Non-duality and the importance of contemplative practice

Franciscan Father and contemporary mystic, Richard Rohr, was recently quoted as saying that contemplation will save our Church. I would argue that not only will it save our Church, but it will save the world.

The ultimate purpose of contemplative practice is to unite ourselves with God, with the Divine Light that permeates all things. When we meditate we move away from our ego-mind, the place where we deduce, categorize, and make distinctions between ourselves and everyone else. Meditation grants us the opportunity to experience oneness of being and oh, Lord, how we desperately need that.

In my own experience I have witnessed a Church divided, a Church so committed to maintaining the status quo that it often dismisses the actual teachings of Jesus. The teachings of radical and transformational love. The teachings of turning the other cheek, and the last shall be first. Instead, we’re time and time again stuck in the mindset of this not that and us not them. This is not Christianity. This is living with dualistic thinking as your guide, not Jesus.

The problem with dualistic thinking is that it will never get us to God, it will always drag us further away because God is whole – always everywhere and in everything, we just don’t know how to recognize Divinity. Until we realize this, that we’re the problem (i.e. not the other person), we’ll be reaching for an unattainable goal. This is why Jesus says “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Mt:37).

So why are we averse to doing the work? Because it requires us to change and who wants that? Unfortunately my dear friends, it is the only way.

But don’t forget, the harvest is plentiful! Do not fear the work, it is for your benefit.

For those who are willing to join me in transforming ourselves into vessels for Love, this is the practice:

  1. Be kind and merciful, always.
  2. Spend time alone in meditation (don’t overthink this, just sit down and be for some time everyday).
  3. Spend time in nature.
  4. Sing songs and read poetry.
  5. Move your body in a way that results in joy (e.g. dance, yoga, walking, etc…)

These practices are bound to bring you a deep sense of contentment and who knows maybe you’ll meet God 😉

So much love,

Aurelija

Advent

Hello sweet people!

Advent is the first season of the Catholic liturgical year and it spans the 4 weeks before Christmas (this year it began on Sunday, December 2). It is a time of waiting and preparing for the birth Christ through the Mary. Actually, it is a time of preparation for an entire year of spiritual growth and development. These four weeks can set the tone for all the weeks and months that follow and it has the potential to really get us off on the right foot as we dive deeper into relationship with the Divine.

Advent is quickly becoming one of my favourite times of the year, not because I’m Christmas junkie but because I’m coming to love the idea of being in anticipation, of being in the waiting. 

As I think back, much of my time has been spent waiting – waiting to grow out of adolescence and into adulthood, waiting to get married, waiting to have children, so on and so forth… Those periods of time were long and arriving at each one of those major events took years. Though some preparation was necessary, I know I could have spent that time in anticipation more productively, more intentionally. I’m sure I missed opportunities to grow and cultivate skills and relationships available during the days, weeks, and months spent as an adolescent, as an unmarried women and without children. 

Now, when I find myself longing for the next “big” thing to happen, I remind myself that there is so much available to me at this very moment.

We celebrate the coming of Christ every year all along knowing that he has already come and that he is with us in the waiting. The presence of God is omnipresent – everywhere and in all things. So while we think that the next “major” event will bring us more joy, more contentment – we’re really after that which we already have. 

That joy, that contentment, that peace is within you and it has always been. Once you realize this, you will begin to value the times of waiting just as much as those of abundant fulfillment.

Love,

Aurelija

The Purpose and the Practice

Who am I, Lord? What is my purpose?

I have such a deep desire to help others in some grand way while all along I know that I must first put forth that effort into myself. I must prepare myself to be of service.

The best help I can be to others is to be example. To live the message, to live the hard work, to try and fail and try again, to keep emptying myself and allowing the love that is God to fill me until one day it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives through me. To be this example, I must discover my gifts and hone them (as you must yours) – you MUST hone them, and this dear friends, requires discipline. 

The whole practice of honing involves stripping away excess with a blade. The process is violent and painful – this is truth. If you want to live closer to perfection, closer to your ideal, you will sacrifice – you will sacrifice wants (which sometimes even feel like needs), you will sacrifice comfort, you will sacrifice pleasure, etc… 

In the beginning, it will likely feel as though you are moving farther from others towards loneliness. But trust me sweet people, the closer you get to the Divine the more joy you will know. Joy does not come from others, it does not come from relationships, it does not come from children, it comes from God and God alone. It is the gift of honing, it is the result of using the skills, the talents you were born with to do the work of loving.

We cannot love unintentionally, Love is intentional, otherwise it is tainted with our humaneness, with our poverty, with our flaws. True love comes from deep conviction and effort. Yes to love is work, to love demands you to change, you to bend, you to concede – never the other. This is what is meant by “turn the other cheek,” “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” You are not to be comforted or to feel comfortable, you are to LOVE!

This is why it is hard, very hard, if not close to impossible to truly live the Catholic faith. Our culture is all about the self, about getting what you need and holding on tight. Whereas, the Church’s purpose is to turn us into saints and saints are all about their neighbour. The whole point of honing your talents is to give yourself as a gift to others. It’s about taking responsibility for the state of this world by preparing yourself to serve in the best way possible.

People get so hung up on all the rules of Catholicism because they don’t want to change, they don’t want to be transformed into saints because it is really hard and requires a rejection of the ego (who is always telling us that self-preservation and satisfaction is the most important thing). This is the same reason why the Church won’t adapt to the ways of the world – the Church is not meant to make our lives easier, it is meant to show us the way to Christ-consciousness. All of the teachings are our opportunities to chisel ourselves into our best versions. Jesus very clearly tells us in John 15: 1-17 (The Vine and the Branches) that he wants us to know joy – everything he’s trying to teach us is so that our joy may be complete. This is not about suffering, Christianity is not about suffering – it’s about honing us into the joy-filled beings we are meant to become.

To be Catholic is to learn to die to yourself and be raised as an instrument of love. If everyday I’m choosing how to live and proclaiming what matters to me (consciously or not) this seems like a pretty good option. And, who knows, if it’s all true I’ll end up as joyful as can be and if not I’ll have made a bunch of other lives more bearable – either way I’ll have mattered, and isn’t that all any of us really wants?

Love, love, love,

Aurelija

Saints expansion…

Hello all,

I wanted to expand my thoughts a bit on the gift we have in the saints. A point that needs to be very clear is that the saints were not given some divine strength to endure and persevere through their callings, they were human – just as human as you or I. What they did have, that unfortunately, I believe many of us lack (especially in our self-centred culture) is faith in something greater than themselves. They trusted that their lives were meant to serve a greater purpose than self-indulgence and the pursuit of personal happiness and comfort. The saints believed they were contributing to something much more awesome than that, something immeasurably more important. And so they carried on through the hard times, the seemingly impossible times, the physically painful times – not because they had supernatural powers easing the journey but because they trusted in the mission.

We all have the potential to be saints. In fact, the Catholic Church claims that at Baptism, when our original sin is wiped away, we are saints. It’s as we grow up and are influenced by the imperfect nature of this world that we become more selfish and weak-willed. However, this isn’t negative, it’s simply the nature of being free. The change back to sainthood has to be our own personal choice, we have to knowingly turn away from the hedonistic lifestyle sold to us by popular society and accept another way. The paradox lies in realizing that the joy, the reparation of our broken hearts we ultimately seek, is a gift we receive when we choose to follow Christ, the path of selfless love. All of the time we spend trying to fill our aching selves up with earthly pleasures is in vain. I think this is something the saints realized and it is the fuel that kept them going. Once we commit to serving God through loving our neighbour, we are blessed with the interior space through which joy can surface. The space is key because without it there’s no room for true happiness, for inner peace.

So how to de we choose to live as the saints did? Well, initially there very well be a period of “fake it ’til you make it.” The important thing is to start making space for God. Express your longing for inner peace and then sit quietly everyday and listen, it’s as simple as that. Trust that your prayer will be answered and stay the course.

“Express your longing for inner peace and then sit quietly everyday and listen…”

Peace,

Aurelija

Saints!

Where better to begin repairing and reimagining our relationship with the Church that with her people, the saints!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“The spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints and the saints are for the spirit a place where he dwells as in his own home, since they offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called his temple.”

Basically, the saints are people who pray without ceasing by the way they live their lives (1Thessalonians 5: 17). It is not they who live but Christ who lives through them (Galatians 2: 20) and transforms them into the living Love. What inspiration we have access to! Yes, of course, we could spend our time focusing on all the horrible things the Catholic Church has done, or instead, we could celebrate all the incredible souls that it is has formed. The souls that stood up against injustice (Saint Damien the Leper of Molokai, Saint Martin de Porres, or Saint Catherine of Siena), advocated for and provided aid to the poor (Saint Theresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis Xavier, or Saint Clare of Assisi), and those who propelled the development of the intellect (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, or Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) are just a few examples of the myriad of humans we have to look up to.

The saints are the light that guide our way to Christ and we have a huge number of them, over 10,000! We have so many examples of how to emulate the love Jesus lived; therefore, we have no excuses not to. It doesn’t make any sense to pay so much attention to those doing harm, when we have such a large number of people doing good – those are the ones who will inspire us to act, give us hope for a better world and remind us of the Love that created us and calls us home.

May you realize yourself as the dwelling place of the Spirit and let the divine light illuminate both your path and the path of everyone you encounter along the way.

Peace,

Aurelija

Why I Can’t Leave the Catholic Church

John Gehring, a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, eloquently sums up my feelings in a recent article:

The church has always been a flawed, sinful, human institution filled with darkness and light. In part, I go to church these days to grapple with those contradictions, to find healing in the Eucharist and strength standing next to my fellow weary travelers.

The news that broke last week has caused me, along with a most every Catholic, great distress. My initial reaction was to run as fast as I could the other way because how could I possibly remain in a church that allowed such tragedies to occur. And yet, I still found myself at mass this Sunday. In fact, I went more often last week than in previous weeks. But why was I even more drawn to a place that is currently associated with such deep sin? Because deep down I know that the Church has always been associated with sin but it is also the source of great healing. Just as John Gehring points out, Catholics are extremely flawed and there has been corruption in the Church since its inception. Jesus chose Peter, a weak-willed man, to found his universal Church. I believe Jesus was so wise that he knew Peter would fail, he knew the Church he built would be deeply flawed, but it had to be so that it could be saved by love. We only need God if we are broken. That’s the wonderful paradox we live in, without our evilness, our greed, etc… there’s no place for love. We need to have fallen in order to be raised up. At this time our Church is in dire need of healing and it is our calling to be the antidote. We need to do as Jesus taught, we must live out his one commandment so that our joy be complete, “love one another as I love you” (Mt 15:11). Forget the details, forget the kinks. To follow God is to be love, to smile warmly at your children, help a friend in need, give generously of your time, money, space, etc… This is how we will rebuild the Church.

Peace,

Aurelija

We become that which we dare not see…

We become that which we dare not see.

What if the way to abolishing the parts of ourselves that take us furthest from the Light (from communion with the Divine, the source of all Being, Love itself, etc…) is to bring them to the light? 

What if the reason these parts of ourselves keep coming back, leading us to make the same mistakes over and over again is because we’re always trying to push them back down instead of letting them pass through and evaporate into the ether? 

By suppressing our imperfections we give them power, and the more we suppress them, the stronger they become. Their potential energy increases each time they start to surface and are prevented from actualizing. Winding up before throwing a baseball is a physical example of this idea. 

I propose an examination of our least favourite parts. I, myself, have been doing this for awhile now and I have observed some incredible results. After my son was born I had trouble accepting how my body had changed. Though I was never thin to begin with, I had grown accustomed to my particular curves and felt pretty good about the way I looked. After he was born, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror and tried to cover up with baggy clothes. The more I did this though, the more I would dislike the way I looked in photographs, and instead of enjoying the process of creating beautiful and fleeting moments with my son, I was focused on myself. One day I decided enough was enough and I looked at myself, I really looked. I saw my size, my shape, my dimples and wrinkles and I decided it was beautiful. I gazed at myself in the way I imagined God was gazing at me. This dramatically changed my perception of my appearance. I stopped covering up, I stopped being ashamed of myself – in essence, I made light of this phase of my life and chose to enjoy it, all of it, and the outcome was, big surprise…joy and lightness! I no longer emphasize what I deem negative, instead I choose to see beauty and peace within myself which allows me to see beauty and peace within you. 

“I gazed at myself in the way I imagined God was gazing at me.”

Change starts with a simple thought, in order to think differently you need to cultivate an awareness of what is. This ability stems from the practice of objectively (without judgment) seeing yourself and learning about how you think and behave.

Awareness = illumination. You’ll be amazed how easily negatives melt away when exposed to light.

Stop judging and start being – this is the key to your flourishing. 

Blessings and peace.