What Sustains Me: Contemplationby Richard Rohr 06-15-2009
Editor’s note: In the July issue of Sojourners magazine, we asked social activists to share how they stay refreshed while working for social justice. From John Perkins to Bishop Vashti McKenzie, the responses flooded in with deep insight into the spiritual disciplines of those who work to bring justice and peace to others. To read all of the responses, see the July feature article, “What Sustains Me.” Below is the response from Father Richard Rohr.
As the name of our center probably makes clear (The Center for Action and Contemplation), my daily and primary practice is contemplation. I try in every way, and every day, to see the events, people, and issues in my world through a much wider lens that I hope is “Christ Consciousness.” I have to practice letting go of my own agenda, my own anger, fear, and judgments in very concrete ways and through daily practice. In that empty space, it seems God is able to speak and sometimes I am able to hear. In that space, I find joy.
I have worked for most of my life and with the help of my Franciscan tradition and other spiritual teachers to spend a good chunk of every day in silence, solitude, and surrender to what God and the moment are offering. I fail at it far more than I succeed, but grace grants me just enough “wide-lens experience” to know that it is my home base, my deepest seeing, and by far the best gift I can also offer to the world.
Without a daily contemplative stance, I would have given up on the church, America, many people, and surely myself a long time ago. Without a daily contemplative practice, I would likely be a cynical and even negative person by now, but by Somebody’s Kindness, I am not. With contemplative eyes, I can live with a certain non-dual consciousness that often allows me to be merciful to the moment, patient with human failure, and generous toward the maddening issues of our time. For me, it is the very shape of Christian salvation or any salvation. My sadness is that so few have been taught this older and wiser tradition, although many still come to it by great love and great suffering.
Father Richard Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province. Click here to read more about the spiritual disciplines of social activists.