Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Letter to My Lovely Ladies

 My Dearest Ladies,

It’s Advent 2015 and the world is in such confusion, I want to take all of you up to some far away mountain and keep you safe, but I cannot. So I must do my best to let you all know what love is and what love can do to change a world in such confusion. I must let you know that even though love cannot protect us, love can sustain us.

It seems so naïve to suggest that “love” can do the things that so desperately need to be done in our world at this moment.

But I’m not talking about a love that is naïve. I am talking about a love that cost everything. I am talking about a love that must die to self and open to and trust this great mystery we call God, the God whom Jesus pointed to as his Abba, Papa.

Our sacred text says that this God is love.
Our sacred text says that this love:
Feeds the hungry
Clothes the naked
Love’s its enemy
Visits the sick
Visits the imprisoned
Rains on the just and unjust

Our sacred text says that “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship this Love in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers this love seeks. This love is spirit, and this Love’s worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

This LOVE is not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist. 

This Love is LOVE.

A poem I have shared with all of you at some time by Rumi seems to me to be the perfect prayer for this Advent season of 2015:

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, 
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense anymore.”

― Rumi

Where is that field?

I believe that field is in the deepest part of us. 

Thomas Merton spoke of it this way:

“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak his name written in us…like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of live vanish completely”

Merton says this place is not accessible to us, but that would seem to suggest that we have no hope of changing this confused world but to wait on God.

But maybe what he is saying is revealed in the next sentence. This place is not accessible by our ego, our false-self, that self that wants to win, be the better than, have more...'inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.'

Could it be that God is waiting on us?

But how can I, You change the WORLD?

We begin just where we are. We begin with our own hearts and pray that change ripples out beyond us –

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, 
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense anymore.”

It’s an act of kenosis. Self-emptying…a self-emptying of our ideas of what is right, what is wrong…
It’s to become aware of our oneness with that which we call LOVE. That place of “pure truth”…that place where “…ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense anymore.”

It's that place where we realize we are all one.

It is called that place of non-duality.

It’s really not a place we go to but a place we realize.

And we realize it by taking the time to be silent, to be in solitude, to breathe and to wait for the grace to be given by the Mystery we call Love.

God is waiting on us.
Waiting on us to wait for the realization that we are one with Love,  just as Jesus was.

And Christ again is born into this world…

Merry Christmas,
Love Papa


There will always be wars and some which are necessary for the sake of the innocent but war is not the answer and war will not resolve the confusion

Sunday, December 6, 2015


It is the feast day of St. Nicholas and my sixty-sixth birthday.

Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.(source: The Saint Nicholas Center)

My wife is out of town at my daughter's baby shower, so I have the house all to myself.

I have decided to declare this a day of silence and reflection.

I spent the morning cleaning and rearranging my sacred space. In the process I realized how symbolic this was to my life at this time.

I am making a major transition in my life as of January 1, 2016.

I will be working part-time, opening more space in my life for other things that matter, removing the clutter of full-time work.

I am trying to have no expectations of what will unfold in this space of grace coming my way.

Everyone keeps asking me, "What will you DO with that time?"
I don't see this as a time to DO.

I see this as an opportunity to BE.

I have mentioned in another post that I see this transition as a spiritual matter.

I sense the great Mystery offering me something in this transition and I am trying to pay attention to what that might mean or be.
It may just be life.

And so this Advent season for me feels pregnant with possibilities.

May it be so.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I wrote in a previous post that I don't believe we serve a God who fixes things. I wouldn't mind being wrong. Just because I believe this does not make it so, but it is what I believe.
So why pray?

Mary Oliver says in one of her poems,

"I don't exactly know what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention..."

Prayer has always been the stick in the spokes of my theological wheel.

 I have spent 26 years with suffering and sickness, death and dying, and praying with patients and families in the midst of all these scenarios.

"Lord, teach us to pray."

In all the ways I have tried to understand the efficacy of prayer, quite often I feel I am just performing a clerical service that is expected of me when asked, "Will you pray for me?"

Sometimes I want to respond, "I don't know what difference it will make but I will."

"Lord, teach us to pray."

Maggie Ross says,
"...true prayer tries to gather what needs attention and let go of it in the love of God."

Ross, Maggie (2013-02-13). Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding (Kindle Locations 615-616). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. 

Ross reminds me here of Mary Oliver's understanding of prayer.

I couldn't agree more with these two spiritual pilgrims.

So today when I go to work, I will gather what needs attention
and let go of it in the love of God.


"Lord, teach us to pray."



At the end of her chapter on prayer Ross writes:
The deepest form of intercession is simply to open ourselves and offer God the life given us, wordlessly, in silence and stillness, in adoration, not knowing and not wanting to know for what purposes our life might be used, or what consequences, if any, there might be.29 Intercession allows a space for something to be worked out, we know not how. It tears a hole in the imprisoning membrane of our thoughts and fears so the rain of salvation may fall on us (Isa 45:8). And when we have been denuded of our ideas of how the world should be, or even what the problem is, and enter this space of intercession, we find to our wonder and joy that we are wearing the robe of glory of our original nakedness, signing the world with the full potential of Eden. In this vast and fertile wilderness we offer the life we share with God, and we wait on that loving-kindness in a silence that is both end and beginning, our source and our home.

Ross, Maggie (2013-02-13). Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding (Kindle Locations 680-682). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. 
Ross, Maggie (2013-02-13). Writing the Icon of the Heart: In Silence Beholding (Kindle Locations 674-680). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. 

Monday, November 16, 2015


(From St. Joseph's Abbey Web Page)

Reading this morning from 
We Are Already One
(Thomas Merton's Message of Hope)
Reflections to Honor His Centenary 

Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, OCSO,
Reflecting on Merton's influence in his  becoming a monk, writes:

"When I finally met Father Louis  briefly in the Gethsemani guesthouse in June, 1968--only six months before his death-I simply wanted to speak to him a heartfelt thank-you in person. He had shown me through his own struggles and choices, shared with me by those writings with their irresistible tone of intimacy, that it was not an inane romantic dream to aspire toward eternal  Beauty even in the midst of a hard-nosed, pragmatic age. He had taught me by his life, more than by his words, how to distance myself from the shallowness and ruthlessness of the world in which I lived.
But above all, he had modeled for me the thrill of humbly bowing the neck of my own conceited ego to the tender persuasion of a faithful Love that does not pass away."
Pg. 133

Saturday, November 7, 2015


For me, God is mostly mystery.
For me, God doesn't "fix" things.
For me, God is simply present.
For me, God is intimacy.
For sure, God is love.

So when my wife had to be called back for a second mammogram this past week, I didn't find myself praying to God and asking that everything would be alright. Of course I was hoping everything was alright but if it was not, I just wanted the peace and wisdom to walk with my wife and be for her whatever it was she needed me to be.

We both believed that whatever was, was.
And if she had breast cancer we were both going to be afraid, sad
and all the other emotions that come with such a diagnosis. 
And then we were going to do our best to walk this journey together.

Why do I say all this?

It was just good to know that
as I sat there in that waiting room by myself for some forty minutes, following my mind to all kinds of scary and crazy places, I never once asked God to fix anything. There was no bargaining with this Mystery.
My life and my wife are no different than all the others who have gone through such ordeals. We are not in some way special.  I stuck with what I truly believed about this great Mystery we call God.

The Mystery is.

Maybe that's enough.

Maybe faith is just trusting the life we have is always infused with that mysterious Presence.
" whom we live and move and have our being."

My wife was fine.

What was, was.
And as she later posted on her facebook page...

simply, "I am thankful!"

So am I babe!
I love you Laurie.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

What Do You Know and What Do You Believe?


Japanese mothers used to try to curb their children’s mischief by saying, “If you aren’t good, a spook will get you,” or “a child snatcher will come for you.” I remember being scolded like that myself as a child. Spirituality based on faith follows a similar model of trying to guide people using certain images and ideas. On the other hand, spirituality based on experience leads people to peace by having them perceive reality clearly, thereby ridding them of fear:

Koun, Yamada (2015-07-14). Zen: The Authentic Gate (Kindle Locations 268-273). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


"My computer sits in a room at the back of our house, with a view of the garden. I sat there writing yesterday when all of a sudden I heard a scraping, squeaking sound. My gaze shifted to the outside, to the garden. The weather was brilliant. Not the slightest breeze in the air, everything bathed in a soft, clear light. I saw nothing. Another squeak. Then I had to laugh. Above the weathered garden fence I saw the curly head of Antje appear and disappear. She was on the swing, and loving it. Antje is five. She regularly stays over at her grandmother's, who lives next door. Delighted, I keptp looking at my neighbor's little grandaughter. At the eunthusiasm with which she surrendered to the swinging, while her curls danced wildly up and down. She was not contemplating theories or explanations. She was just swinging...I watched this little girl move with her whole being. Without thinking of anything at all Completely at one with her activity. And suddenly I wished for life to be such that we would not grow older than five"

THE TASTE OF SILENCE: how I came to be at home with myself
Bieke Vandkerckhove