Category Archives: Reflections

Healing the Rift

by Roger Sessions
October 28, 2018

Recently a rift has become visible in our community of love. This rift is not new. It has been there since the founding of Meditation Chapel. But it was made especially visible on October 26 when four of our longtime and very dear facilitators told us they will no longer participate in Meditation Chapel. We were left, and are still left, scrambling to fill their leadership void.

It is important to examine this experience, learn from it, and become stronger as we move forward. The rift originates in a fundamental difference in philosophy between WCCM (World Community for Christian Meditation) and Meditation Chapel. This is the difference between Contemplative Exclusivism and Contemplative Pluralism. Let me define what I mean by these terms.

Contemplative Exclusivists are those who look to only one source of truth and one interpretation of that truth. They don’t reject other sources and other interpretations as being invalid for other people, but for them, there is only one well from which they drink. Anything that is not from that well is excluded. Exclusivism does not mean that people are excluded from the group, it just means that there is one exclusive wisdom source that grounds the group. This is a well tested model and has been used by many contemplative communities for thousands of years.

Contemplative Pluralists are those who believe that there are many sources of truth and many interpretations of those truths. They don’t reject the Contemplative Exclusivist wells, but for them, these different wells are synergistic rather than exclusive. This is a much newer model, and seeks to leverage the capability of the Internet to access many wisdom sources and bring together people from many different faith traditions.

WCCM is at its heart a Contemplative Exclusivist organization. Its exclusive source of truth is the teachings of John Main and the ultimate mediator of those truths is Laurence Freeman. This philosophy is explicit in the constitution of WCCM, which says its mission is

to communicate and nurture meditation as passed on through the teaching of John Main

That same constitution defines the role of the Director (Laurence Freeman) as

the person recognized as having a particular charism in communicating the vision of John Main and is empowered by the Community and its governing structure to guide and advance the teaching of Christian meditation.

Meditation Chapel is a Contemplative Pluralistic organization. We love the teachings of John Main and we think Laurence Freeman is a great communicator of those teachings. But we also treasure the teachings of Thomas Keating, Joan Chittister, Richard Rohr, as well as the great mystics from our non-Christian sisters and brothers. This philosophy is embedded in our vision statement, which says

Meditation Chapel nurtures unity and world peace through the sharing of divine stillness and sacred listening. We support groups of all faith traditions in offering and sharing the contemplative experience through the sacramental use of technology.

Meditation Chapel was started by WCCM Oblates. As Oblates, we commit to promote the vision and goals of WCCM. Yet our vision statement can be seen as rejecting core facets of the WCCM constitution. It is easy to see why a small but vocal subset of the WCCM community look upon Meditation Chapel as heretical. From their perspective, it is.

As the last year has unfolded, we have become more and more committed to the pluralistic vision. We now have two contemplative communities meeting and sharing wisdom in Meditation Chapel: WCCM and Contemplative Outreach. Those of us who have experienced the richness of this sharing are not likely to go back to our exclusivist roots regardless of how wonderful those roots were at the time. Far from wanting to limit our perspective in the future, we thirst to expand it even further.

From the perspective of those in WCCM who are Contemplative Exclusivists, we have become even more heretical, and the rift seems to have deepened.

As one response, WCCM has launched a new website offering an online meditation experience. At one level, this looks like direct competition with Meditation Chapel, But I see it differently.

I see the WCCM offering as a potential healing of the rift. Now we can offer a choice. Those who feel the Main/Freeman path is the exclusive path they want to experience have a place to exclusively experience that path. It is the WCCM meditation website. Those who believe the Main/Freeman path is one among many nurturing wisdom paths have a place to to be exposed to all of those paths. It is Meditation Chapel.

From my perspective, the launching of the WCCM meditation website helps us establish our identity. We are Contemplative Pluralists. We can hold up that banner high, knowing that our table is open to all people from all wisdom traditions.

So for those who feel the exclusivist vision speaks to them and would feel more comfortable on the WCCM meditation website, we send you forth with our love and our blessings. You can find that website at

For those of us who have found a home in the pluralism of Meditation Chapel, we will continue to support that vision of pluralism with new vigor, new commitment, and an ever expanding embrace.

Of course, we welcome all WCCM groups that share our commitment to pluralism to continue as treasured members of our Community of Love. And regardless of where you are finding your silence, we honor it and we honor you.

Peace and love to you all,
Roger Sessions


By Laura Waters
September 13, 2018

I had just arrived at a nearby high school to teach a public speaking course, I was waiting to sign in (school security). In front was an elderly man. The woman behind the glass told him that his granddaughter would be right out, and the school’s assistant principal was coming with her. The assistant principal wanted to discuss her “options.” The elderly man nodded and stepped back.

Next in line was a male high school student. He immediately voiced his annoyance at the woman for stepping away from her post. The elderly man gently said to him, “Have patience, son. She’ll be right back.” The boy responded, “I’m trying.” Moments later, the woman returned, and the boy concluded his business with her.

The elderly man spoke gently to no one in particular, “The trouble with this young generation is that they’re programmed. Programmed by social media, television, their friends, whatever they see and hear. They don’t have any patience and think everything has to be right now and done their way. The parents have to help de-program them. They’ve all lost their way.”

I stepped closer to him, and said, pointing to my Instructor identification badge, “Some of us work at deprogramming, too. It’s a collaborative effort.” He nodded and smiled and responded, “It’s got to start at home. If we want to raise mindful children, we have to be mindful adults.” Wise and earnest words.

The way – The Way – is right here within us and among us, if we can only let go of what society and the world tell us to do, how to act, and who we are. We cannot be who we are created to be if we live the life society tells us to live. It takes patience and mindfulness to be in this world and not of it. It takes courage and determination. It means letting go of our “programs of happiness.” Cultivating relationship with ourselves, others, and Spirit in an atmosphere of silence and stillness empowers us to let go of the programming and conditioning, and to embrace the reality of Divine Presence.

Photo by Quentin Ober, distributed by Flickr and made available through Creative Commons.

Dancing with the Divine

by Chris Rhodes
August 15, 2018

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been seen through the things he has made.
(Romans 1:20)

The verses prior to the above scripture speak of those who suppress the truth. This scripture counters that the truth is made manifest, can’t be suppressed, so those who suppress it are “without excuse.”

In our first reading this morning, John Main wrote, “His absolute integrity can only be encountered by our own integrity”.

I thought about how in my interior life, I suppress the truth about who I am. I prefer to see myself as good, too good. And at the same time, I struggle not to beat myself up when I don’t measure up to some crazy standard I have in my head. It’s crazy because God did not ask nor expect whatever behavior I failed to do or achieve.

I’m sure I once judged another for not having achieved or behaved in that way, and now, boom. Here comes the measuring stick like a yoke on my head, not an easy burden and definitely not light. And God lets me walk around with said yoke, dragging it and being dragged down by it, until I He shows me in His light, what’s really up.

That’s when I discover His integrity. When I look for Him with that “broken and contrite spirit that he will not despise.” (Could that be integrity?) He won’t let me continue to romp around with the yokes of my own judgments weighing me down.

I serve a God (or at least try to) who is Lord of the Dance. (Not exactly scriptural, darn! but David loved God so very much he apparently danced like a fool yet God liked it.)

In my meditation today, I could barely hear my mantra at one point because the tango music was playing so loudly in my head! Oh dear, how far away I am from silence!

And then I was reminded of something my tango teacher said as I tried to quiet myself during meditation while the tango music kept playing, playing. She spoke of the role of the follower. She showed us how the follower must wait for the leader, patiently wait for his body to move forward before taking a step back. Lean Into the leader as he/she steps forward, don’t recoil. Only then is there harmony of motion.

How much muscle it takes to lean in and wait! How much centeredness in oneself it takes to devote to the “other.” But together…together moving in harmony, what a high! Finally the mantra took me to a place where the tango music stopped blaring.

As folk shared in our morning group, I wondered about the scripture, because what is made is a reflection of the invisible and eternal and divine. I looked up divine’s definition and it said, having to do with Deity. Well. Diety is a leader. It also said that divine is supremely good.

Then, during our discussion, the only thought I had, and it wasn’t even a thought, just an awareness, was the surrendering to the supreme good/Diety, and waiting to feel the movement carry me, as in the dance. This awareness needs silence. And so I was silent.

Photo by Martin Noren, distributed by Flickr and made available through Creative Commons.

The Inclusivity of Contemplative Prayer

by Nancy Ann Edwards

The idea of inclusivity doesn’t always work in the real world. It is not how the real world always operates. Our human condition is governed by political, religious, and socio-economic bodies of government which often require us to make choices. You cannot even vote in the primary elections in the state of Nevada where I live unless you first declare yourself as either a Democrat or a Republican. They won’t give someone who declares themselves an independent the right to vote in the primaries. You have to first choose your party.

One time when a tv host asked a little boy who was the boss in his family, his father or mother, his answer was both. “You’re quite the diplomat “ said the host. “No!” cried the little boy. “I’m a Catholic Baptist!” Everybody laughed at the supposed absurdity of the young boy’s answer. No matter how religiously inclusive we, as adults, say we are or want to be in our beliefs, we will undoubtedly choose one spiritual path to follow. We can appreciate one another’s belief systems, but we will make a choice and follow one of our own. It would be too difficult, too confusing to remain on multiple paths at the same time.

In the family social network choices can become even more demanding, complex and difficult. Family members often grow apart as they experience life in different ways. This affects their perceptions and can sometimes lead to major disagreements, long periods of estrangement, and lack of acceptance between one family member and another—a painful process indeed. Unlike political or religious differences, conflict within the family itself can leave one of its members feeling lost, not knowing to whom or where they belong.

In contrast, there is a type of tribe-like unity we see in nature. I call it keeping up with the herd. Animal prey run together in the wild, the weakest loses pace, falls victim and dies. The rest just go on. But in our species, even the dead are not forgotten. We never forget our family members including those who have died. Memorial Day commemorates those who have lost pace and fallen. We do not run with the herd. We make choices. We choose.

God has put us in a world that is, unfortunately, not always easy and not always inclusive. It can, in fact, be painfully exclusive. We have to strive to reach the ideal of inclusivity and peace while on this earth. The life of Jesus gives us an example to follow. Christ even left us the gift of His Spirit to comfort, guide and encourage us as we move closer to a unified whole.

I believe God’s love will join all together inclusively when He wills it either in time or for an eternity. Only God Himself can embrace the whole of our creation, everyone and everything in it. But we, as humans can come close to this Spirit of inclusivity, this wholeness of being, while meditating upon Our Lord in contemplative prayer. In our tradition we meditate silently repeating the words “Maranatha, Come Lord,” the second oldest prayer in Christianity, the Our Father being the first.

God has put us in a world where we are destined to make choices, but in meditative prayer I often feel the inclusivity of His divine love and I am able to put the necessity of having to make worldly choices temporarily aside. At this time I let the Lord Himself take over until my prayerful time with Him ends and the need to carry His Spirit of peace and inclusivity into the world begins.

This time of Maranatha, our contemplative Christian meditation, is as wide, as beautiful and all-embracing for me as one can ever imagine. It is a time where I know for sure that God does not discriminate. As the gospels say “He lets the rain fall and the sun shine [on everyone] saints and sinners alike.” It is not for me to judge or to say what is the mind of God, but I can say from experience for certain, especially during meditative prayer, that I have many times felt the inclusivity of His never ending infinite love.

The photo is a detail of a mantel centerpiece created by Nancy’s husband, Sam, showing some of the major faiths of different cultures in a natural setting.


Nocturnal Vigilance

An owl awakened me in the middle of the night recently. Every syllable of its call was detailed and distinct as if it were only a few feet away from me. I resisted jumping out of bed to try and “see” it, and instead smiled, closed my eyes, and listened until sleep came again.

When I awoke a few hours later, I reflected on the owl, its keenly watchful nature, its domain of night and dark. Many people are uncomfortable in the dark, in the dark night of the soul (as described by Saint John of the Cross and others), and in life’s “dark” places. Most everyone experiences these – grief, job change or loss, relocation, break-up, addiction, unknowing, etc. Although these “places” are difficult to navigate, they are necessary agents of change. Just as seeds need the dark, underground soil to break open and grow, humans also need the dark’s diverse nourishment.

I’m opening to the possibility that wisdom wakes us to learn what’s in the dark. I’m learning to use my own light in the dark, and to companion others through it. Darkness is a unique place of transitioning and transformation.

I saw the owl the next evening at dusk, sitting on a tree branch in the back yard. As I watched it, I mirrored its silence and stillness. “Ah,” I thought, “that’s wisdom.” Inevitably, the sky darkened, and night came on full. I realized that most darkness is rhythmic and necessary, and as ordinary as day easing into night.

  • Laura Waters

(Artwork by Laura Waters)

It’s A Process

Change is rarely a single event. It’s a process.

Process (noun): a continuous action, or series of changes taking place wherein changes happen naturally.

Everything changes. Some things and situations do not change quickly enough for me, while others change far too swiftly, and I need to catch my breath. I’m learning how to appreciate the process – of change, of patience, of discernment, of life.

Not long ago, I allowed the push of productivity and external expectations to drive me. I was always in a hurry to “get it done.” Giving attention was sacrificed for a hurried outcome. Being present during the process was forfeited for goal achievement.

Since I began meditating, this has changed. When I need to make a decision, I pause, breathe, and silently say to myself, “Let me process that.” When I realize I am being impatient with myself or another, I pause, breathe, and remember that love teaches me the process of presence. Understanding that transformation is a “continuous action” has drastically altered my life. I no longer try to rush the process, but rather allow it the space and time it needs to happen naturally.

Perhaps the most important realization to emerge from learning to love the process is this: Life itself is a process. It is a moment by moment process of reclaiming one’s humanity. Giving attention to what truly matters gently embraces us as we move through the life-long process of becoming truly human.

  • Laura Waters

Artwork by Laura Waters

Learning to Live the Questions

More than finding answers, a contemplative life is about learning to live the questions. In recent weeks, questions have abounded more than usual. Questions regarding relationships, career, what to do about the violence in our world – acute questions – have inserted themselves into the mix of the broader-reaching chronic questions that permeate life – those about purpose, truth, and love. I do not know anyone who has answers to life’s most intriguing questions. I know some people who think they have the answers, and who believe they have the “right” answers. I try to steer clear of those people, choosing to love them from a distance.

Even within various faith traditions, there is neither any singular tradition nor philosophical treatise that holds the answers to our most pressing human inquiries. While searching for answers may be a well-warranted pursuit, it seems that living into the questions creates a contemplative space for inhabiting the ground of being. Instead of “trying to figure it all out” and finding the “right answers,” living the questions makes exploration possible. Exploring the silent and still space of meditation times, spending time in nature, taking a contemplative walk – these practices offer the opportunity to listen for the answers. Sometimes, the “answers” appear as additional questions that help us to sift through options, and to discern direction.

We can learn to welcome the questions as strangers, showing them the love they merit. As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in Letters to a Young Poet, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart…and learn to love the questions themselves…” Maybe by loving them, we will also live into them.

– Laura Waters, April 2, 2018

The Photo is by Wee Sen Goh, published through Flickr and made available through Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

Delight in the Wilderness

An essential part of anyone’s spiritual journey is time spent in the wilderness.

Indeed, it may be that “wilderness” describes the whole of the monastic life, for silence and self-emptying are two hallmarks of it. But time in the wilderness, or the mystic desert, need not be only sacrificial or brutal. There are delights in the wilderness. Continue reading