How Inner Work Bolsters the Outer Work

Part of the inner work necessary in a time of pandemic is resisting the temptation to fall into despair.  This is why the teachings of Julian and of other creation spirituality mystics is so important to bring our souls and our work alive today.  One feeds the other.

Offering of music. Photographer unknown; from Pixabay

I remember the morning that 9/11 happened and we had class scheduled that day at the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California.  We happened to have a visiting Native American woman elder with us that day (we had two and sometimes three Native American teachers on our faculty as well). 

She said this to us:

Beware of dwelling too much on this event. The media are busying playing the tape over and over and over again.  This is the worst thing for your soul.  In our tradition we know that replaying evil or trauma is very dangerous.  It robs you of the freedom to respond and to create and even to offer healing.

The Elder. Photo by Trung-Thành Trần on Pexels

And that is the entire point about our listening to Julian of Norwich at this time of pandemic.  First, that she lived through something like this—only scarier because they lacked science—and STILL she insists on the Via Positiva.  Return to Goodness.  The goodness of God and the goodness of creation and of life and existence.

This does not mean that one goes into denial about evil.  But it does mean one cannot and should not dwell on evil alone. 

Drumming his prayers. Photo by Hatim Belyamani on Unsplash

That is why there are FOUR PATHS to our spiritual journey and not just one.

The Via Negativa not only includes loss and grief but it includes meditation that teaches letting go and emptying.  It is good at a time like this, a time of many letting goes, including of course learning to live with fear and uncertainty while putting distance between fear and ourselves.

The Via Creativa also speaks loudly to us today—what can you/we give birth to, as an offering to heal? 

What is your vocation in all this?  What gifts do you bring to the table?

And of course the Via Transformativa calls us anew to address the sufferings so many are undergoing. 

A time like this deepens our sense of vocation or calling and to return to that calling in a new time—why are you/we here?  What can we accomplish together?

“Students from various schools paid tribute to two of their peers who died in the Christchurch shooting by performing a haka, a ceremonial Maori dance to mourn the victims and honour the dead. They were joined by scores of fellow students to form a deafening chorus. At least 50 people were killed in the attack, which was the worst mass killing in New Zealand’s history.” Video from The Guardian.

BUT: And this is All-Important!   RETURN TO THE VIA POSTIVA.  I cite Alice Walker in the opening to my recent book on The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times who says: “Hard times require fierce dancing.”  Yes!  Tough times require MORE JOY and MORE PASSION for living and MORE biophilia.  Otherwise we succumb to necrophilia and we lack the passion and moral imagination for acting effectively.

See Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, pp. 17-54.

See also Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times.

Banner Image: Singer/percussionist/author/educator Alessandra Belloni performs a spinning dance in the Tarantella tradition with her musical ensemble. This dance was used during the time of the plague to heal people and as a release from overpowering fears of death. From

Queries for Contemplation

What lessons do you take from the Native American woman elder instructing us not to play tapes of trauma over and over in our head?

What lessons do you take from Julian of Norwich’s teachings in the heart of the bubonic plague to return to the source that is goodness?  How does that lead to and inform our action?

Recommended Reading

Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth

Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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10 thoughts on “How Inner Work Bolsters the Outer Work”

  1. Avatar

    So beautiful. So powerful. So important that Matthew’s post is heard. I posted the essay on Facebook today, along with the comments below.

    “Part of the inner work necessary in a time of pandemic is resisting the temptation to fall into despair.” from Matthew Fox’s beautiful essay today. And there’s a bonus. The embedded video of the Maori ceremony honoring the dead made me pause in awe of its inexplicable power. We must stop disregarding the wisdom and strength of indigenous people.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Michele,
      Thank you for lifting up this meditation and sharing it with your Facebook friends. It is such an important message and it requires intention and fortitude to carry off. Inside our houses, at our essential jobs, and in the hospitals, people are balancing on the edge between hope and despair. So many of the parameters of our former lives are gone, so the decision to move through and beyond our despair is not simple. Our present challenge brings to mind a canoe trip I took with 8 others when I was 12 in pursuit of my Girl Scout canoeing badge. We went too far down the swollen river and had to turn around and paddle upstream. Very difficult, but necessary. Deciding to choose the struggle to overcome that despair has been unforgettable for me. I think we might be in the same boat now.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    Matthew, I thank you for the quote from the Native American woman elder. She is so right on! It is true that the media has a tendency to repeat the same frightening aspects of what’s going on over and over again until one is obsessed with cautiousness. Life loses vitality, fear becomes the order of the day, and joy is gone, seemingly never to return.
    I know that one needs to keep a safe distance, wash hands frequently, wear a mask in public, and wear gloves when necessary. But I refuse to worry if I forget one of these things at times, and if the person who hands me a package does not have gloves on. I have lived my life giving any unnecessary worry over with the words: ” Lord, I goofed! Take care of it (and of the person I may have offended) for me, THANK YOU!” And then forget about it. It’s always worked . . . And I still operate that way, knowing that I can trust the Goodness of God to come through for me in any situation.
    So, I have been practicing Julian’s and Hildegard’s and all the other beautiful mystics’ responses ( as well as your own), to all the pain and suffering going on in our world right now: letting go of worry and uncertainty, stop dwelling on the “what ifs,” and focus on the “Goodness of God and Creation” to teach me the lessons I need to learn to live my life as fully as possible, i.e. to spread Love and Joy and Peace to everyone and everything in our breathtakingly lovely, hurting world.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Vivian,
      Thank you for your response to todays Daily Meditation and for sharing the way you resist the despair that Matthew and Julian wrote about. Despair dis-empowers us, making us brood over the bad and giving us many excuses for not doing anything about our situation. It is different from the Via Negativa which invites us to explore the dark, face our losses, come to terms with our malleable nature, and move on to create a more hopeful path into the future.

      As long as we are immobilized, we are at the mercy of opportunistic media. With so much human response in the breech, it is crucial to figure out who to trust. From what I see from daughter’s work at the the Boston Globe, the paper has told the discouraging stories that must be told, but they have also written compassionately about human needs and developments, how health care people are surviving, what its like to be a parent pf three working at home, and offering trustworthy information on what people need to know to be safe. Choosing the media source that shapes our feelings and impressions of our situation is an important task.

      Vivian, Thank you for continuing to focus on the “Goodness of God and Creation” for teaching you its lessons. The effect of your tenacious mysticism goes way beyond your own life!

      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    Thank you for the daily meditations. They bring me much peace and broaden my scope of thought and understanding.

    I recognized the woman playing fiddle in the photo “Offering Music” as Emily Frantz from Mandolin Orange. Their music maybe something that readers might like to check out.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Thank you Mary, we are glad that we “bring you peace and broaden your scope of thought and understanding.” And thank you for the musical suggestion for our readers!

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