Going on Retreat
"Today, more people are going on retreat than ever before. While the Christian monastic tradition is in decline all over the Western world, retreat facilities of every spiritual denomination are full weeks, even months, in advance. Though the noise and pace of contemporary life undoubtedly contributes to the current interest in retreats, there are other, more fundamental reasons for the rise in their popularity.
"People who go on retreats today are not necessarily religious; they may come from any background and from any age range. What they have in common is a desire for silence, solitude and reflection. These desires are innate to the human condition: they are not bound to a particular time, religion or set of beliefs. For those who want spiritual guidance and training as well as simple solitude, there are many paths to choose from."
"My own sacred journeys have taken me through New York as well as the Sahara, and to Big Sur as well as down the holy Ganges.
"I call them sacred whether or not they follow some ancient route or have some holy shrine or city as their destination. What makes a journey sacred today is its ability to stir our own authentic heart. That is the most reliable authority we can have in a world that calls us to assume responsibility for our own life choices. A visit to the place where you met your first love can be a sacred journey, or one to the grave of your mother or father. Wherever its destination, what sets a sacred journey apart from an everyday walk, an adventure, or a tourist trip is the spirit in which it is undertaken. It is sacred if it sensitizes the individual to the deeper realities of his own being and of the world about him — if it brings together the inner and outer worlds, the physical landscape serving as a mirror for the inner one. . . . Because it remakes us, a sacred journey is a prayer of the body as well as the mind."
— Sacred Journeys in a Modern World
"In 1986, she found herself a single mother. She needed a job with benefits, and though she had no inclination to take on a blue-collar job — intending rather to train in a profession — she ended up becoming the letter carrier for San Anselmo. After a couple of years she was glad to be able to support her child, but frustrated that she did not have a job of more benefit to humanity. She began to pray to be led into the right livelihood — either a new one, or into dimensions of the mail job that she had not discovered, that would enable her to live for the betterment of whomever she came in contact with.
"Susan was blessed — probably from birth, and fostered during her life on Orcas — with a rare altruism that has always guided her days.
" 'Within days of my prayer, I was walking my route as usual when I saw this thornbush; two legs were sticking out of it, with orthopedic shoes and baggy nylons. An old lady had fallen off her porch, and couldn't get out of the bush. At the very moment I started helping her, I realized this was an answer to my prayers. I was being shown how much opportunity I had to be the right person turning up at the right time, if only I was willing to be open to it. Every day I was walking in and out of four or five hundred different people's lives.'
"From then on it became her first thought in the morning, to be of help to whomever crossed her path. Life took her up on the offer quickly. It might be helping a child tie her shoe, or putting the chain back on her bike; picking up a paper for someone who couldn't go and get it; carrying a boy with a twisted ankle into the doctor's office; breaking up a fight; bringing a dog back home. There were endless ways in which she began to affect people's lives for the better, and they let her know it. As she gained energy and enthusiasm for her job, she began to see how much opportunity it offered for the living of a deeper life."
— Sacred America
Poetry at Its Best
"Great poetry can alter the way we see ourselves. It can change the way we see the world. You may never have read a poem in your life, and yet you can pick up a volume, open it to any page, and suddenly you see your own original face there; suddenly find yourself blown into a world full of awe, dread, wonder, marvel, deep sorrow, and joy. Poetry at its best calls forth our deep Being, bids us live by its promptings; it dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like wild geese, from an open sky."
— Ten Poems to Change Your Life
Love Barges In
"But love is more like an electrical storm than a pension plan. It has scant regard for our rational intentions. When it comes, almost always unbidden, love will upset our comfortable routines. Like so much confetti, it will fling into the air all our fantasies of what our life is meant to look like. What is true of human love is also true of the love divine."
— Ten Poems to Open Your Heart
Rembrandt: An Inspiration
"Rembrandt lived a mythic life that can serve as an inspiration and reminder to us all of what human beings are capable of, not only as great artists but as people who strive, suffer, and succeed, who come through despite all the odds. His life and work are testimonies to the human spirit, to eyes that can see beyond the contingencies of the visible world; but also to the human soul, to its stubbornness, its willfulness and aspirations; and to the human body, its incomparable beauty, its sagging truth, its loveliness.
"This, I would say, is the true purpose art can serve: to help our eyes see more than they usually do, not only about someone else or about life in general, but also about ourselves. To bear witness to the eternal joy and struggle of our own human soul and to the poignant, bittersweet reality of our physical mortality.
"Rembrandt does all this more than anyone else in history before or since. And he matters now more than ever because we live in times when it is easy to gloss over the truths of our own soul and spirit, not to mention our own mortality, for the convenience of short-term gratification or the bottom line."
— How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful Imperfect Self
The Pleasure of Foolishness
"Being the fool is not the same as acting the fool: you can't decide to be playful, or foolish, for an hour a day, as if it were yet another task to add to your campaign of self-improvement. It's rather the result of a relaxation of the rules and goals that you normally run your life by. A softening of the beliefs that hold up your world and your idea of who you think you are. The pleasure of foolishness lies in large part in the absence of self-consciousness; in the self-forgetting that comes in a moment of abandon."
— Seven Sins For a Life Worth Living