In March of this year I completed the second residency in a two year program offered by Shalem Institute in Baltimore, titled “Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Groups and Retreats.”
This has been a wonderful opportunity of deepening contemplative practice in community, and of stretching my experience with new and varied meditative practices. The objective of meditation is to help open up our ego personalities and our thinking minds, in order to become aware of and live out of that deep well of “living waters” within. Our deepest and truest self is our spiritual heart made in the image of God and is in absolute and undivided union with Divine. This deep and loving union cannot be merited, bought or won; it simply is. Jesus says “I am in the Father and the Father is in me; I am in you and you are in me.” St.Paul says that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Christ calls us to learn to live and love more deeply out of our spiritual heart.
One of the meditation exercises that we did while in Baltimore, was to sit knee to knee with another person, and to look directly into their eyes for 10-20 minutes. Where am I seeing that person from within myself? And what is it that I am seeing in the other person? If I am only seeing from my ego or thinking mind, I cannot know deep union with the person. If I am only seeing their personality or how they think and behave, I cannot know deeper union with the person. But if I am gazing from my spiritual heart, I am going to see the person as God sees them. I will see past what separates us, and will experience a deeper soul union with the person. Cathy was the person who I sat with for this exercise. A sophisticated and bright mind who works for Congress in Washington, and is gay. As we sat in silence gazing upon one another, what I saw in her was not her personality or sexuality, not her intelligent thinking mind, but I saw myself in her. My spiritual heart gazing upon her spiritual heart. The same Spirit lovingly gazing upon the same Spirit. It was a holy Communion.
There is a beautiful sufi mystical song that says “I am who I am, thank God I am. I am who you are, looking back. You are who I am, can you imagine that. There is one God, that is a fact.” This is simply another way of reframing what Jesus also teaches. The call on the human spirit is to learn to live from a deeper place within our soul, where there is no judging or separating, only unitive conscious love in God.