Mystery surrounds every deep experience of the human heart. The deeper we go into the heart’s darkness or its light, the closer we get to the ultimate mystery of God.Parker Palmer
It has been said that there are three things that help us to see our lives through a wider lens: great love, great suffering and deep prayer.
I grew up in a home where I knew both great love and great pain. My mother suffered from depression her whole life and committed suicide when I was in my early twenties. For as long as I can remember I have been yearning for God; the pain of her loss lead me on a profound spiritual journey.
I have been so blessed to have been held in love by many wonderful people all of my life; many of whom encouraged me and invited me to go to church with them. I went to church faithfully, studied the Bible, taught Sunday School, went to Seminary, but still felt a deep yearning for something more. Something was missing, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant. One semester a young Episcopal canon from the National Cathedral came to Wesley Seminary and offered Saturday classes on the Christian Mystics and Contemplative Prayer. We learned about the lives of the mystics and practiced silent prayer together. I found my home.
The mystics learned through great love, great suffering and deep prayer to experience God in every moment. This transformed their way of seeing everything. They processed reality differently. They learned to see the world with an open-hearted awareness. I knew that was what I wanted, to see everything through the lens of compassion: myself, others, the world, the good, the bad, the joy, the despair, the brokenness, and God’s mercy shining through it all. The mystics, by means of their silent but alert prayer were transformed by personally experiencing God. They continued to become larger souls with bigger hearts and bigger minds that could over look offenses and forgive enemies. I wanted to be on that path.
In our culture today we don’t come to this naturally. The mysterious, the new, things that are problematic and threatening, we push aside. We feel more secure believing that we are in control of everything.
We tend to eliminate half of every moment. We miss half of everything! And we miss God’s unifying love mysteriously abiding in us, leading and encouraging us to live fully alive in the world, making us whole.
It was at The Church of the Savior in DC that I met a community of faithful people who were practicing contemplative prayer. While attending classes there with Gordon and Mary Cosby on Servant Leadership, I met many other people who were searching for ways to open the mind and awaken the heart to the Living Spirit.
Through friends at the Church of the Savior I was introduced to The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and connected with a broad community listening for God in a deeper way and offering teaching on practicing God’s presence and living openly awake to everything.
After many years of focusing on the thinking life, trying to make sense of everything, I was lead on a path that has helped me let my over- analyzing mind drop into my heart and experience another way of knowing.
My journey has not always been an easy one. Looking at life and myself the way things really are can be so difficult, but the contemplative way has been profoundly healing for me, helping me trust in the power of God’s love even while acknowledging the brokenness in myself and the world.
Susan Gonzalez will be leading an event on Contemplative Prayer on December 5. Learn more about the Contemplative Prayer event.