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The Gift of Contemplative Awareness

Today’s post is by Liz Ward

“In God we live and move and have our being.”

Acts 17:28

Voices on television, computers and in newspapers expose us to heartbreaking tragedies all over the world; taking in even a tiny fraction of the pain and suffering of creation can seem overwhelming. We see images of pain and suffering on an hourly basis just by opening our newspapers, turning on our televisions, or clicking on our computers or smart phones. We hear stories of hardship, injustice, and atrocities that can numb our hearts and close our awareness. We watch the melting of icecaps, the pollution of oil spills, the effects of drought and famine, civil unrest, and many other changes endangering our intimately interconnected web of creation. It can be hard to believe in a loving God given the inexplicable pain and suffering we can witness on a daily basis today.

Suffering does not describe the fullness of Reality, however. There is a Goodness intricately interwoven in the fabric of creation, and as Spirit-led contemplative leaders, we are invited to open to this Goodness as well as to the pain and mystery of suffering. One way to open more fully is to be intentional about noticing the life-giving gifts that flow in and through our suffering world and that sustain and nurture our contemplative leadership. One of the greatest gifts for Spirit-led leadership is contemplative awareness, the consciousness that it is God in whom “we live and move and have our being.”

Although we can’t control the deepening of this gifted awareness, we can open ourselves to receive it more fully. We can be more alert and attentive to God’s mysterious, yet abiding Presence, and be more sensitive to the graced shifts in our inner landscapes. We can let the inspired contemplative awareness of others deepen our faith and strengthen our resolve as contemplative leaders.

The contemplative awareness by which we live and move in God can open us to vast, yet intimate wisdom and mysterious guidance that can ground and nourish our contemplative leadership. It affirms the reality of the invisible Mystery holding and permeating the visible world we can see, hear, touch, and experience directly. This contemplative awareness of living in God can deepen our consciousness of the ocean of Holy Life constantly flowing in and through creation. It can ground our Spirit-led contemplative leadership in this mysterious flow of God’s liberating love. This deep and wide awareness invites contemplative leaders to open more fully to the Beloved’s life-giving spiritual gifts—as well as to the Gracious Giver of these gifts, who is the greatest Gift of all.

Painters, poets, and writers were among the first to awaken me to the gift of contemplative awareness. Their heightened sensitivity to the presence of God in all of life informed and affirmed the twists and turns in my own gifted awareness of living in God. Meditating on their creative works offered images and words for the graced shifts in my inner landscape. Their witness has encouraged, guided and strengthened my contemplative leadership.

For example, the French impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh was awake to this larger Presence, and his painting Starry Night suggests a visual image of God’s dynamic life freely flowing through all of creation. The swirling blue, yellow, and green lines filling the night sky hint at a vibrant Life that permeates not only the sky but also the trees, shrubs, mountains, and village below. This image invokes a powerful, pulsing Life that brightens the dark night and sheds light on the church and homes below. It suggests that, in the midst of the silent stillness of the dark night, the world is alive with a mighty Beauty it would be a shame for us to miss.

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This article is excerpted from a longer article entitled: Opening to God: Receiving Nurture for Contemplative Leadership. The full article and many more resources for contemplative leadership are available to participants of With Hearts Wide Open: An online Contemplative Leadership Seminar. This online seminar is open for registration now! Starts October 5. Click here to register.

Image of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night via wikiart.org.

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