Tag Archives: Thomas Merton

Is There One “Best” Type of Temperament? Or Tendency?

thomasmerton“Temperament does not predestine one man to sanctity and another to reprobation. All temperaments can serve as the material for ruin or for salvation…It does not matter how poor or how difficult a temperament we may be endowed with. If we make good use of what we have, if we make it serve our good desires, we can do better than another who merely serves his temperament instead of making it serve him.”

–Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

This passage from Merton caught my attention, because of my Four Tendencies framework for personality.

In that framework, I divide all of humanity into four types: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. (Want to find out what you are? The Quiz is here. Almost 500,000 people have taken it.) Continue reading

Free Yourself From the Cycle of Stress to Live More Fully Than Ever

Photo credit: Kalliope Kokolis
Photo credit: Kalliope Kokolis

For many of us this is a season when it feels that we are going faster and faster. Everything’s racing, through school semesters, wrapping up work commitments, entering the holidays; the currents of life are in full tilt.

Given the time of year, one student fell into a period of intense stress resulting from a cycle of classes, studying, working, and little sleep. He didn’t realize how long he had neglected to write home until he received the following note:

Dear Son,

Your mother and I enjoyed your last letter. Of course, we were much younger then and more impressionable.



As you know, it’s not just students. Some months ago a friend described getting caught in this state busy-ness while trying to get her daughter to school. She was busy getting things ready while her daughter was trying to show her something. Every time her daughter would call her over she would say, “Just hang on a moment. I’ll be there in a second.” After several rounds of this, the little four-year old came out of her room tired of waiting. She said to her mother, hands on hips, “Why are you always so busy? What’s your name? Is it President O’mama or something?”

Along with the speediness we have the sense that there is not enough time. It’s interesting to observe how often we are living with that perception. It is usually accompanied by a squeeze of anxiety: “I’m not going to be prepared,” and a chain of insecurities. “There’s something around the corner that is going to be too much,” “I’m going to fall short,” “I won’t get something critical done.” There’s this sense that we’re on our way somewhere else and that what’s right here is not the time that matters. We’re trying to get to the point in the future when we’ve finally checked everything off our to-do list and we can rest. As long as this is our habit, we are racing toward the end of our life. We are skimming the surface, and unable to arrive in our life.

Thomas Merton describes the rush and pressure of modern life as a form of contemporary violence. He says: “…to be surrendering to too many demands, too many concerns, is to succumb to the violence.” When we’re speeding along, we violate our own natural rhythms in a way that prevents us from listening to our inner life and being in a resonant field with others. We get tight. We get small. We override our capacity to appreciate beauty, to celebrate, to serve from the heart.

Our mindfulness practice offers us the opportunity to pause and rediscover the space of presence. When we stop charging forward and open to what’s here, there’s a radical shift in our experience of being alive. As we touch into this space of hereness, we access a wisdom, a love and a creativity that are not available when we’re on our way somewhere else. We are home, in our aliveness and our spirit.

Enjoy this talk on: The Space of Presence

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)
For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

How to Connect With Your Inner Secret Garden of Joy

shutterstock_57647326-436x270If you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy you have not yet begun to live. – Thomas Merton

Everyone wants to find happiness, but what if there is something deeper, something more lasting? Happiness is good. It’s a wonderful feeling that comes from buying a new dress or eating an ice cream cone. It may be connected with having physical desires met, but happiness can be fleeting and temporary.

Joy dives deeper and lasts longer. It touches into the spiritual and comes from within. Bliss is the ultimate harvest of spiritual life. It’s an experience that transcends the physical and according to wisdom traditions, it is our true nature.

If you want to find that path through the shades of happiness and joy to bliss, how do you get there? One way to begin is to cultivate your inner secret garden, that sacred space within you where  the seeds you plant can be cultivated and grow into a harvest of joy.

Some essential tools that help to dig deep and tend the inner garden include a regular meditation practice, a dedication to pay attention to and act on the guidance of your inner gardener – that higher, wiser part of you that is Divine – and a yearning to get rid of inner junk and pests that stand in the way. This junk is often old stuff from the past, including attitudes and habits that may have served us well at one time, but now just get in the way and hold us back. It’s time to let go of these and grow into the new life that’s waiting.

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Debra Moffitt is the award winning author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life and “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” (Llewellyn Worldwide, May 2013). A visionary, dreamer and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices, writing and creativity in the U.S. and Europe. More at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

Proof of God Never Stands Still

What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?

The Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton remarked that God is always a step ahead of the seeker, having just departed wherever the seeker arrives. That’s true for anyone who seeks proof of God. The debate is constantly changing its ground. But it wouldn’t be true of personal experience, which is the most convincing proof to any individual, an immediate sense that God’s presence is here and now (although much less convincing to friends and family who stand by as spectators). The Bible contains almost no intellectual arguments for God’s existence, being entirely filled with direct experience. Jehovah talks to the prophets: Jesus performs supernatural miracles. In modern times the reverse is true. We hunger for objective evidence of all things, even things that cannot help but be subjective, such as beauty or for that matter, thinking itself.

The essential question isn’t which type of proof is convincing but whether any proof is possible. Science has steadily eroded religion by saying, in essence, that there is no proof that satisfies experimental inquiry. In the eighteenth century most people would have accepted the argument from design, a rational proposition which pointed to the intricacy of Nature and declared that there must be a Creator behind it. Although such an argument can be updated, not through the creationism of Intelligent Design but by a rigorous argument against randomness, that has proven to be too great a leap for people inculcated to believe that randomness is, in fact, the basis of the universe since the Big Bang.

I’d offer that convincing arguments for God depend upon several factors:

— Getting rid of the notion that God is a person.

— Throwing out all dogma and religious conditioning.

— Looking into the nature of consciousness, which links the observer to reality.

— Taking seriously the concept of an intelligent universe, which implies self-awareness as primary in      Nature, not a chance development in human beings.

There are now countless books by a diverse range of thinkers to support all these avenues of exploration. But ultimately, without an understanding of consciousness one can’t possibly explain God or the numinous, or expand from personal awareness to divine awareness. Perception changes with the perceiver, including perception of God. Such an ever-elusive deity cannot be the real thing, only a mirror of our own restless awareness. Therefore, to be fully real, God must be perceived at a level of consciousness that isn’t personal or shifting. In the East such changeless consciousness is available in a state known as enlightenment, the Christian equivalent of grace. In a secular society such a state of consciousness has yet to be defined and widely accepted (although millions of people meditate or pray, hoping to meet the divine face to face).

Theology has lagged far behind in helping us explore God personally or define the state of God consciousness, unfortunately, being occupied with side issues like defending one faith against another or trying to lure believers back into the church or synagogue. Scientists have done a far better job, ironically, by dismantling outworn notions about reality, but it’s rare to find a scientist who is professionally interested in either God or consciousness. God is considered so unscientific to begin with that few researchers consider this a valid field, except for the purposes of a debunker a la Richard Dawkins, who does nothing more than repeat the tired clichés of skeptical materialism. Telling us all the reasons that finding God is impossible, attempts to prove a negative and is useless in explaining the great thinkers, sages, and saints who assure us that God is real.

So where do we stand now? On our own two feet — seekers must find proof that satisfies them, one person at a time. It’s not an easy journey, but it never was, except to those who preferred blind faith over personal exploration. The reason that the Kingdom of Heaven is within is that God is a state of consciousness; there is nowhere to look but within. The deity may be infinite, all-pervasive, and ever-present, but proof of God is on the move, shifting as fast as our own perceptions.


Published in the Washington Post OnFaith




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