a reconciled outer world, reconcile your own inner world. If you are working for peace out there, create it inside as well. If you wish to find some outer stillness, find it within yourself. If you want to find God, then honor God within you, and you will always see God far beyond you, also. For it is only God in you who knows where and how to look for God. By ourselves, we are fairly blind.

a puddle in the pig lot

Brilliant and gorgeous day, bright sun, breeze making all the leaves and high brown grass shine. Singing of the wind in the cedars Exultant day, in which a puddle in the pig lot shines like precious silver.

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obliga tion to surpass myself unless I first accept myself—and, if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. For it is the unaccepted self that stands in my way—and will con tinue to do so as long as it is not accepted. When it has been accepted, it is my own stepping-stone to what is above me. Because this is the way man was made by God—and original sin was the effort to surpass oneself by being “like God,” i.e., unlike oneself. But our Godlikeness begins at home. We must become like ourselves, and stop living “beside ourselves.”

Thomas Merton, journal entry 10.2.1958

nothing except God

Out here in the woods I can think of nothing except God, and it is not so much that I think of Him either. I am as aware of Him as of the sun and the clouds and the blue sky and the thin cedar trees.

Engulfed in the simple lucid actuality which is the afternoon: I mean God’s afternoon, this sacramental moment of time when the shadows will get longer and longer, and one small bird sings quietly in the cedars, and one car goes by in the remote distance and the oak leaves move in the wind.

High up in the summer sky I watch the silent flight of a vulture, and the day goes by in prayer. This solitude confirms my call to solitude. The more I am in it, the more I love it. One day it will possess me entirely and no man will ever see me again.

Thomas Merton, journal entry, September 15, 1952

Bismillah – Rumi

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you expect to be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.
You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.
Say Bismillah, In the name of God,
as a priest does when offering an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.

Welcoming Prayer – Fr. Thomas Keating

DSC_8165

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen.

My Worst Habit – Rumi

My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I am with.
If you’re not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words
tangle up and knot.
How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits?  Send me back to you.
When water gets caught in the habitual whirlpools,
dig a way out through the bottom
to the ocean. There is a secret medicine
given only to those who hurt so hard
they can’t hope.
The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.
Look as long as you can at the friend you love,
no matter if that friend is moving away from you
or coming back towards you.
Don’t let your throat tighten
with fear. Take sips of breath
all day and night, before death
closes your mouth.
– Rumi

Get behind me…

When you read the lives of the saints, especially in some older books, you can get the impression that they lived in a different world. Many of them describe physical encounters with Satan within which they would, literally, get beaten up by him. Satan, it seemed, was forever lurking under a bed, in a basement, in a stairwell, or in some dark corner, just waiting to pounce on them and beat them up. They had to be careful not to venture naively into dark places; though, conversely, there were times when they readied themselves and went deliberately, to the desert, to openly do battle with him.

And, in that fight, they had a great weapon, simple one-line mantras: “Get behind me, Satan!” “Satan, leave this room!” “Satan, leave me alone!” That brought guaranteed results. He left them in peace for a while, though they emerged somewhat scraped and bruised from the encounter.

Such language sounds pretty esoteric and even superstitious to us. Not many of us have ever had Satan pop up from under our beds or from some dark place and begin to beat us up. Or have we?

Who or what is Satan? Believers today are split as to whether or not they believe that Satan is an actual person or simply a symbol for a venomous power that can overwhelm you, strip you of moral strength, and leave you precisely with the feeling of having been beaten up. Either way, whether we believe that Satan is an actual person or simply a symbol for malevolence, temptation, and lack of moral strength, the encounters that the saints describe happen to us too in our rational, agnostic lives just as surely as they happened to pious believers in former times.

Satan, scripture tells us, is the prince of jealousy, bitterness, paranoia, obsession, and lies. Few things in life torment us and beat us up as badly as these. They lurk in every dark corner, come out from under our beds at night, generally threaten us, darken our days, dampen our joys, and make us anxious as to what might lie around the corner. We just word things differently.

We speak of being “obsessed”, while the saints speak of being “possessed”. It’s just a difference of words.

Satan, however we choose to conceive of that power, is harassing us all the time and we, like the saints of old, need to learn the mantra: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Where are we harassed and beaten up by Satan? Here are some, everyday, examples:

Every time our minds and hearts begin bitterly replaying, like cassette tapes, old conversations, old wounds, old rejections, and old injustices, so that everything inside of us wants to scream: “This isn’t fair!” “How dare he say that!” “How can she do that, after all I did for her!” “I hate those people!” “Why do I always get cheated?”, we are being tormented by Satan and need to say: “Get behind me, Satan!” There will be no joy, goodness, or moral strength in our lives until those obsessions leave us alone.

Every time we feel a deep emptiness inside and our world feels flat and empty of meaning because we are obsessed with someone or something we can’t have, we need to pray: “Get behind me, Satan!” Heartaches, especially over frustrated love, might well speak of romance, but they also bespeak satan in that they drain the joy out of life and deaden all of our manageable loves. Satan doesn’t come at us like a demon with a pitchfork, standing before fire and smoke, he torments us in a frustrated, pathologically-restless, romantic fantasy that has us in near-suicidal depression and comes upon us in dark stairwells, at parties, and right within our own beds.

Every time we feel pangs of jealousy (not necessarily overtly directed against someone else’s good fortune) but in the disappointment that we feel because our bodies, marriages, careers, and even our morals haven’t turned out as perfectly as we’d have liked, whenever we find it hard to be grateful for our own lives, we are being beaten up by Satan and need to say: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Indeed, any time we have trouble falling asleep at night because some memory, some disappointment, some lost love, some wrong-turn taken, or some obsession won’t let go and give us enough calm to sleep, Satan is harassing us, right in own beds, and we need, like the saints of old, to say: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Satan is alive and well, still tormenting us in our beds, in basement rooms, in dark stairwells, and in broad daylight as we travel to work. We call his presence: obsessions, heartaches, restlessness, jealousy, emptiness, fear, paranoia, old hurts, insomnia, chaos, and other names. Like the saints of old, we need at times when we feel strong enough to wrestle with him openly in the desert, but we need too, whenever our fears and obsessions begin to beat us up, to say the ancient prayer: “Get behind me, Satan!

– Ronald Rolheiser