The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere

The Gate of Heaven book cover

The day arrives, the time comes knocking at the door, when the new book needs to be birthed and a lively dialogue begins. This is how the story begins:

“At the center of our being is a point…which belongs entirely to God…a pure diamond blazing…I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.” Thomas Merton

     What if you learned the gate of heaven, the Source of wisdom, power, peace and love we all need, could be found anywhere and everywhere, here and now, right where you stand? Maybe you turned to this book because that is what you are searching for. This discovery could change everything.
     The people who said you could only find a gate of heaven if you believed their way,
acted as they said, attended their church, or mastered the right yoga postures and learned to sit in a lotus position, were wrong. You were wrong if you believed the gate of heaven was intended for people who are worthier than you. What if the very gate of heaven can be found anywhere, even by someone like you, because it is everywhere?
     When we see the fabric of the world’s soul being torn asunder by every manner of
divisiveness between human beings across the globe, the human family desperately needs to find our oneness, our common center, a gate of heaven in our daily lives. What we need now is to encounter the Wild Divinity, a Life Force great enough to move us from chaos into inner stillness. What we need is a Power greater than ourselves to help us make the shift from the illusion of separateness back into our awareness of how we belong to each other and need each other’s protection and care.
     This is a book about the quest to find the home of God in the center of our beings, which can then open a gate of heaven wherever we go. We need that connection to our Source more than ever. The path before us is a contemplative quest: the search for the Wild Divinity.

This is my journey. I wonder: Is it yours? If so, are you ready to enter the dialogue on a global scale, the one where we share our own experiences of the sacred, our own luminous moments that mean everything to us, that even save our lives? If you take the risk to share yours’, as I have done in this new book, you will be enriching all of us and helping us find, or rediscover, the gates of heaven in our own lives.

So today, in the very middle of a pandemic, I offer this gift to you. It comes with the invitation to join in a global conversation of how we have each found a gate of heaven opening in our own lives, perhaps even when things fall apart, and even when suffering is great. You can have a pre-publication copy of the pdf version free. For your free pdf copy just email me at william.thiele56@gmail.com.

If you are able you can also make a donation in any amount to our School for Contemplative Living at http://www.thescl.net. Donations can be received by TextPay, online contribution, or checks. The website explains how, and I can email you the details.

If you want to join in the global conversation of the many ways we are discovering a gate of heaven everywhere, even in the midst of a pandemic, just share your experience into the Google Sheet with the link here.

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Giving up hope (wishing)

Dear ones,
     In the seismic global shift of the pandemic, as the very ground under our feet falls away a little more each day, what if we quit trying to get things back to normal and instead tried “giving up hope.”
     From the opening sentence of chapter 7 in Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, an insight is arising which might also speak to you. It probably has been a truth you have known for some time.
     When Pema uses the phrase “giving up hope,” for times like these I believe a better word is “wishing.” Try substituting one for the other if you read the chapter. (One of our classes in the School for Contemplative Living is reading her book during the pandemic).
     In 1992, I heard Dr. Gerald May speak to the difference between wishing and hoping, (within a retreat led by the staff of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation). “Wishing” is wanting things to be different, to go our way, to change to fit our plans, or to have the outcome we seek. “Hoping” is knowing we are held in the abiding Presence of Great Love no matter what happens, even if things go exactly the way they are going, and even if they are exactly what we did not seek. Obviously, disasters still happen.
     Hope in this sense is related to the gift of peace, abiding peace, which whispers, “Whatever happens it will be okay.” My wife heard this whisper 35 years ago after our son was born and she was diagnosed with a kidney disease that was marching toward failure. She did not hear a wish: “You will be healed of this, it will go away, a cure will appear, etc.” She came to know as a gift in her inner being, “Even if you die, it will be okay.” And her gift began to help me too.
     When Pema writes of the necessity of “giving up hope,” so that we can relax into embracing life as it is unfolding right now, and facing what is here right now, I hear, “give up wishing everything was different, give up your illusion.” (As you all know through experience, disillusion is the dissolving of our illusions).
     So what if Pema’s call to “hopelessness” means giving up wishing altogether, letting go of “if only,” which tends to undercut our ability to be here now and face what is happening now. Then a quote we read this week from page 8 makes even more sense: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation [of our wishful thinking] can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
     Rev. Callie quoted the phrase “compassionate abiding” from another of Pema’s books this week. I believe that is exactly what these times are calling us to find. “The wisdom of ‘No Escape'” in the Buddhist tradition parallels admitting our powerlessness in the 12-Step tradition, and learning to “deal with life on life’s terms.” This is what I believe to be a core spiritual attitude of our Christian contemplative tradition too: surrendering willfulness, (having to have things my way), and embracing willingness.
     My friend in Al-anon years ago summarized the first three of the 12 Steps like this: “I can’t. You can. I think I’ll let you.”
     Prayer: “Dear Lord, since I can’t seem to run the universe my way, and you seem to handle that better than me, I decided to give up my wishing and my willfulness. Through this pandemic, I turn my life and my will over to your care. Help me locate the indestructible inner ground you provide beneath groundlessness. Help me find the indestructible hope you offer beneath my wishfulness. Help me live this day in your gift of abiding peace, knowing “whatever happens, it will be okay.”
     May we all so live, as best we can, this week. Let’s start now.Global prayer
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Freedom

     I am sitting near my mother-in-law and wife in the living area of my mother-in-law’s apartment in Texas. Nothing special is happening, nothing at all. We are just sitting, reading, having thoughts, occasionally speaking, and finishing breakfast.
The cat inside is napping. The stray cat on the porch is too. They are masters of contemplation, awakened ones, neither fretting over the past or worrying about the future. Both are living in freedom, and for a moment I had a glimpse of that incredible freedom, a direct experience of: “this moment is enough.”
     The Buddha, or awakened one, calls us to “cross over to the other shore” of freedom from the clinging and grasping mind and its expectations for things to be different than they are right now. A shorthand reminder is to awaken to “just this,” embracing just this moment as it is without any wanting of things to be different.
     Jesus, an awakened one, calls us to the same in his famous “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 6:25-34), saying “Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat or drink, nor for your body what you shall wear…Behold the birds of the heaven…your heavenly father feeds them…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil or spin…But seek first his kingdom….”
     These master contemplatives want to help us “cross over” to the kingdom now, and they both prescribe the path: “Let go of being anxious, clinging to how you want things to be, and be like the lilies of the field, embracing what is right now.” This is radical trust–faithing–experiencing Enough right now, (not when things are more like I think they should be).
     Yesterday I was riding the Flixbus from New Orleans to Houston to be with the family. I took the seat I had reserved on the front row. When the driver got back on the bus she told me I couldn’t sit there. I explained that I had paid the extra $8 for that seat. She said there are no reserved seats, defying the company policy, and insisted I move to the back. I moved. (It turned out she had an assistant she wanted to sit in my seat and placed her own things on the remaining three front seats).
     My mind replayed the scene repeatedly as the trip began. This was not a grave injustice, and I knew it. But the mind kept attaching to the tiny injustice of paying for a seat where I could stretch out my long legs and then being denied the seat I paid for. It was really no big deal, but my attachment to the way I had wanted things to go was still strong.
     It took some time for me to really notice the reality of the moment. Sitting next to me was a young black woman with a beautiful baby boy with shining eyes and a delicious smile. He was probably more than six months old based on his teeth.
Once I started tuning in to what was, and away from what was not, I made little finger movements toward the boy’s face. He would delight in the game and his smile became little laughs. We played the game off and on over the six and a half hours of the trip. The moment was enough.
     I was able to turn to the side and stretch my legs as needed. I rested with my neck pillow. I read a little. I ate a little. I got out and stretched my back at our stops along the way. I gradually let go of the “grave” injustice, as much as my mind could, and had some moments of being one of those “lilies of the field.”
     In these times of grave distress, when our minds exhaust us with our clinging to the way we want things to be, and our frustrations with the way they are, I think we could all use some glimpses of true freedom, crossing over into the kingdom of Presence by embracing what is.
    From that kingdom of freedom, perhaps divine wisdom will arise to show us how to make the world better, instead of making things worse with our perpetual animosity. The Buddha and Jesus both called us to the Way, and told us how to walk on it. Let’s start now!
Flixbus
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Heartfulness, Even at Wonder Cuts!

Heart in stone photo

Here’s the thing about the life of a contemplative missionary, heartfulness can sneak up on us in so many unexpected places and people and ways. It can happen anywhere and everywhere: even at Wonder Cuts!

Like this:

He was a new hair stylist at Wonder Cuts, the only man I had ever seen cutting hair  there. He was young and enthusiastic, with a young man’s beard and that fast-talking way that elders sometimes have trouble following. He had so much to say that he hardly paused to ask what style of cut I wanted.

In the way that conversations do, the subjects tumbled along from the crowd who had been coming in on a rainy Friday afternoon, to the way you never know when people will walk in, to what he had been reading lately, to the fact that he received his social work degree but had struggled with PTSD after a car wreck in which a drunk and suicidal man had crashed him and six other cars in New Orleans.

He said his insurance wouldn’t cover his counseling sessions so he could only afford a few visits with a therapist named Kidder. Did I happen to know Dr. Kidder? “Sure, he’s my friend.”

I acknowledged that I am a therapist too, and happen to focus on teaching meditation, contemplative practices, and compassion cultivation.

He launched into what he had learned about positive brain changes resulting from all forms of contemplative practice. He said he had a few books on the subject but had barely read any of them. I mentioned originally learning such things from Herbert Benson, MD, the Harvard researcher who studied “the relaxation response” which follows contemplative practice. He knew about that.

He told of being a Catholic who had studied Buddhism for years, including reading of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who founded Plum Village in France, but said he had never found a sangha, (community of practice), or found a way to sustain personal meditation practice. I agreed that it is hard to keep practice going without a group for support, and said that is why a group of us had created a local School for Contemplative Living after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. I confessed that people like me need a lot of time practicing contemplation with others, especially during stressful times. I also said I have a Vietnamese Buddhist monk friend from the temple in East New Orleans: Thich Thien Tri.

He said I was reminding him about a guy who had served at a Methodist Church in New Orleans and wrote a book about all of that, which he had bought but never read. I said, “The guy is William Thiele, and the book is Monks in the World.” He said, “That’s it.” I grinned with secret pride, “That’s me.” (He wasn’t too impressed. After all, he never actually read the book.)

But he did continue speaking his enthusiasm for the kind of life and practice he would like to begin if he were more disciplined. The haircut had already lasted thirty minutes. I think he was so into the conversation and conviviality that he was cutting the same hairs over and over. I didn’t mind. I thrive on heartfelt conversations.

Heartfulness is like this. The heart swells a bit as we connect with others. Our mind and body are engaged but the heart takes preeminence, and invisible things, tiny specks of light and love, flow between two (or more) hearts. A sense of being kindred spirits arises. We experience our common humanity. We have the subtle sensation of being one, even if we are hardly conscious of it in the moment. We know we are not alone. We belong, even if only in that moment, with that stranger who is somehow no longer a stranger.

Here’s a wacky thing about my heartfulness with a stranger in Wonder Cuts. I never even asked the guy’s name. I gave him my email in case he decides he wants to join one of our local contemplative groups. But I never stopped to get his name. And yet I walked away feeling like a contemplative missionary, a guy who spoke with another guy about our mutual valuing of heartfulness. (He had even learned the word heartfulness from reading Thomas Keating, the Benedictine monk who founded Contemplative Outreach).

Such encounters are not rare for contemplative missionaries. They keep happening to us, and through us, and in a sense they have little to do with us. Here’s why.

There is a Great Love flowing through our corner of this universe. That Love is ever and always creating moments of connection between the beings inhabiting this blue and green rock. Contemplative Missionaries are just people who notice the Presence of Great Love when we are lucky enough to be awake. We stumble into the encounters. We have no tracts to hand out, no dogma to proclaim, and no plan for how to bend conversations toward spiritual stuff.

We are more like bumblers who have our hearts opened by Something Bigger than us, in moments of encounter with other sentient beings, including animals and people. Great Love pulls our attention away from our own self-preoccupations long enough to say, “Hey, you. Wake up, and notice what’s happening. This is a moment for connection, like-mindedness, heartfulness, a reminder of your own belonging in real time. Don’t miss this!”

And if we are lucky enough to feel the divine tug at our sleeve, we get to jump into oneness with a former stranger, like a kid jumping in a puddle on a rainy day, or a dog splashing into the ocean’s waves, or the sunlight popping out from behind the clouds.

Contemplative practice, or practicing the Presence of Great Love for a few minutes each day, is our little contribution. Such moments help the heart open and become a little more ready for those chance encounters. Practice helps us experience our smallness and the presence of Greatness. Humility follows. Hearts have a little more room for ourselves and others after that. Love of self and neighbor becomes a little more possible, (as long as we don’t get slammed by our own prejudices at “those kind of people.”)

I know these things by experience. It happened in a conversation with a judge and his team of specialists in reentry from prison just before I made it to Wonder Cuts. It happened in a conversation with a guy fixing our air conditioner. Heartfulness can truly happen anywhere, in direct experience.

But just reading about it won’t bring the magic. So maybe it is time to stop reading these words and go in one of two directions: within, to be present to the Source who is nearer than your breath, or without, to be with the guy cutting your hair. Your choice. Either way, great things are in store for you.

Heartfulness is looking for you, even at Wonder Cuts!

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“You Shine!”

The evening’s compassion training groups had been full and rich, and I just had to let the men fresh out of the Angola State Prison know what was in my heart before they headed back out into the night, “When you are speaking from this space of fiercely protecting your recovery, you shine!” We shared a few hugs and fist bumps and rolled into the wild world, all of us feeling a bit lighter than when we walked into the stark room for the Reentry Program of the 24th Judicial Court in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana.

I listened to an excellent Sounds True podcast with Dr. Kristen Neff yesterday about “The Yin and Yang of Self-Compassion.” The balancing of both expressions of self-compassion really moved me, and I wondered how to bring the truths into our evening groups of Compassion Cultivation Training with these guys. The language and themes of the yang side of self-compassion especially resonated with what I imagined these men had to practice daily.

Following an inner guide, I started the groups by mentioning how the word compassion is often seen as only soft and tender, and sometimes as simply being nice. Then I shared my interest in the ways compassion for ourselves and others can require action, strength, courage, even fierceness. Here is what I asked:

“Tonight, I want to know about the ways you have to act, be fierce, and take a stand to protect your own recovery. How do you show courage in doing the right thing to provide for yourself and your family? What steps are you taking to keep from falling back into the old life?”

Mr. C. was ready to jump into the discussion immediately, his face already shining like a kid who knows the answer to a class quiz: “I know I can’t hang out with the guys from my past. I see them on the street, and I turn the other way. There was a time I was just as lost as them, and I am not going back. I am done with that life. One thing prison taught me was that the old life is not for me. I would get money and waste it all on drugs and then have to beg for five dollars just to catch the bus. Now I am applying for a second job and getting all kinds of interviews. I am doing something with my life.”

“You sound like you are making a commitment to yourself to do whatever it takes to live this new life,” I responded. “Whatever it takes,” he repeated.

Mr. K. went next: “The old me kept fighting with my baby’s Momma to get time to see my daughter. Then my pops told me to be patient and wait until the day I got the call to watch the kids while she took a break. I did that and it worked. Now I see them all the time. My current old lady showed interest in my kids from day one. She started buying them clothes and s***, I mean stuff. That showed me she would have my back. Now I have her and my kids. And nothing can make me go back to the old me.”

Other guys spoke of being fierce in protecting their recovery by: going to 12-Step meetings, talking with a sponsor and other recovering friends, avoiding former ‘homeboys’ who are still looking like zombies on the streets, spending the money I earn on things that last, becoming a better example for my kids, feeling proud of myself for these changes, holding back my “flash point” of anger when provoked at work so I don’t lose my job, moving out of the house when my partner became excessively toxic, sharing struggles and asking for guidance instead of thinking ‘a real man takes care of business on his own,’ keeping jobs for over a year, accepting the rules of the Reentry Program when in the past I violated every restriction they put on me, clinging to the feeling of having my daughter really love and respect me, and want to be with me.”

They also shared some hard realities of stresses they face within their families and at work, things that would break many people, and often followed with the truth: “I’m just keeping it real.”

That’s one of the greatest joys I experience when engaging these men. Over and over they demonstrate their trustworthiness by “keeping it real.” No Sunday School answers here. No playing nice and giving the “right” answer. They don’t have the need for such masks. Their sustained recovery depends on them speaking truth, being honest, putting into words their hardest emotions as best they can, and not falling back to a lifestyle that was all about being slick and slippery, lying so much that even they believed their lies. Now their lives depend on living the Truth with a capital “T.” And hearing those hard-edged truths thrills me.

So, I will be back in that nondescript room, mixing it up with guys I would never have known before, guys who have a lot more to teach me about real-world compassion for self and others. I love how the teacher/student roles keep switching. And how these guys respond when I affirm them cracks me up.

After sharing a robust story about demonstrating true power during a conflict in his work as an excellent cook, Mr. M. got immediately flustered when I affirmed him with a question: “How did it feel to look at yourself in the mirror and see this amazing and powerful man you are becoming, a guy who doesn’t let himself be provoked to his ‘flash point’?”

He threw his hands in the air and said a gibberish phrase that meant, “Stop saying that. You’re making me crazy uncomfortable.” (These are not men who have much experience with real affirmation from the heart). We all laughed, and I let it slide. But he did go on to finish the story of how he was empowered to speak up for himself with the Human Resources person at the job, and let the provoker know about it. He loved sharing the look on the provoker’s face and how that man’s behavior was “shaping up” ever since.

Listening to these men’s stories is sacred, like seeing the transformative work of the divine right before my eyes. My sense is that  a Higher Power is slowly weaving them back together in their broken places, and my job is simply to ask compassion questions and watch the shining come forth.

Yes, my friends, self-compassion can look like being empowered, holding your boundaries, speaking up, protecting your recovery, being a person you and family can respect, keeping commitments, acting with integrity, being authentic and wise, keeping your own anger from reaching the “flash point,” and knowing when to walk away.

May what these men are teaching about fierce self-compassion become how we too live our lives. Let’s begin now.IMG_0052

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The chant just came to me.

Singing bowl

It was late in the evening and I was practicing slow-motion walking meditation around the living room. I was quietly singing a chant-song we learned from Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault: “Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am. Be still and know. Be still. Be,” (Psalm 46:10). I invited the singing bowl in my hand to sing with each step.

After several rounds of this walking, a compassion phrase came to mind and so I began to chant-sing it in rhythm with my steps: “Love your neighbor as you love your self, as you Love your neighbor as you love your self.” The chant just came to me. So I sang it as I walked, each phrase matching a step, and each step matched with the singing bowl’s song.

After a few rounds of this the chant morphed several times: “Love your wife as you love your self.” Then it became “Love the stranger as you love your self.” Each phrase was in sync with a step. Then it became “Love all beings as you love yourself.” I invited the singing bowl at the beginning of each phrase. We “sang” together as I slowly walked.

And just like that, the essence of our 8-weeks of Compassion Cultivation Training* integrated into a chant-song for walking meditation.

I had been reading Phileena Heuertz’s recent book: Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation. She closed the chapter with an invitation to practice the original chant of “Be still…” which she had learned from Fr. Richard Rohr. From that suggestion the words became a chant-song in me, as Cynthia Bourgeault had taught. After that, the morphing simply arose from within.

I find such creative impulses are a fairly common and delightful result of periods of contemplation. It seems that dropping the analytical mind over time allows the intuitive-contemplative mind to arise. And because the contemplative mind has access to the Source, anything can arise from the surprising Mystery within.

In this particular instance, the arising brought a simple and beautiful way to remember and practice the steps of the compassion training. We begin with compassion for a friend or loved one, someone easy to love. We practice compassion and love for ourselves. We learn ways in which all people are “just like me,” embracing our common humanity. So we practice love for neutral people and strangers, (adding people with whom we have difficulty if we are especially brave), and we then practice compassion for all beings.

In a way, the “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” phrase captures the whole teaching, if we know and embrace how all beings are our neighbors. All being are our neighbors, (no matter what rhetoric you hear in the news or social media about making almost everyone an enemy). Oh how desperately we need to return to this truth and practice it as a global community!

Chant with me. Walk with me. Sing with me. Live it with me, won’t you: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself as you love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Let’s begin now!

 

*You can learn more about the Compassion Cultivation Training classes at the website link for the Compassion Institute here: https://www.compassioninstitute.com/.

We will offer the 8-weeks of two-hour classes in New Orleans through our School for Contemplative Living, with class options beginning 9/4/19, 5:30-7:30 pm, or 9/5/19, 12-2 pm. There is also a free intro session on 8/21/19, 5:30-7 pm. Learn more on our website homepage at http://www.thescl.net.

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Courageous in their Recovery

SCABC photo

David Whyte writes: “Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire,” etc. But he notes the word’s origin, from the old Norman French, is rooted in Coeur, or heart. “Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future,” (Consolations).

So courage is living with heart or heartfulness.

Today, I was speaking at the St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church, a progressive Christian church in uptown New Orleans. Though we Quakers prefer to “let our lives speak,” and we are drawn to listening in silence for the Inner Teacher without prepared sermons or programmed worship, I had agreed to share from my experience. In such situations my inner leading is to tell a story of what I am experiencing and learning from others, and I felt led to share an experience of discovering heartfelt courage with Mr. T.

Mr. T. has been out of Angola State Prison for a year now. Along with the other men in the Reentry Program, he goes to work each day, appears before the judge once a week, has random drug screens, and attends weekly classes in Moral Recovery, led by my friend Lenda Faye, or Compassion Cultivation Training with me.

I was starting a new round of compassion classes with my basic questions for the men:

“What is compassion to you? Where have you seen it? When have you felt it?”

The room went quiet as they tried to think, and I wondered who would find the courage to become vulnerable.

Mr. T. spoke first, (like an unofficial “Voice of the People”), “All I know is I’ve been on my own since I was twelve, when my moms was put away in some mental institution for good. I couldn’t trust no one. I took care of myself from then on. I learned to do what you gotta do to get by.”

I questioned, “I’m guessing you mean drugs: doing them or selling them.”

“Damn straight,” he answered, “Only thing I was ever good at.”

Then from the silence I pushed a little: “So you never could trust people and never felt compassion?”

“Never,” he answered.

We all took a long breath, then I stepped into the messy trauma of his story: “What about with these guys?” (I had seen him clowning around with the other men from day one, and I also saw their respect for T. When he spoke, they listened.)

“Oh yeah. These guys are pretty cool,” he said.

I wondered out loud, “You trust them?”

T. didn’t hesitate, “Sure, these are my boys. You can’t live with guys every day for two years and not learn to trust them. I mean we saw each other go through everything, highs and lows. These guys are alright.”

I decided to push him one step further, “You really care about these men.”

“Naw man, I love these dudes.” (I was shocked that he came right out and used the “L” word). “That’s pretty cool T. After all you went through, stuff I could never really understand, you came out of Angola knowing how to trust and care.”

“Yeah.”

I wished we could stop right there and bow to T., or light a candle, or create some ritual to celebrate the sacredness of the moment. First, I was blown away by the tragedy and trauma of his early story. Then I was blown away with awe for a man who was becoming whole again right before our eyes, one day at a time.

But other men needed to speak. So we stepped across that sacred threshold like it was no big deal, and I asked, “Who else wants to answer the compassion questions? Next man up!”

I was still reeling with amazement at how these men from Angola can be so courageous in their recovery. Sometimes I wonder how I got this lucky, like a cosmic accident, to land in that room with twelve men at a time as they step across the chasm from who they were, to who they are, and toward who they are becoming: Men learning to live with Coeur – heart.

Seeing their courage, watching their unfolding transformation, and being in their presence as they always “keep it real” in how they share, inspires me, comforts me, gives me hope.

If their lives can turn around, a day at a time; if they can survive the multi-faceted brokenness they have faced and then begin to find wholeness again, maybe I can find the wholeness beneath my brokenness. And maybe you can too.

Scripture: “Praise be to the God and Parent of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Source of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

Thank you T. Your story of finding compassion among those men at Angola comforts me. If you can make it through all you faced and learn to trust and care for that new family of choice, maybe we can get through our troubles too. Maybe we too can learn to live with heart, with courage, finding the wholeness beneath our brokenness in true community.

Closing Note: September 4 and 5 we will be launching new compassion classes in New Orleans. New groups will form to use exercises, meditations, and dialogue to grow our compassion skills and see if we can learn to live with courageous hearts. If this is a time when you feel ready to begin the compassion adventure with us, email me at William.thiele56@gmail.com and lets talk. Maybe we can become courageous in our recovery too.

 

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