A New Years Journey


christmascard004    Christ dwells within the deepest fibre of my spirit. Does not Christ call me to welcome my own soul as I would a stranger, as Christ himself? How do the many forms of ‘forgetting’ I engage with nourish and nurture this vision, this acuality, this ‘ being’ within the deepest recesses of my own being.

This Advent and Christmas tide is about welcoming and birthing of Christ within each darkened crevice of my being. As Christ came and welcomed the stranger, can I also welcome the stranger- the shadow inside myself? This is what I sense God says to me. Do I have the courage to set aside cherished forms of forgetting and can I open myself toward the unknown friend?


Abba Antony said to Abba Joseph, “How would you explain this saying?” and he replied, “I do not know.” Then Abba Anthony said, “Indeed, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he has said: “I do not know.” —Antony the Great
This world, this reality, revealed by God speaking to us, is not the kind of world to which we are accustomed. It is not a neat and tidy world in which we are in control- there is mystery everywhere that takes considerable getting used to, and until we do, it scares us. —Eugene Peterson
The heart of the contemplative life is never about escaping the world, but plunging ourselves fully into the heart of messiness and mystery.
As we deepen on the contemplative journey, our aim is to release our attempts at controlling our lives and surrendering into a far greater Mystery than our egos can contain. There are no step-by-step plans, only daily practice and immersion in the messiness of life as it comes. We live into the questions, as the poet Rilke so wisely wrote, rather than trying to find the answers. We practice being uncomfortable. We move more deeply into unknowing.
We follow the trail of the desert mothers and fathers, who traveled out to the heart of wild places to discover their own edges, to be stripped of false idols, to release certainty and control, and to encounter the God who is far beyond their limited imagination. We are also called to step out into this wilderness by showing up to life fully and embracing the disorder to be found there as precisely the place where the holy dwells and shimmers.
When we reach for control and conformity, we effectively squelch the Spirit at work in the world. We recognize the health and vitality to be found in diversity, and the free exchange of ideas as keeping us awake to what we most deeply believe. Creativity arises in response to what life offers us. To be an artist means to create out of the materials given.
Why Dancing?
Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. —Exodus 15:20
David danced before God with all his might. —2 Samuel 6:14
The Lord plays and diverts Himself in the garden of His creation, and if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.
For the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness. The silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast. . . Indeed we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance. —Thomas Merton
As the Buddhist teacher Reginald Ray writes in his book Touching Enlightenment, our bodies are the last unexplored wilderness. We live so far removed from the sensual and incarnational realities of embodied life which offer us a deep source of wisdom and place of encounter with God.
Like the early desert monks, we are called to stay in the midst of wilderness for the sake of deepening into the divine mystery. Not just to bide our time, waiting for a way out of the messiness, but to dance right in the midst of it, to connect to the rhythm of life and trust that love is the fundamental force sustaining us.

Christine Valters-Paintner Abbeyofthearts.com

Desert Wisdom

Article – A New Take on New Monasticism


Two young adults offer a new take on ‘new monasticism’
Jamie Manson | Sep. 10, 2012 Grace on the Margins

Although the term “new monasticism” has been floating around ether of the contemplative world for several decades, it has remained difficult to define.
Catholic incarnations of the new monasticism movement have sprung up since the 1970s in Europe and the United States. Some have come in the form of third-order or lay associates programs in religious communities.
More recently, the term has been adopted by evangelical young adults who embrace a radical commitment to social justice, often living in communities based in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. A visit to newmonasticism.org takes one to the virtual base camp of this version of movement, including their fundamental values, their “School of Conversion” and an introduction to their communities across the nations.
It also offers a link to the evangelical new monasticism’s highly popular books, including their recent Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals. The text is remarkable in that it was produced by young men who grew up in a Christian denomination that is not only allergic to liturgy; it is adverse to any prayer that isn’t spontaneous (with the exception of the Lord’s Prayer, of course). Tradition seems to be speaking to even the most nontraditional of Christians.
This form of the new monasticism is by far the most visible, thanks in part to the support and promotion they receive from rock star progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. But true to its evangelical roots, this new monasticism is also rigorously Christian, less oriented toward the mystical qualities of traditional monasticism and, it appears, not inclined to engage with the spirituality of non-Christian contemplatives.
An emerging interpretation of new monasticism, however, promises to broaden the movement in ways that might welcome larger numbers of young adults who find themselves drawn to the spiritual practices of multiple faith traditions. In the recently published “New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century,” Adam Bucko and Rory McEntee explore their vision of what the “new monk” might look like, what it means to be a monk in the world, and the crucial role elders play in mentoring younger contemplatives.
In the manifesto, Bucko and McEntee, both 30-somethings who were raised Catholic, bring their connections to interfaith spirituality to the milieu of new monasticism. Both have been inspired deeply by Catholic mystics whose spiritual lives drew from the contemplative wisdom of the East and the West, like Thomas Merton, Fr. Bede Griffiths and Fr. Henri Le Saux (also known as Abhishiktananda).
Rather than calling their vision “interfaith,” though, they use the word “interspiritual,” a term coined by McEntee’s mentor, Br. Wayne Teasdale.
“Brother Wayne believed that the world’s wisdom traditions were moving beyond the stage of dialoguing about one another’s beliefs and rituals,” McEntee told me in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “Interspiritual means that once that deep respect and trust has been established among different spiritualities, we can actually move to the next level of sharing our mystical realizations with one another on an experimental level.”
McEntee first met Teasdale through a tutorial on Thomas Merton that he was taking as an undergraduate at Lake Forest College in Illinois. He and Teasdale crossed paths again at the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
“Every evening of the conference, Brother Wayne would invite a group to join him for conversation and White Russian cocktails,” McEntee laughs. “We would be there for hours. It was the start of my first spiritual mentorship.”
Teasdale, who died in 2004, invited McEntee to stay at the monastery in Chicago where he lived.
“I worked with Brother Wayne on the next Parliament. From that point, my whole focus has been the spiritual path,” he said.
In addition to being a mathematics teacher in Los Angeles, Rory is also currently the administrator for the Snowmass InterSpiritual Dialgoue, formerly known as The Snowmass Conference, founded in 1984 by Fr. Thomas Keating.
In addition to the mystics of the 20th century, McEntee and Bucko are equally inspired by contemplatives in action like Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa and Catherine Doherty. Bucko’s first exposure to the prophetic work of justice came as a child in Bialystok, Poland.
“I still have memories of activist priests being killed by the totalitarian regime,” Bucko said. “They understood that saying yes to God requires saying no to injustice.”
Bucko immigrated to the U.S. in his late teens and studied theology and philosophy at St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens. (Full disclosure: Bucko and I were actually friends and fellow religious studies majors at St. John’s in the late 1990s.) After graduation, he moved to India to live in Sewa Ashram, an “experimental community of the poor,” Bucko says, “where prayer and activism met beautifully in sacred service offered to victims of AIDS, abuse and social estrangement.”
Although the level of illness and poverty he witnessed was unthinkable to most American imaginations, he was transformed by the high-risk outreach work that he performed alongside the ashram’s founder, Ton “Ton Baba” Snellaert, and its members, many of whom were Hindu. But perhaps the greatest impact on his consciousness came one day when members of an American Evangelical Church, who had largely funded the ashram, attempted to shut down the center because the staff was not trying to convert its guests into “confessing Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.”
“People were practically being resurrected back to life by the care they were given by people at the ashram, and yet it wasn’t good enough for this church,” Bucko said. When he eventually left India, Bucko brought the wisdom and passion that he learned to the U.S., where, for years, he worked in the streets trying to rescue homeless and runaway youth.
In 2004, Bucko and his friend Taz Tagore cofounded the Reciprocity Foundation, an award-winning nonprofit that empowers New York City’s homeless and at-risk youth to break the cycle of poverty. Many of Reciprocity’s students have run away from home, so Bucko often finds them by wandering Manhattan’s Port Authority bus terminal in the wee hours of the morning.
“As soon as they step off the bus, there is a chain of pimps waiting for them, ready to promise them ‘the future that they dream of,’ ” he said. “Our job is to catch the kids before they become victims of this never-ending cycle of horror, abuse and prostitution.”
In addition to helping them find shelter, teaching them life skills and trying to connect them with internships and employers, the staff of Reciprocity also guides them in being in touch with their spirits. There is a teacher who leads them in yoga classes, and some eventually go on retreats at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York.
“But we don’t start with Buddhism or yoga,” Bucko said. Instead, they employ a “whole person” approach to each student.
“We ask them bring all aspects of themselves into the room,” he said. “Their fears, their hurts, their beauty. We sit with it together and hold it and are present to it. And if we sit long enough, something will emerge. It really is a contemplative process, but it is a more experiential approach to spiritual direction and spiritual friendship.”
Bucko and McEntee’s paths crossed in 2010 at a meeting of another emerging group known as the Young Contemplative Alliance.
“Adam was a leader in the group, and I learned about it at the last minute,” McEntee said. “We even didn’t get to talk until everyone was leaving the meeting. We realized how similar our journeys had been and how we both sensed the same movements of the spirit in the new generation of contemplatives. It was the start of this two year dialogue we’ve been having.”
A shared retreat at the Sky Farm Hermitage in the hills of Sonoma, Calif., planted the seeds that would grow into the manifesto.
“While we were there, Sr. Michaela Terrio, one of Sky Farm’s hermits in residence, gave us an article she had recently read about being monks in the world,” McEntee said. Terrio began her religious life as a Cloistered Poor Clare Nun for 17 years and, after a trip to India, became a student of Fr. Bede Griffiths.
The article, which drew heavily on Fr. Ramon Pannikar’s book Blessed Simplicity, gave McEntee and Bucko a framework for imaging how young adults can embody an interspiritual new monasticism in a postmodern world.
“If you look at the demographics, the number of young people who identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’ is quite high,” McEntee said.
Both he and Bucko were concerned that some young people only know the spirituality offered by New Age thought.
“Adam and I share the belief that the real contemplative depth is in the traditions. Depth and wisdom are often lost in the translation to New Age spirituality, which can be shallow in certain areas,” McEntee said.
“The manifesto is a response to something we’ve been feeling in our hearts for a long time,” Bucko said. And apparently it is resonating with the hearts of both old and young contemplatives alike. The manifesto has “gone viral” since the pair began emailing it to friends and colleagues during the summer.
“We would send it one friend, only to find out she had already received it from two other sources,” Bucko said.
Much as Bucko and McEntee want to live and serve in the world, they are aware that growing secularism, individuality and the decline of interest in institutional religion and religious communities threaten to overshadow, if not extinguish altogether, the richness that Eastern and Western spiritual traditions can continue to offer humanity.
“Our generation has a great responsibility,” Bucko said. “If we don’t figure out how to take the best of our traditions and pass them on, they may not be there in the future.”

[Jamie L. Manson received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her columns for NCR earned her a first prize Catholic Press Association award for Best Column/Regular Commentary in 2010.]

Link to Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century



New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko” We assert that new monasticism names an impulse that is trying to incarnate itself in the new generation. It is beyond the borders of any particular religious institution, yet drinks deeply from the wells of our wisdom traditions. It is an urge which speaks to a profoundly contemplative life, to the formation of small communities of friends, to sacred activism and to discovering together the unique calling of every person and every community.”

New Monasticism Article


Monasticism : Envisioning monks without borders Jamie Manson Sep. 20, 2012 Grace on the Margins
Part two of a three-part series.
The dwindling number of vocations to priesthood, religious orders and monastic life make it clear that traditional religious life no longer speaks to newer generations the way it has for centuries. But some young people still long for lives of service, prayer and simplicity that are the hallmarks of monasticism.
“Even our elders, our spiritual mentors know that something new is emerging,” says Adam Bucko, co-author of the extended essay “New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century.” The piece is an attempt to put into words what has been stirring in their hearts of many young adults: 20- and 30-somethings who feel called to lives of contemplation and action but who do not necessarily feel drawn to one particular religious tradition or called to the traditional forms of monasticism.
“The sisters, brothers and hermits that have been our mentors all have a real desire to connect with young people, but they are having trouble figuring out how to do it,” says Rory McEntee, who co-authored the manifesto with Bucko. “We are hoping to serve as a bridge to connect the generations.” Both Bucko and McEntee agree the bridge will not stand without a creative, transformative understanding of monastic life.
To help guide them through their emerging image of the new monk, they rely on Blessed Simplicity: The Monk as Universal Archetype, Raimundo Pannikar’s 1982 book on new forms of monasticism. “The new monk is an ideal, an aspiration that lives in the minds and hearts of our contemporary generation,” Pannikar writes. But this modern monk “does not want to renounce, except what is plainly sinful or negative,” but rather wishes to “transform all things.” Pannikar envisioned a new monk that would reach the monastic goal of “blessed simplicity,” not by stripping away all things, but through integrating all of the aspects of her or his life. “All of us, at some time or another, have felt stirrings of what the monk aspires,” Bucko and McEntee write in the manifesto. “We have all had moments of ‘transcendence,’ moments of deep passion for justice and truth, outpourings of compassion for others in suffering, or a perfect feeling of love towards our partner or children. These moments … touch a hidden dimension inside of us.” Bucko and McEntee understand the monk as the person who recognizes the authenticity and importance of these moments and commits to seeking the deeper reality behind these experiences.Theirs is a vision of a monk who works in the world, who cannot renounce the secular world because there is holiness there as well. “The new monk may be an artist, a scientist, a spiritual teacher, an elementary teacher, a social worker, a waiter. It is not so much the job that matters, as the place from which they approach their work,” the manifesto explains.
“The new monk hears the pains and moans of a new creation taking place all around” and “cannot turn away from the suffering,” Bucko and McEntee write. It is an evolutionary understanding of the monk that was inspired by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote in The Divine Milieu:May the time come when men [sic], having been awakened to a sense of the close bond linking all the movements of this world in the single, all-embracing work of the Incarnation, shall be unable to give to pass, there will be little to separate life in the cloister from the life of the world. The word monk is, of course, riddled with baggage. For many it denotes male, celibate, Roman Catholic, cut off from the world, tied to one place. But Pannikar believed all should be welcome to explore their contemplative calling. “If the monastic dimension exists at least potentially in everybody, the institution of monasticism should be equally open to everybody,” he wrote. Both McEntee and Bucko take it as a given that all may participate in this vision of new monasticism regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or relationship status. Bucko’s own work with homeless youth has heightened his awareness of the critical need for the full inclusion of LGBT people in religious and spiritual circles. Many of the young people he works with either ran away from home or were thrown out of their homes because their parents refused to tolerate their sexual orientations or gender identities. In most cases, they rejected their children on the basis of their religious beliefs.
For McEntee, broadening the circle of who is welcome to explore their “inner monk” is an important way to reach the new generation. “Many of the arguments we’re having now will be gone in 20 to 30 years. The new generation won’t be interested in fighting those battles” that many religious groups are struggling over today, such as gender equality and LGBT inclusion. “We will be ready for a whole new conversation.” But their inclusive position isn’t founded simply on the desire to appeal to the new generation, but on their belief in the goodness of the human body and human desires. “The new monk sees the body as a holy incarnation,” they write in the manifesto, “and part of her spiritual work is in maintaining a healthy, nurturing and transformative relationship with it.” Bucko explains that his observations of both the Catholic Worker as well as the evangelical versions of new monasticism have shown him it is possible to be in a committed relationship and live in a monastic type of community. “New monasticism also encourages intimate relationships, both deep and meaningful friendships and committed and loving sexual relationships. New monasticism is concerned with discovering the divine nature and proper place of all relationships. It is not opposed to celibacy; rather it recognizes it as a profound and genuine calling, albeit a rare one.”
This notion of intimacy is in many ways the driving principle behind their interpretation of new monasticism. “Most people nowadays learn about spirituality through weekend workshops, so they don’t always have a chance to be connected to each other. It makes it harder for transformation to happen,” Bucko says. The goal is of this movement is to bring in the some of the most sought-after monks, hermits and spiritual teachers to serve as elders for young contemplatives. The hope is that this spiritual mentorship will foster the creation of small, intimate communities of young adults who are committed to sacred activism and to helping one another discover their own vocations. For Bucko, this vision is inspired by his experience of one-on-one and group spiritual direction, a gift of the Catholic tradition he cherishes most. “We don’t want young adults ‘following’ us, we want to help them both discover their inner resources and create communities of friends. We don’t want to influence them, but to help them discern their gifts and help them in their spiritual formation process,” Bucko explains.”Adam and I have been blessed with wonderful teachers and elders for most of our young adulthood,” McEntee says. “We would love others to have that, too. We are not looking to create guru and disciple relationships, but spiritual mentorship. We don’t want the wisdom of our elders to die with them.” Their hope is that these small communities of young contemplatives grow organically. “Some groups may want to live together in a more formal monastic way. Others may want to live alone or just with their partners, but gather together regularly with their communities for prayer, contemplation, or sessions with an elder,” Bucko says.
Because this understanding of new monasticism is interspiritual, these communities should develop “beyond the borders of any particular religious institution” while also drinking “deeply from the wells of our wisdom traditions,” Bucko and McEntee write. This is especially important since many young adults seem inclined to engage with multiple wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism, and spiritual practices, such as yoga and Zen meditation. To accomplish these extraordinary goals, Bucko and McEntee have identified four specific projects. The first, called HAB (an Aramaic word that evokes the active dimension of love), will be an “ecumenical and interspiritual contemplative fellowship for young people,” especially those on college campuses. It hopes to offer educational programs and retreats that are co-taught by respected spiritual teachers.
Bucko and McEntee also envision a seven-year process for those who want to do long-term work with a spiritual director, learn from elders and have a deeper commitment to a community. This includes daily contemplative practices, intellectual study, psychological shadow work and extended retreat periods.”We foresee this formation as a process that embodies and anchors what ‘full commitment to the spiritual life looks’ like in the 21st century,” they explain. A third goal is to found New Way Publishing, a small publishing company that produces materials that “look young,” and speak to the longings and questions of young adults. These publications will offer dialogues with elders and “help shape what a contemplative culture in the modern age looks like.” Bucko and McEntee say “this ‘niche’ is not something that is currently represented in the publishing landscape.” Finally, they hope to establish “a small, interspiritual New Monastic ashram.” This would be “a sacred space to incarnate the New Monastic vision” and a spiritual home for those new monks who are “living active lives ‘in the world.’ ”
Even with four goals in place, McEntee and Bucko are, true to their spiritual dispositions, open to the way in which the spirit will move in the unfolding of these ideas. They already have offers from spiritual teachers, monks and hermits — many of them Catholic — to speak to groups of young adults who are interested in contemplation and action. Asked whether they are concerned about funding and resources, Bucko insists that, like their understanding of monasticism, this is a movement that will operate on a different kind of model. “This isn’t about building a big organization and then hassling to get money,” says Bucko, who knows well the pains of building one’s own nonprofit organization. “This is about utilizing and sharing our gifts. It doesn’t cost anything to be friends with people and create this kind of community.”
Next week, the final part of this series will offer a reflection on the ways in which these new forms of monastic life and monastic community might speak to the unique religious questions and spiritual longings of young adults.
Read more in this series
Two young adults offer a new take on ‘new monasticism’
New monasticism: Envisioning monks without borders
[Jamie L. Manson received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her columns for NCR earned her a first prize Catholic Press Association award for Best Column/Regular Commentary in 2010.]

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The Presence of Suffering


One way in which our mind can bring suffering into our experience can be through the internal demands and expectations that we have about ourselves and our lives. In our humanity, we may expect and demand that life be a particular way for us and meets these needs from a self, an ego that in a sense may demand this from us.
Adyashanti speaks of this when he writes ” I want this,”I want that, I don’t want this, I don’t want that, you should be like this, you shouldn’t have done that to me, I shouldn’t feel that way.”
In a sense I feel this is how the mind creates a ”self” that can manipulate reality. An ”unclaimed” self that lives in terror of losing control, losing control of ourselves, our very life, and in which cannot accept the basic fundamental and painful reality; that we are not in control, and we haver never been. Reality and life happen, unfolding as it does. Our thinking and thought processing, in this can create untold internal suffering for us. The mind assets itself as separate, existing somehow divided apart from us, unconnected to the great web of all that surrounds us, and in this fear of separation compartmentalizes the separate and unconnected illusion of who we think and believe ourselves to be. The minds tendency is to compartmentalize and control the ambiguous- the chaotic- and in this ultimately illusory sense of control it feels an inner security and safety is in it’s own self protective internal logic.
This is not to say that the mind does not have it’s own place within the makeup of a functioning personality as I believe it certainly does. Rather the mind, I feel, must come into the the presence and wisdom of the heart and needs to be brought toward the awareness of this ” still centre” thus becoming embraced through  the tender compassion of the this great teacher and wise presence within.

Obedience and Listening


  John Michael Talbot, founder of Little Portion Hermitage monastery, Arkansas, writes on Obedience in ‘ The Universal Monk- The Way of the New Monastics’, ”for the monastic tradition obedience is a spirituality based on listening that becomes a whole way of life. We learn to really listen before we respond, and we learn to […]