September 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  


« Free Event & DVD | Main | The Abortion Debate: Are You Listening? »

May 23, 2008


"Adventurous theology." Intriguing.

You can take the boy out of the sawdust tent but you can't take the sawdust tent out of the boy.

I prefer to call it the
"Ancient Gnostics Reunion Tour: Who Knew?"

"You can take the boy out of the sawdust tent but you can't take the sawdust tent out of the boy."

__wink__ Careful here Francis or you will sound like Deepak Chopra.
Your statement reminds me a bit of his meditation audio that tells you that you should expand like a balloon until you are no longer inside the room, but the room is inside of you. That should keep everyone but a surgeon out of that room from now on. Where do people get this goofy stuff...

Actually, Sam, I thought the juxtaposition offered by immediately following "adventurous theology" with "passionate faithfulness" was even more interesting :)

Actually, expansion visualizations are very helpful for helping people open up, to self, others, and/or the world as a whole. It is a great practice for developing universal compassion.

That's interesting, and something I've not heard before. If you don't mind me asking, couldn't someone theoretically practice expansion visualizations and still choose to remain narrow-minded and heartless?

Certainly people often do resist such visualizations and it sometimes takes a long time to get through those resistances, to genuinely open up. But then the genuineness of their practice may be questioned to some degree (it might be a form of what Trungpa calls "spiritual materialism"; but lack of openning up is not itself fully sufficient for so question). Furthermore, for some opening up to others is a lot easier than opening up to themselves or vice versa; there are *many* ways that we can close ourselves off to self/other.

Of course, the question of "choice" in these kinds of examples is difficult to understand and how to formulate the "resistance" is also problematic. Those are rich issues with long histories and many questions.

I would add that it is a shame if Louis was ignorant of the purpose of Chopra's use of his visualization (I don't know how he used it in this particular case and Louis doesn't indicate it either) as divorcing a practice from its aim can make it look "goofy" when it, in fact, can have a very good basis.

Expansion meditation can also be used in an attempt to attune ourselves to cosmic forces, whether we see that as 'energy' or 'God' or 'the Spirit' or whatever. It is a means of expanding our horizons and quieting ourselves such that, when the 'promptings' or 'inspiration' come, we can be open to it.

It can be used in an attempt to help someone move past their limited views or habitual patterns (of thought, action, taking on particular roles, etc.), genuinely allowing for the possibility of change (in depression, addiction, or even more everyday things).

It can be used to better see our relation to everything: that our existence wouldn't be what it is now without a miriad of other relations, such as the anthropic principle (whether or not we use it as an argument for God's existence, the balance of cosmos is necessary for me to have the body I have, etc.), our relation to our family, culture, traditions, how our desires and actions have 'intentional threads' (to borrow a phrase from Merleau-Ponty; don't know if he got it from someone else) that are always 'tying' us to the world and our aims in the world, and so on.

In all these examples the connection between being present and openness is very explicit. Furthermore, I would argue that 'being present' really is *the* universally shared aspect of all Eastern thought, as questions of theism/atheism/pantheism is disputed, the status of rules/articulated morals (or a more virtue ethics approach), and so on. Even within Buddhism itself there are many many disagreements on these matters, while the aim of becoming present seems to be in every tradition. Yet this aspect seems to get *very* little attention in most Evangelical discussions of Eastern thought and is marginalized in favor of other issues (if I'm wrong in this, I'd love to hear it).

Well, I admit that I'm pretty ignorant. I have no idea what "expansion visualization" means, and Google is no help at all. It sound something like Thinking About Important Things.

And, "the aim of becoming present?" What could that mean? As far as I can tell, I'm already present ("Cogito, ergo sum."); I don't need to aim to become so.

Doug Pagitt is "looking for a Chrisianity that looks to the past for its validation"? WOW! If we need to re-interpret everything from the past in light of the present then it should not be any surprise that Christianity itself is being re-interpreted. This passage doesn't really mean what it says:

Matt 7:13-14
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

We need to now interpret what that really means in 21st century language. Narrow now means wide and few now means lots.

Doug Pagitt is "looking for a Christianity that doesn't look to the past for its validation"?

Does he think that even when things are clear? For example,

Luke 13:24
24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

Does narrow mean something else besides narrow? Perhaps there's a new definition of narrow that I don't know about.


You are thinking of presence in simple spatial terms: that I am here at coordinates a, b, x. Becoming present means, among other things, calming the mind's incessant running from thought to thought, becoming centered enough to simply accept the things we have no control over and thereby be able to focus our energy on what we can change, being able to be genuinely engaged with those we are with without other concerns intruding on the now, being present to the body and the tensions we very often hold in it (in the stomach, back, neck, etc.), and so on. These kinds of being present don't just happen naturally and "thought" is only one modality of how one can be present.

Here are some examples of not being present that may be present in your life: constantly running through to-do lists while you are engaged in other things, not being able to eat without having some background noise (music, TV, conversation), eating unthinkingly (instead of savoring the food, being present with the reaching, biting, chewing, the feeling of the food as it goes down your thought), constant back/neck pain (can often be caused by pent up emotion that manifests itself in particular muscles), multi-tasking (i.e. not letting oneself be present with simply one activity), lacking clarity on one's emotions at any given time (because you are too concerned with other things, you've always ran away from your emotions, etc.), even becoming angry and upset can be a sign of not being present (one's relation to things is too narrow [not expansive enough], related only to what concerns you, your life, your convenience). There's more, but that's a small sampling.

But if you genuinely think you are present in your life, here's a small practice to try: either sit in a chair or lie on the ground, as long as your back is straight. Close your eyes and calm your body, breathing naturally. Then do what is often called breath counting: count on each inhale (or exhale, it doesn't matter which), starting with 1 and going to 9; when you reach 9, recount going from 9 to 1; when you reach one, recount going from 1 to 9; etc. If you can do this for, say, 5-10 minutes without losing count once or without other concerns of the day or other thoughts (about how stupid this is, how your time is better spent, wondering when the 5 minutes are going to be over, what this or that sound was in your house/outside in the street, or whatever) intruding on your counting, then I will gladly admit that you are present in your life.

But those are five minutes of counting that you'll never get back.

Forgot to mention, I saw an episode of Oprah and "being present" seems to be a major component of Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth."


Just like there are 1 hour of working out that we'll never get back, but it is the same principle: one is exercising the body, the other is excercising the mind. Furthermore, many studies of meditation have shown marked physical and psychological benefits from meditation.

I can't speak to Tolle's use of "being present". I'm just trying to say that there are many ways of looking at it and we should not reduce all understandings to one application, nor should we poison all uses of that term because of the ignorant use of it by some popular writers.

I was not really being serious with the five minute comment. However, while counting to 9 does indeed probably constitute a mental workout for me, I'm not sure it is for some of the regular posters here on the STR boards! ;)


Sorry for not catching on to the joking nature of your post (been a little over serious in my life lately). But, yes, some may not be too open to doing it, but I think the effectiveness of doing such practices is well documented.

The comments to this entry are closed.