Gifts of Contemplative Grounding for our Later Years
By Tilden Edwards. Tilden is Shalem’s founder and senior fellow. For more on the heart in relation to our egos and minds, see his most recent book, Embracing Spiritual Depth. This blog was excerpted from an article in the 2012-13 annual report. If you’d like to read the entire article or other articles therein, follow this link.
Even though our outward nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
(2 Cor. 4:16)
St. Paul’s experience is that there is more to us than our “outward nature.” As he proclaimed so strongly, the core of our being is a unique shaping of divine being, of the Radiant Love that is the ever-pulsing heart of reality. Paul sees us “in Christ,” Christ who is the expression of God’s transforming presence everywhere. We are part of a wondrous, relational wholeness that includes all of creation.
It’s not a static wholeness. We’re human expressions of a mysterious, cosmic process of ongoing birth, growth, death, and transformation into new life. Our human nature is part of that dynamism. Paul calls that dynamism “renewal.” We could just as well call it the ever-deeper realization of our true nature in God. That realization evolves in our spiritual heart, which is the place in us where we are most vulnerably and directly present to deep Reality, the place where we realize our mutual indwelling and deepest belonging.
As we more and more come to trust and taste our deeper self in God (deeper than the ego, sensate, and thinking levels of our identity), we find that our way of living into our physical aging is positively affected. Here are some examples.
We still care for our “outer nature,” seeing it as a gifted vessel of divine presence and creative loving purpose. We live in the trust that there is more to us than our outer nature.
As we spend time in the contemplative practices that help us live more from our spiritual hearts, we come to appreciate a different sense of time. In the heart, we can be shown hints of eternal time, a sense of the vibrant eternal Now where everything happens and belongs together. Our mind’s conditioned view of narrow, linear time is relativized by this qualitatively different sense of time; we find ourselves part of an inclusive, timeless awareness. Everything lives in an interrelated, radiant whole. We belong to that whole more than we belong to some separated sense of self.
We may be given a sense of true Home in that larger sense of time as we find it pervaded by intimate loving Light. This may be received only in a brief flash of awareness, but it’s a transformative flash that is branded into our memories. Such awareness deepens our yearning to live from the Love it reveals.
Whether or not we have any direct flashes of Home, our yearning for God is itself a sufficient experience of God’s longing presence, God’s home in us. That very yearning is a divine beacon that we can trust to guide us to the fullness of our home in Radiant Love.
Overall, our contemplative grounding in our later years can help us live more fully from the awareness of our spiritual hearts, freer to live in the ever-fresh present moment—in the living Now of God. We can trust more fully that the Now isn’t just a stale prison of the past but a pregnant Spirit delivery room of life and hope, where one moment isn’t just a repeat of the last, where tomorrow isn’t just another today.
Whatever shone with the larger Love of which we are made during this earthly life, I trust will be shaped into a transformed being, living in more intimate holy communion, hopefully able to enjoy and be a vessel of the divine vision for life in a new way.