Author’s Note: Today I am introducing a new book through this blog. I want to share the opening of my next book and get your response. Your comments help me continue with the work, as well as making changes as needed. So please feel free to respond when you feel so led.
The gist of the message is what I have learned over the last few decades as a messy contemplative: We can find the home of God within, and when we do, we discover that the gate of heaven is everywhere! One of those moments happened with my wife, standing by a field of wild flowers in the City Park of New Orleans. That’s her in the photo. And there are so many more gates everywhere. Take the journey for yourself and see if this is true. I hope reading this series helps you find your own gates of heaven.
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.
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 story 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, though we stumble around like blind people when we try to find it on our own. The path before us is a contemplative quest, the search for the Wild Divinity, and it is my journey. I wonder: Is it yours’? I hope so because I need your help to find my way Home.
I hope my meditation practice will lead me to that God point in the center of my being. Then, after the meditation, I want to find an opening of the gate of heaven again so I can encounter the divine in my daily life. I know finding the nearness of the divine can sustain me through life’s terrible challenges, and can become my great treasure. But, just like Thomas Merton, I have no program to guarantee sacred vision. So where do I turn?
My contemplative practice is like holding space within me in which to discover God’s presence. That is what I am seeking. But making space in my mind and heart also allows tough things to come bubbling up from within me. Feelings, thoughts, memories, impulses, imagined stories, and personal suffering often flood into that space. Meditating can be a wild roller coaster ride.
For example, during one meditation I remembered a night when I could not drive back to New Orleans to be with my wife in the emergency room. Her infection had popped up while I was away on a silent retreat. I remembered my tiredness that night, how I could not get out of bed to make that drive, and felt embarrassed and ashamed in facing my incapacity to love. A day came when I could not do what a loving husband does without question.
My meditation makes room for such memories to arise. I wish it wouldn’t let them all in. I wish the practice would insulate me from facing the hard stuff within, but it never has worked that way. When I become still, the difficult feelings easily find me.
Here is another example. There’s an angry guy inside me who sometimes comes to remind me of old angers during meditation, when all I really want is a few minutes of peace. I am seeking a gate of heaven, but my favorite old resentments can arise to batter my mind instead. I am truly at the mercy of such emotions when I make space within.
There’s also a perpetually discontented guy who loves to visit my meditation. He’s not invited. I don’t become still so my mind can review everything it wants and doesn’t have, like better income, city streets that aren’t destroyed, work that earns the esteem of others. The discontent is endless. While my discontented mind is at it, why not figure out a sure-fire way to win the lottery without having to buy a ticket? This is crazy of course, but the mind has taken me there in the middle of my meditation.
I want to tell you my meditation is always beautiful and sacred. But there are also a lot of troubling things inside me, a big fat mess sometimes, and all of that is sure to visit me during my practice of stillness.
So why do I keep at it? If the insecurities, uncertainties, shame and sorrow, fear and anger, lust and guilt are all going to torture me sooner or later, (mostly sooner), why give them a chance? Why keep returning to the quiet space we call meditation?
I keep at this because of what comes after the meditation.
 Merton, A Merton Reader, 347.