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.

Unteachable Lessons: Encountering Silence in Wisdom That Can’t Be Taught

This week we’re keeping our conversation close to home, as we explore Unteachable Lessons: Why Wisdom Can’t Be Taught and Why That’s Okay — the new book from Encountering Silence co-host Carl McColman.

How do you touch the face of God? You touch the face of God through the medium of silence. And the silence is always there, it’s not something I have to create, it’s not something we have to conjure, if anything it’s something we simply have to allow. Again, by learning, little by little by little, by learning to attend to the spaces between the words. — Carl McColman

Unteachable Lessons looks at some of the most important “lessons” of life — learning how to love, how to trust, how to pray, how to grieve — can never be learned from a book or a class or a workshop. It looks at how wisdom often operates on a level deeper than words. Of course, that means one of the best ways to access wisdom is through silence.

In today’s episode of the podcast, Cassidy and Kevin talk to Carl about how the book came to be written and what inspired Carl to explore this particular topic.

Sometimes words get in the way… and sometimes going to a workshop gets in the way, or reading a lot of books gets in the way… we have to learn not through “learning,” but through living. — Carl McColman

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

Writing is a great antidote to pride. — Carl McColman

Episode 72: Unteachable Lessons: Encountering Silence in Wisdom That Can’t Be Taught
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: September 3, 2019

Bonus content! Here’s one of Carl’s favorite kitty-cat videos…

Philip Roderick: Encountering Silence in Quiet Gardens (Part Two)

Here is the second part of our conversation with Philip Roderick, the founder and a patron of the Quiet Garden Movement, of Contemplative Fire  and of Hidden Houses of Prayer. He delights in the radical presence of God in community, in nature – on hillside and by seashore; he rejoices in chant and harmony, syncopation and stillness. He is an author and a musician.

He has worked in Bangor University as Chaplain and Lecturer in Theology then in the Oxford Diocese as Principal of the Buckinghamshire Christian Training Scheme and as a parish priest in Amersham on the Hill. In 2015 he retired from being Bishop’s Adviser in Spirituality and Chaplain to Whirlow Grange in the Diocese of Sheffield.

Philip’s writings include the book Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation, and articles that appear in the following books, all part of the “Ancient Faith, Future Mission” series published by Canterbury Press: New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of Church,  Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition, and Doorways to the Sacred: Developing Sacramentality in Fresh Expressions of Church.

I believe there is a continuum in all of us — well, I feel it in my own being — between the hermit and the engaged one. — Philip Roderick

Other resources featuring Philip include Sacred Posture, a teaching DVD on body prayer, and Sheer Sound, a music album featuring  a musical instrument called “the Hang.”

Philip joined us via Skype from his home in England near the South Downs to discuss his various efforts, all of which unite creativity and/or community building to help foster contemplation and silence in people’s lives.

Contemplative intercession can be profoundly engaged spirituality, because it is a holding of the wounds of the world; it’s doing deep work, doing deep work on behalf of the universe. — Philip Roderick

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

Silence and solitude are precursors to service. They can seem to be escapist, but in fact a true silence and a true solitude lead to a full expression of care and love; so the call to love and heal is integrally bound up with the call to be hidden and alone. — Philip Roderick

Episode 71: Encountering Silence in Quiet Gardens: A Conversation with Philip Roderick (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Philip Roderick
Date Recorded: May 6, 2019

Philip Roderick: Encountering Silence in Quiet Gardens (Part One)

Philip Roderick, a priest of the Church of England, is the founder and a patron of the Quiet Garden Movement, of Contemplative Fire  and of Hidden Houses of Prayer. He delights in the radical presence of God in community, in nature – on hillside and by seashore; he rejoices in chant and harmony, syncopation and stillness. He is an author and a musician.

He has worked in Bangor University as Chaplain and Lecturer in Theology then in the Oxford Diocese as Principal of the Buckinghamshire Christian Training Scheme and as a parish priest in Amersham on the Hill. In 2015 he retired from being Bishop’s Adviser in Spirituality and Chaplain to Whirlow Grange in the Diocese of Sheffield.

Philip’s writings include the book Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation, and articles that appear in the following books, all part of the “Ancient Faith, Future Mission” series published by Canterbury Press: New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of Church,  Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition, and Doorways to the Sacred: Developing Sacramentality in Fresh Expressions of Church.

SIlence is a weaving, it’s like a tapestry or a pattern of presence; it recalls me; but it’s not like a block, it’s more like a river, a flow, a patterning… silence is for me a resource, an aperture, a journey… — Philip Roderick

Other resources featuring Philip include Sacred Posture, a teaching DVD on body prayer, and Sheer Sound, a music album featuring  a musical instrument called “the Hang.”

Philip joined us via Skype from his home in England near the South Downs to discuss his various efforts, all of which unite creativity and/or community building to help foster contemplation and silence in people’s lives.

Sometimes the stillness is so evocative that the stillness becomes the call. — Philip Roderick

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

Silence and solitude are precursors to service. They can seem to be escapist, but in fact a true silence and a true solitude lead to a full expression of care and love; so the call to love and heal is integrally bound up with the call to be hidden and alone. — Philip Roderick

Episode 70: Encountering Silence in Quiet Gardens: A Conversation with Philip Roderick (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Philip Roderick
Date Recorded: May 6, 2019

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

Our conversation continues  with Zen roshi and a Catholic spiritual director Ruben L. F. Habito.

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.

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 this concluding part of his conversation with the Encountering Silence team, Rubito speaks about what inspires him as a writer, the difference between centering prayer and zazen, the centrality of the breath in contemplation, and other topics related to his singular path as a Zen Christian.

Spend one hour a week doing nothing; doing nothing in a very intentional and purposeful way. In short, not attempting to do anything, but just allowing… to be. — Ruben L. F. Habito

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

Episode 69: Christianity, Buddhism and Silence: A Conversation with Ruben L. F. Habito (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Ruben L. F. Habito
Date Recorded: May 3, 2019

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