Everyone walking into a beautiful sanctuary has a different experience. Which one is the right experience? Everyone listening to a speaker hears something different, like these friends in the photo hearing Rev. Dr. Tilden Edwards speak at St. Andrew’s Episcopal church. Which hearing is correct? So what, are we to believe that God speaks in tongues, i.e., in every single person’s unique language simultaneously? Oh yeah.
This week one of our classes in the School for Contemplative Living decided to engage in a silent walking meditation through the Episcopal Christ Cathedral of New Orleans. Eight of us walked, and we had eight very different experiences. In our sharing afterwards we learned there are eight ways of walking for eight people. And, of course, there were eight right ways of experiencing the sacred. Each was fascinatingly unique.
Richard Rohr teaches that we possess a dualistic mind, which is very helpful in getting through the details of daily life because sometimes we need to turn either right or left. But as he notes often, the dualistic mind, the one that functions best in a right/wrong world, simply cannot operate in God’s world. In God’s world there are eight right ways of walking for every eight people.
Father Rohr goes on to say what we need for operating in God’s world is a contemplative mind. This mind derives directly from the mind of God who we unite with in contemplative experiences. In the contemplative mind there are eight right ways of walking for eight people. In fact, there are an infinite number of right ways of being in God and learning God’s truths. Our group knows this through sharing and embracing our unique contemplative experiences.
In another group this week, a Trust Circle in which we sit silently and then listen with our souls to poems, seven of us responded in seven ways to the poems. Everyone was right because each person said what spoke to them. No one else can tell us what speaks to us, or how a poem “should” speak to us.
There is a delightful freedom in transcending the dualistic mind’s path to the “right” information and engaging the contemplative mind’s path to our personal transformation. And I bet God and her angels are dancing as each of God’s unique creatures has their own God experience. Doesn’t God clearly delight in making every single creature with a one-of-a-kind mold?
One lesson we keep learning in one contemplative group after another is that God speaks in tongues. And thanks be to God, we can each hear with our own unique ears and be “right”! So far we have had ten contemplative groups this week. Today about ten other people will gather for a Quiet Day of centering prayer, journaling, reading, resting in the stillness. Speak in tongues Lord, for your servants are all listening with our own ears.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, now available as a Kindle book. For Father Rohr’s writing on the dualistic and contemplative minds see The Naked Now. For Tilden Edwards’ recent writing see Embracing the Call to Spiritual Depth.