The Role of Contemplative Practice in World Transformation

The amazing thing about this color is that it is always there, we just can’t see it when the leaves are busy with their summer work.  As Psalm 46 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” 
We each have our true color: the unique tint of the Spirit of life as it flows through the lens of our particular heart and mind.  Human society would be as beautifully transformed as a fall Vermont landscape if more of us could let that brilliant color show through. 
The Golden Room is the location of our true self and the Spirit within us, and the stillness and self-emptying of contemplative practice is the ideal way to reach that inner room and release its light. Then the Spirit becomes the guiding and empowering source of all our greening work in the world. 
Recently the Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle in our church talked about what role Centering Prayer and contemplative practice play in the urgent practical crises we face, like influencing an election that will determine the fate of our democracy and the earth, or like uniting a culture that is polarized so that we can solve problems of social, economic and environmental injustice.
We need our best, most inspired and powerful work in a crisis of such magnitude.  All the religious traditions I know teach that work done from a place of spiritual grounding and connection is far more effective and more likely to lead to an unforeseen creative path forward. 
More importantly, as I often quote Gus Speth saying, “the transitions required can be achieved only in the context of what I will call the rise of a new consciousness…. a spiritual awakening —a transformation of the human heart.”
Gus also said, “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”
The practical purpose of contemplative prayer is inherently God’s purpose, not ours, but we can observe what God’s purpose seems to be.  The arc of the spiritual universe bends toward the transformation of the human heart, leading to the transformation of the world into God’s realm of loving compassion, justice and peace on earth.  These transformations bring health, harmony and oneness.  They make possible the fulfillment of the Golden Rule and love of neighbor as our self as ethical laws governing every aspect of our lives, from small communities to the largest corporations.
Ken Wilber, Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr and countless others point out that contemplative practice is the path we need in order to make the transition as quickly as possible to a level of consciousness that sees from that place of oneness.
I have been rereading Hieromonk Damascene’s Christ the Eternal Tao, which is an Eastern Orthodox book about that path of transformation, and I have also been rereading Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Heart of Centering Prayer.
Here is a quote that comes at the end of Part I where Bourgeault has been giving a superb refresher course on Centering Prayer.  She is talking about “attention of the heart,” a phrase that comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition and is also a major theme of Christ the Eternal Tao:
“Once you get the hang of it, attention of the heart allows you to be fully present to God, but at the same time fully present to the situation at hand, giving and taking from the spontaneity of your own authentic, surrendered presence.
“Again, this kind of presence is a capacity that has been developing in you as you gradually learn in Centering Prayer to withdraw your attention from its default subject/object positioning and rest in that diffuse, objectless awareness. As this capacity grows in you, it gradually takes shape as a felt center of gravity within you, the place where the pendulum of your being naturally comes to rest.  It’s not so much a place you pay attention to as a place you pay attention from….
“As I see it, the purpose of Centering Prayer is to deepen your relationship with God (and at the same time your own deepest self) in that bandwidth of formless, objectless awareness that is the foundation of nondual consciousness.  There you discover that you, God and the world ‘out there’ are not separate entities, but flow together seamlessly in an unbreakable dynamism of self-giving love, which is the true nature of reality and the ground of everything…. Centering Prayer [is] both a foundation and an access route to the stabilization of nondual consciousness.”
The change of consciousness that is the prerequisite to solve our most dire crises today is nondual, not as an intellectual and theoretical belief in oneness, but as Bourgeaut defines nonduality: “You see oneness because you see from oneness.”
We cannot know what creative solutions we will find from a new level of consciousness until we get there and see from its perspective.  Gandhi as a young barrister could never have imagined what Gandhi as a mature Mahatma would come to understand and do after years of both contemplative spiritual practice and fully engaged social action.  That barrister could never have overturned the most powerful empire the world had ever seen, as the Mahatma did.
This is the kind of Spirit-led creative action we need now.  It is our hope for survival.  Every minute that you spend in Centering Prayer or meditation or other contemplative practices is opening you to the possibility of just the guidance and power you need in order to use your gifts most effectively to transform the world.
OK…now forget all that, because the way to receive that spiritual help is to self-empty, to come to contemplative practice with no agenda other than to make yourself fully available to God’s loving presence and transforming action.  We need to let go of our will and our idea of what ideally will happen, and let the Spirit work in its own way in its own good time, which may be nothing like what we could imagine.  In fact, it may look like nothing is happening.  We need to trust and keep practicing in order to keep the connection to the Spirit flowing.
So sit yourself down and simply let go of one thought at a time, over and over and over for twenty minutes, the humble, seemingly insignificant path of self-emptying prayer that leads toward God’s transformation of your heart and the transformation of the world.
For an overview of some Christian contemplative practices including Centering Prayer click here:
and click here to find many wonderful videos from many of the leading teachers.

Introduction to the Returning/Aloha Category

This is one of a series of introductions that bring together two ways of describing a path that leads to the transformation of ourselves and the transformation of the world around us.

The first word in each dyad is from stages and chapters in The Golden Room writings.  The second is from my brother George Kinder‘s methodology of Life Planning.  (The first five are from Life Planning’s EVOKE steps, the last two, Understanding and Aloha, are from the Seven Stages of Money Maturity.  George’s began working primarily with the financial industry, but Seven Stages and EVOKE both are heart-centered, spiritually grounded and used by clergy and coaches.)

If you have not read about The Golden Room Writings, these introductions will make more sense when you have.  You can read about them at Introduction: The Vision Behind This Site, and More Introduction to this Site: We Need Metaphors.  Here are the seven introductions in this series, listed in order, with links to them.

Calling/Exploration
Siting/Vision
Clearing/Obstacles
Digging/Knowledge
Building/Execution
Dwelling/Understanding
Returning/Aloha

The Golden Room Writings and Life Planning Writings are both categories on this website, and they share these seven dyads as subcategories.

Returning/Aloha is the most important stage of the journey.  It cannot happen without all the other stages, but this is the reason why we have sought and built the Golden Room into our lives.  The purpose is not for us to feel the bliss of being there.  The purpose, as the vision showed, is to take what we find within and deliver it to the world.

An essential part of dwelling in the Golden Room is returning to the world, living not just in our heart’s core but from it, in order to serve with whatever gifts we find there.  Usually a Life Plan contributes gifts to others, whether to family, our workplace, our local community or the wider world, even if the plan is to sail solo around the world or enter a monastery.  There is almost always sooner or later a gain for others in our fulfilling our Golden Room life.  The calling in our deepest, truest core comes from the universe that created us and is not for ourselves alone.

We return to the world, and then return to the Golden Room and then return to the world again, until that cycle of returning is resolved in the highest nondual or integral developmental stage of consciousness, when we see that the universe and the Golden Room are one and we do not need to return because we are always at home wherever we go and whatever we do.

We will not have reached the truest, deepest core of the Golden Room until we have attained this universalizing stage of oneness with all creation.  The heart’s core gives rise to a self-giving, unconditional, all-forgiving, universal love that does not differentiate between worthy or unworthy or friend or foe or this recipient or that, but loves for the sake of loving.

No matter how partial the love we find within, our task is to return with even the smallest sliver of its golden light and deliver our gifts to the part of our world where we find they are needed.

“Aloha” is where George Kinder’s Seven Stages ultimately lead.  The meaning of Aloha is far more than hello or goodbye.  It is a personal quality of generous-hearted lovingkindness.  It takes simple joy in bestowing gifts to the world, whether random spontaneous acts or larger life works.

Aloha is a returning of blessings to others out of the knowledge and gratitude that we have been blessed by the universe to have this time on earth.  It has nothing to do with a sense of obligation or self-esteem, and it may not be true Aloha if we have not mastered some degree of the Understanding Stage.  True Aloha rises naturally from the heart.  It blossoms when we attain freedom from inner obstacles that block us from the integrity of living in, from and for our Golden Room, the way a hyacinth blossoms after struggling up from its buried bulb through the dark earth, at last releasing its inner truth of sweet scent and beautiful hue.

Make an Opening

You may not be able to see it.  You may not be able to feel it.  You may see and feel in yourself only the old, splintery, knotty, worn out barn board that is all that remains of the fertile young farm you once were.

But make an opening, and if you cannot make one, wait patiently for a knot to loosen and drop and leave a hole, and see what happens.

Trust that the Golden Room is down there, waiting, eager to send forth what you were born to share and shine.  It will always return if we give it room.  Watch and wait and pray, and miracles can happen, a green spark can rise in people who have been lost in the darkness, people who feel useless, people who are dying and almost dead.  It is why we are here every minute that we are here.  It is never too late, because the Golden Room is who we are and always will be.

What do you need to do to let a new green shoot rise through you?