Pondering Rohr: Everything Belongs

Everything-Belongs.jpgThis month I am pondering Fr. Richard Rohr‘s book Everything Belongs. This book seemed to be the perfect book to follow up my last month’s choice of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Interestingly, in Franks’s books, about his time in the concentration camps during the Holocaust, he wrote this in regards to our freedoms:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Similarly, in Everything Belongs, Rohr states the following:

We have defined freedom in the West as the freedom to choose between options and preferences. That’s not primal freedom. The primal freedom is the freedom to be the self, the freedom to live in the truth despite all circumstances.

From the back cover –

In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr offers a personal retreat for those who hunger for a deeper spiritual life but don’t know what contemplation is.

Fr. Rohr helps us understand that intimacy with God cannot be achieved in the rational mind. By practicing contemplation, we learn not to reason better but to see everything – including ourselves and other people differently. As our perspective becomes wider, we discover that everything belongs.


In reading this book, the truth is, I highlighted a lot of it. Frankly, I was surprised when I would go more than one page with out feeling led to highlight something. As I needed to have something for my reading group tonight, I paired it down to 27 quotes.

27 (of many more) quotes that stood out to me –

  1. “The people who know God well—mystics, hermits, prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a tyrannical mother, but always a lover who is more than we dared hope for. How different than the “account manager” that most people seem to worship.”
  1. “Try to say that: “I don’t know anything”. We used to call it “tabula rasa” in Latin. Maybe you could think of yourself as an erased blackboard, ready to be written on. For by and large, what blocks spiritual teaching is the assumption that we already know, or that we don’t need to know. We have to pray for the grace of beginner’s mind. We need to say with the blind man, “I want to see”.”
  1. “The great and merciful surprise is that we come to God not by doing it right but by doing it wrong!”
  1. “God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should not waste too much time protecting the boxes.”
  1. “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
  1. “If your prayer is not enticing you outside your comfort zones, if your Christ is not an occasional “threat,” you probably need to do some growing up and learning to love.”
  1. “In the silence of contemplation, we will observe the process whereby we actively choose and create what we pay attention to. That’s why the first twenty minutes are usually so terrible. For the first twenty minutes only primary agenda shows itself.”
  1. “But if we hear only what we already know, we simply cannot learn or grow.  That attitude is a sure ticket to ignorance.  Alcoholics say that without humility and honesty, nothing new happens.  These virtues, humility and honesty, are the foundation of all spirituality, but they are hard won.  Most of us have to crawl our way back to them.  Usually we don’t go unless the pain of circumstance force us.”
  1. “The Third Way is the way of wisdom. It’s a lonely, perhaps narrow path, because almost everybody takes the other two ways: flight or fight.”
  1. “There is a certain fear of death from not having lived yet.”
  1. “Many people are living out of the culture’s agenda, becoming who they are “supposed” to be instead of who God made them.”
  1. “With God as helper we can transform our sadness into strength and even joy. Otherwise, we will normally transmit it to those around us.”
  1. “Actually, this pattern of falling apart precedes every transition to a new level of faith. If one is not prepared to live in that temporary chaos, to hold the necessary anxiety that chaos entails, one never moves to deeper levels of faith or prayer or relationship of God.”
  1. “In reality our growth is hidden. It is accomplished by the release of our current defense postures, by the letting go of fear and our attachment to self-image. Thus, we grow by subtraction much more than by addition.”
  1. “If we are not willing to be led through our fears and anxieties, we will never see or grow.”
  1. “God alone seems capable of guiding us through these transitional and dark ages, We, by ourselves, will always panic and run. So, we need to recognize those initial anxiety responses and what that affective charge feels like.”
  1. “We have defined freedom in the West as the freedom to choose between options and preferences. That’s not primal freedom. The primal freedom is the freedom to be the self, the freedom to live in the truth despite all circumstances.”
  1. “If God can receive me, who am I not to receive myself?”
  1. “Most people become their thoughts. They do not have thoughts and feelings; the thoughts and feelings have them.”
  1. “A contemplative posture faces reality and sees the presence of God.”
  1. “The wounds to our ego are our teachers and must be welcomed. They must be paid attention to, not litigated.”
  1. “Our fear is in the service of all the little ways we have learned to protect our false self.”
  1. “But we do know that when we are manipulating, changing, controlling, and fixing, we are not there yet. The calculating mind is the opposite of the contemplative mind. The first is thought by the system, the second by the Spirit.”
  1. “But there’s nothing to hold on to when we begin to taste the fullness of the now. God is either in this now or God isn’t at all.”
  1. “When we can see the image of God where we don’t want to see the image of God, then we see with eyes not our own.”
  1. “The contemplative secret is to learn to live in the now.”
  1. “When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God, who works in the darkness – where we are not in control. Maybe that is the secret: relinquishing control.”
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