All posts by Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

Ruben L. F. Habito: Christianity, Buddhism, and Silence (Part One)

How does silence form and shape the life of person who is both Zen roshi and a Catholic spiritual director?

Ruben L. F. Habito is both a former Jesuit and a master of the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen. In his early youth the Society of Jesus sent him from his homeland in the Philippines to Japan, where he began his Zen practice under the guidance of Yamada Koun-roshi. Koun-roshi was a Zen master who taught many Christians students, an unusual practice for the time. In 1988, Habito received Dharma transmission from Yamada Koun. He left the Jesuit order shortly after that, and in 1991 founded the lay organization Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas. He has taught at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University since 1989 where he continues to be a faculty member. He is married and has two sons.

Silence for me is not so much a set of external conditions, but more of an inner state of mind. — Ruben L. F. Habito

Dr. Habito is the author of several books, all of which explore various aspects of Buddhist-Christian dialogue, including Be Still and Know: Zen and the Bible, Zen and the Spiritual Exercises, and Living Zen, Loving God

In his conversation with the Encountering Silence team, he speaks about the relationship with silence and the fullness of a joyful life, as well as how his engagement with both Christianity and Buddhism has shaped his own relationship with silence.

I felt some kind of unspeakable joy of just being in the middle … if you are at a place within you that enables you to be at home where you are, that’s where you can find that interior silence that can connect, and enable you to really open your heart in a warm embrace. That’s what silence is for me. — Ruben L. F. Habito

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 68: Christianity, Buddhism and Silence: A Conversation with Ruben L. F. Habito (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Ruben L. F. Habito
Date Recorded: May 3, 2019

Kathleen Deignan: Silence and Nature (Part Two)

This episode concludes our conversation with Sister Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D. Sister Kathleen is an Irish-American theologian, author and sacred song writer who has been engaged in the ministry of liturgical musicianship for over forty years. She is currently composer-in-residence of Schola Ministries and is the founder and director of Iona Spirituality Institute at Iona College, New York, and previously directed the Iona Institute for Peace and Justice Studies in Ireland. Sr. Kathleen is a GreenFaith Fellow who recently completed an intensive training in religious environmental leadership. Her work in this area focuses on the prophet legacy of Father Thomas Berry and The Great Work of our time. She has previously served as president of the International Thomas Merton Society, and currently sits on the board of the American Teilhard de Chardin Society.

We can’t lose our real connection to the vitality that’s brought everything into being; the genius that brought everything into being; the hard work that every single creature which is part of my body — I am cell of their bodies, they are cells of my body — that all these cellular dimensions of this one planetary body we are, are working hard to get well. So I lean into that radically incarnate, visceral, physical, cellular kind of hope. — Sr. Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

Note: The featured image on today’s post is from Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky. Photo by Patricia Turner is used by permission. Learn more about her and her photography by clicking here: www.aphotographicsage.blogspost.com

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Sister Kathleen notes that her music is freely available online. But if you are interested in purchasing her music on CD, here are a few titles that feature the music of Sr. Kathleen:

For me, I feel my spiritual work is to live within radical unknowing, so my prayer is in “the cloud of unknowing.” Speaking of silence, you know that in the school of the cloud of unknowing, it’s all about silence. The only thing that you let spring up is a passionate word of love. That’s it. For me, it’s also mercy.  — Sr. Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

Episode 67: Silence and Nature: A Conversation with Sr. Kathleen Deignan (Part Two)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Sr. Kathleen Deignan, C.N.D.
Date Recorded: April 22, 2019

I’ve been reading Thomas Merton since I was a young teenager. I was introduced to him during detention. At school I was always acting out in religion class, and the nun was always throwing me out of the classroom, down to the library. And the nun who was the librarian, we had this thing going, and she’d say, “In detention again, Kathleen Deignan?” and I’d say, “Yes, mother,” and she’d say, “Well, read that.” Boom! “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.” The next couple of days, she’d slam something down, it would be my favorite — “The Sign of Jonas” — or something… and then I joined the Congregation, and I was blessed to have an old training, and we had a lot of silence, and I had a lot of Merton. He was really my companion, and he just made it bloom. And still he takes my breath away.   — Sr. Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

Kathleen Deignan: Silence and Nature (Part One)

Sister Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D. is an Irish-American theologian, author and sacred song writer who has been engaged in the ministry of liturgical musicianship for over forty years. She is currently composer-in-residence of Schola Ministries and is the founder and director of Iona Spirituality Institute at Iona College, New York, and previously directed the Iona Institute for Peace and Justice Studies in Ireland. Sr. Kathleen is a GreenFaith Fellow who recently completed an intensive training in religious environmental leadership. Her work in this area focuses on the prophet legacy of Father Thomas Berry and The Great Work of our time. She has previously served as president of the International Thomas Merton Society, and currently sits on the board of the American Teilhard de Chardin Society.

We all come from a kind of silence of which we have no idea. We come out of a very mysterious milieu or dimension, and in some ways, if we take the poets seriously, and the mystics, we have been abiding in silence ever before we came into a sound environment. — Sister Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Sister Kathleen notes that her music is freely available online. But if you are interested in purchasing her music on CD, here are a few titles that feature the music of Sr. Kathleen:

What silence opened up for me was music, or maybe I can even say it the other way: music opened up silence for me. — Sister Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

Episode 66: Silence and Nature: A Conversation with Sr. Kathleen Deignan (Part One)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Sr. Kathleen Deignan, C.N.D.
Date Recorded: April 22, 2019

The challenge for us now, I think, especially for people who are laboring to be awake, or ‘woke,’ — people who are yearning for the transformation — is that we know it is a profound spiritual work, it is a tremendous spiritual work; we’re not going to technologize our way out of this, we are not going to scheme our way out of this; because a new human being has to build up the new planetary civilization for us to go forward. And it will take centuries. — Sister Kathleen P. Deignan, C.N.D.

 

Carrie Newcomer: Silence, Song, Blessing and Waiting (Part Two)

Our conversation with musician, songwriter/poet, and Quaker Carrie Newcomer concludes this week. Carrie continues to share with us her insights into the relationship between poetry and lyrics, between music and silence, between creativity and authenticity — and how love can change everything for the better.

Like the first part of this conversation, she also graces us with performance of several of her songs.

Whether it’s coming through a visual art, through music, through poetry, through dance, or some art form in that sense, or the art form of our lives — every time we speak we are putting a certain spirit into the world; every time, every encounter. — Carrie Newcomer

To listen to part one of this interview, click here.

Carrie Newcomer’s CDs include The Point of Arrival, The Beautiful Not Yet and Kindred Spirits. She has been described as a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe and one who “asks all the right questions” by Rolling Stone.

She regularly works with Parker J. Palmer, who is collaborating with her on The Growing Edge, a website, podcast, and retreat. Three of Newcomer’s songs are included in Palmer’s most recent book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old.

“Every time I walk into a room; every time I encounter someone, or I have a conversation, I can step into that space with that internal sense of silence, and waiting; with that internal sense of I’m stepping into this moment in love and blessing.” — Carrie Newcomer

Carrie lives in the woods of southern Indiana with her husband and two shaggy dogs. Find her online at www.carrienewcomer.com. Visit The Growing Edge at www.newcomerpalmer.com.

Cassidy Hall and Carrie Newcomer out for a walk in the beauty of nature.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

The songs “Writing a Better Story” and “Learning to Sit Without Knowing” are on the album The Point of Arrival.

Episode 65: Silence, Song, Blessing and Waiting: A Conversation with Carrie Newcomer (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Carrie Newcomer
Date Recorded: May 9, 2019

 

Carrie Newcomer: Silence, Song, Blessing and Waiting (Part One)

What is the relationship between silence and music? This week’s guest, acclaimed folk musician and educator Carrie Newcomer, helps us to explore this provocative question.

“To do music you have to be comfortable with silence… a song without the pauses is just cacophony. You have to be able to breathe, and take a breath. Juxtaposition: the sound, and the moments of pause.” — Carrie Newcomer

Carrie Newcomer’s CDs include The Point of Arrival, The Beautiful Not Yet and Kindred Spirits. She has been described as a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe and one who “asks all the right questions” by Rolling Stone.

She regularly works with Parker J. Palmer in live programs, including Healing the Heart of Democracy: A Gathering of Spirits for the Common Good and What We Need is Here: Hope, Hard Times, and Human Possibility. Newcomer and Palmer also are actively collaborating on The Growing Edge, a website, podcast, and retreat. Three of Newcomer’s songs are included in Palmer’s most recent book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity and Getting Old.

Other special collaborations include presentations with neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor, author Rabbi Sandy Sasso, and environmental author Scott Russell Sanders.

“I’ve always been a seeker…. I was the little kid who asked the questions you weren’t supposed to ask in Sunday School.” — Carrie Newcomer

Carrie lives in the woods of southern Indiana with her husband and two shaggy dogs. Find her online at www.carrienewcomer.com. Visit The Growing Edge at www.newcomerpalmer.com.

This is part one of a two-part interview. To listen to part two, click here.

“What I discovered is that you never see the world or anyone or anything the same once you’ve blessed it. Once you’ve looked at it that way, it’s hard to look at it as anything else anymore.” — Carrie Newcomer

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

The song “Holy as a Day is Spent” is from the album The Gathering of Spirits. The song “The Beautiful Not Yet” is the title song of the album The Beautiful Not Yet. The song “Learning to Sit Without Knowing” is on the album The Point of Arrival.

“I live in southern Indiana; something really good happened to my writing when I gave myself permission to sound like a Hoosier! What I mean by that is that I gave myself permission to sound like the person I am. I’m so midwestern — I am the lady that brings the casserole when someone’s sick, you know, and I’m just really comfortable with that… my truest voice, my most powerful voice would always be my most authentic voice, my most connected voice.” — Carrie Newcomer

Episode 64: Silence, Song, Blessing and Waiting: A Conversation with Carrie Newcomer (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Carrie Newcomer
Date Recorded: May 9, 2019

James Finley: A Conversation on the Spirituality of Silence (Part Two)

In today’s episode, the hosts of Encountering Silence speak with contemplative teacher James Finley, following his reflection on the spirituality of silence which we released last week as episode #62. If you have not yet listened to episode 62, we encourage you to do so before listening to this episode — click here to listen to it.

“I don’t know how to listen. I think I’m afraid to listen. Because listening implies an act of trust. When I get quiet, the voices of pain come up inside of me and drown me out. Thomas Merton said, ‘We live in a world that has forgotten how to listen.’” — James Finley

To lead us into his reflections on silence, James offers different ways of understanding silence that he first learned from a Jesuit priest/Zen sensei; then takes us through a thoughtful commentary on the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina. He reflects on the importance of listening — both in the spiritual life as well as in ordinary human wellness.

If you’d like to hear James Finley’s first episode with Encountering Silence, follow this link: Silence and Vulnerability.

“Everything said in this monastery should come out of silence, and its fruit should be to deepen the silence… We should never forget that all of  our noise comes out of silence and is very quickly returning to it.” — Thomas Merton, as quoted by James Finley

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

“How do we contemplatively listen to the evening news? How can I be contemplatively present to the complexities and challenges of the real world?”  — James Finley

Episode 63: A Conversation on the Spirituality of Silence: with James Finley
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Kevin Johnson, Carl McColman
Guest: James Finley
Date Recorded: April 18, 2019

James Finley: Reflections on the Spirituality of Silence (Part One)

Contemplative author, teacher, retreat leader, and psychologist James Finley returns to the Encountering Silence podcast this week. At James’s suggestion, when we recorded this episode we began by giving him the opportunity to share his own reflections on the spirituality of silence. After he finished this presentation, we engaged in a time of shared dialogue in response to his reflections. This week’s episode consists of James Finley’s reflections; next week’s episode includes our dialogue in response to his talk. Click here to listen to part two.

“The poet cannot make the poem happen, but the poet can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of the poem… lovers cannot force the oceanic oneness, but can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of that.” — James Finley

To lead us into his reflections on silence, James offers different ways of understanding silence that he first learned from a Jesuit priest/Zen sensei; then takes us through a thoughtful commentary on the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina. He reflects on the importance of listening — both in the spiritual life as well as in ordinary human wellness.

If you’d like to hear James Finley’s first episode with Encountering Silence, follow this link: Silence and Vulnerability.

“Can I become so silent that I can hear God speaking me into being, all things into being, the divinity or the holiness, the virginal newness of all things?” — James Finley

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

“The mystic isn’t someone who says ‘listen to what I’ve experienced,’ the mystic says ‘look what love’s done to me.'”  — James Finley

Episode 62: Reflections on the Spirituality of Silence: A Talk by James Finley (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: James Finley
Date Recorded: April 18, 2019

“Our listening is an echo of God’s eternal listening to us. We might say poetically, that God says to us, ‘I created you to have someone to listen to, because I just love it when you talk to me like this. And my listening, I created in my heart an echo of my eternal listening to you, so that each unto each, the listening and the word, unites in a kind of union.” — James Finley

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part Two)

This episode concludes our two-part conversation with author and spiritual director Therese Taylor-Stinson, the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network. To listen to part one, please click here.

“All contemplation should be followed by action; they are there for one another. The reason to contemplate anything would be to have clarity about what action to take next.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson is the co-editor of Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, and the editor of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice. She is an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a lay pastoral caregiver, and a graduate of and an associate faculty member of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where she previously served as a member of the board.

She is the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, an international, ecumenical/interfaith association of persons of color with a ministry of spiritual accompaniment. A native of Washington DC, she now lives in Maryland. Her ministry, like her books, explores the intersection of contemplative spirituality and the ongoing struggle for social justice and the dismantling of racism.

“Trauma doesn’t have to be something physical, where a bone is broken or blood is seen or anything like that. Anything that silences you and keeps you from defending yourself against something coming against you is trauma.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In this week’s episode, Therese builds on our previous conversation by exploration the relationship between silence and trauma, talking about how the science of epigenetics has revealed how trauma effects people over generations. She also invites us to explore the question of how contemplation can be misused as a way of hiding from the problems facing our world — but how it can also be a meaningful way for people to awaken to what is real and what needs our collective attention.

Acknowledging the painful links between Christianity, racism, and white supremacy, Therese offers a word of hope — that we do not need to be shaped by the mistakes of the past, but can work together in pursuit of true justice and reconciliation for today and tomorrow. Comparing the struggle against racism to a relay race, she hopes that the steps that we take today can help to make the world a better place for our grandchildren.

To learn more about the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, visit www.sdcnetwork.org.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 61: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Taylor-Stinson
Date Recorded: March 25, 2019

 

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part One)

Therese Taylor-Stinson is the co-editor of Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, and the editor of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice. She is an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a lay pastoral caregiver, and a graduate of and an associate faculty member of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where she previously served as a member of the board.

She is the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, an international, ecumenical/interfaith association of persons of color with a ministry of spiritual accompaniment. A native of Washington DC, she now lives in Maryland. Her ministry, like her books, explores the intersection of contemplative spirituality and the ongoing struggle for social justice and the dismantling of racism.

I’ve always loved nature, I love trees… I love the ocean, I love the sunrise and the moonrise… those kinds of things bring me into silence in a kind of pondering and sitting with what we call ‘God’, but to me is more ‘Mystery’.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In this first part of a two-part episode, Therese shares with us her early experience of contemplative silence, formed by her education in Catholic schools as well as her early encounters with the silence of nature. She goes on to show how her journey as a contemplative and a spiritual director has impacted her experience as a woman of color. Of particular interest is her insights into the contemplative dimension of the civil rights movement, particularly in terms of the under-appreciated contribution of Howard Thurman.

“For some people of color, silence is uncomfortable — it feels oppressive or imposing,  it makes them go places or feel things they’re not ready for, or that they aren’t ready to express to me. We have to be really careful with silence… I don’t know that silence is a requirement to find that still place within.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In the second half of today’s episode, Therese offers insight into the contribution of people of color, not only to contemplative spirituality, but to Christianity as a whole — and how those contributions have been erased from history through the dynamics of racism — leading to a “silencing” toxic in its nature.

This is part one of a two-part interview; to hear the second part of this conversation, click here.

To learn more about the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, visit www.sdcnetwork.org.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 60: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Taylor-Stinson
Date Recorded: March 25, 2019

Cynthia Bourgeault: The Heart of Silence (Part Two)

Cynthia Bourgeault continues her conversation with the Encountering Silence team, offering insight into silence as a deeper way of knowing, contemplative Christianity as a unique spiritual path, and centering prayer as a singular practice of deep meditation.

This is part two of a two-part interview. Click here to listen to part one.

“There is no ‘toxic’ silence, because in real silence there is a power of presence… when you enter silence, you are never alone, you enter a luminous imaginal stream of help and reality at a higher order of being.” — Cynthia Bourgeault

Encountering Silence talks to Cynthia Bourgeault

“What has really capped and is a cancer in Christian spirituality nowadays… is the anger… the only antidote to toxic anger lies at the level of the unitive heart.” — Cynthia Bourgeault

She offers us a new way of thinking about what we have, in the past, referred to as “toxic silence” on this podcast. “There is no toxic silence,” she declares, going on to draw a helpful distinction between true silence and what she describes as “a destroying of the voice.” She also offers insight into what she sees as the important tasks facing our time as we seek to embrace new “artforms” of silence, as alternatives to some of the sexist, authoritarian, or obsolete ways in which silence has been practiced — or marginalized — in the past.

Her thoughts on the challenges facing Christians today — particularly the temptation to give in to anger — seem particularly timely, not only for contemplatives but for all who seek to integrate spirituality with the demands of everyday life. Instead of anger and panic, she invites us to stand present, and to remain present with whatever arises, in fidelity to “the highest benchmark of love.”

“The highest benchmark of love, courtesy, generosity and beauty that is put into the world will never vanish from the world. And when it’s time, it will restore itself instantly.” — Cynthia Bourgeault

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 59: Encountering the Heart of Silence: A Conversation with Cynthia Bourgeault (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, PhD
Date Recorded: February 25, 2019

“Silence provides the conditions for a radical inner honestly… silence is a pathway for the complete transformation of consciousness.” — Cynthia Bourgeault