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Sep 29 / Reflexion Community

September 29, 2019

This week we were fortunate that Kelsey Kapauff was able to be with us and share what she has learned and experienced in her spiritual journey.

Set an Intent: Welcoming Prayer

Thank you for the honor of being here with you today.
I am going to be talking with you about contemplation! The funny thing about me sitting up here is that to be honest I wouldn’t call myself a contemplative. I have been on a path that has led me to the contemplative tradition the past couple years, but I am very much still a student of the tradition.
When I started learning about the idea of contemplation I was captivated.
I almost immediately took a class to learn more and the thing I loved about this class was that we weren’t only learning about contemplation intellectually but we were encouraged to explore the contemplative practices as well.. Meditation being one of them.
Now I have two kids… and trying to meditate in the mornings is almost impossible with them around.
I would sit to meditate, and the kids would come rushing in, interrupt me. And I would be left with a feeling of frustration that I didn’t get what I needed, and then I would react to my kids often in a short and frustrated way.
Until one day I was listening to an interview one of my teachers did with a young mom. She was having the same issue as me. She was so excited about her contemplative journey, and she would wake up with this longing to connect with God, but inevitably her kids would come in and interrupt her, leaving her left with a sense of frustration.
My teacher responded to her like this- “I want you to imagine for a moment that I am God, and then talk to me about what been going on….”
Talking to the professor as “God” she then explained her predicament. He then said now I want you to imagine I am God talking to you…
As “God”, he responded with something like, “I see your longing for me, your love for me… and it so delights me. The thing is…. I love you so much that I want to hold and be held by you, so I jump into the bodies of you kids and run out to you so that we can simply embrace each other.”
As I heard this story I wept.
It made me realize in that moment that my pursuit and my “trying” to connect with God can become the very thing that get in the way of me seeing that we are connected…..
What if the very thing that is interrupting, or distracting us, is in itself a part of how we can connect with God, instead of a thing getting in the way of our connection to God?
God comes to us disguised as our very lives.- Paula D’Arcy

Next morning I tried seeing differently but I just ended up:
• Responding “better” on the outside
• Rejecting and suppressing my feelings and thoughts…
• Praying it away- note: sometimes prayer can distract us from the present…
Eventually I could do nothing but
Surrender- let go of everything I was holding onto. I simply stopped trying to change myself and the situation. In doing so I just chose to be present to what was.
In the letting go, in my relinquishing of control I experienced something I couldn’t describe. My kids ran out and its as if a layer was lifted from my eyes and I saw God in them. I felt this deep connection to God in their presence.
I was overwhelmed with love, my eyes welled with tears, and I breathed in deep this indescribable moment.
Its as if I saw love living and moving within and around me…
In the letting go, I realized what I was looking for, striving for, was simply there all along. On the outside nothing had changed, but internally I experienced a shift in how I saw, a shift in my awareness.
I had been learning about contemplation, but this was one of my first moments experiencing it. _______________________________________________________________________ Contemplation is something that story can describe a lot better than hard definitions can…
Its hard to define because much of it is truly beyond our understanding, and therefore beyond our descriptions. So as we talk about contemplation today I want to start off by saying that no explanation of contemplation can touch the depth of what it is.
Its like talking about an orgasm- you can explain the crap out of it, but experiencing it is a whole other thing.

In Philipians 2:5, Paul says, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”
I love this.
Paul isn’t saying
May you know the same things as Jesus knew He isn’t saying
May you have a mind that is similar to Jesus mind He is talking about
A merging of minds
May the “same” mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… He is talking about acquiring the consciousness of Christ.

This is contemplation.
It is a mode of perception that is in tune with the divine…
An encounter with pure awareness itself, an encounter with the greater truth. Thomas Merton describes Contemplation like this:
“It is life itself, fully awake, fully active, and fully aware it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.”
It is this way of seeing that goes beyond our normal observable realities.

Most of us function from a lens of object awareness most of the time.
We are focused on something. A person, a place, an emotion, a though, and we spend our conscious energy on the thing that is the object of our attention.
Right now the object of your attention can either be me, or a daydream you are going with in your mind, or maybe its something else your looking at in this room…
Our “normal” conscious state splits and focuses, splits and focuses…
But when it comes to God there is no splitting.
He is omnipresent with all.
God doesn’t function with object awareness, and if he did that would really suck for all of us if he could only focus on us one at a time…
But what we know and believe to be true about God is that he is simultaneously with us all, present to us all. And not only us, he is present to all of creation…
This kind of consciousness is objectless.
Its a whole other kind of perceiving, and seeing…
Another phrase to describe this mode of awareness is: _________________________
Non-Dual Seeing.
Which is a mode of seeing that doesn’t separate.
As we know dual thinking is thinking that splits. good and bad
Us and them
Weak and strong
Conservative liberal Beautiful ugly

Dual thinking is important as we are first forming concepts.
For example when my daughter was learning about temperature, she learned it in the context of its opposite.
She knew something was hot because she had felt something cold. But now that she is getting older she’s realizing that those two opposing extremes cannot hold the breadth of the various temperatures.
So although dual thinking serves a purpose for all of us, it can only take us so far… Especially with religion.
If we view God as being out there, then we wont spend time learning to pay attention to what he is saying in here, we will simply be waiting and looking out.
If we only expect to feel near to God at church, or at the beach, or wherever it is we seem to look for God, then our eyes can be blind to Gods movement in other spaces.
Non dual consciousness takes away the lines, God is no longer out there, or in here, or over there.
God is in all. Immanent in you and I, yet simultaneously transcendent and above you and I… This way of seeing opens us up to so much more than our categories allow.
Non-dualistic thinking allows us to get outside of the mind that wants us to split and categorize and allows us to simply hold what is.
Its a wider more expansive view that is awake to deeper realties… __
I do want to make clear that the purpose of non-dual consciousness isn’t to diminish our differences… or to be blind to them…
That line of thought can be unhelpful and even destructive…
Being color-blind is a good example of this. When we are “color blind” we fail to recognize both the beauty in a person of color and the pain that has been caused by systemic systems of oppression… which then can keep us from doing what we can to build a more loving world.
Non-dual consciousness, simply expands our view and takes the attention off of what separates.
In this sense we can more fully celebrate the unique beauty of our differences when they are not all that we see, when they are not the objects of our attention…

This state of awareness that taps into the deeper streams of truth that our categories can blind us to…
As humans most of us have experienced what it is like to see with these non-dual eyes… even if we have just had small glimpses…

We often experience these non-dual moments when we experience great pain, or great love because these experiences often have the ability to shatter our comfortable categories…
For example:
When you fall in love with someone of a different race than you, that you once looked down upon.
Category of us and them shattered.
When you do something that really hurt someone else, that you never though you would do. Category of good and bad shattered.
When your baby is born with special needs, and your previous perceptions are shattered because that baby is the most beautiful person you have ever laid eyes on…
When you go through something that is beyond painful, yet it ends up being one the most beautiful inner experiences…
When we experience something that simple categories simply cant describe… It often encourages us towards a more non-dual mindset…
I experienced this when I was with my dear friend who recently lost her husband to suicide.
We were packing up her home, putting in boxes her memories, he life that was permeated with her husband Andrews presence. It was a painfully sacred experience. We packed, and cried. Packed and cried. At the end of the day, after packing all of their things, it was time for her three beautiful boys to go to bed. The thing about life is that even in midst the greatest pain, it doesn’t stop. I wanted to help, but they understandably wanted their mom. I waited in the other room as my exhausted (on every level) friend, then put her boys to sleep. After some time, she walked out of their bedroom.
I watched as she walked over to where I was sitting and simply collapsed to the ground. I had never experienced anything like this before. I watched as the pain in her heart manifested in her body, and all she could do was fall to the floor.
We sat there on the floor together weeping, holding each other. I can’t come close to imagining all that was happening within her in that moment. The pain that I was feeling was deep, but nothing close to what she was sitting in. It was just too much. We started to ask God Why? Confused, angry, and utterly broken. Simultaneously bewildered by God, His presence permeated that moment. Love was alive. Love was alive in the questions, in the pain, in the embracing of each other, in every confusing piece, love was there. It was one of the most raw and real moments of my life.
In the brokenness the thing that was so apparent to me was the sacredness of it all. To be with her in that moment, will always be one of my most dear memories. Which sounds odd… How could one fo the most painful moments of my life be one of the most beautiful?
There is no explanation that could make sense of it all, it simply was.
It was this moment of expansive embrace of the whole.
A moment of intense oneness with each other, and with God.

The difficult thing is that this way of seeing cant be forced. We cant just put on these new eyes whenever we want…
But we can offer up a posture of least resistance, so that we may be overcome- as James Finley describes…
Paul goes on in Phil 2 to describe that what that posture of least resistance looks like…
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something he should cling to,
7 instead He emptied himself,
So in order to enter into the consciousness of Christ, Jesus emptied himself…
The greek word for this emptying being (kenosis)- the act of self- emptying, this beautiful act of Surender..
And he says the opposite of self emptying is clinging.. I mean visually think about the difference…
Cling- crouch over, protective stance, holding tightly, often holding of breath Emptying- a release, openness, vulnerable, exhale
This is why breathing exercises are so powerful in our path of surrender, when we pay attention to our breath we recognize were again and again, releasing…

This process of kenosis.. can often bring up some scary things within us that can make us pull back into clinging…
We all have things that we are currently clinging to… things that are not easy to release…
Things that our Ego does not want to let go of, things we cling to our of our desire to protect ourselves, things we cling to that make us feel comfortable…

  • It’s interesting because in my own process of surrender, one of the hardest thing for me to let go of was my certainty about God.
  • I was taught to read the Bible in a certain way.
  • I was taught that God moved in specific ways.
  • And I was taught that if you had deep faith, you surely wouldn’t doubt the doctrines that my
    specific tradition taught…
  • I studied theology and I came out of bible school pretty confident.
  • I quickly became a pastor and I watched as people clung to my confidence about what I
    believed and made it their own.. I not only felt truly confident that I held many truths, My ego loved, I mean loveddd feeling important.
    Little by little as time went on I realized that I spent a lot of time being spoon-fed what to believe, and I was taught very little about how to believe.
  • I was asked one time about my thoughts on heaven and hell and as I confidently answered I listened to myself speaking so confidently, and my inner voice was saying “you don’t really know!!!”
    I was clinging more to what I knew about God than to God himself…. That was and still is a very humbling realization….
    How comical that I had to let go and surrender some of my certainty about God, in order to “put on this mind of Christ” Paul is talking about.
    This was a surrendering of a large part of what I thought was my identity too.
    The process of letting go for me felt scary because I felt like I was losing myself. I was the one with wisdom (for my very small group of people mind you)
    Who would I be if I wasn’t that person?
    What I continue to learn and re-learn is that even thought at times surrender feels like a losing of self, the opposite happens. I find my true self in the process…
    A self that is free.
    The self that simply is, the self that is loved, the self that no longer has to prove anything.

This is our true selves. The self that cannot be offended. The self that is loved by God for simply being.
But none of us live out of this self all of the time, and probably never will while we’re alive.
This is why Self emptying isn’t this one time thing, its an every day thing…
Which I find very encouraging in my own contemplative path…
Im not going backwards when I start to cling, it’s simply another opportunity for me to return to the ever present God.

Contemplative practices are super helpful tools that can help us grow these muscles of surrender, so that we may tune into this divine awareness…

But before I jump into what some of those practices are I want to make clear that contemplative seeing is not simply about intellectual understanding.
It’s about integrated awareness. Full being awareness…
This attunement to Gods resonance is not simply in tune through our
Mind- that thinks about God
or our heart- that lovingly embraces God or body,- that senses God
because in this non-dual state of consciousness there is no separation of self.
Which is what Jesus is speaking to when he says, “Love the lord you’re God with all your heart soul and mind.”
It’s this whole being connectedness to the whole…
This was super helpful for me to recognize when I started doing more contemplative practices…
We can think our way to God,
But we can be our way to God, because it’s in our whole undivided being where God Himself dwells.
This is the point of many of the practices. To show up, and simply be present. Without expectation of what we desire God to do….
If we are trying to enter into practices with specific goals and hopes, those things can become the very things that keep us from truly entering in.
Even if they are good things!!! Again Kenosis, Kenosis, Kenosis
The practices are helpful because they help us enter into the present moment, and offer up that position of least resistance:
Contemplative practices are not contemplation in themselves, they simply work our muscles of consent, and can help us enter into that contemplative divine seeing.
Some of those practices being:
Stillness practices: Centering prayer Meditation
Creative Practices: Painting, journaling, singing Relational Practices: Deep listening, storytelling Movement Practices: dance, yoga, labyrinth walking

Truly Contemplation can be found anywhere though, because as we talked about its a way of being and seeing.
Sometimes ill sit and try and surrender and enter in and I just feel more and more distant from God even if mentally I believe thats impossible…
But then other times in my surrender to the moment I am simply overcome by this contemplative mind.
I had a contemplative moment gazing at a bell pepper once! Finley describes contemplative moment like this:
In the quietness of the attentive gaze, one comes upon a certain presciousness, an immediate worth, that which no words can be found….”

Contemplation does not simply stop at conscious awareness.
Some people think that the opposite of contemplation is action, but that’s just not true…
The opposite of contemplation is reaction… an acting out of our small self..
True contemplation will always result in active and dynamic love.
Which makes sense right?
If God is the source of love could entering into the consciousness of Christ result in anything less than love?
I want to end with this picture of The Trinity.
This is Perichorseis. Which is the greek word for the relationship between father son and spirit, whom are continually in relationship with each other both pouring out and receiving love from the other.
And our lives are a part of this sacred dance.
Every day, every moment we are participating in the sacred dance of love.
Our waking Our being
Our seeing
Our connecting Our trying
Our failing
Our longing Our searching
All of it, all of life, is steeped in the love of God…
Contemplation is simply a waking up to this reality that is already true.

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