Sunday, May 14, 2017

Prayer To Enter The Sacred Heart


              We pray now to enter The Sacred Heart: the meeting points of East and West, North and South,  Buddhist and Christian, Hindu and Jew, Sufi and Taoist. 
               We pray now to enter the Womb and the Generation, the inhale and the exhale, the surrender and the choice, For there are many waves on the great ocean of God.
               We pray now to enter the Christ and the cross, the sunrise and the surrender, the purging fire of this life - the burning shadow cast in the widening light of Trinity.
               We pray now to enter wide-eyed into Maya, witnessing the dance of our illusory sin.  The silent mind rests in the infinite dark behind the eyes. Nothing exists and nothing ever will until this Christ is finally born again in Calvary. And again. And again.
               We pray now to enter Calvary and find our refuge in the Savior Jesus Christ, the Pain-Bearer, the Second Adam and the Sacred Son.  All could be blinded with Light, All could be stricken dumb or destroyed, or All could simply be the Love that is. Jesus chose to make everything Love, and in this we give Him praise.
               From this entrance we radiate-
                              With The Sacred Heart.
               From the sick man's bed we rise-
                              With The Sacred Heart.
              In an old friend's smiling face we see it -
                                       The Sacred Heart
               Through every moment we live-
                              Safely, held within The Sacred Heart.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Christian Mysticism: The Why, The How, And The Good Feelings

Just as the Enneagram implies that people are born with a dominant personality type, people are also born with varying degrees of proclivity to mysticism and contemplation.  If we take an honest look at people we know and people we have met over the years, we can easily admit this is true.  I do not wish to break down personality types in percentages to describe this, though there are those engaged in this heart-wrenching task of trying to quantify what are ultimately aspects of God.  Nevertheless, some are born more inclined to mysticism than others.  Is that why some Christians are drawn to contemplative spirituality more than others?  Does it really matter why people are born as they are?
Buddhists and Hindus ascribe some of the answer to various cycles of death, birth, and karma.  Others simply honor the tried-and-true platitude, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."  I'm inclined to think the why of many questions don't matter as much as we tend to think.
It is more rewarding to, at least in a practical sense, to ask how instead of why to most questions, whether we are talking about technology or spiritual growth.  This confusion of interrogatives has arguably been the primary problem of Western Religion.  
But for the sake of our mission, here at Contemplative Light:
1. Our coaching, courses, and much of our content answers the question: How do I get closer to God?
2. We don't usually focus too much on "the why," but I will now offer one possible answer to the why aspect of the question.
Question: Why do we want to get closer to God?
Answer: Because it feels good.
No, that's not the best answer, but it's what possible answer, or, one possible motivation for seeking a deeper connection to the Creator. Sure, the best answwer is possibly St. John of the Cross's mantra, For God's Sake Alone, but a secondary benefit is that we tend to be healthier and feel better.  It's unfortunate we as Christians have been slow to give ourselves permission to couch our spiritual aspirations in terms of pleasure.  If we share a certain ecumenical guilt (and I believe it is an unhealthy guilt), then it is perhaps this shame in allowing ourselves to revel in feeling pleasure.  While it's true that the pursuit of pleasure can lead to dreadfully toxic and destructive behavior, it is important here to make a key distinction.  Feeling pleasure isn't the problem; attaching our pleasure to toxic sinful worldly things is the problem.  The emotional muscle that feels pleasure is the same emotional muscle that feels all of our feelings.  A strong emotional muscle can feel through pain until the point that it becomes pleasure.  For this reason, saints like Therese of Lisieux and Julian of Norwich have converted the pain of fatal illness into a pathway for transcendence and ultimately, divine union.  The question, then, to ask ourselves is: are we giving ourselves permission to pursue healthy pleasures, or are we damning ourselves prematurely?
[A great commentary on both the attachment of desire/pleasure and the emotional muscle that feels things fully can be found in the book of Gerald May and Eckhart Tolle, respectively.]

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Me And Jason Stellman: Loving The Misfit Faith

I called up Jason Stellman, author of Misfit Faith, and we talked for a good while.  I felt a warm grace in his presence and our conversation bounced ideas that pointed towards the Infinite.  And yet I found myself, in Zen fashion, hearing our words become silence and the only language was the spacious New Orleans parlor in which I found myself at the time.   Then, air and space.  

But that is just the kind of existential weaving and creative passion for the endless Journey that Jason brings to the table.  And there is a demographic starving for it, a portion of Gen X and millennial Christians and post-evangelicals that long for a Quest, both personal and collective, but their repressive doctrinal youth formation didn’t always allow for it.  Jason and his co-host on their popular podcast, Drunk Ex-Pastors, don’t really seem to mind, though. They pour drinks and have fun, bringing a playful imagination and poignant honesty.  No veil of clergy to hide behind, Jason tells his story with the vulnerability and heart of an old, earnest friend.  (Yes, expect him to be on my podcast soon.)

My main take-away from our talk, though, was a gift of hopefulness, not just for myself, Jason, and the Christian journey - but for the collective body of American religion.  While there will always be heresy-hunters, quick to close up their hearts before an  idol of doctrine, I suspect they are not the majority.  And we have brave children of God like Jason to thank for that.  

Clint Sabom is an award-winning writer and former aspirant monk. He works as a Spiritual Coach at Contemplative Light. His new book, Preparation For Great Light is available on Amazon.

Friday, March 31, 2017

An Altar Call For The Journey: Meet Me On This Train

Some concert goers have described Bruce Springsteen concerts as spiritual experiences, and whether you're a fan of his music or not, it's as real as Eucharist blood  that in his anthem "Land Of Hope And Dreams," the Boss (and think for a second what his nickname might really mean) has done what every mega-preacher secretly dreams of doing.  That's right - everyone is welcome at this church, and not because we want to correct you into our way of thinking.  We just hope you join us on the journey, the current one, where the Kingdom of Heaven can be realized on earth.  Losers and whores are welcome, and there is no statement of faith to sign, just the Sacred Trumpets calling us home....

Listen here.

Clint Sabom is an award-winning writer and former aspirant monk. He works as a Spiritual Coach at Contemplative Light. His new book, Preparation For Great Light is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My First Mystical Experience

"And if the dam breaks open many years too soon....."
It was an autumn afternoon at Vassar College. I had stayed up the previous night writing a paper. I turned the paper in at an office across campus and began walking back to my dorm room, eager to rest. Soon, it would be nightfall. The cold wind blew across my face. Leaves fell along my path. Gothic architecture merged into the shadows. Tombstones in the nearby cemetery reflected the last vestiges of sunlight.

It was the fall semester of my junior year. The summer before I had backpacked through Europe, racing through seven countries in four weeks. The trip had opened up something inside me. The dam clogging the river of my emotions had burst, and when I returned to school that fall, I knew something big was happening. I changed dorms, moving from a busy one in the center of the quad to a quieter one on the far side of campus. Whereas I had spent my first two years at Vassar constantly socially engaged, I kept more to myself that fall. And things were shifting. From deep within the center of my chest, new life was gushing forth, some of it painful, some of it ecstatic. I felt in many ways, that a part of me was dying, that I was simultaneously witnessing and enacting my own death and rebirth. At times, sheer dread overtook me, and I feared the worst. At other times, I welcomed the haunting transformation with open arms. Either way, that whole fall still remains in my memory as the most enchanting season of my life. There, in an old and dignified campus where generations of the nation’s brightest minds had walked before me, I was going mad.

(This blog entry is an excerpt from Preparation For Great Light: Recollections Of A Christian Mystic by Clint Sabom)

On this particular day, though, I only felt a pleasant sigh of relief walking back to my room. It was time to rest, to sleep. I met my friend Elsie for a quick chat and a few cigarettes, and then I walked to my room. I suppose I wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep just yet, so I decided to lie down on my bed and listen to some music. The piece I chose was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. In retrospect, that seems like a typically cliché album for a college student to mellow out to - but at the time - such a thought did not even enter my mind. I had always found the album soothingly beautiful, but I had never given it a close listen...until that afternoon.

I only had Dark Side in its cassette form, so I put in the first side, starting at the beginning. I had blue Christmas lights in my room that hung around the edges of the ceiling. I turned them on and turned the overhead lights off, and then I lied down on the bed, the tape beginning to play. I relaxed, flat on my back, arms outstretched, letting go of any stress I still carried from writing the paper. As the music reverberated against the walls, I heard the album more pointedly than I had in the past. The theme of death was everywhere. Every chord, every lyric, every tempo change and loop – all angled towards death itself. Wooing death, avoiding death, loving death, fearing death – the whole crescendo building towards death. Waves of fear began to wash through me. But rather than weakening me, the fear was tremendously empowering. I was confronting my own death, at a psychological depth that I had not known existed. The music played on, and I saw my whole life in review – all the events leading up to the present moment. And as if for the first time, it truly sank in that it would all end at some point. I would die. The more I embraced the terror of dying, the deeper I began to sink inside myself. It was as if the music was gently guiding me from my conscious, everyday mode down to the depths of my own soul. And I sensed a chord running from the center of my heart up to the ceiling. And I was riding the chord downward, deeper into my body. But if I focused on the sinking, or even the process, then the experience would disconnect from itself. I had to focus on death. And the more I did, the deeper down I went.

The music droned on melodiously. Death consumed me. Waves of terror flooded me. But I did not have to control anything. I simply had to let the music move me, to be an open vessel devoid of any will of my own. I sank down, deeper and deeper inside myself. I was coming closer and closer to the center of my own heart. And I was terrified to die, absolutely horrified of it, and I knew that I had always been scared of death like this – this fear had always been here. I just hadn’t fully confronted it.

Eventually, the music came to the Great Gig in the Sky, which is the solitary voice of a woman wailing angelic, wordless sighs. Perhaps the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard. From the depths, I lay in terror on the bed, hearing her hypnotic overtures, and I realized she was the angel of death. And she was telling me it was all okay. Yes, I would die someday. Humming me gently into the abyss of death. Her vision appeared before me at the edge of my bed, wispy and phantom-like, singing, Yes, you are going to die, and it’s okay. And from the center of my heart, from the bottom of the cord running up to the ceiling, the chord I had followed downward to my spinal column, my heart opened, eager to meet death boldly. The chord transformed into a string of white light, and the string pulled me upwards. My whole body shook in ecstatic spasms, as if pulled upwards by the light. Tears flowed out of my eyes uncontrollably. Every pore in my body vibrated; I couldn’t have stopped the process if I tried. I managed to look at the angel on the edge of the bed. Am I being saved? Yes, you are being saved, she sang. I let it all just happen – crying, releasing, shaking, until the music was over, the angel disappeared, and the tape clicked off.

I lay on the bed in the most blissful state I had ever known. I rested as a vessel of pure electricity, having just been brought to a state of perfect equilibrium. My spine vibrated – warm, tingly, yet solid. I felt seven energy centers pulsing from different spots along my spinal column, reminding me of something I had recently read in a book from my Eastern Religions class. But I didn’t completely understand. In fact, I had no tangible categories for mysticism in my awareness until that day. I had been neither an atheist nor a devoutly religious person. New Age and Eastern concepts had seemed interesting, but a bit unreal and fantastical. I lay on the bed that day, 21 years old, knowing then and there that something life-changing had occurred, something that would forever alter the way I looked out of my own eyes.

For more accounts of my mystical experiences, get my memoir below by clicking on the link:

Preparation For Great Light: Recollections Of A Christian Mystic by [Sabom, Clint]