Saturday, December 16, 2017

"The Buddha was very practical, and he realized that attachment to ideas is a serious problem in spiritual work.  He said not to believe anything that anyone tells you, no matter on what authority, including what he himself said.  If a spiritual teaching attracts you, try it out.  See what you get from its practice, what fruits it bears in your life....  Buddhists see faith as willingness to invest in spiritual practice, as confidence in value seen, not as opinions held....  Faith increasingly develops by being confirmed over and again in the fruits of practice."

-- Mary Jo Meadow, Kevin Culligan and Daniel Chowning, Christian Insight Meditation: Following in the Footsteps of John of the Cross

Friday, December 15, 2017

"Contemplation is the way out of the great self-centered psychodrama. When interior silence is discovered, compassion flows. If we deepen our inner silence, our compassion for others is deepened. We cannot pass through the doorways of silence without becoming part of God’s embrace of all humanity in its suffering and joy. Silence is living, dynamic, and liberating. The practice of silence nourishes vigilance, self-knowledge, letting go, and the compassionate embrace of all whom we would otherwise be quick to condemn. Gradually we realize that whatever it is in us that sees the mind games we play is itself free of all such mind games and is utterly silent, pure, vast, and free. When we realize we are the awareness and not the drama unfolding in our awareness our lives are freer, simpler, more compassionate."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"I have had a great deal of work in interreligious dialogue and often talk with people who say they used to be Christian but are now practicing Buddhism. Very often they say, 'Oh, only now through my practicing of Buddhism I have discovered the spiritual riches that were in my former Christian tradition.' To me it doesn’t make any difference what label you put on it, as long as one discovers the spiritual riches and lives a deep spiritual life, but why did they not discover it in the first place? First of course, familiarity breeds contempt. That is to a certain extent true, but it’s also a fact that the Catholic tradition and also a good many Protestant denominations put too little emphasis on the meditative, the contemplative mystic aspects. But they are there. They are at the very heart of every tradition."

-- Brother David Steindl-Rast
The Gospel of Gratitude According to Brother David Steindl-Rast

“God is that reality whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”
-- Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician, physicist, theologian

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Ethical integrity requires both the intelligence to understand the present situation as the fruition of former choices, and the courage to engage with it as the arena for the creation of what is to come. It empowers us to embrace the ambiguity of a present that is simultaneously tied to an irrevocable past and free for an undetermined future. Ethical integrity is not moral certainty. A priori certainty about right and wrong is at odds with a changing and unreliable world, where the future lies open, waiting to be born from choices and acts. Such certainty may be consoling and strengthening, but it can blunt awareness of the uniqueness of each ethical moment. When we are faced with the unprecedented and unrepeateable complexities of this moment, the question is not 'What is the right thing to do?' but 'What is the compassionate thing to do?' This question can be approached with integrity but not with certainty. In accepting that every action is a risk, integrity embraces the fallibility that certainty disdainfully eschews."

--Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

Monday, December 11, 2017

"There are three integral factors in Buddhist meditation—morality, concentration, and wisdom.  These three factors grow together as your practice deepens.  Each one influences the other, so you cultivate the three of them at once, not separately.  When you have the wisdom to truly understand a situation, compassion toward all parties involved is automatic, and compassion means that you automatically restrain yourself from any thought, word, or deed that might harm yourself or others; thus, your behavior is automatically moral.  It is only when you don’t understand things deeply that you create problems."

-- Bhante Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On Fundamentalism

I spent about twenty years as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian.  As a fundamentalist evangelical Christian I was conditioned to view other religions as tragically wrong--demonic even.  I was also conditioned to view other forms of Christianity as flawed at best and false at worst.  Only our religion, interpreted in our particular way, was right and true.

It occurs to me that, here in America, this fundamentalism has jumped (like a virus jumps from one species to another) from religion to politics.  81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump and continue to support him.  In Alabama, Roy Moore still enjoys the support of a majority of white evangelicals.  This current "jump" of fundamentalism from religion into politics happened because of decades of cultural conditioning going back to the days of the Moral Majority and then onward through the influence of Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, Franklin Graham, etc.  

Throughout human history religion and politics have tended to be mixed in unholy and repressive concoctions--the pairing of the priesthood and the king, each validating the other.  The jump of fundamentalism here in the U.S. from religion to politics is nothing new, it's more like an inoculation (the separation of church and state) that is ineffective for a certain percentage of the population.  

And so, just as religious fundamentalists only read their approved texts which will reinforce their beliefs, political fundamentalists only consume their approved information sources which will reinforce their views.  All else is "fake news"--the equivalent of heresy, false teaching.

There is a strong element of authoritarianism and control in the fundamentalist church.  The lever used to apply that control is fear.  Fundamentalism, whether religious or political, is fear-based.  Terrible things will happen if you don't obey this teaching/support this candidate.

Fundamentalism offers the security of surety.  It also massages the ego.  One can rest snug and smug in the certainty of one's rectitude.

In the Christian fundamentalist world there is a strong current of anti-intellectualism.  Exposing oneself to various sources of information and interpretation is considered a danger.  One is told to stay within the guardrails of "sound teaching" or risk turning their faith into a shipwreck.  A pastor of a large fundamentalist church I used to attend often referred to seminary as "cemetery" and pastors who had graduate-level theological degrees were rare and suspicious.  This fear of intellectual curiosity seems to be a hallmark of all forms of religious fundamentalism, be it Christian, Islamic, etc.

Likewise, conservative political fundamentalist will rail against "elites"--college professors, journalists, intellectuals--and will happily participate in the dismantling of America's public-school and higher-education systems.

Lastly, I witnessed during my years as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian that we were often rubes for con artists.  Televangelists, faith-healers, self-proclaimed prophets, alternative medicines and dubious nutritional products (often sold via multi-level marketing pyramids), shadowy investment schemes, conspiracy theories, etc.  The flock was regularly fooled and fleeced, yet faithfully came back for more.

So too in the political realm.  Cynical pundits and politicians will stir up the base with rhetoric about "faith" and "values" and "religious protection" knowing that they'll get an impassioned response (including donations) and a minimum of questions about their own lack of conformity to this faith and these values.  Talking the talk is more important than walking the walk if you can talk the talk with a straight face and sufficient panache.

When I look back on my years as a fundamentalist Christian, one of the most glaring deficiencies I see is a lack of personal responsibility to discern.  Discernment was handed over to the authority.  Questioning authority (even though that authority was often self-proclaimed, uneducated, unqualified and lacking in integrity) was anathema and would result in swift censure or even ostracisation.  To call out errors and abuses on the part of leadership was to risk being labeled as rebellious or deceived or demonic.  The dissenter, we were told, was in danger of invoking God's wrath not just on themselves but on the community, and therefore must not be tolerated.  To be cast from the community of the righteous into the loneliness of the outer darkness was a thing to be feared.  

As it turns out, this outer darkness beyond the walls of the fundamentalist ghetto isn't dark at all.  There's plenty of light and good company here and a veritable universe of ideas to explore and consider, if one is willing to admit to not already having all the answers. 


Saturday, December 09, 2017

"We can most easily understand karma by how we understand other laws of cause and effect.  Each moment sets up the conditions of the next moment.  Such understanding supports all our science in the laws that govern matter, life and mind.  The law of karma works the same way.  Each moment of intentional action conditions or sets up the next moment in a chain of causes and effects governing choices.  Each moment of choice creates effects that produce the kind of mind and world we have in the next moment.  Every volitional choice always affects the mind.  Every choice bends our inclination ever so slightly in one direction or the other—thus choices form character.  Whenever we surrender to a discordant impulse, it becomes easier to surrender the next time.  Each helpful ‘no’ to unwholesome whims makes it easier to say ‘no’ again.  Choices always have this consequence.  How we handle choices conditions the next moment in the mind.  Inch by inch, we ‘grow’ ourselves in some direction."

--Mary Jo Meadow, Kevin Culligan and Daniel Chowning, Christian Insight Meditation: Following in the Footsteps of John of the Cross

Friday, December 08, 2017

Thursday, December 07, 2017

"Contemplation is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom – freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them.  To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit.  To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and lovingly.  It is a deeply revolutionary matter."

--Former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

“The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion, and when death takes off the mask, they will know one another though the diverse liveries they wear here make them strangers.”

– William Penn, 17th century Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

“There is a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath different names: it is, however, pure and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no form of religion nor excluded from any, where the heart stands in perfect sincerity.”

– John Woolman, 18th century Quaker

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My interview with Tripp Fuller on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast has just been released.

Excerpt: "Contemplative practice is a real struggle for us Westerners, and maybe even more so for Protestant Christians, because we're so used to consuming information as the primary aspect of our spiritual live."

Thursday, November 09, 2017

A few things I've learned...

1. If something seems really stupid to me, there is a possibility that I'm completely misunderstanding it and, therefore, I am actually the one that is stupid.

2. If my religion makes me prioritize keeping rules (doctrines, creeds, statements of faith, particular scriptural interpretations, etc.) over treating people with kindness, then I have probably misunderstood what the original teacher of my religion (Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, etc.) was trying to convey and, in doing so, I have quite possibly become the antithesis of what my religion was supposed to be about.

3. It is very liberating to say "I don't know." The older I get and the more I learn, the more often I say this.


Monday, November 06, 2017

 “Creeds are at once the outcome of speculation and efforts to curb speculation... Wherever there is a creed, there is a heretic round the corner or in his grave.”

--Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas

Saturday, November 04, 2017

"God speaks in the great silence of the heart." 

-- St. Augustine

Thursday, November 02, 2017

I had the most amazingly vivid, detailed dream last night. So astonishing that I awoke at the end of it, not in fright but in wonder. I dreamt that the city, and in fact the entire region, was evacuated due to some impending cataclysmic natural disaster (the exact nature of which I can't recall). But some folks opted to stay behind, including my wife and I. The mostly empty city did not devolve into a Walking Dead/Road Warrior hellscape however. Instead there was incredible cooperation and care, camaraderie and bonhomie among the remainders. Everyone helped each other, took care of each other, visited each other. People who stayed gravitated to the university campus to interact with one another. The abandoned shops and supermarkets were left with their doors unlocked so that people could come in and take whatever they needed, and people only took what they needed.

At one point my wife and I went into a convenience store. No one was there and the lights were off. She went into the back to use the restroom and I decided to grab a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies. Just then, the proprietor came in through the back door. He was a muscular young Pakistani man with a three-legged German shepherd dog (like I said, amazingly detailed). For a moment I expected an angry confrontation but instead he grinned and greeted me, tried to talk me into taking more things, and refused to accept any money. As we left he gave me a big hug and wished us luck.

Maybe, in my dream, what made us all so caring for one another and so unconcerned with worldly goods and with profits and losses was that we all were very aware that soon we would die.

I'll try to take that lesson into my day.


Monday, October 30, 2017

“Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the universe loves nothing so much as to change things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.”

-- Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

"If we spent half an hour every day in silent immobility, I am convinced that we should conduct all our affairs, personal, national, and international, far more sanely than we do at present."

--Bertrand Russell, Mortals and Others

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This week's "Author Tuesday" feature on Cara Meredith's popular blog has an interview with me about my book, Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community.

"Calling all theology nerds! In Presence and Process, Daniel P. Coleman merges ideas from contemplative Christianity alongside the mindfulness movement of Buddhism …and I’m telling you, the book will make you THINK. I’ve been chewing over Daniel’s thoughts for the past couple of weeks, and already have a handful of people I want to pass this book along to after I finish reading it. . .If you’re interested in writers like Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren and the ancient mystics, you’ve got to pick this book up." 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Why I stopped going to church on Sundays:

Every weekday morning I get up at 5am. I could sleep until 5:30am and still get to work on time through the morning commute, but I've added the extra half hour so that I can meditate. That half hour of meditation has become extremely important to me and it sets the tone for the rest of the day. It has become my core spiritual practice.

The most challenging aspect of my early morning meditation practice is that I'm not a morning person. My natural cycle would probably be to sleep from 2am until 10am. Through sheer discipline (and exhaustion) I manage to get myself to sleep on weeknights usually by 10:30 or 11pm. This means that I operate at a sleep deficit. Until the weekend, that is. On Saturday and Sunday my wife and I gloriously sleep in, usually until 9 or 10am. Then we lollygag around the house for as long as we feel like lollygagging (which is sometimes all day).

I have discovered the meaning of sabbath.

"But," I can hear certain preachers preaching, "the Bible says 'do not forsake gathering together'." We don't. What we have forsaken is sitting in rows on Sunday morning like a passive audience, singing along with a worship band and then listening to someone give a sermon. I don't think that was what the author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews had in mind when he/she advised about meeting together.

Our solution to "meeting together" has become to attend smaller meetings during weekday evenings. For example, on Thursday evenings we attend a predominantly Buddhist group who meets in a Christian church for meditation and discussion. We find it nourishing. We recently visited another, unrelated, group that meets on Tuesday evenings. We may add that group to our schedule. Or there is a small group that meets on Wednesday nights in an Episcopal church for Centering Prayer that we want to visit. We're trying out the methodology of belonging to multiple (and diverse) small groups where we can show up (or not show up) on any given week with flexibility. We're exploring ecclesial polyculture instead of monoculture.

In my book, 'Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community', I wrote about small, simple, contemplatively-oriented gatherings as an adjunct to or a replacement for traditional Sunday morning church services. We're finding that once we shifted our paradigm and priorities, to make weekends for sabbath, early weekday mornings for personal spiritual practice and weeknights for "gathering together" with small interactive spiritual-practice groups, things seemed to click into place for us. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's working for us.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Keeping Quiet
By Pablo Neruda
(1904 - 1973)
(English translation by Alastair Reid)

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

--Howard Zinn

Monday, October 16, 2017

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."

--Thomas Merton

Sunday, October 15, 2017

 Art by Katie Jo Suddaby

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"The reality we can put into words is never reality itself."
--Werner Heisenberg, Physicist

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

“True religion helps us to grow, but pseudo-religion hinders growth, for it creates and maintains obstacles and barriers. Thus it is that much religion merely censors experience and does not liberate it, stifles human potential and does not allow it to blossom. Much religion is superficial and does not help the journey inwards which is so necessary for spiritual health. There has to be a movement towards the still centre, the depths of our being, where, according to the mystics, we find the presence of God.”

--Kenneth Leech, True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality

Saturday, October 07, 2017