MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

2018 Christmas Letter

with 6 comments

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

2018 is a surprisingly busy year for Matthew and myself.

We are grateful to Sr. Sonia, who encourages and inspires us in our spiritual journey. Through her, we met two wonderful people, Ricky and Corito, who have become endeared friends. We are grateful for their love and friendship. In the words of Matthew, “I am always energized by the visits of Ricky and Corito.”

We are also thankful to Sr. Marijo who, in spite of her busy schedule, makes it a point to visit us at least once a month for fellowship, prayer and sharing. Her constant presence in our lives has been always a source of support and joy. We are always happy to see her.

Through the efforts of Sr. Marijo, our parish priest, Fr. Edgar Lumanlang, visited us on Matthew’s birthday when he turned 60! He prayed for us and gave communion to Matthew. The best gift ever is to receive Jesus through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist!

The year began with Matthew’s delightful and unexpected reunion with Jun who came with Sr. Marijo. It has been 40 years since they last saw each other. Sr. Marijo introduced Jun and Matthew and a small group of students to Zen meditation. They had a wonderful time of catching up with each others’ almost a lifetime of spiritual journey.

After Jun left my sister Cristy went up to Baguio. We had fun sharing stories and taking photos of each other. After Cristy’s visit, Luth, who is based in the US and whom I have not seen in decades, went up to Baguio for an overnight trip just to see me. I am deeply touched by her gesture of taking time to be with me. We spent a full day catching up on our lives.

As soon as Luth left, I met up with my dear friend Wawi and her family who also went up to Baguio for a visit. We enjoyed our time together during breakfast at Chocolate de Batirol in Camp John Hay and bought some pasalubongs in Good Shepherd. Not to be missed is Wawi’s favorite, the raisin bread from Palaganas Bakery!

We were happy to see members of the Sacred Heart Community, who dropped by on April 1 to celebrate Bro. Paul Aguas’ – Matthew’s Dad – birthday! This enjoyable bunch of happy brothers and sisters is so much fun to be with.

Still in April, I went down to Manila to be with my best friend, Natalie and her family, because of the passing of her Dad. It was also an opportune time to meet up with my siblings whom I have not seen in a while.

Matthew was delighted to reunite with members of Sacred Heart Community in the 1970’s – Pia, Jean, Flor, and Helen. Everyone had fun reminiscing the good old days! Since then, we have now reconnected through Facebook.

June was a special month for us. Besides celebrating Matthew’s 60th birthday and our 16th year wedding anniversary, we were happy to meet up with Binky’s parents. I have happy memories of them when Binky and I were still office mates and I would go up to Baguio for a visit. They have big hearts and have always made me feel loved and welcome. It was sad though, because that was the last time we were going to see Tita Rose. A month after, she passed on.

September was a stressful month for us because I had to rush Matthew to the hospital where he was confined. He had an allergic reaction to a diabetes medicine that was prescribed to him. But we thank God, he was able to recover albeit slowly. We were happy to see Gie and Mel, who also dropped by the house.

Come October, I had breakfast with Candy and Riley who went up to Baguio for a quick visit. After they left, my cousin from the US, Ate Ely came to the house with Ate Genie and Bobbie Malay (Ate Ely’s good friend). I was excited to spend time with her since I have not seen her in more than 10 years. Her company brought happy memories of my childhood.

Beth was a high school chum whom I have not seen since 1977 when we both graduated from High School. We met up because she was vacationing in Baguio. It was so much fun and it seemed like we didn’t run out of stories. She had to postpone an appointment two times because we could not seem to get enough of each other!

At the same time that Beth and I were together, Matthew was spending time with Leo at home. We always look forward to Leo’s visits because his pleasing personality makes him great company!

Finally, we cannot end this letter without mentioning our blog. Now on its tenth year, we have grown to have 350+ followers and have reached an astonishing  497,000+ hits! We are amazed and delighted because people from around the world are visiting our blog, liking our posts and our cyber community continues to grow.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year.”

— Matt & Jojang

 

Advertisements

Written by MattAndJojang

December 10, 2018 at 11:01 am

The Spiritual Path is an Endless Journey

with 2 comments

Photo: Michelle Chaplow

 

Beyond one range of mountains—yet another range.

–Shinsan zengoshu

Written by MattAndJojang

November 18, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Light Playing On Children’s Faces

leave a comment »

Photo: pexels.com

 

Out of nowhere, the mind comes forth.

–The Diamond Sutra

Usually people work hard to make things happen. Yet it might be that things happen by themselves, coming out of nowhere. Here’s a story about understanding coming out of nowhere for a child in kindergarten.

Some of the old school buildings in Los Angeles had high ceilings and clerestory windows. A boy was sitting at his little chair in kindergarten when he saw the yellow light coming in through the high windows. Dust motes swirled in the beam of light. He noticed how bright they were and kept watching; then, suddenly there was no distance between him and the light. He disappeared. He didn’t know how long he was gone; there was no time. When he heard a voice calling, he didn’t recognize the name at first; it didn’t have anything to do with him. Then he heard the other children laughing and wondered what they were laughing about. It was the teacher calling him. After that, the things he saw were beautiful in themselves. Faces seemed more real, and what was real was beautiful. He didn’t really have a name anymore; he was the beam of light. And it didn’t have to be a beam of light. It could be a Coke can or another child, and he would feel that connection. His sense of yours and mine had shifted to something like, “My hamburger is yours, your house is mine.” When the grownups around him fought and argued, he felt sad for them, that they didn’t understand, and couldn’t see what he could see…

The child’s mind is not free because it’s a child’s mind; it’s just free because it’s free. Here is another example of the free mind at work. Usually, people think of death as very important and gruesome. Yet if you are identified with the background, the inconceivable nowhere that the foreground came out of, death might not be a terribly significant event. It might not mean what you expect it to mean. When her mother was dying, a friend took her young son back to his grandmother’s home. The grandmother had a special bed with a railing around it. The boy couldn’t walk yet but would cruise along using tables and the bed railing to hold himself up as he went. The two women watched him. He looked very cute, which was their word for thusness. The dying woman said, “Oh, I’ll always remember that.”

If children can have a natural clarity, you might too, even if you remember no operatic enlightenment experience. There might be no good reason for this clarity; it could be something that just is the case, like a tree, like life. All you would need to do is to notice that things are clear, or to throw overboard the idea that things are not already clear. You could find that courses of action appear to you out of nowhere just the way the next moment does. Your navigation could unfold by itself, and the universe might provide the beauty and happiness you seek.

When you forget your carefully assembled fiction of who you are, you can find a natural delight in people, in the planet, the stones, and the trees. There is no observable limit to this beauty, and no one is excluded from it. Then, if you are fighting an enemy, you may be fighting them as well as you can, but you won’t be a true believer. You will know that an enemy is not truly other and that the fighting is some kind of misunderstanding. The worries that lead to quarrels may still be present, but they are not the main thing. Your problems could be a kind of dream, very powerful when you are in it, and yet a dream. You might notice that, even deep in dreaming, you are near to waking up. And the more you are awake, the kinder the world might seem.

–John Tarrant

Written by MattAndJojang

November 14, 2018 at 10:14 am

Bernie Glassman, Pioneer of American Zen, Dies at 79

leave a comment »

Bernie Glassman (Photo: upaya.org)

The Zen master, spaceship engineer, social entrepreneur, interfaith activist, and clown devoted his life to “penetrating mysteries” and immersing himself in the unknown.

The prolific Zen teacher Bernie Glassman died this morning in Massachusetts. He was 79 years old.

Glassman was a vibrant character who had a significant influence on American dharma. Along with being a Zen master, he was also an aeronautical engineer, a social entrepreneur, an interfaith activist, and a clown.

Glassman was born on January 18, 1939, to a family of socialist, Jewish, Eastern European immigrants in Brooklyn, New York. He first encountered Zen when he read Huston Smith’s The Religions of Man in English class.

In the 60s, he began meditating and soon went searching for a Zen teacher, finding Taizan Maezumi Roshi at a small temple in Los Angeles. Maezumi Roshi would go on to become one of the most influential Zen teachers in America. At the time, he was a young monk at the temple, and Glassman was immediately drawn to him. Within a few years, Glassman was serving as Maezumi Roshi’s right-hand man and studying as a formal student. In 1970, Glassman became a novice Zen priest and received his dharma name, “Tetsugen,” meaning “To Penetrate Mysteries.”

When Maezumi Roshi founded the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1967, Glassman was one of the founding members. He would later serve as the center’s chief administrator and then executive director. Throughout his studies, Glassman also worked as an aeronautical engineer at McDonnell-Douglas, developing space travel programs. He quit his job in 1976, when he completed his training with Maezumi Roshi, becoming a certified Zen teacher, or sensei. Four years later, he founded his own community in the Bronx.

Glassman always had an interest in social causes. Once, when driving home from work, he had a vision of hungry ghosts — beings who represent unfulfillable desire — and realized that there was no separation between himself and these beings. He decided it was his life’s mission to help those in need.

In 1982, Glassman opened Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York. Greyston employs people who conventional businesses deem “unemployable.” It now has more than 75 employees and produces the brownies for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Greyston was the first piece of the Greyston Foundation, which eventually grew to include the Greyston Family Inn, a housing provider for families in need; Maitri Center, a medical center serving those with AIDS-related illnesses; and Issan House, which provides housing for Maitri’s patients.

In May of 1995, Maezumi Roshi died suddenly by drowning, at age 64. His final dharma teaching was a letter that he wrote bestowing final approval on Glassman, establishing him as a roshi. The letter concluded with the lines,

    Life after life, birth after birth
    Never Falter.
    Do not let die the Wisdom seed of the Buddhas and Ancestors.
    Truly! I implore you!

In his will, Maezumi Roshi named Glassman as president of his community.

In the second half of the 1990s, Glassman shifted his focus to establishing the Zen Peacemakers Order, an interfaith organization dedicated to the cause of peace and social justice, Sandra Jishui Holmes. In 1998, Glassman and Holmes moved to Santa Fe to focus on The Zen Peacemakers Order. Twelve days later, Holmes died from a heart attack…

Glassman continued the work that he and his wife had started. The Zen Peacemakers Order — now known as Zen Peacemakers — became famous for its Bearing Witness retreats and Street Retreats. On the Bearing Witness retreats, participants meditate at sites where atrocities have taken place, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau and Rwanda. On the Street Retreats, participants take to the streets for multiple days, to live as homeless people and practice zazen meditation on sidewalks and in parks. Zen Peacemakers is founded on three core tenets: Not knowing, bearing witness, and loving action.

Around the same time, Glassman also started training as a clown with professional clown Moshe Cohen, aka Mr. YooWho. Cohen has written that Glassman’s intent was not to become a clown, but “rather, he wished to use ‘tools of tricksterdom and humor’ to address out of balance situations in his Zen world.”

Glassman developed a friendship with Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges. Together, the two wrote a book inspired by Bridge’s leading role in The Big Lebowski, called The Dude and the Zen Master, about Zen lessons in the classic comedy.

Glassman empowered many students, including notable Zen teachers such as Joan Halifax, Peter Matthiessen, Fleet Maull, Wendy Nakao, and Pat Enkyo O’Hara. Many of his students have gone on to establish their own centers and communities.

In January of 2016, Glassman suffered a stroke, from which he at least partially recovered…

Glassman is survived by his second wife, Eve Marko, his two children, Alisa and Mark, and four grandchildren.

— Sam Littlefair

Source: Lion’s Roar

Written by MattAndJojang

November 5, 2018 at 11:47 am

To Study the Way

with 2 comments

Dogen

Ink Painting: Paula Pietranera

 

To study the way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.

— Dogen

Written by MattAndJojang

October 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm

The Inner Journey: Thomas Merton’s Contemplative Spirituality

with 7 comments

Journey

Photo: Johannes Plenio

Many times I find myself wishing that we had a concordance of Merton’s writings. A concordance would make it easy to locate Merton texts we remember reading, but can’t recall where we read them. It would help us also to find the many ways in which he used a particular term. It would enable us to clarify his understanding of a particular topic by putting together the things he wrote on that topic. I hope someday this project will come to fruition. Anybody out there who would like to help? I might add that at the present time we do have The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, which has some 350 entries that bring together Merton’s thinking on a wide variety of topics. I have to confess to a personal interest in this work, since I am one of its three authors. Clearly an encyclopedia is not a concordance, but it does give at least a bit of help in this direction. Particularly helpful is the paperback edition of the Encyclopedia, which has an extensive index.

It would be interesting to guess which topic would have the most entries in a Merton concordance. I would be willing to bet that “contemplation” would be at the top or near it. In one of Merton’s early books of poetry there is a poem based on Psalm 137. The psalmist, writing in exile, vows the depth of his commitment to the holy city of Jerusalem. Plaintively, he cries out:“Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,…Jerusalem….” In his poem Merton pictures himself as an exile seeking the land of promise and makes the vow:

May my bones burn and ravens eat my flesh,
If I forget thee, contemplation.

Though this poem was written early in his monastic life (1949), I believe it can be said that he remained faithful to its commitment to the very end. And that commitment involved not only making his own life contemplative but helping others to do the same.

Contemplation: The Impossible Dream?

As I write this, I wonder when you, the reader, first heard about contemplation? Was it in connection with certain extraordinary people (John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila) who achieved a life of contemplation? If this was the case, did your reading about them help you to see contemplation as a viable experience for yourself? Or was it something to admire in these unusual people, but hardly something that could find a place in your own life? I ask these questions because I believe that many people in the not-too-distant past thought of contemplation as an elitist experience given only to a few and not even to be thought of by the rest of us. And many today, I believe, still think that way. I quite readily admit that that was my thinking for all too long a time in my life. What changed my attitude and encouraged me to think that contemplation was a possibility for me was my reading Merton and studying his writings.

Contemplation: Dangerous Involvement?

In fact, I can remember the first talk I gave inviting people to look to contemplation as the ordinary flowering of the baptismal vocation. It was sometime in the early 1970s. I was then a member of the liturgical commission of our diocese and was invited to address the commission at its annual day of retreat. It was the time in my life when I was beginning to study Merton’s writings in earnest, especially what he had to say about contemplation. I decided to throw discretion to the wind and talk about “The Contemplative Dimensions of the Sacraments.” My talk was followed by a rather heated discussion. One of the commission members was quite uneasy about what I had said. “My concern,” he told us, “is that contemplation is a dangerous thing to get involved in. It means delving into areas of our lives that are deep and ambiguous and confusing. Encouraging people to be contemplatives could easily lead them astray.”

I was quite willing to admit that talking about contemplation (at least at that time) was a bit daring and getting involved in it (at practically any time) could easily be dangerous. It’s dangerous because it leads me into unexplored areas of my person. It is dangerous because it puts me into contact with my contingency, my utter dependence, my nothingness. Contemplation is, to quote Merton, “An awareness of our contingent reality as received, as a present from God, as a free gift of love.” My ego gets pushed out of the central place in my life, for that place belongs only to God. In Merton’s words:“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own self-hood … and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.”

More than all this, contemplation undoes my perception of God. I come to realize that I do not know who God is at all. Up to then I had thought that my language was adequate to deal with God. But in contemplation I am in the presence of a Reality I do not understand, I am Jacob struggling through the night and demanding of his “Adversary”:“What is your name?” and receiving no answer. I am like Zachary in the temple, struck dumb by what he experienced. The words I used to use so glibly now stick in my throat. I thought I knew how to say: “God.” Now I am reduced to silence. No matter what I say about God it is so far from the divine Reality that I am forced to unsay it. I find myself blinded by the dazzling light of a Reality I thought I knew.

Fallen Idols Along the Contemplative Way

All along the contemplative way lie fallen images of the false gods that I had created or my culture or my religion had created for me and that now I have to give up, for they are no more than idols. A few examples: the god who is “up there,” not “here”; the god who is an object or a being (even supreme being) among other beings; the god with whom I carry on friendly, cozy conversations; the god made in the image of my own prejudices (who is probably white, male and American); the god who rewards and punishes; the god who is so obviously male and paternalistic. Contemplation, Merton says, “is a terrible breaking and burning of idols, a purification of the sanctuary, so that no graven thing may occupy the place that God has commanded to be left empty: the center, the existential altar which simply ‘is.’ In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that he no longer knows what God is.”

When contemplation begins to “take hold” in our lives, we are conscious, without fully understanding it, that we are in this God whom we can no longer name and that this God is in us. Distinct from God, we are yet not separate from God. We feel scorched by the terrifying immediacy of the presence of One whom we had thought we could keep at a safe and comfortable distance. We find that this God cannot be kept in a secure or predetermined place: This God is everywhere.

Getting back to my talk to the diocesan liturgical commission, I readily confess I would not have given that talk (in fact would not even have thought of giving it), were it not for Thomas Merton. He was writing a chunk of American history when he wrote in The Seven Storey Mountain: “America is discovering the contemplative life.” And for many (myself included) he was the spiritual master who led the way to that discovery. As I have said on many occasions, Thomas Merton made “contemplation” a household word.

Teach Contemplation?

This is not to say that he was a teacher of contemplation. As he himself put it, it is as impossible to attempt to teach people “how to be a contemplative,” as it would be to teach them “how to be an angel.” For contemplation is an awakening to a whole new level of reality, which cannot even be clearly explained. “It can only be hinted at, suggested, pointed to, symbolized.” He did believe, however, that an aptitude for contemplation can be awakened in people. But this is possible only if they have already had good human experiences. Only those who have learned to see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, taste with their own tongues and experience with their whole being are apt candidates for the contemplative life. Television addicts, people whose lives continually need external stimulation, who have never opened themselves to their own inner truth, live lives so low in authenticity that a contemplative life would simply be out of their reach. They need to have opportunities for normal wholesome human experiences before it makes any sense even to talk to them about contemplation. And let us face the fact that the culture we live in, with its emphasis on the external and the superficial, its penchant for pleasure and ease, its production-driven mentality, its tendency to emphasize rights over responsibilities, does not provide good soil in which the good seed of contemplation can grow and develop.

We Are All Contemplatives!

Yet that seed is really present in all of us. There is a sense in which it can be said that we are all contemplatives, because whether we know it or not we are in God. This interiority and depth are present in all of us and can be reached by those who are willing to submit to the discipline that a contemplative way of life demands. While this discipline may require a change in behavior, its principal aim is to achieve a transformation of consciousness whereby we view reality differently. We discover the true God at the very center of our being and ourselves as nothing apart from God. With this discovery a new life dawns. We are liberated from selfishness. The egoself (which in reality is a false self) is discarded like “an old snake skin” (to use Merton’s words) and we come to recognize our true self which all the while had been hidden in God. The true self is not a separate or isolated reality, but one with everyone and everything in God. Thus we find not only our own identity, but also our inextricable link with all our sisters and brothers in God. This is the contemplative vision. It begets compassion and nonviolent love.

Contemplation: Awakening to the Real in All Reality

This is why Merton tells us over and over that contemplation is a state of heightened consciousness. “Contemplation,” he writes, “is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.” One is reminded of Evelyn Underhill’s words: “Only the mystic can be called a whole man, since in others half the powers of the self always sleep.”

Contemplation, Merton tells us, is “an awakening to the Real in all that is real.” The word “real” is an important word in the Merton vocabulary. If you look to the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find “real” described as applying “to whatever is regarded as having an existence in fact and not merely in appearance, thought or language or as having an absolute, a necessary, in contrast to a merely contingent, existence.” Now that definition of “real” may not make you jump up and down with joy. Not many definitions do! But this OED statement makes an important distinction. The word “real” has two meanings. It may mean that which exists in fact, but contingently. To exist contingently indicates dependence: it means existing not on one’s own, but derivatively. It means deriving one’s existence from another. The second meaning of “real” designates that which not only exists in fact, but exists absolutely and necessarily. What exists absolutely and necessarily exists in its own right, totally independent of anything or anyone else. Since the contingently “real” depends on the absolutely “Real,” to see the first aright one must see the second. In other words, you do not see the “contingently real” as it truly is, until you see it in the absolutely “Real.” When you achieve this vision, you have achieved the contemplative vision. This is the meaning of Merton’s words which I quoted at the beginning of this paragraph: “Contemplation is an awakening to the [absolutely] Real in all that is [contingently] real.” To be unaware of God at the heart of all reality, as the Source and Sustainer of all that is, is to fail to see reality as it is. It is to pretend that the contingently real can exist without the absolutely Real. It is going through life half-awake, or even worse, it is to live a contradiction.

On January 15, 1966, Merton responds to a correspondent who was involved in helping people make career changes, and who asks Merton if he has any advice for such people. Merton replies that, whatever the changes may be that we make in life, “We should decide not in view of better pay, higher rank, ‘getting ahead,’ but in view of becoming more real, entering more authentically into direct contact with life.” Direct contact with life means recognizing the derivative existence of everything that is and awakening to the presence of God, from whom all reality derives. It is to awaken to the contemplative dimension of reality. It is the discovery of God within us.

Two Ways of Prayer

In 1961 Thomas Merton put together a fifty-three-page collection of prayers for the novices at Gethsemani. It includes selections from the Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the Cistercian Fathers of the thirteenth century, the English mystics and others. The most interesting part of the book for me is the one-page introduction that Merton himself wrote. In this introduction, he speaks of two kinds of prayer:“Prayer is not only the ‘lifting up of the mind and heart to God,’ but also the response to God within us, the discovery of God within us.” The first type of prayer is probably the one we are most accustomed to: lifting the mind and heart to God, generally with words. This is often called vocal prayer, prayer in which we use words to praise, thank and petition God as well as to express our repentance. The second type of prayer to which Merton refers, “response to God within, the discovery of God within us,” is a way of prayer that is less familiar to most people. This is the prayer of silence, when we try simply to be in the presence of God, without words, thoughts, ideas. It is sometimes called “centering prayer” or “prayer of the heart” or “prayer of awareness.”

Contemplation as the Highest Degree of Awareness of God

There are various degrees of awareness of God’s presence in our lives or of our “discovery of God within us.” The highest degree is what we call contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer, which is so total an awareness of God that nothing can distract us from the divine presence, is not something we can earn. It is not something we do. It is always God’s special gift, given not on demand, but when and as often as God wills it. Yet our God is a generous God who does not withhold gifts when we are ready for them. Merton writes in that page of introduction to the Selections of Prayer:

Prayer is an expression of our complete dependence on a hidden and mysterious God. It is therefore nourished by humility….We should never seek to reach some supposed “summit of prayer” out of spiritual ambition. We should seek to enter deep into the life of prayer, not in order that we may glory in it as an “achievement,” but because in this way we can come close to the Lord Who seeks to do us good, Who seeks to give us His mercy, and to surround us with His love. To love prayer is, then, to love our own poverty and His mercy.

What a great sentence that is: To love prayer is to love our own poverty and God’s mercy!

Daily Perseverance

If we are to prepare ourselves for this total awareness of God’s presence which is contemplation, we need to spend time in silence and quiet, simply being in God’s presence. This needs to be a daily practice. Perseverance is the key; humility is the disposition—a willingness to admit how distracted we so often are, yet the determination to be more attentive, realizing that God wills our attentiveness so much more than we do or ever could.

Perseverance will inevitably effect changes in the way we live our lives. Experiencing our oneness with God brings the realization that what is true of us is true of all our sisters and brothers: They too are one with God. This makes it possible for us to experience our oneness with them and indeed with all that is. We are more alert to treat people with love and concern, because we experience that oneness.

Methods of Prayer?

After several years as novice master, Merton was pleased with the way his novices were “progressing” in prayer. He was not overly directive regarding their prayer lives. On the contrary, writing in September of 1964, he said to one of his correspondents (and what he says is a helpful word for us too):

I must say that there is a good proportion of contemplative prayer in the novitiate. I don’t use special methods. I try to make them love the freedom and peace of being with God alone in faith and simplicity, to abolish all divisiveness and diminish all useless strain and concentration on one’s own efforts…

This is a good text on which to close our reflection on contemplation. “Getting our minds off ourselves” is key. As Merton wrote in The Sign of Jonas:“If we would find God in the depths of our souls we have to leave everybody else outside, including ourselves.” Even more emphatically in an earlier text in that journal, he puts it very simply: “[T]he important thing is not to live for contemplation, but to live for God.”

–William Shannon

Written by MattAndJojang

September 26, 2018 at 3:49 pm

The People Who Changed My Life

with 8 comments

Mentors

Sir Isaac Newton said that we always stand on the shoulders of other people. In other words, our lives are shaped by our encounters with people, who shared generously their time, talent and treasure with us. On the top of my list are these people who changed my life:

1. Bro. Paul Aguas – My Dad. A selfless man who spent his entire life serving God and His people. To this day he remains my model in the way I live my life.

2. Sr. Marie Jose Garcia, SSpS – Dear friend for 40 years now. She introduced me to the practice of Zen meditation, which changed my life in a way I couldn’t ever imagine.

3. Dom Fil Cinco, OCSO – Abbot of the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery and my novice master. Our conversations in the open fields of the monastery, under the blue skies about the spiritual life, especially about the Desert Fathers, remained etched in my memory. 30+ years later it seems that those conversations took place only yesterday.

4. Sr. Elaine MacInnes, OLM – Catholic Nun and Zen Master. What I can’t forget about her was her generosity. Although we couldn’t offer her anything, even her retreat stipend, she generously guided us, a group of young college students, myself included, 40 years ago in the practice of Zen meditation by conducting Zen retreats for us. The seeds she planted would later bear fruit in our lives. In my case, it just took a little longer to do so.

5. Sr. Sonia Punzalan, RC – A religious of the Sisters of the Cenacle and one of my Zen teachers. It was on my first Zen retreat with her that I had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life. It goes without saying that it transformed my life. Almost 20 years later that experience continues to inform and affect my life.

6. Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO – Trappist monk, and considered as one of the most significant spiritual writers of the 20th century. I’ve never met him in person, but his books on the Christian monastic and contemplative tradition, which I read when I was 15 or 16 years old, changed my life forever.

I humbly owe them a debt of gratitude.

–Matt

Written by MattAndJojang

August 27, 2018 at 1:15 pm