Thomas Merton Trappist Monk

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Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and mystic, once made the point that one of the most critical spiritual challenges of our time and place is that we are too efficient. We are often too focused on our work and way too pragmatic, spending all our time keeping the organizations we run humming but leaving little time and energy for anything else.1 It is quite remarkable that when he made this observation he was speaking about a period of time fifty years ago. The truth of Merton's insight still rings true today. For many of us, there are simply too many demands on our time in any given day, demands that we are required to perform in order to "succeed." I have had many positions and responsibilities in my ministry as a priest, including…show more content…
The purpose of the challenge is to illustrate how difficult it may be to consistently become fully aware of what is happening around us. One example of such simple mindfulness is to try to fully enjoy, taste, smell, and consume a beverage or food of your choice. In order to participate in this simple learning activity, choose something you like to eat or drink. Then sit down with the designated beverage or food and focus your attention on what you are consuming. Spend a couple of minutes simply enjoying what your are doing—how it tastes, what feelings or memories it engenders in you, how your body is reacting. Or simply think of nothing, which is the hardest spiritual practice of all. The spiritual master will then direct his or her students to identify perceptions and judgments about what they just experienced. Questions that enable the needed reflection will include: "Was the attempt to focus your attention on the food or drink something that you found difficult to accomplish? Were you surprised at the speed or the slowness of the passage of time during this activity?" The answers you provide to these simple questions provide a beginning insight into what the spiritual masters might generally define as "growing in awareness" or "focusing your attention" or "getting in touch…show more content…
In the tradition that Hahn represents, this mindfulness exercise, like many others he uses, is not to be engaged in alone. Traditionally it is more commonly practiced, at least when first introduced by the teacher, at every mealtime gathering with a family or community. A simple review of the words he prays illustrates the power of this spiritual exercise: This food is the gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that is worthy of the food. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially that of greed. May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding and love.2 This kind of spiritual exercise, when it is engaged in and practiced in a group, is intended to bring us face to face with another significantly important truth, a working conviction that seems to be at the core of many spiritual traditions: We can't do it alone, even if we have to be alone to do it. This essential truth, although it may seem obvious, is difficult to grasp in the beginning stages of learning the disciplined spiritual practice that leads to encountering the Divine Mystery. THE DRIVING FORCE OF

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