Spiritual evolution through the margins

Last week there was an interesting piece by Teresa Pasquale Mateus on the website of the Centre for Action and Contemplation. She observes that when Western Christianity revived contemplation in the 1970s, it did so primarily through the lens of white, upper-middle class, celibate men. Contemplation became synonymous with solitude and silence. Yet there are many, many ways to enter into non-dual consciousness and presence with God, self, and others. The contemplative tradition should reflect the diversity of the divine image. Teresa suggests that we need to move into the margins if we are to evolve spiritually.

There are so many . . . people deeply yearning for what the contemplative path has to offer—but often there is a great divide between the prayer circles and the activists, the people of faith in communities of color and the contemplative retreats. The spaces seem remote and inaccessible to many who need them the most: those suffering from poverty and homelessness; those on the frontline of protests and marches for justice; those who sit in non-contemplative church contexts. . . . Further, members of each group carry practices from their own traditions and cultures that could serve the current contemplative containers—rituals of healing from street protests, mantras of lament and hope from those in the margins, and prayers and songs from African and indigenous cultures. . . .

For people existing in the margins—who desperately need contemplative wisdom—a path of contemplation without action . . . doesn’t have meaning. Because their struggles are for survival, for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities, these struggles cannot be set aside in pursuit of an individual spiritual journey. The journey is inherently communal. . . . It necessitates action, but desperately seeks contemplation. The current contemplative container was not built for them and cannot contain their hurts, their actions, their needs, their identities.

When the container is too small for the contents, it must expand. It must evolve. . . . God’s great love story with us calls us into discomfort—the gateway to evolution. For the majority culture, this call is to be in the margins, alongside marginalized persons, and learn what is needed to authentically walk beside them in their suffering. It calls for the discomfort of being in spaces where the mystical path may not look like your own. . . . It calls for the discomfort of hearing God’s voice through the woman of color, the queer teen, the under-heard and under-seen . . . and to reorient perspectives and actions according to the lessons taught through deep listening. . . . For people of color, like myself, and others in the margins (women, LGBTQI, and beyond), it is also a time to let our voices rise and join this conversation as vital partners in the unfolding of this new evolution in the collective soul of contemplative faith. In the process, together, we co-create the contemplative evolution and the mystical revolution. . . . In a world in pain, we are in the crescendo of birthing ourselves for this place and time. Only together can we push through to the next phase of our spiritual evolution.

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