Contemplative Times, Issue # 2
The Newsletter of Meditation Chapel
We are called to be strong companions and clear mirrors to one another, to seek those who reflect with compassion and a keen eye how we are doing, whether we seem centered or off course…we need the nourishing company of others to create the circle needed for growth, freedom, and healing. ~ Wayne Muller
Today, many of us feel disconnected. We may feel disconnected from family, colleagues, neighbors, and even those with whom we share a home. Technology seems to increase the disconnection, as we give our attention to our devices rather than to our people. Without connections, we have no community.
But technology can also empower community. At Meditation Chapel I see technology empowering community at its best – fostering a loving, compassionate, and active family of contemplatives. It is a veritable garden of life’s varieties of flowers, trees, and fruit-bearing plants that grow in the nourishing environment of the rich community here. Technology enables our connectivity for the time we practice stillness and silence together, and sometimes beyond.
For anyone who has yet to attend a contemplative session on Meditation Chapel, I invite you into this garden. Experience the bonds of community created in stillness and enriched by sharing. Experience for yourself what I have found to be “Belonging.”
I am not a “join-er.” I have learned over the past decade that community does not translate to “a place where I fit in,” but rather, to “a place where I belong.” In this community, I am valued, loved, and welcomed exactly as I am and because of who I am. I did not “join” Meditation Chapel. I responded to an invitation of Love. I extend that same invitation to you.
For those who continue to experience the fruits of this community, thank you for your presence and all that you share, for you strengthen and energize the bonds of Love.
Our Meditation Chapel community offers abundant gifts – love, acceptance, deep listening, authentic compassion, and more, as each participant offers his or her presence in silence and in sacred sharing.
IN THIS ISSUE are contributions on the theme of COMMUNITY by Robert Lalor, Mary MacKinnon, and Shaun MacLoughlin. Additionally, the “WHAT’S NEW?” section highlights recent additions to our list of facilitators, and the “UPCOMING” segment reveals forthcoming groups and/or events.
Thank you for participating in our community of love, in whatever way you choose.
Editor, Contemplative Times
The sun’s warmth
presses softly on my back.
This generous gift from a star
stretches ninety-three million miles
to embrace my grateful flesh.
~ Linda Blake-Segraves
Michael Gump is the new facilitator on Mondays at 1pm ET in the John Main Chapel.
Kathleen Muller is a new facilitator of Centering Prayer on Tuesdays at 8am MT in the Thomas Keating Chapel.
Corey Krupowicz recently started Wisdom of the Desert group geared toward young adult contemplatives. This group meets Mondays at 7pm ET in the Peace Chapel.
You can find all of these groups in your local time zone on our calendar.
The Two Halves of Life
by Robert Lalor
My life may be divided into two parts: Before and after Easter 2015.
Prior to Easter 2015, I was convinced that all that was wrong with the world was my fault. I contorted myself in unimaginable ways in the vain hope of pleasing everyone. The result was increasing displeasure with myself, which polluted all my relationships.
Fr. Richard Rohr suggests that we become enlightened either through great love or great suffering. My path was the latter. I had become convinced that life was all about suffering and that one should maintain a stiff upper lip (that is to feed the false self) and carrying on regardless. Why should I be any different from those around me?
At a particularly low point in my life, I was Divinely led to a WCCM Easter Retreat in 2015. This was my introduction to contemplation/meditation. I saw, for the very first time, a community of love. On the first two days of the retreat I was gifted answers to the two most important questions in my life – questions that I lacked the wisdom to even perceive.
After the retreat, I returned to Jamaica and tried to create a physical group but without success. Then, by another act of Divine providence, I was led to an online meditation group, which had been envisioned and started by Roger Sessions, who has become my brother in Christ. I took to it like a duck in the desert takes to an oasis.
Now, I have the blessed opportunity to serve our online community of love. Every step on this pilgrimage has made clearer to me my desire to give love in all circumstances. I am coming to see that crushing is often required for one’s fragrance to be emitted. I am better able to see these events as opportunities to discover where my fragrance is less than pleasing. Though imperfect, I find myself failing less, with an intensifying desire to show love in all circumstances. Perhaps I am releasing my addiction to being right in favour of being God’s righteousness.
I found a community of contemplatives who encourage love to blossom. The support and guidance of this community is what I had dreamed of finding but no longer thought possible. I found a community of love in which I am able to discover who I am and why I am, devoid of fears of negative criticism and rejection. I can be who God created me to be, surrounded by a community that desires only the best for me and for itself.
Acts 20:35 says that it is better to give than to receive. Today, I can attest to the veracity of this truth. The blessing of God’s economy is that the more I give the more I receive, which in turn fills me with the desire to give more.
Today, I am learning to love unconditionally, as I am loved by God. And this is the greatest blessing of all for I am now truly free to love.
We are trying a new experiment, a class offered through Meditation Chapel.
Each class devotes the first half hour to discussing participants’ experiences with home practice. The second half hour focuses on research-based tools of CBT to develop awareness of thoughts and emotions. This is followed by a half hour of meditation. Participants spend the last half hour in guided discussion.
For more information about the class and/or Sandra Miller, visit her website.
Note: There is no cost for this class.
COMMUNITY – An Interconnected, Overlapping Way of Life
by Mary MacKinnon
COMMUNITY. A simple, yet complicated word! One which arguably has been updated time and again to something far different from what it originally stood for, way back when. In part – technologically driven.
Over time, community likely has meant various things to each of us. For me, community has always meant being a part of something bigger than myself; a place to enjoy and grow. A place to receive and a place to give. A place to feel both joy and even pain. But most of all, a place to learn.
Personally, as I age, my community life grows stronger. In the past ten years, my three major communities have been:
• Alcoholics Anonymous
• Volunteering at the Compass Foodbank and Outreach Center
• John Main’s Meditation Chapel online meditation.
I love the way trees form communities by extending their roots to each other. They even feed and nurture each other. I believe I have community with my flowers and plants when I water and talk with them.
I have a strange community with two cardinals. They come knocking on my bedroom window. They will even look me in the eye, but they fly to the trees the moment I step out of the door. It is still a community I treasure. And later, when they bring their babies, who haven’t yet learned to fear, I just tingle.
Community did for me what I could not do for myself. As someone who is friendly, yet not social, communities provide the common bond wherein we are all learning about or searching for “something.” I love the word ‘interconnected’. And that is what I think a community is meant to be. It’s a connection between individuals – extended into groups.
In late 2016, I was invited by an acquaintance to attend an online meditation meeting. There were perhaps twelve people, if that many, and I really felt both blessed and fearful. For the first time I could meditate for the full twenty-five minutes, or at least keep my eyes closed. Because I was in a community. A little scary at the same time.
Eventually I found myself getting up every morning to attend and it felt precious. I began to add a second meditation during the day and also stayed for the half hour of sacred sharing time.
This today – Meditation Chapel – is my major community. And I am at my happiest or, to the point – I am most peaceful when there. I honestly don’t have all the proper words to fully explain this community. In simple terms – I believe it is because we experience God and each other in some way that changes me. I simply know that I am loved and accepted in this community.
All are Welcome!
Check the calendar for the time
An Interior Pilgrimage
by Shaun MacLoughlin
Dear Friends in Christ,
The theme for this month’s newsletter is community, and as I am finding such joy and inspiration from you my fellow meditators, I have decided to address and to thank you in the form of a letter.
In what Robert Lalor has called ‘the sacramental use of the Internet’, we are not unlike the early Christians for whom all things were new. We too, it seems to me, are setting out on a global journey, in our case, through saying the mantra, of receiving the love of God and of channeling it to one another.
“Each of us has to discover and then to remember, knowing it with absolute clarity and certainty, that we are infinitely lovable and infinitely loved.” (John Main)
Our sharing our hearts and minds after meditation is proving to me at the age of 82 to be one of richest experiences of my life. I am profoundly grateful to all of you. Each one of us is a unique and utterly essential part of the Mystical Body of Christ. You are each, my compadres, taking me on a pilgrimage to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Recently Simara, a fellow meditator, posted a picture of the Sacred Heart. Jesus had a gentle, generous and brilliant expression; but I also noticed how young he was, young enough to be my grandson, yet guiding me to something ever new. I found it so helpful to have this picture in front of me while I meditated.
I have always loved travel and have three times been on pilgrimage, once walking from Old Windsor to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and twice about a thousand miles on bicycle from Mont St Michel to Santiago de Compostela. Now, thanks to this community, I am on an interior pilgrimage of discovery with you my fellow pilgrims. I have been introduced by you to too many inspiring prayers, readings, and poems to list here.
Also, since Robert invited me to the rewarding challenge of being a facilitator, in my search for readings I have re-explored in greater depth my favourite books of wisdom, such as “Spiritual Enfoldment,” by John Butler, “Anam Cara, Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World” by John O’Donohue, and “Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Valentin Tomberg. This last prompted me to write to you in the form of a letter.
Finally, this Mary’s month of May it will be one year since I started to meditate with the community. I have discovered late in life the “Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary,” a wonderful meditation on the Gospels.
Yours, dear fellow meditators and new friends, with profound gratitude,
Facilitator: Laura Waters
The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them…we do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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