“Religion without love is like breathing without oxygen…God is love.” – Carl McColman

In October, 2015, The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy (BM) spent an enjoyable and fascinating hour on the phone with author and columnist Carl McColman (CM) CarlMcColman whose latest book Befriending Silence: Discovering the Gifts of Cistercian Spirituality will be released on November 20th, according to Amazon.

Carl has written over a dozen books on spirituality, blogs regularly on the popular Patheos web site, and is a seemingly inexhaustible source for both encouragement and information – all presented with self-deprecating humor and keen wit.

Many thanks to Carl for his time and insight!

BM: The first question is, “Briefly tell us your background. What would you like others to know about you?”

CM: How do I do this briefly? That’s the tricky part. I think you could call me a seeker.  I was raised in a Lutheran home, and I in my mid-50’s now. Over the last 40 years I have really kind of wandered. I got involved in Charismatic spirituality for a while. In college, I gave up on Christianity and did sex, drugs and rock and roll for a few years. Yes, you can quote that. It’s a little embarrassing, but there it is. Then I washed up on the shore of the Episcopal church and was an Episcopalian for a decade. I have been interested in interfaith dialog since I was in high school and from the Episcopal church I went and spent several years exploring Neopaganism, and did that for seven or eight years until that path ran out of gas for me, and then I revisited something that I had also been interested in since high school — the contemplative tradition of the Christian faith which for me really meant connecting with Catholicism. So I was received into the Catholic church in 2005.  It’s been over ten years now, and I am still a Catholic. Like many Catholics, I do struggle with being a Catholic, but I love being a Catholic so that’s where I am. In 2007, I entered into formation as a Lay Cistercian and made my life promises in 2012 which means that I am under the spiritual direction of Trappist monks and am part of a community of lay people who follow the spirituality of the Trappists and apply it to our lives outside the cloister. I am still very interfaith. I hang out with Buddhists a lot. I hang out with Muslims. I am very involved with the Atlanta interfaith community, but I am grounded in the Christian tradition. I guess I could call myself a contemplative. I think there is a little bit of pride in doing that. Let’s just say I am a student of the contemplative path. That is a humbler way to put it.

BM: Yeah.

CM: I am also very much committed to engage in the spirit of Vatican II, to engaging people of other traditions to learn from them, to be their friends, and hopefully to work together to build a better society, so that’s it in a nutshell — and I am an author and a blogger, so people should all go visit my blog.

BM: Absolutely, and I will link to it. I will link to not only your website but your blog as well. [Which I did in my introduction above.]

CM: Yeah.

BM: So the second question I pretty much believe we have covered, but “Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?”  [Laughs.]

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.48.25 AMCM: Well, you know, that’s kind of a loaded question.  As you know there is a kind of a big phrase out nowadays: “I am spiritual but I am not religious.”

BM: Yeah.

CM: And that’s not me. I am very comfortable having identity as a religious person, so I have a narrow definition of spirituality. For me spirituality means that as a follower of the Christian faith, I take the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life seriously.

BM: Uh-huh.

CM: And I am not a fundamentalist Christian. I don’t subscribe to the idea that only Christians go to heaven, you know, and that only Catholics only go – or any of that kind of nonsense. I think the Holy Spirit touches people in many, many different ways and shows up in many, many different guises or names if you will. Earlier today I was Continue reading

“I aspire to be an example of what love looks like.” – Saij Miller-Wildsmith

NOTE: This interview with Saij Miller-Wildsmith [SMW] was conducted by The Only Love Project’s Bill Murphy [BM] on April 20, 2015. Original artwork from Saij. Enjoy the interview!

BM: Briefly tell us your background. What would you like us to know about you?

SaijSMW: What I would most like people to know about me is that I am a mother, and I say that because I try to think of my legacy a lot with my children and how I want them to view me when I am gone, what they will sit around when they are older with their children and talk about “mom” and how they will refer to me and the memories that they talk about. So a lot of my decisions and a lot of the things that I do and the way I move forward in my life is based on my two boys and how they view me and how they look at me and how they look up to me and me being their role model. So that is the biggest part of my identity that I would want people to know about me.

Other than that I am a lot of different things. My background is – I think about me – currently my faith, my Buddhist faith. I am a vegan. I am a partner. I have been in a long-term relationship for almost nine years. I am an artist. I am a writer, and a big part of my background has to do with my evolution through my spirituality and my views of the world, just the growing up of Saij and the way I have changed as an adult from a Catholic girl growing up in Nebraska to a Zen Buddhist priest in East Tennessee who is gay and vegan. That is not something you see a lot of in East Tennessee. [Both laugh.]

BM: That’s quite a jump from a Catholic girl in Nebraska to a Zen Buddhist priest in Tennessee. That’s a huge transition.

SMW: That’s a huge transition. It absolutely is. It’s quite a story. It’s quite a story.

BM: Well, it’s a good story. I like that. Anything else you would like to add to that?

SMW: Well, I guess my background being a girl from Nebraska — I have a sister. We grew up in a very strict Catholic home, and I think that a lot of the basis for how I view life and how I changed so much was based a lot in that little Catholic church I grew up in and the dogma and things that were – and the ritual attached to Catholicism and the strictness of my home life I think formed in me anyway this need to break free. I think I have spent the majority of my adult life leaving home at 18 seeking for what that looks like, leading to where I am now. The evolution from that to going to every different kind of church known to man trying to find where I fit led me on a direction that has spanned some 30 years, and it’s evolved from Catholicism to herbalism, Reiki, martial arts, yoga, atheism, just a gamut of different belief structures and systems that eventually found its way to Continue reading

Moments

“Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others…we need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, p. 5)

Have you ever noticed when you’re out on the trail, people heading in the opposite direction — be they fellow biker, walker, or runner — smile and say “Hi”?

That’s because, as Mother Theresa wrote (No Greater Love, p. 93), “Poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity. We need to love and to be somebody for someone else.”

For whatever reason, when people are out doing similar things they’re more receptive to the greeting of a stranger. It’s like there’s some unspoken camaraderie shared between them — but it’s a camaraderie, whether they realize it or not, that runs far deeper than merely wearing the same running outfits or riding the same Diamondback bikes.

The Dalai Lama (The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings, pages 7, 8) wrote:

For my part, meeting innumerable others from all over the world and from every walk of life reminds me of our basic sameness as human beings. Indeed, the more I see of the world, the clearer it becomes that no matter what our situation, whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

I believe that — which is why a smile, a nod, or a simple wave of the hand can sometimes be a powerful way to help someone be happy. It only takes a moment, maybe even a split second. But it may be the most beneficial few seconds in someone’s day.