THE DAILY MEDITATION – from the Center for Action and Contemplation (Fr Richard Rohr OFM)

Week Thirty-Two: Embodied Knowing

Sunday 7 August 2022  Knowing with Our Whole Being

Father Richard Rohr affirms that true “knowing” occurs within our bodies, not just our minds:

Deep knowing and presence do not happen with our thinking minds. To truly know something, our whole being must be open, awake, and present. We intuitively knew how to be present as babies. The psychologist D. W. Winnicott (1896–1971) once said “There is no such thing as a baby.” [1] There’s only an infant/caregiver. In the first several months, from the infant’s perspective, they are one and the same. Infants see themselves entirely mirrored in their family’s eyes; they soon believe and become this vision. Contemplative prayer offers a similar mirroring as we receive and return the divine gaze.

In his book Coming to Our Senses, historian Morris Berman makes the point that our first experience of being alive is not through the visual or auditory experience of knowing ourselves through other people’s responses; it is primarily felt in the body. He calls this kinesthetic knowing. We know ourselves in the security of those who hold us, skin to skin. This early encounter is not so much heard, seen, or thought. It’s felt. That’s the original knowing. [2]

Psychologists say that when we begin to move outside of that first kinesthetic knowing, we hold onto things like teddy bears and dolls. My little sister, Alana, had the classic security blanket as a baby. She dragged it everywhere until it was dirty and ragged, but we could not take it away from her. Children do such things to reassure themselves that they are still connected and one. We all begin to doubt this primal union as the subject/object split of a divided world slowly takes over. Body/mind/world/self all start getting split apart. The basic fault lines in the world become real to us—and the rest of life will be spent trying to put it all back together again. True spirituality is always bringing us back to this original, embodied knowing that is unitive experience.

When primal knowing is wounded or missing, an immense doubt is often created about our own and God’s foundational goodness. Many people live with this doubt, and religious experience only comes to them with great difficulty. Most people don’t know how to surrender to God. How can we surrender unless we believe there is Someone trustworthy out there to surrender to?

Hopefully, our caregivers’ early gaze told us we were foundationally beloved. But when we inevitably begin to see ourselves through eyes that compare, judge, and dismiss, then we need spirituality to help heal the brokenness of our identity and our world. The gift of true religion is that it parts the veil and tells us that our primal experience was trustworthy. It tells us that we are beloved, whether we received that mirroring gaze or not. It reassures us that we live in a benevolent universe, and it is on our side. The universe, it assures us, is radical grace.

[1] D. W. Winnicott, “Anxiety Associated with Insecurity,” in Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1975), 99.

[2] See Morris Berman, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West (Brattleboro, VT: Echo Point Books and Media, 1989, 2015), chapter 1.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1999, 2003), 66–69.

Image credit: Kazuo Ota, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Nick Moore, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, Richmond, Unsplash. Jordan Whitt, Cataloochee river (detail), 2016, Cataloochee, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image. 

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: There is knowledge in our muscles and bones. When our body encounters the world, a door into deeper understanding can be opened.

Explore Further. . .

Story From Our Community

Hearing the Silence of God / It says: Nothing. / Simply embraces me like a warm lover’s breath blowing over my body. / In it I feel again the taste of hot apple cider my mother would hand me as I stamped the snow from my little child’s leggings and came to the warmth of her morning fire. / Or taste the sweetness of that last sip of coffee rich with sugar at the bottom of the cup. / Or see the secret smile my mother’s eyes could flash in the airless rooms of my father’s anger. / Like all of these, like none of these. . . / there is where God lives: / In the deepest, wordless silence inside of us. / In the spaces between the words of our prayers.
—Francis G.
Share your own story with us.

Prayer For Our Community

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Listen to Father Richard pray this prayer aloud.

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News From New Mexico

A monthly newsletter from the Center for Action and Contemplation

Join us for The Future of Christianity: A Virtual Summit

The Future of Christianity: A Virtual Summit presented by the Center for Action and Contemplation

We live in a time of widespread uncertainty about the future of Christianity. If you have ever felt conflicted about the religion’s history of violence, prejudice, and domination — know that you are not alone.

Considering the unprecedented crises our world faces, we urgently need to find a new way of being in the world together that bridges difference and embodies the reality of all life as sacred and connected.

In that spirit, the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) invites you to join us for a virtual discussion on the current state and future of the Christian religion, featuring CAC faculty members Brian McLarenBarbara HolmesJames Finley, and Richard Rohr.

This work invites each of us to play a part — a whole body, a whole community, a whole movement grounded in shared vision, values, and experiential knowing of God’s presence. We are called to show up in the world together.

Help us reach the next generation of spiritual seekers. We believe that finances should not be a barrier to the transformative wisdom of this tradition. And for this reason, your registration fees will help us to share this content more broadly by livestreaming a portion of this event to YouTube for free.

An Inspiring New Season of  Love Period with Jacqui Lewis

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On the third season of Love Period Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis gathers a cadre of writers, parents, and activists to identify the common threads of wisdom that can help us to survive and thrive in these traumatic times. And, as always, Rev. Jacqui is asking “What’s fierce love got to do with it?”

This new season of Love Period features Christena Cleveland, Tracey Michae’l-Lewis Giggetts, Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft, Kerry Docherty, Mirabai Starr, Serene Jones, Kerri Kelly, Jamia Wilson, Paul Raushenbush, and more.

Watch Rev. Jacqui in a new trailer for this season of Love Period.

Do you yearn for a new vision of Christianity — one with love and justice at the core of its practice? Rev. Jacqui animates a renewed faith for our times in her new podcast Love Period. Writer, scholar, activist, and leader of a radically accepting congregation in New York City, Rev. Jacqui brings her devotion, clarity, and energy to this conversational podcast.

Subscribe on your favorite podcast player or listen each week online at https://cac.org/podcast/love-period/.

Brian McLaren explores the question many are afraid to ask: Do I Stay Christian?

A photograph of the book Do I Stay Christian? sitting on a window sill while someone holds the book.

Do I Stay Christian? addresses in public the powerful question that surprising numbers of people ― including pastors, priests, and other religious leaders ― are asking in private. Picking up where Faith After Doubt leaves off, Do I Stay Christian? is not McLaren’s attempt to persuade Christians to dig in their heels or run for the exit. Instead, he combines his own experience with that of thousands of people who have confided in him over the years to help readers make a responsible, honest, ethical decision about their religious identity.

There is a way to say both yes and no to the question of staying Christian, McLaren says, by shifting the focus from whether we stay Christian to how we stay human. If Do I Stay Christian? is the question you’re asking ― or if it’s a question that someone you love is asking ― this is the book you’ve been waiting for.

Everyone who purchases Do I Stay Christian? from our online bookstore will be invited to participate in an exclusive Community Read-Along on Facebook! There will be discussion questions, prompts, and shared practices as we move through the book each week.

The CAC is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen compassionate engagement in the world. When you purchase this or any other book from our online bookstore you help us to introduce seekers from around the world to the contemplative Christian path of transformation.

Register Now for The Divine Exchange with Cynthia Bourgeault

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The Divine Exchange is a 14-week online course exploring the heart of God through the idea of Divine Exchange, Cynthia Bourgeault’s framework for the Christian Wisdom tradition. Students will learn how kenosis, or self-emptying, can lead to a participatory exchange between the finite and the infinite.

Building on the foundations established in the Introductory Wisdom School, Cynthia Bourgeault continues to unpack the metaphysics of her Wisdom understanding to demonstrate how students can take the work even further through practices like kenosis and three-centered awareness. This course will also look at parallels between Wisdom roadmaps from antiquity and Jesus’ Gospel teaching as well as the writings of Ilia Delio and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who provide a template for seeing Christian teachings from a quantum, cosmological perspective.

Learning Objectives:

  • Cultivate a Wisdom rhythm in your daily life.
  • Expand your awareness of the Divine Exchange.
  • Deepen your contemplative practice.
  • Connect and learn with others.

Learn more about The Divine Exchange
Time Commitment: 4 – 6 hours a week
Registration ends August 10, 2022
Course runs Aug. 17 – Nov. 22, 2022 

Dive Deep into the True Self with Richard Rohr

A photograph of a tree with sunlight shining through.

Your True Self is that part of you that knows who you are and whose you are, although largely unconsciously. Your False Self is just who you think you are — but thinking doesn’t make it so. 
–Richard Rohr  

Immortal Diamond is a 10-week online course exploring the True Self and the False Self, based on Richard Rohr’s book, Immortal Diamond. Students will learn to “die before we die” and discover how the promise of resurrection is true for each of us — right now.

As Richard Rohr writes, “Life is not a matter of creating a special name for ourselves, but of uncovering the name we have always had.” We need ego to help us function, succeed, and belong. But if we let it stay in charge, ego stands in the way of living freely and authentically, from our God-given identity and calling. We are called to “die before we die,” to discover that the promise of resurrection is true for each of us, now.

This course will deepen your understanding of the True Self, what it means to die before you die, resurrection, and the transformative journey. Rediscover your forgotten Self that can never be destroyed — only transformed to live in eternal Love.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discover a vision of your True Self.
  • Deepen your enjoyment of divine friendship.
  • Develop contemplative practice.
  • Connect and learn with others.

Learn more about The Immortal Diamond
Time Commitment: 4–6 hours a week
Registration ends August 10, 2022
Course runs Aug. 17 – Oct. 25, 2022 

Mirabai Starr revisits the mystical work of St. John of the Cross

A photo of someone holding the book Saint John of the Cross: Luminous Darkness.

Even though this holy night darkens the spirit, it does so only to light up everything. —St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

Rediscover the ecstatic work of St. John of the Cross in a new book from inter-spiritual teacher and mystical scholar Mirabai Starr. In Saint John of the Cross: Luminous Darkness, Mirabai invites a new generation of readers to experience the wisdom of the beloved fifteenth century Spanish mystic in this compendium of updated translations and commentary.

Order a copy from the CAC online bookstore.

The CAC is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen compassionate engagement in the world. When you purchase this or any other book from our online bookstore you help us to introduce seekers from around the world to the contemplative Christian path of transformation.

Reader Favorites: Daily Meditations

Explore the Daily Meditations and read past meditations and annual themes. 

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4 thoughts on “THE DAILY MEDITATION – from the Center for Action and Contemplation (Fr Richard Rohr OFM)

  1. whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You know, lots of people are searching around for this info, you could help them greatly.

  2. Richard Rohr’s teachings and the daily meditations have changed my life. Thank-you for all your efforts in sending God’s word and love out into the world for all who need and desire it. The first thing I yearn for in the morning, other than a coffee, is to read the daily meditation and be immersed in the calming, glory of the meditations and prayer. Such a blessing. Thank-you.

    • Thank you so much. Comments like yours make the job worthwhile! Although it is always a joy to post Fr. Richard’s writings, it’s good to have feedback.

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