Instead of escaping the messy human condition by going to the monastery, I actually discovered the full human condition. What I discovered was that the divine transcendence I was seeking was not found outside the human, but was found precisely by going more deeply into it and embracing it fully. In this talk I would like to share these insights about integrating our human journey toward emotional maturity into the spiritual journey of awakening to the transcendent dimension. I would like to share a bit about how this process has been working in my own life, giving practical pointers about how to live this out in concrete ways in daily life. Rather than trying to deny and destroy the vulnerable humanity I found in myself and those I lived with in community, I have found that by embracing it, by fearlessly accepting all the dark and painful places within myself and others, I could actually discover that unconditional openness that was at my heart’s deepest center, that place within that never grabs on to the ‘pleasant’, that never pushes away the ‘unpleasant’, but is simply and beautifully and unconditionally present to whatever shows up in experience.
When we practice embracing what seems vulnerable and ‘unacceptable’ within us, this very embracing touches that consciousness which is essential to who we are. It helps point us
toward pure being itself, ‘the Ground of being’ within us all at our own heart’s center.
Francis Bennett was a Roman Catholic, Trappist monk for a number of years. He lived in two monasteries of the Trappist Order in the US and was also a member of an urban, contemplative monastic community originally founded in Paris, France in 1975. He has lived in France at several monasteries, and in Canada at a small monastic community in Montreal Quebec. He received a five and a half year monastic/spiritual formation with the Trappists before he made his vows as a monk at Gethsemani Abbey in 1983. He graduated from the Pontifical College Josephinum with a BA in Philosophy and completed a two year residency in Clinical Pastoral Education with Ohio Health Hospital System in Columbus, Ohio. He has worked in ministry in the area of spiritual Care in the hospice movement, as a hospital chaplain and in spiritual care of the sick and dying in parish settings. He has lead retreats in both the Vipassana Buddhist Tradition and in the Christian mystical/contemplative Tradition. In 2010, while in the middle of a Church Service in his monastery in Montreal, Francis suddenly experienced what he has come to call, “a radical perceptual shift in consciousness”, in which he discovered the ever present presence of spacious, pure awareness. He came to see that this awareness is actually the unchanging essence of who he really is and always has been; the Supreme Self, talked about by many sages and saints from many spiritual traditions down through the ages. He also came to see simultaneously, that this vast, infinite sense of presence at the center of his being (and at the center of the being of everyone else on the planet) is actually not at all separate from the presence of God, which he had been looking for during his many years as a monk and spiritual seeker.