Upon this Mountain: On Carmelite Prayer

Upon this Mountain provides a beautiful and succinct introduction to Carmelite prayer.  “We are never alone on this most solitary of paths.  ‘We are nudged along, taught, and inspired by so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us’” p. 7.   The author is able to simplify and bring us into Carmelite prayer.  So much of my own prayer has been about bringing myself into just the right place, time, position, attitude, to drive out all my distractions and settle into a fleeting moment of prayer.  “Teresa’s own interior liberation came when she finally stopped forcing herself…and allowed herself simply to enjoy a friendship with Christ Jesus.” P.8 .  Can it possibly be this simple?  Can I stop the searching, practicing and study and simply be in the presence of my prerequisites for a serious life of prayer are love of others, detachment at all levels and humble self-knowledge.” P. 8.

Once I have managed to simply turn to Jesus as my friend, there I will meet God in the depths of me.  I have very dear friends who I don’t hold back from.  I love them and they love me, and I am completely myself with them.  I am safe from judgement.  They listen to my feelings and musings of life with patience and love.  They are given by God as a glimpse of the friendship that I can have with Him.   I love that the Carmelite tradition encourages me to “have confidence in following the way of prayer that suits us.” P.12.  I can be alone in prayer with God himself.  I don’t need to be impatient with myself.  I only need to trust that I will find the God in me through my prayer and then I will find him everywhere; “turn our attention in faith and love to the one whose attention never leaves us for a moment … whatever is on our heart when we come to prayer can be allowed to be there, for it is already on the great heart of God and he lives its reality with us.” P. 13. 

When I realize these truths, I will come into the “same personal contact with the Lord as men had during his life on earth.”p.14.  I like how Teresa “advocates simple attention to the immediate presence of the Lord within us here and now.” P. 15.  I don’t need to find a special moment because the moment is always now to say, I see you here Lord.  I am here with you, and I am yours.  I come to do your will.  My husband and I recently had a beautiful experience of visiting my husband’s siblings who we had not seen in two years.  They live across the country from us.  We were blessed and happy to be present with them.  No expectations, only the love and familiarity between us.  That is the relationship that I have wanted with God.  It is already there for me when I turn to Him.  I appreciated the description of night as “we are plunged into darkness, not because the light is not shining but because the brilliance blinds us.” P. 18.  I do not need to fear the night.  I need to be “aware of the startling simplicity and immediacy of God’s oneness with us”. P. 18.  

Chapter two further describes prayer as relationship.  John of the Cross describes this as between Lover and beloved.  “God wants to relate to the real person that I am and the real God that He is” p 20.  He wants to engage with the real me.  This will involve really getting to know myself and pealing away layers of protection.  This is an interesting way to think of the dark night.  When I fail to see God, it is perhaps because I am not spending time in my own hidden depths where God is.  God is waiting for me to turn to Him.  In the journey, we confront our faults and weaknesses as we learn to cast off the persona we present to others and be with our God.  “We can only consent to live more and more in that light:  to know that we are naked, and not hide. “ p. 25.  “In the stillness of utter simplicity, we are one with God, because he has already chosen to be one with us.” P. 26. 

Chapter three brings us into stillness.  An elderly member of the author’s order explained how to enter into silence by “listening to the silence of the chapel”.  McCormack extends this to the silence of where we are.  We can absorb the moment of the chapel or garden or wherever we find ourselves.  Become aware of the traffic noise, the fan, and then the noise of my own breathing.  Then, repeat a simple word or phrase.  For me it is “Be still and know” or “Jesus, I trust”.  This book was rich and profound in its simplicity and depth.  “If all we can do at the time of prayer is to be there, then we must be content to sit there and just be.” P.32  In that space we meet our God.    

Surviving a pandemic and working on thriving during pandemic

  1. Get up at your usual time each day
  2. Work out at least 30-60 minutes each day
  3. Shower, dress to go out as if going out to work.
  4. Pray each day and attend church on Sunday even if it is to watch a service
  5. Tell your family you love them and be present with them.
  6. Keep your social media time and news time to a minimum (no more than 1/2 hour a day)
  7. Call and connect with a friend
  8. Send a thank you note. There is always someone to thank.
  9. Put energy into the work you have to do this day even and especially if your work today is to look for work.
  10. Keep your living space clean and tidy
  11. Mind your self talk to be positive and kind
  12. Notice all the blessings around you
  13. Appreciate those in your life with positive language, be helpful and kind
  14. Spend time alone meditating with God. He wants to talk to you and you have to be still to hear Him.
  15. Take a walk.
  16. Enjoy your children, grandchildren, family,, friends, co-workers and pets. Be kind.
  17. Say please and thank you and mean it.
  18. Apologize when you have been rude, tense, or vented
  19. Forgive and love unconditionally
  20. Pray for everyone to the right and to the left of you. Be kind and don’t say rude things about anyone. Instead, listen with generosity.
  21. Be open, listen, and be willing to change your mind.
  22. Remember that the media is entertainment and any resemblance to facts is coincidental.
  23. Wash your hands, wear a mask when you are in a public place, and be kind
  24. Go for your annual physical and your dentist appointment and get your flu shot
  25. If you are overweight, lose weight in a healthy way as the best thing you can do for your overall health.
  26. Read the Bible, a good novel, and a good non fiction book.
  27. Enjoy your spaces indoors and outdoors
  28. Go to the lake or park nearby.
  29. Listen to the wonder around you and seek peace.
  30. Volunteer, support your church and your charities.

God bless you and I pray for your health and well being. Love Mymom

Living in the Present with Patience, hard work and Love

I am so delighted to see your progress.  You’ve gotten engaged after patiently cultivating your relationship.  Persistently seeing your future in front of you.  You didn’t give up on each other and now you can enjoy your engagement and plan your marriage.  I love seeing your happiness.

You’ve gotten that promotion that you have worked hard for and thought would never come.  You showed up every day.  You did your best job each day and now, you are seeing fruit from your labor.

You’ve finished another semester and you persevered through that class that was so hard for you.  I’m so proud of your efforts.  You are another step closer to your degree.

You had a difficult semester.  Now you are picking yourself up and planning your next steps forward.  I know this is hard for you and I believe that you can find your way.  You’ll need to think through your options and explore your path.  You can do this.

Your friends are all starting to buy houses, have kids, adopt pets, getting better jobs… it is easy to compare and wish and feel dissatisfied.  Your self talk can become bitter,  envious or it can be content and joy-filled as you help your friends celebrate their successes.  You will achieve your own dreams in your own time.  Be patient.

As the year comes to an end, it is natural for us to look back and assess where we have come.  We can easily brush past our joys and focus instead our sorrows or mistakes, on that pound or two that we didn’t take off, on the debt that we didn’t make as much progress on as we hoped.

What I say to you is that  December 31 is really just another day.  January 1, follows.  What really matters is how I live each day.  Setting my goals and then living to fulfill those goals one day at a time.  Serving God, serving my neighbor, and living in gratitude for all that I have and all that I get to be.

My prayer for you as one year ends and another begins is that you may live in the present moment.  Never wishing away a single minute.  Do the work you have to do this day.  Appreciate the joys and help each other through the sorrows.  Your attitude is your choice and your future depends on how you live this present moment.

Each morning, look back at yesterday for what you have to learn and then let it go.  Pause a moment and think about tomorrow and the direction you are heading.  Then let it be in the future.  Look at how you want to live today, plan today and then act.  Live each moment:  See, feel, hear, smell, taste.  Let your moments be alive and live them with intention.

Don’t be afraid to work hard, ask for help and reach for your dreams.

Dear God, help each of us to live in the present.  Help us to see you in our lives and walk each day with you.  Help us to thank you for all that you do for us.  Help us to be patient as your plan for us unfolds.  Help us to love others.  Help us to be truly ourselves as we trust in you.  God bless the coming year one day at a time in Jesus name.  Amen.

Love, Mymom