Rich Paxson

“… Share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous session showing up in your [life].?”

I spent this past weekend participating in Trinity Episcopal Church’s (New York) annual January Institute, which focused on economic inequality. Over one-hundred remote parochial sites shared in the three-day conference via streaming video. Our remote site was in the parish hall at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Mason City, Iowa.

Trinity Church in New York City sits on a city block at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway just down the street from the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan. I’ve never been there, but Google Maps shows what looks like a block-long nave on the southern half of the block. The northern half is a green-space inviting contemplative walks shadowed by trees, and the church’s financial district neighbors.

While I valued the weekend presentations, I realized afterward that I responded primarily in a mentalist frame of mind. James introduced the mentalist concept in the first Forgiving Victim video. Mentalist describes realities that are ‘out there,’ separated from the realities of day-to-day personal habits and experiences. I gave economic inequality an opening into my realm of important experiences, while retaining mentalist safeguards to hold the uncomfortable, existential realities of economic inequality at arms length.

My list of responses to discussion questions was quite short, just one item: walking. I felt I should have more items, but my strong urge to limit the list to this one item won out. When it came time to share our lists, I explained how I find walking physically beneficial, but also a time for reflection and renewal. I needed walking time, I said, for my Institute participation to integrate into my daily awareness, habits and experience.

I walked Mason City hometown political precincts during the November 2014 election campaign. I probably wasn’t much of a campaigner, since I felt privileged when doors opened to my knock, leaving me surprised and tongue-tied at times, feeling a kind of immediate connection with the person behind the door that momentarily made me forget my prepared script. But, I learned quickly to discern a person’s meaning and intent for opening their door, and so responded accordingly. I wrote about one of those days here.

Lee asked about contemplation in a prior post in this discussion forum. His question spurred me to consider the meaning of the word. The dictionary says the verb to contemplate can take an object or not. Contemplate is derived from the Latin ‘con’ or cum, meaning: with; and tempula: vulgar Latin meaning ‘temples’. I can contemplate an object like economic inequality; or, I can contemplate more generally through deliberate and careful thinking. In both cases my ego generates the contemplation.

Rather than thinking of contemplation through the lens of personal ego however, which makes contemplation something ‘I should do;’ this verse from Saint Paul comes to mind: “… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Cor 6:19)

Ideally, walking within the precincts of the city – now just for exercise, is a form of contemplation for me; where, leaving my ego at home, my body-temple finds it easier to quiet my mind’s chatter, allowing old views to come together in new ways. Sometimes while I’m walking, a whispering presence makes itself known, reminding me of the verse from the prophet Micah that I learned as a child ~ “… and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”