Beyond Contemplation


After his transformative experience at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville (now Muhammad Ali Boulevard), Thomas Merton wrote “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness. . . .”

This experience of universal love, of recognizing one’s self in the other, is directly facilitated in the Mutual Awakening Practice.  Like Merton, we discover our interconnectedness with one another, and something larger, but we do it together.

Rather than sitting alone, as we do in meditation or Centering Prayer, the Mutual Awakening Practice (MAP) is done with another person(s). The MAP takes us beyond contemplation into a shared-contemplative, or intersubjective place. The instructions are simple:

1. Sit comfortably in a chair facing one another.  

2. Connect, through your open-eyed gaze, with the deepest Origination Point (the place within you that has never been touched by the vicissitudes of life) in one another.

3. The person listening, listens by being within the other.

4. The person speaking leans into what’s emerging right then and gives voice to it.

With practice, it’s as if the deepest part of you connects to the deepest part of the other.  It activates the experience Merton had with the people he saw around him on the street corner, but in this case it’s mutual.   It’s as if together we suddenly see “…. the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.”

The Mutual Awakening Practice supports us in developing our capacity to recognize this deep inner place in the other, and in ourselves, and to connect with one another from there.  As Richard Rohr puts it “…Merton—as well as anyone deserving of the title mystic—believes that God is always recognizing God’s Self in you and cannot not love it. This is God’s “steadfast love” (hesed) with humanity. That part of you has always loved God and always will.”

Mutual Awakening teaches us to consciously abide there, deep within one another, always. We begin to discover that we humans can connect Origination Point to Origination Point - from that deepest part of ourselves.  We can receive and return the gaze of love with one another, and as we do so, we are interwoven into a way of being together that visibilizes our interconnection.

In the Mutual Awakening Practice, you simply are God recognizing God in the other.  Once you are connected from your Origination Points, through your mutual gaze, the two-way mirror begins to reflect in both directions, and a bond is formed between you, a bond of love.  The mutuality itself moves you toward a shared-unitive experience of deep connection that reveals itself as Love.

Once experienced, you begin to see it everywhere else too.  When we begin to see ourselves in mutuality….we begin to see, and live from, our mutual-Godness all the time.  In the Evolutionary Collective, we call this Shared-Unity. Daniel Siegel, the founder of Interpersonal Neurobiology and the author of the Aware:  The Science and Practice of Presence, calls it Inter-Mind.  Thich Nhat Hanh calls it Inter-Being.

If we all willingly engaged in building our capacity for this type of mutuality, we would know directly that we are all interconnected and it would transform the world  There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed, and no more violence. We would understand that we are all part of One-Body