Needing Daily Practice and Purpose

CCT in meditation 3

There has been a need for daily contemplative practice in me for decades. Daily. Not periodic, occasional, or when I feel like it practice. I realized it again this morning. And I struggled for a long time to commit to actual daily practice.

I say need on purpose. This is not some duty, or wish to help myself be a better person, or desire to look good and spiritual to others. I need to practice the presence of God daily, in fact several times a day. And when the day is blessed, there are even moments of practicing the presence while serving.

Something in me needs to drop beneath thoughts, imaginations, memories, projections of my future, and feelings about all of that. Something in me needs inner stillness in the ground of my being. I think Jesus meant this place when he said, “The kingdom of heaven is within,” and “When you pray, go to your inner room.” I believe my spirit is at one with Spirit there. And there is more.

When I stay in that place of oneness, beneath thoughts and feelings, my purpose in being here becomes more clear. I intentionally asked myself again this morning, “Why am I here?” I did not try to come up with an answer. I did not rush the process. I just asked, and waited, and listened within.

In time there was a sense of clarity, a phrase that formed and took shape, a speaking Voice if you will. What came was, “I am here to gather people to practice the presence of God.”

In the spring of 1992 the message shaped itself in another phrase: “I am called to a life of prayer, for the world.” That is still as true as ever. Now I know this life of contemplative prayer is done for the whole world, for all beings, and for their sake. This is not praying for all beings like trying to get God to do something for them. This is uniting in oneness with the Source of All Compassion who already cares for all beings, more than I can even imagine. So the “life of prayer” is really joining God in the center of being to be one with the One who holds all beings in Her/His heart.

Now my purpose has gained clarity: it includes gathering others to drop down into that inner sanctuary together.

I wonder how it is going in your own journey toward finding your reason for being here? I wonder if you have also learned the importance of settling into the center of being to hear that speaking Voice guide you into your own clarity of purpose? If you have, thanks be to God. If you have not been there lately, perhaps you are like me and you need to come Home to the kingdom of God within each day. Perhaps you too need a period of inner listening. Maybe you want to drop everything and engage your daily practice of God’s presence right now.

*Some resources to support your inner journey include Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating, The Heart of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault, Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture by William Thiele, “A Contemplative Path” podcast by William Thiele, free on iTunes or SoundCloud. You could also contact Contemplative Outreach, the Center for Action and Contemplation, Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, Gravity, and our School for Contemplative Living.

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When I need calm…

self-reflection+moodboard

I turn within, slowly settling down into the center of Being, to be with the Source of all compassion, wisdom, and hope. So that is how I start my morning. Then I head back out to serve the world. Sourcing and serving always go together, at least to me.

Spoiler alert: If you are looking for escape from the stressful and chaotic world, do not look to practices like centering prayer, all forms of meditation, or any other spiritual practice. Because finding respite in the Inner Sanctuary is always brief, and then we are back at it. Warriors of Compassion go within-then-without, hoping to bring what we find on the inside to those with whom we serve around us.

Example: This morning I was leading a brief guided meditation at Project Lazarus in which we shared examples of people and places that need our compassion. The needs shared were diverse and unique, local and distant, practical and real. Then we closed our eyes and practiced envisioning ourselves lifting the blanket of difficulty off of the ones we care for as we breathed in, and sending them compassion, healing, and Light as we breathed out. We became Warriors of Compassion as a community in that moment.

This was extra meaningful and beautiful to me because the residents at Project Lazarus are experiencing HIV/AIDS, homelessness before they arrived, and often addictions. All races are there. The staff and residents share the morning meeting as one community, trying to find wise ways to create healthy relationships. It is often messy. People get angry at times, voice complaints at each other and staff members, and are not always receptive to the rules of the place.

Given where the residents came from, the ugly streets of New Orleans, it is a total miracle to see the staff respond with grace, openness, and willingness to hear all voices. Residents are not treated like “second-class citizens.” They are genuinely listened to and valued.

The other miracle is to see the residents’ willingness to focus on other’s needs for compassion. They have every reason to stay lost in their own survival and safety needs, and could easily block out the needs of anyone but themselves. And yet, they proved once again this morning, as they do every week, that they are also willing to share a few moments of compassion cultivation and to try meditation moments as a community. They might be weary, irritable, distrustful of strangers, sick, and yet, the residents seem willing to try a little meditative love to start their day together.

They too can walk the path of Sourcing, then serving, as they share their concerns for others and then willingly send out compassion. They need the calm of slowly breathing in and out just like I do.

I hope to share this practice with some other street friends tomorrow as we gather at The Open Table for a moment of prayer, then passing out Salvation Army vouchers, a hot meal, toiletries, clothes, and friendship. I also hope to share the Sourcing and serving at the Angola State Prison Thursday.

So I say again, when I need calm I turn within, slowly settling down into the center of Being, to be with the Source of all compassion, wisdom, and hope. Then I head back out to serve the world. Sourcing and serving always go together, at least to me. And you already know our world could sure use some contemplative service right about now.

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Brothers: One Buddhist Monk, One Christian faux monk.

Zen teacher Thich Thien Tri

William 2

Today I was blessed to sit in meditation with my new friend and brother, Thich Thien Tri, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who leads the Zen and Mind Family and teaches in New Orleans East and at local universities. First we visited about our common experiences of valuing the gifts of mindfulness through years of practice. He taught me some from his tradition. He asked me to share some from my own.

He served me tea, and offered his jacket since his office was cold. Then he brought in a space heater. He was dedicating himself to my comfort in every way possible. I shared how much I am filled by practicing oneness with other people and then inviting them to share whatever arises from within. I told him I do more gathering for practice than teaching. He commented that people do need teaching of basic mindfulness skills in a culture that promotes much division. I agreed.

As we spoke, I became filled with brotherly love. Our hearts were wide open to each other. I told him I could sense the loving-kindness flowing between us, and what a gift it is to experience that as a force beyond traditions. Truly, our coming together as brothers was in no way limited by our differences of background or religious tradition.

He agreed to lead us in a period of mindfulness meditation in the meditation hall. We sat on raised pillows: I in the half-lotus position and he in the full lotus position. He brought a blanket for warmth and a roll of towel to support my raised knee. He non-self-consciously led us into meditation, with a few phrases, a gong sound, and an extended period of silence. Then he chanted the phrase “Gate’, Gate’ Para Gate’.” (One translation is “gone, gone, completely gone.”) Then he finished with a few more gong sounds and stretching our bodies after the period of sitting.

I walked away by offering a hug, we bowed, and I was off to a centering prayer group with friends in the School for Contemplative Living.

In heaven, perhaps we will take turns leading each other as brothers and sisters from all the traditions. And we will laugh at the oddity of the time on earth when we all thought there was only one way to oneness, our own.

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How Advent Actually Happens in Cold, Dark, Desperate Places: Compassion Cultivation at Angola

Angola entrance photo

“Desperate” is defined as “involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.”

Synonyms for “Advent” include “arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development.”

Compassion warriors show up in desperate places, places where there is immense need for compassion, and there they seek Advent: the arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development that can mend the torn fabric of the world.

100 compassion warriors gathered on a cold, rainy, windy day yesterday at our Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary for “A Day of Compassion.” Some of them were from the outside. Some of them were from the inside. All of them were seeking Advent in a desperate place, and it had nothing to do with free people stringing tinsel and being glee.

Here are a few of the compassion warriors seeking Advent in a desperate place who I encountered yesterday.

Rev. Michaela O’Conner Bono is a Zen Buddhist Priest, a young white adult whose hair is shaved on one side. She demonstrated a fierce stance as a warrior of compassion. She came from the outside, where she leads Mid City Zen in New Orleans. She seeks Advent.

Rev. A. is an African-American minister of Islam, who is from the inside, serving as a mentor, and hospice worker, as well as a religious leader of a Muslim congregation. His demeanor was joyful. He glowed from the inside. How is that possible when living in a desperate place like Angola? Advent must be finding him, birthing in him.

Ariel Jeanjacques is a program coordinator for Crime Survivors for Safety & Justice in New Orleans. She is from the outside, an African-American young adult who has learned that victims, families, and perpetrators of violence are all suffering human beings. She seeks Advent with all of them.

Mr. S. is a giant of a man who lives on the inside. He is a mentor, and speaks with at-risk youth and a wide variety of groups who tour Angola. He spoke of the pain of meeting a group from Germany who said the maximum sentence for crimes there is ten years, because in their criminal justice system there can be reconciliation and healing in justice, not just permanent punishment without hope of parole. I spent much of the day with him, feeling immense sadness and the constant struggle with hopelessness which keeps him hovering near the desperate place. He really needs and wants Advent.

Lara Naughton lives on the outside but serves on the inside. She has created a Compassion Cultivation Training program (CCT) inside Angola, completing two eight-week trainings with inmates before birthing “A Day of Compassion.” She is a survivor of violent crime who used a fierce compassion for the desperation in her attacker to survive. The inmates know that, and respect her immensely. Lara told the story in her book, The Jaguar Man. She believes the survivor has the right to seek the healing of both victim and perpetrator, and is dedicating her energy to doing just that on the inside of Angola. Lara is helping to birth Advent in a desperate place.

Mr. D. has lived on the inside for decades, continually paying for a crime from his youth. He serves as a mentor for new inmates, and is now a teaching assistant in the CCT program. He speaks with a sense of power and truth. He is “woke” to the daily effects of racism at every level of American society, including our choice to stay blind to the way poverty, poor education, low wages, and hopelessness produce inner city crime from generation to generation. He spoke openly of the unending hurdles to birthing compassion in the criminal justice system. And yet, there he was, working each day to do his part to help birth Advent in a desperate place.

John Burkhart is an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a field director in the area of criminal justice reform. He lives on the outside, but works with those on the inside. He is a white male who is not willing to stand for the myths of white supremacy or black/immigrant inferiority which pervades the culture. He, too, is part of birthing Advent in a desperate world.

Mr. K. lives and serves on the inside. He authored a program for father’s in prison which is now used in hundreds of prisons across the country. At our last visit I agreed to send him a copy of my book, Monks in the World. When I saw him I felt bad for not taking that simple step for a month now. I reminded him I owe him a book. He simply said, “I know.” Despite how white people make promises we fail to keep with black people all the time, he still works toward Advent in a place that is the definition of desperate.

Margaret Cullen is one of the architects and core faculty of the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program created through Stanford University. She teaches CCT to physicians, nurses, HIV positive men, cancer patients, military spouses and now, even though she is from the outside, on the inside of a prison. She taught: “In compassion the ‘separation’ between us is gone.” She also shared some of the research showing the neuroplasticity of the brain, (meaning the brain can change), and how “compassion and altruism are trainable skills.”

In her first study right there at Angola this summer, the inmates who participated in the first CCT with Lara showed more than a 100% increase in their awareness of our common humanity. This awareness is foundational to growing in compassion for others’ suffering. Do you imagine Margaret is helping to birth Advent?

Another Mr. S. lives on the inside. He is a pastor and teaching assistant to Lara. In an increasingly soft voice, he led us through a compassion meditation. He called us down into the center of being where the heart guides our decisions and actions. There he invited us to direct compassion toward ourselves, “May I be happy, know peace, and find healing.” Then he led us to focus the compassion toward a person we care about, “May you be happy….” Then he led us to send the compassion toward everyone in the room. Those from the outside and those on the inside became one. Isn’t that Advent?

Sister Alison McCrary, SFCC, is a social justice attorney who has been leaving her home on the outside to visit death row inmates on the inside for twelve years. Despite the depressive atmosphere that pervades the places where she serves, Alison somehow stays near the Source of joy, and radiates that to all who meet her. She too is a young adult who serves from a heart of compassion, who seeks to be Advent in a desperate corner of the globe.

That is the thing really. Advent can be such a happy little moment for comfortable people like me to put evergreens and red bows around churches, to sing happy little songs about that sweet little baby Jesus coming to earth to save our eternal souls. But now I see how Advent actually happens in cold, dark, desperate places like Compassion Cultivation at Angola.

We from the outside, and our friends on the inside, closed “A Day of Compassion” by facing the camera which was filming the whole day, and directed the compassion to the 5678 incarcerated people, and the 1000+ staff members, who will all eventually see the video. We said to them all, “May you be happy, free of suffering, anger, and fear, and may you know peace and joy.” Perhaps others will soon see and know how Advent actually happens in cold, dark, desperate places like Compassion Cultivation at Angola.

*For more information about CCT, visit the website for The Compassion Institute or email the staff at info@compassioninstitute.com. For more information about the work of Lara Naughton, contact her at lara@laranaughton.com. To learn more about our School for Contemplative Living and our plans to incorporate CCT as part of our primary curriculum, contact William Thiele through http://www.thescl.net.

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Radiance

We radiate what is inside us. That is a simple principle of human existence.

If I plant the seeds for pumpkins, and cultivate pumpkins, pumpkins will grow. The same is true for whatever I plant and cultivate in my life.

If I plant and cultivate the seeds of cynicism, cynicism will grow. If I plant and cultivate the seeds of loving-kindness, loving-kindness will grow.

If I am filled with cynicism, those around me will experience my cynicism radiating out from me. If I am filled with loving-kindness, those around me will experience my loving-kindness radiating out from me. And I am filled with either cynicism or loving-kindness according to what I plant and cultivate each day. This principle seems so simple.

What seeds shall I plant and cultivate today? Consequently, what shall I radiate today?

*

My decision about planting. cultivating, and radiating will determine how I choose to live today. This is why I must begin my day planting seeds of loving-kindness into my own being.

As I go through the curriculum of classes, readings, discussions with the global community of the Compassion Institute, and daily guided meditations, I am in the week where we focus on loving-kindness for ourselves. The first three times I listened through this week’s guided meditation I noticed that my mind tuned out for the closing intentions. Mind-wandering once or twice is no surprise, but three times in a row? I sensed something was up.

So I stopped trying to be led through the loving-kindness for self meditation and went back to simply listen and record what my mind was resisting. I had to know what was triggering my unconscious resistance. If we do not know our own resistance, how can we work with it? What I found really surprised me, and was something I needed to know.

The phrases I kept missing, intended to help me set my daily intention for loving-kindness of self, were these: “I take joy in who I am. I shall be a friend to myself. I rejoice in the celebration of my life.”

Why did my mind resist letting these simple phrases in? After reflecting on the question for several days, new light emerged. My basic orientation in life is toward others. I am very comfortable focusing attention toward the needs of others, and remarkably unaware of the needs of William. (This made my roles as a psychotherapist and spiritual director for decades easy, because the focus was always on the other).

I can just look at another being and see their innate goodness, sense their struggles, and feel compassion and loving-kindness for them. But ask me to focus positive thoughts on myself, to “take joy in who I am,” this is amazingly uncomfortable territory.

I know the easy stuff, like my favorite chocolate candy and coffee drink and brand of cinnamon rolls for breakfast. And I know how to judge the hell out of myself by seeing my faults with ease. But taking joy in my being, and befriending myself, seems altogether different. And hard!

And I don’t mean to say, “Hey, everybody look at how great I am. I care about everyone.” I struggle with judgments of others like everyone. (Wonder if that could be connected to how easily I listen to judgments of myself? I mean the voice of the Inner Critic is like my best friend at times).

Do you think I have some work ahead if I am going to plant and cultivate and radiate the seeds of loving-kindness for myself and others? Apparently! Perhaps I better give myself the next year to work with this process, continue my daily guided meditations, and see how this is coming in a year.

And just to be clear, I may not be the only person who struggles with this gap between wishing my own well-being and wishing the well-being of others. The whole sequence of the eight-week coursework of the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) through Stanford University’s Compassion Institute had to be redesigned because this issue was so common in North America.

To see if I was the only one who struggles with this locally, I asked the question at one of the most loving places I know around New Orleans, Project Lazarus, (the residential AIDS treatment community). In the morning meeting with staff, residents, and volunteers I shared this story, shared the intentions, and asked if anyone there is just like me. Immediately, several residents and staff members affirmed the truth for themselves. Many of us, despite caring for others, seem to suck at self-love and to excel at self-judgment.

One resident/friend said he believes it is part of the training in many Christian churches: “Put God first, others second, and yourself last.” (I heard the same thing growing up). Where did that craziness come from, when Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself”? Who decided it is Christian to put ourselves down? And with all that constant focus on sin every single week at Christian churches across the nation, you would think the good news Jesus came to bring was: “You are very bad. You were born in badness. God cannot bear to look on your badness.” (Just to put a stamp of approval on this twisting of the “good news,” Christianity gave a title to this story: “original sin.”)

At Project Lazarus we agreed there could be another way. Even if it is hard, we agreed we all need some practice in taking joy in who we are and befriending ourselves. One staff member, Karen, even shared a beautiful way to conceive of this work, this loving-kindness for self, with a quote from poet/philosopher/author Mark Nepo: “I marry my self: to have and to hold from this day forward, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish, ’till death do us part.” Wow!

*

Today I aspire to love myself. That means I will plant and cultivate the seeds of loving-kindness for myself, and hope to radiate the same to others. In fact, in principle, I know that if I “take joy in who I am” and “befriend myself,” I will radiate that.

We will see where I am with this in a year. Transformation takes time. And I will not get there on my own.

I will need a community who also practices the presence of the Source of loving-kindness, a contemplative community, a place to take refuge. I will need to gather with others who are non-judgmental, compassionate, and willing to engage with this journey of transformation. We will plant and cultivate seeds of loving-kindness together.

We will gather in places like the Friends Meeting for Quaker worship, the Ignatius Chapel at Loyola University, and Rayne’s Epiphany House, (see photos), as well as the Advent House, Mercy Endeavors senior center, Ochsner hospital’s chapel, the homes of friends, and Mt. Zion’s Open Table ministry with street friends. We will become radiance together.

May you too, in your way, plant and cultivate these seeds: take joy in who you are, befriend yourself, and become radiance.

 

 

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Putting our fears in the cradle of Loving-Kindness

CCT in meditation 3

I am inviting you to join me in a beautiful and terribly needed practice in these days of constant fear/anxiety/worry/heartache. Isn’t it time for putting our fears in the cradle of Loving-Kindness?

The global community feels the shockwave every time another person goes crazy and takes others’ lives, or another storm/earthquake/fire/tidal wave crushes nations, or another group displays their hatred out in the open. We see it all now because there are TV stations dedicated to showing us the most terrible parts of our humanity, the most awful events anywhere across the globe, 24 hours a day. And we feed on the terrible as though we are starving, as though we have not tasted nearly enough disaster.

If a billion people worship safely on a Sunday, we will be shown the one place in the world where worship was not safe. If a trillion acts of loving-kindness happen face-to-face on every continent, we will be shown the one tweet where someone was immensely unkind. The worse the event is somewhere, the more likely it will be put in our faces, over and over, until the next worst thing arises.

In the face of our own hunger for disaster, our own tendency to feed on the very things that stress us out and raise our daily fears to unprecedented heights, I know there is a better way. I know there is a wiser lifestyle. I know we need to learn the practice of putting our fears in the cradle of Loving-Kindness.

This Saturday, I am gathering friends who want to spend six hours creating this kind of contemplative community on our property in Slidell, Louisiana. I am inviting you and your friends to join me in eight contemplative practices to save our lives. I need you to help form this kind of community – because I cannot live this lifestyle alone.

Would you like to spend six hours this Saturday, 9 am – 3 pm, silently putting our fears in the cradle of Loving-Kindness? Would you come into a community to experience a body scan for relaxation, sacred yoga, centering prayer, walking meditation in a cypress swamp on a clear-cool day, eating meditation (with whatever you bring to delight your belly), a mountain meditation, and a loving-kindness meditation?

We have room for you, and we could use your intention to support our own as we practice what we all need to save our lives: putting our fears in the cradle of Loving-Kindness together.

Suggested cost: $50

Location: 435 Nighthawk Drive, Slidell, LA 70461

RSVP: William.thiele56@gmail.com

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I was back in prison today…

Praises at Mt. Zion

…and I watched a tear drop onto his chocolate cheek, as Mr. A told the story of his transformation from who he was, decades ago when he took a life as a teenager, to who he is now, and to who he is becoming. The tear dropped when he said he was becoming a writer, and by God’s grace he has written a curriculum for incarcerated fathers which has spread to 246 prisons and five countries. Astounding!

Mr. A’s story unfolded through an exercise of looking each other in the face, one-on-one, for an extended period of time, (not exactly the usual way of men, especially in a prison), and taking turns asking the other person, “Who are you?” about ten times. Then we asked, “Who were you?” about ten times.” And finally we asked, “Who are you becoming?” about ten times. After each answer we said, “Thank you,” and asked again. So the answers tended to go deeper and deeper.

The whole thing is part of week five in the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) course which Lara Naughton is leading there at Angola State prison. This is the week of exploring our common humanity, so men like me from outside the prison join the exploration with men inside the prison. There is no doubt the program is helping to change lives. When I am there it is helping to change mine.

How, you might ask, does talking with men in a state prison change my life?

First, I have listened to people’s life stories for my whole career. But this year is the first time I have listened to men in prison, men who have changed so radically from who they were. In listening, I can palpably feel the character which has grown up inside the men. There is no pretending, no advantage to creating false personas. “Lifers” do not get brownie points for participating in this program. They enter for a chance to continue their transformation from hopeless drop-outs of society to hopeful men on a mission.

So when Mr. A asked me those same questions over and over, it seemed only right that I speak truth about myself too. I looked him in the eye and told him many slivers of who I am, was, and am becoming. We could have gone on for hours. And when he heard that I am a writer too, he asked me about my book, and asked me to mail him a copy of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture. I will do that. It is the least I can do for a man who had the courage to look me in the eye and tell me who he was, is, and is becoming. Today we became friends, across all the imagined boundaries between our lives.

That is part of what compassion cultivation does. Imagined boundaries, fences, separations, and walls fall away. Connections, caring, and experiencing our oneness are ignited. Our common humanity becomes clear. And in a mind-blowing way, both our projections about “those people” dissolve into realizing a “stranger’s” life matters to me!

One other story of many I could tell from today is wanting to be shared.

Mr. B talked with me during lunch as he finished off a cheeseburger and I tackled a large plate of baked chicken. He said he is a poet and he likes to learn about people’s experiences which are not like his own. After fifteen years inside the state prison, he is hungry for contact with the outside world.

He peppered me with questions about why I now teach meditation practices, what they do for me, how they work, etc. He wanted to know about dealing with the flood of thoughts which always come and if that was really normal. When I mentioned that my practices have helped me through decades of health problems with my wife, he wanted to know specifics. Part of the story was how my wife’s sister donated a kidney to my wife 23 years ago. He couldn’t understand how someone could be that “selfless.”

When I told him my wife and I were both raised in families that would do anything they could for us, from the time we were born through today, he was dumbfounded. By his quizzical face it was clear he really couldn’t imagine being cared for with unconditional love.

Mr. B said all he ever knew was having to fend for himself. Sharing was out of the question when he never knew if there would be food the next day. (When I had offered him half of my baked chicken meal because there was too much there, he had the weirdest expression, as though it was some kind of trick). Life had been all about survival and being on his own. That was heartbreaking to me, to realize how completely different our early lives had been and to know that each of our lives would have been so different if we were born into the other’s family.

I went on to say a bit more about family love, in response to his questions, including how I still loved my wife in our 40th year of marriage. That barely computed to Mr. B. But then he said something amazing.

Mr. B. said hearing my stories of family love, of unconditional love, and of finding a place of wholeness beneath all my life’s brokenness through the meditation practices, was giving him a feeling of hope. He said it was almost like he was feeling what I had felt, and it was astounding. He thanked me repeatedly for telling him what I had experienced. Some of that life-long family love seemed to be transmitted from my story into him.

How unbelievable is that? Instead of demoralizing him, or making him feel like we were totally different people who couldn’t relate to each other, he somehow used my story to fill himself with a bit of what I had received. Until today, I never knew that loving-kindness and compassion can flow from one family into a “stranger” through the simple act of hearing. I didn’t know the Great Love can go that far, can reach a man in a state prison through a simple story of another man’s life.

In a way I can’t explain, Mr. B became part of our family today, became my brother. The Great Love somehow let him know that he can experience real love too.

It’s like the Great Love will go to any lengths to get the message to Her/His children, wherever they are, no matter what! Even inside a state prison.

Tonight I really pray that Mr. A and Mr. B will be filled with the Great Love in a way that only Spirit can perform: on their bunks, inside a prison, through their memories of today and dreams in the night. I pray they will both know in the deepest places, where spirit and bone meet, that they are children of God and beloved children at that.

May we all be so blessed again this night and into tomorrow.

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