Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thomas Merton on silence and poverty

"When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effectively, no distraction. My whole life becomes a prayer. My whole silence is full of prayer. The world of silence in which I am immersed contributes to my prayer.

"The unity which is the work of poverty in solitude draws together all the wounds of the soul and closes them. As long as we remain poor, as long as we are empty and interested in nothing but God, we cannot be distracted. For our very poverty prevents us from being "pulled apart" (dis-tracted).

"If the light that is in thee be darkness... 

"Suppose that my "poverty" be a secret hunger for spiritual riches: suppose that by pretending to empty myself, pretending to be silent, I am really trying to cajole God into enriching me with some experience -- what then? Then everything becomes a distraction. All created things interfere with my quest for some special experience. I must shut them out, or they will tear me apart. What is worse -- I myself am a distraction. But, unhappiest thing of all -- if my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction. Full of my own curiosity, I have eaten of the tree of Knowledge and torn myself away from myself and from God. I am left rich and alone and nothing can assuage my hunger: everything I touch turns into a distraction. 

"Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is all in all. 

"For this to be so I must be really poor. I must seek nothing: but I must be most content with whatever I have from God. True poverty is that of the beggar who is glad to receive alms from anyone, but especially from God. False poverty is that of a man who pretends to have the self-sufficiency of an angel. True poverty, then, is a receiving and giving of thanks, only keeping what we need to consume. False poverty pretends not to need, pretends not to ask, strives to seek everything and refused gratitude for anything at all. 

"Far from ruining the purity of solitary prayer, petition guards and preserves that purity. The solitary, more than anyone else, is always aware of his poverty and of his needs before God. Since he depends directly on God for everything material and spiritual, he has to ask for everything. His prayer is an expression of his poverty. Petition, for him, can hardly become a mere formality, a concession to human custom, as if he did not need God in everything. The solitary, being a man of prayer will come to know God by knowing that his prayer is always answered... Gratitude is therefore the heart of the solitary life, as it is the heart of the Christian life."

~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Positive attention is the secret formula

"[L]earning to pay positive attention is the secret formula of almost all mature religion. Any ideological, angry, or fear-based process will only reinforce the False Self. The ego always has an opportunistic agenda. The soul has no agenda whatsoever except to see what is -- as it is -- and then let it teach you."
~ Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond, p.16