New bio-diesel plant in Greenfield

Frog watching photographer watching frog

The Judeo-Christian tradition lifts up nature as the creation of a loving and just God who cares about what happens to God’s Creation.  In the Christian tradition we humans and all creatures are an integral part of this dynamic, dancing creation in which we live.  We share with other creatures this inter-subjective creative adventure we call life.  Listening and being listened to, watching and being watched, fearing and being feared, loving and being loved, destroying and being destroyed.

Martin Buber, the great Jewish theologian, noticed this I-Thou dance of life, and noticed that we fall out of the dance when we treat others–people, nature and other creatures–as “its.”  An I-Thou interaction is very different from an I-It interaction where the other is treated as an object.  The I-It mentality is an exquisitely subtle thing.  An extreme case: I treat nature as an “it” when I fill in the wetlands, burying all it’s vibrant life because my awareness is only focused on my image of the wetlands and my own goal for it.  When I look at trees and see only timber (what trees are for me), then I have “it-ized” them, reducing them, and myself, to a mere caricature, an idol.  When I relate to my image of others, and not to them, I have danced into the I-It world. (more…)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

spiritual disillusionment

A few days ago I woke up with the question of spiritual disillusionment on my mind, and with a sense of how ubiquitous it is.  Along the spiritual way we become disillusioned with teachers, institutions, paths, spirituality itself and with our supposed progress.  We become disillusioned with ourselves.

mindful of where I get caught

cobwebs in the mind

As a friend of mine, Bob Forman of the Forge Institute recently wrote in an email, “disillusionment may be the path.”  Perhaps the path of disillusionment is like breathing in and breathing out: with every in-breath I take in some illusion from the outer world and from the memory storehouse of my inner world.  And with every out-breath, I let go illusions.   But this is hard work, and really impossible.  Still, intention greases our spiritual wheels:  Can I intend and make the effort to let the illusions–my opinions, my grudges, my cynicism, my worldview and even my hopes for specific outcomes–go?  Who would I be without my illusions?  Can anybody live entirely in truth, without any illusions?  My guess is that there is no such pure state.  But intention can be pure and I can be committed to the truth.  Disillusionment can be disorienting and feel horrible, but there’s an up-side.  Once we’re through the initial pain and dizziness of “who am I now?” we might feel like we’re walking out of a dark wood into a beautiful open field.  Refreshing. Open heart, open mind.  Dropping my huge sack full of opinions and seeing for the first time that it felt like a bag of heavy armor.  Perhaps, for the first time, I can glimpse the fundamental universal values of goodness, love, truth and beauty as pervasive realities, even in the midst of suffering. (more…)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

forge institute: I-thou in meditation and prayer

Recently, theologian Michael Schwartz and Robert K.C. Forman, founder of the Forge Institute-an international organization that brings together spiritual leaders from many disparate traditions-called me to discuss the meaning of the I-Thou relation in meditation and prayer. Here’s the audio record of our phone conversation, recorded by Bob to be posted on the Forge Institute website.  Click on the Play arrow below to hear the interview, and let us know what you think:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

A sloth and his tree

here's looking at you

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, when I was a theology student at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, I studied and prayed with the works of Meister Eckhart, a medieval Dominican monk.  His fundamental teaching, that we participate in the life of Christ via the process and practice of detachment, has enlivened my spiritual life and brought hope, peace and creativity in its wake.  Eckhart’s teaching is entirely consistent with an even older Christian tradition called the apophatic way, or the way of “negative” (not in the sense of bad) theology.  God is present to us always, but always in a way that is beyond our thoughts, feelings, images and sensations.  Whatever we think about God is NOT God.  God is always greater.  We can enter an ever-fresh arena of God’s presence by continually letting go of our ideas, thoughts and images of reality and of God.  Eckhart named this process, in his native German language, Gelassenheit.  I like the sound of it. (more…)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Evening meditation near a pond

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Live recording of birds, frogs, crickets near a pond at dusk. Recorded by Robert A. Jonas in Ashfield, Massachusetts, July, ’06.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Precious Lord

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Performance by Robert A. Jonas (shakuhachi), Cyprian Consiglio (voice & guitar) & John Pennington (percussion), 2005.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Passage to Peace

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Improv with Robert A. Jonas (shakuhachi) & Jim Smith (Marimba), from CD “Many Paths, One Joy”, 2005.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interview with Interfaith Voices

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Christian-Buddhist Dialogue,” a February 7th, 2004 interview with Interfaith Voices

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------