Our hearts resonate deeply with the wisdom preserved in the monastic traditions. Like the Desert Mothers and Fathers, we too feel called to an “interior martyrdom” – a radical commitment to divine union that transcends the distractions and false promises of this world. In the busy clamor of modern life, the monasteries have been true “safe houses,” sheltering the precious flame of childlike fidelity to love’s deepest longings.

We are grateful to have received the contemplative practices lovingly handed down over the centuries – the reverent silence, the intimate reading of sacred texts, the singing of the Psalms that opens our souls to the full range of human emotions. These rhythms of prayer and presence remind us constantly to return our scattered hearts to the One in whom we live, move, and have our being.

Yet even as we honor these time-tested traditions, we hear the liberating invitation to make the contemplative path our own through open-ended experimentation. No rigid methods can contain the infinite; rather, we must remain beginners, humbly seeking in each new moment the practices that render us most open, most free to receive the ever-present Gift.

For we cannot attain the divine union purely through our own efforts, skillful as our techniques may become. As infinite as is our longing, so infinitely more vast is the Presence that transcends yet intimately includes our restless seeking. We are called, not to attain the unattainable through sheer willpower, but to surrender at last to being attained by what we can never grasp.

This is the great paradox: that diving ever deeper into the stark acceptance of our inability to force spiritual awakening, we discover it dawning upon us as a quiet surprise. For the unattainable Love hovers infinitely close, seeking to bear its own fruit within us. As we enter the silence, the illusion of separateness falls away and we find ourselves carried along by a Presence that embraces us in a radical intimacy.

Our contemplative journey, then, becomes a continuous shedding of our “cherished and dreaded illusions” – the belief that anything less than complete immersion in divine Love could ever satisfy the ache in our depths. This is the mystery of the cross – the destabilizing yet liberating detachment from our former way of seeing, our former way of being.

It is both a maternity ward where new life is tenderly birthed and a hospice where we learn to let go, to make space for what wants to emerge, breathe, and grow. The monastic way teaches us to slow down, lean back into the generosity of a Love that sees our stammering first steps as precious. We are invited to be kind and gentle with ourselves, finding the practices that spark joy, that honor the unique melody of our soul’s unfolding song.

As we open repeatedly to the divine Surprise, we become co-creators of a new contemplative culture. Our very lives, no longer confined to monastery walls, become vibrant laboratories where we apprentice ourselves to participation in an intimacy that cannot be attained but can only be received as sheer gift. We practice dying to the false self, until only Love remains, mirroring back the gaze of grace.

No matter the circumstances — amid family chaos, workplace stress, social turmoil — each present moment glimmers with the opportunity to lean into unity, allowing the fragmented pieces of our scattered awareness to realign with the harmonizing depths.

Silence blossoms amid the noise as we release, again and again, our desperate need to control, our childish insistence on clinging to comfortable illusions. In the spaciousness of surrender, we discover ourselves embraced by an intimacy that transcends our feeble grasp yet was present all along, patiently awaiting our consent.

With each practice of letting go, each ache of being unraveled from within, a deeper knowing takes root: the truth that we are not what we have spent lifetimes believing ourselves to be. Our contours soften, our identities become permeable, absorbing the waters of an ocean deeper than our conceived separateness could possibly fathom.

We begin to taste the joy of being carried in a current so vast, so generous, it cannot help but bear us into undreamed-of waters, into resonances with the real that shatter our fragile constructs. Each undefended moment attunes our senses to the caress of a Beloved who has always already held us in an infinite tenderness.

Profoundly, we realize this journey of divine intimacy does not insulate us from the devastating anguish and bewildering injustices of this world. Rather, it opens us more vulnerably to the unfathomable sorrow of our shared human condition – what Cynthia Bourgeault calls “the anguish of God in the anguish of the world.” Our awakening cannot be an escape but a deeper entry into the unspeakable groanings of the entire creation.

Yet even here, especially here, the miraculous mystery reveals itself. For in the agonizing fissures where our self-protections fall away, the light of Perfect Love shines through, bathing in warmth and acceptance what our egoic minds could only interpret as deficient or unworthy. In the profoundest chambers of our shame, the Infinite Intimacy cradles us as wantonly cherished children.

We find the courage to bring our unloved pieces into the tender gaze of Divine Friendship, no longer managing or performing for acceptance but simply belonging in the expansive spaciousness of an unconditional embrace. The despairing parts of our humanity, so long shadowed and reviled, are gathered in and made full participants of an outrageous generosity that astonishes us into quiet tears of recognition.

In these transfiguring moments, the “contemplative culture” burgeons within like a blossoming garden teeming with vibrant life and color. What once felt internal and isolated flowers outward in an expansive revival of reverence, beauty, creativity, and compassionate presence. Our realization of infinitely being love spills over into our relationships, our work, our politics – an embodied wholeness that refuses to partition the sacred from the mundane.

Our homes become kivas where the holy dances freely, our workplaces monk-like cells humming with mindful presence, our cities and towns radiant groves where the mystic heart of humanity beats with renewed vigor – all awhirl in the music of a world continuously being born anew in Love. Family, friendship, romance, and community take on shimmering new hues of depth and intimacy as we encounter one another across the false boundaries that once divided.

What unfurls is nothing less than the mystical revival and renaissance that Father Thomas Keating foresaw, a “radical reformation” infiltrating all spheres of human life with the transformative energies of Divine Union. We become contemplatives not just for the monastic cloister but for the monastery of this world, offering the tender contemplative gaze to all we encounter.

As this renaissance unfolds, we find ourselves drawn ever deeper into the nourishing rhythms and practices that sustain our participation in Love’s holy wildness. The riches of the monastic wisdom traditions continue to guide and nurture us, even as we creatively adapt them to our unique lived contexts.

We gather in eccentric sanghas and organically-formed communities of spiritual friends, together chanting the hoary Psalms and breathing the pristine air of the Desert Ammas and Abbas. We pour over ancient texts not as antiquated relics but as love letters spelled out in a heart language that infuses our days with new layers of resonance and meaning.

In quiet corners and improvised urban hermitages, we steal away to bask in the calming discipline of contemplative prayer. We train our bodies in practices of reverent meditation, surrendering restlessly to the graciousness of each inhalation and exhalation, until the boundaries between our selves and the choreography of the entire cosmos soften and dissolve.

We learn to walk in cadence with the unhurried rhythms of celestial time, attuning to subtle seasonal shifts, allowing our souls to be grabbed by geese inscribing ancient calligraphies across the autumn horizon. Dappled forest glades become our monastic cloisters as we wander among the verdant thrum of the Earth’s wild litanies.

In intimate circles, we share the alchemy of our inner lives through poetry, music, storytelling and artful self-expression – each bare offering a wordless scripture, a living lectio divina springing forth from the untamed wellsprings of our yearning for communion. Our relationships deepen into holy alliances as we companion one another through seasons of birthing and dying, never alone in our resplendent joys and excruciating contractions.

When vows are taken, they are vows of radical aliveness – to bear witness to the sacred in all things, to remain utterly astonished by the perpetual miracle of existence unfolding in each oscillating nanosecond. We learn to move fluidly between work and rest, speech and silence, being ever-attuned to the invitations that arise to surrender more completely to Love’s dervishing dance.

Yes, our entire lives become the monastery in this way – the laboratory cell where we receive and metabolize the infinite mysteries until they course undimmed through our humble arteries, sanctifying all we do and encounter with a unifying luminescence. The world itself is glazed in new pellucid grandeur as we look out upon it with eyes unclouded, minds untethered, and hearts undefended at last.

We the blessed inhabitants of this revived contemplative renaissance – joyful monks and mutons of the cosmic cathedral, unshackled celebrants of an uncontainable perichoresis always spiraling outward in improvisational praise. This is the birth we endlessly experience, the death into which we endlessly surrender, the Love in whose infinite abundance we cerulean swim, sanctuaries ablaze with the holy inseparable from the earth, inseparable from us.


The monastic traditions served as “safe houses” that preserved the radical spirit of early Christianity – a childlike fidelity to being drawn into infinite union with God’s love. They passed down practices like silence, sacred reading, and psalmody to cultivate a “monastic mindset” of constantly returning the heart to God. However, rather than rigid methods, they encouraged experimentation and finding what uniquely works for each person, understanding that true contemplation cannot be attained through human effort alone. It requires humbly accepting our inability to grasp the infinite, letting go of cherished illusions that anything less than divine love will satisfy, and making space to receive this love as a gift. Our lives then become laboratories where we learn to die to passing identities through participation in this intimate love. The contemplative path is a maternity ward birthing new life and a hospice where we are healed from what hinders us from realizing love is already being continually given. It involves a quieting of our usual patterns and sense of surprise at the intimate immediacy of the unattainable attaining us, carrying us along in a presence that transcends yet includes us – exemplified in the mystery of the cross crucifying our illusions.


1. Monasteries served as “safe houses” that preserved the essence and radical spirit of early Christianity during the time when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire. The Desert Fathers and Mothers went into solitude to live an “interior martyrdom” and radical commitment to union with God.

2. The monastic traditions passed down practices and teachings aimed at nurturing a childlike fidelity to being drawn into deep, intimate love with God. This included silence, sacred reading (Lectio Divina), singing the Psalms, and cultivating a “monastic mindset” of constantly returning one’s heart to God.

3. The monastic wisdom encourages experimentation and finding what works for each individual, rather than rigidly following prescribed methods. It invites an openness to try different practices on different days.

4. True contemplation and union with God cannot be attained through human effort or methods alone. The practices help create a stance of least resistance so that divine gift can flow through and attain us.

5. The contemplative journey is not about skillfully applying techniques, but about humbly accepting our inability to attain the infinite through our own efforts. It requires letting go and making space to receive the gift.

6. The monastic traditions teach that our lives can become laboratories for contemplation, where we learn to die to passing identities and receive the divine gaze through participation in divine love.

7. To live this out, we are advised to slow down, be kind and gentle with ourselves, find practices that bring joy, remain open to surprise, and remember that we are made of love and for love.

8. Our contemplative path is simultaneously a “maternity ward” where new life emerges and a “hospice” where we let go of cherished illusions that anything less than union with infinite love will satisfy the longings of our heart.

9. The mystery of the cross represents the crucifixion of our dreaded and cherished illusions, as well as being healed from what hinders us from realizing that infinite love is already being given to us continually.

10. The contemplative journey involves a quieting of our usual patterns and a sense of surprise at the intimate immediacy of the unattainable attaining us, carrying us along in a presence that transcends yet includes us.