Wednesday, March 06, 2013
The following is a continuation of Matt Fox's article which appeared in yesterday's post. It was first an article for Sounds True.
Sounds True: I'm interested in this idea of redeeming worship. I do believe that many people don't find inspiration or an opportunity for satisfying worship in the traditional churches or temples. Can you talk more about that?
Matthew Fox:We just held a conference this fall in North Carolina for five days around the theme of renewing forms of worship. It was really wonderful. There was a very diverse group of people from all different religious backgrounds. Some of them had left religion completely. But we put a lot of planning into it, and it really worked. I feel so strongly that if we could only renew worship, we could change society—its potential is that radical. Worship is education of the heart as well as the head; the young, the old, the children, all of us can be involved in it.
Sounds True: What if somebody is reading this, and they don't have much of a community for worship? They don't find much connection with their church or synagogue, but they want to pray. What would you say to someone who wanted to pray, but didn't know how to go about it?
Matthew Fox: There's so much to say about your question. One kind of prayer is to just sit and be quiet; to just listen to one's breathing, and breathe in and breathe out. It's something of a conscious way of realizing that breath is the ultimate gift. We know someone's dead when they can't breathe anymore, so breath and life go together. And so do breath and spirit. They're the same word. We have to pay attention to the things we take for granted, and holy breath is one of them. Listening to your breathing is very simple and wonderful. “Something you always have with you,” as Groucho Marx would say.
The keys to prayer are attention and concentration. They're helpful in the next way to pray, which is to go into nature, and again, just listen. Go into the woods, not thinking of all kinds of problems, be aware of your breathing, and be present with the leaves, and the trees, and the wind, and the animals.
Another way to pray is what we call “arts meditation.” This is a way to go into yourself and find your personal images, and give birth to them through painting, or dance, or storytelling, or poetry. It's a very powerful way to pray, and I think a very essential way to pray, too.
Also, read the mystics. When you read a book by a mystic, such as a book by Hildegard of Bingen, you stop whenever you hit a passage that strikes you. Just stop. The point of reading a mystic isn't to finish the book, it is to pray. And these mystics are wonderful because they are poets of the spiritual journey; they engage us with their amazing images. They can bring the mystic out of us.
You learn to play tennis by playing with someone who already knows how to do it. So you nourish your own mystic by reading the mystics who are solid. Not reading them in an academic fashion, but with your heart. And that's a real help for prayer too.
Sounds True: Do you see that the traditional structure of Western religion will change to meet people's mystical needs? Or are people going to develop their spirituality outside of the traditional institutions?
Matthew Fox: Well, Bede Griffith, the 86-year-old monk who's lived in an ashram in India for 50 years, says this: “If Christianity can't recover its mystical tradition and teach it, it should just fold up and go out of business. It has nothing to offer.”
I agree that we're in an “either/or” situation. If the churches cannot recover their mystical tradition, I think they will become passé. And those movements that can, will bear the energy of our Western spiritual traditions into the next millennium.
People today don't want religion; they want spirituality. They have a right to it. And spirituality involves spiritual practice. “Religion” has to strip down and travel much more lightly. I think that's an important part of our future.
Matthew Fox (b. 1940) is an internationally acclaimed theologian who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years. He holds a doctorate, summa cum laude, in the History and Theology of Spirituality...
(Picture found on SoundsTrue site: http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/articles/The_Cosmic_Wisdom_of_Matthew_Fox?component=authorcontent)