New Camaldoli Hermitage is a community of Roman Catholic monks whose life is dedicated to contemplation and prayer. We are a worshiping community, celebrating with our friends and guests the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Eucharist. Our monastic fellowship extends beyond the walls of this hermitage and embraces a large and inclusive community of oblates, persons of different walks of life who live the grace of their baptism in spiritual communion with the monks. This page offers a brief history of the monastic men and women whose life and teachings have inspired the Camaldolese Benedictines to this day.
Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam.:
is a Camaldolese monk, musician, composer, author, and teacher. A native of Illinois, he spent his young adult years mostly in Arizona working as a professional musician. He joined the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California in 1992. After his initial years of formation there, and solemn vows and ordination, he lived in a hermitage near Santa Cruz, California for ten years, spending about half his time at home, and half his time traveling, performing and teaching, working extensively in interreligious dialogue, music, and meditation. Much of both his music and his teaching revolve around the Universal Call to Contemplation through spirituality and the arts. He has six collections of original music recorded and published through OCP Publications, and several independent releases, including those with his longtime collaborator, percussionist John Pennington. A student of the writings of Bede Griffiths and Abhishiktananda, Cyprian has a great love for comparative religion and has published two books based on wisdom culled from what he has gained from his studies, and numerous articles on spirituality as well as on music and liturgy. He has been to India numerous times as well as other countries in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast, performing as well as studying and teaching. Returning to New Camaldoli in 2012, he was elected prior of the community in 2013.
A Ruff Transcript of my Conversation:
Hello, I am here with Father Cyprien. Thank you. Listen on thank you very much for meeting with me. I really appreciate it. And we’re at great New Camaldoli Hermitage Big Sur. Okay, and so I’m just going to jump into the question because the storms Outside are calling me to get on the road. Okay pretty quick here.
The first question is why meditate?
Which is a great question as I mentioned you before. These four principles that great teacher looked Anandi taught the four principles for meditation. He thought the most basic thing was every time you sit down to meditate. You should ask yourself why we’re meditating and I suppose every one of the Traditions will tell you in a different way. But I would say from the Christian perspective. There’s a great Lane line from st. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Where he says the love of God is poured into our hearts by the spirit living in us. So the most mystical understanding of the Christian dispensation is that. God dwells within us as the Holy Spirit God is Not Just in celeb Heaven light years away. The very ground of our being the ground of our Consciousness and the source of our life is the Divine who we call God who we call the Holy Spirit by the power of the spirit. So I would say from a Christian perspective. I meditate about the facial 12 steps to have conscious contact with that with the ground of my being with the ground of my Consciousness. Who is the Divine the love of God poured into my heart the spirit living in the great I can add Alleluia on the back? Yeah. The next question is what is your definition of mindfulness? And what does it look like to live a mindful life? Okay, have a negative answer to that first. I think. From a secular perspective. We usually so distracted by so many things even in my own life as a monk, you know, I’m the Prior here. So I’m. Doing administrative work and Pastor work and teaching work and my intercom is blinking with four messages and the IT guy just couldn’t buy and I’ve got to preach tonight and I have to do the announcements for Saturday, and I could be so caught up in that. Did I forget that you’re seeing right here in front of me and the sound of the rain outside sure and the fact that I cook is in there cooking up a storm for the feast tomorrow and I think most people in life even outside of the monastery maybe even? The radios going in the phone’s ringing in the maybe there is one Buddhist monk. I know says if your kids are awake their online, we’re constantly drawn outside of ourselves. Sure. So the first mindfulness is that we’re not actually mindful of what’s Happening Here and Now, I still think that there’s no better book ever written then Ram Dass is an old book from the 60s that sums it up to be. Here nowhere. Now. I could just say that over and over again here now nowhere but also I think from the spiritual perspective. What’s interesting about that is a whole nother kind of. Enlightened non-mindfulness, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our spiritual practice escaping to heaven or escaping to Nirvana or skipping to Enlightenment that we also forget about here and now right so mindfulness. To me means being totally awake, you know, and there’s a wonderful Christian. Teacher of meditation named Martin Laird and he had this great phrase. I use all the time with people and people really like it relates to it usually were caught behind the wallpaper of our own narrative. No, we’re trapped behind the wallpaper of our own narrative. We don’t actually see what’s going on without our own interpretation of what’s going on and some of those we want to see what’s going on at all, right because we’re trapped behind the wallpaper of our own narrative our own story. So mindfulness is also that like somehow trying to take those filters down take the funny glasses off. Thank you. Mindful living. Yeah, I guess is that as well? That’s something somehow nothing is unimportant. There’s a song that it’s wonderful songwriter Pete and mayor called Everything Is Holy now? that I adopted as. Might one of my theme song and the musician as well as I sing it sometimes as if it was my own song and that’s kind of the definition of monastic life is see Benedict says in the rule that all the tools of the monastery should be treated as if they were sacred vessels for the altar that’s mindful living like nothing isn’t. Holy one time when I first took on this job as prior here. Some friends of mine took me out for dinner up in Santa Cruz and the one guy said to me. So what’s going on down there in the mountain I said, well they have been dealing with sewer lines in the leach field out in the front of the property and he said I thought you were up there doing holy things. And if I had thought about it for a second, I might have had a really subtle answer and I kind of blurted out. What’s not wholly about a leach field in a cease? If this is what I’m supposed to do in the service of my brothers and to protect our life. Everything’s holy now even working with sewage. Yeah, it’s all holy. That’s great. That’s awesome mindful living. I think right if it if meditation doesn’t lead us back to that. It’s a waste of time. Right. That’s great.
The next question is what is your or what is the difference between meditation contemplation and prayer?
Or do you see a difference may be a bit of semantics I would make a distinction between meditation and contemplation only in this sense that from my understanding anyway? With the Asian Traditions call meditation Western Christian tradition calls contemplation and what the Western Christian tradition calls meditation. I think the Asian Traditions call contemplation okay there for us. Meditating is expansive thought is discursive thought mainly know it through st. Ignatius of Loyola their meditation style. As you would be a passage of scripture and you would imagine what Jesus was wearing and what the roads look like with the air smelled like with people around were like, so it’s expansive and when we do our practice is called Lectio Divina. The first stages or Lexile reading and then minute Asia, which means actually kind of chewing on that reading meditating on until it expands the more imminent images. The third stage is around to your prayer. Which so that meditation is supposed to lead you to prayer inform your prayer. So the reading will teach you how to pray to Focus your prayer in the final stage of this contemplation. So for us right hundred patient comes after meditation and in my understanding, it’s the simplification of that meditations bring it down. When I teach that their groups I say now take whatever meditation you had on the reading and make the small as prayer the shortest prayer possible out of that. There’s your Orazio and I’ll use that as your mantra. Let’s go beyond the word just go back to the silence and let that lead you to the ineffable let that lead you to the mystery. That’s great. That’s like an active site of the content of could of contemplation. So we would call that contemplative prayer. If you want to be strict about it threat that people play with those words back and forth. Yeah, that was one reason to that question came out because I was hearing kind of searing meditation contemplation being used almost. Yes, and I think that’s why people go back and forth with it, but I think more or less we would call that contempt of prayer going to those single-pointed, you know going to Simplicity as you learn from The Cloud of Unknowing that uses, you know, just like a mono logistic practice or the Jesus prayer. That leads you to contemplate appear but one little Nuance there and I think it’s really important in the Christian tradition and you’ll see this mostly articulated to the Carmelites the 16th-century Carmelites ultimately contemplation is a gift, not something we attain hmm. So the Carmelites talk about infused contemplation the so they could be given to us we can set ourselves up, right? By sieve it but we can’t get it. Yeah, this is the fun little thing, but you know, I think. Any of us? might study Zen or yoga and. think that we got the formula down and we just got to climb up that ladder and you know the top of the ladder we’re going to run smack-dab into Divinity and going, in turn, ourselves into these little. Gurus and kind gods and that’s Insidious. So there’s a trap there and I don’t believe that even Hinduism and Buddhism with the switch on the most familiar. And even though is it with some extent. I don’t believe that they are without their own notion of Grace as well that there is something to that Ro bindo, you know, the Great Indian philosopher says within there is a soul above there is Grace. That’s all you need to know it. There’s that great song to The Guru. That starts out them the image of the guru ma’am. The root of meditation is the image of the Guru Mantra is the word of the guru. The word of worship is the feet of the guru and ends with the root of Salvation is the grace of the guru group click bah, so that notion that there’s Grace in there as really important for us. We’re not just it’s not a self-powered hmm claim to God to Divinity somehow and that actually ties in with what we understand about Jesus. St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians as his beautiful Canticle that opens up with that. We sing every Saturday night. it’s called the Canosa’s him and the word Canosa sin Greek means emptying self-emptying and it says. We can have the mind of Christ. We can partake in Divinity. Right? And this is what the mind of Christ was like, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at he emptied himself. Even Jesus emptied himself and took the slave form of a slave and therefore God raised him on high. Is so beautiful and it is our own tradition. The Commodities benedictions were a very small branch of Benedictines with this unique feature of the hermit aspect and our Founders here on your left us only a paragraph of like supposedly his own words. And in the middle of that little paragraph, which is called the brief rule is empty yourself completely. Sit waiting for content with the grace of God hmm to me. That’s the summer a summary of Christian meditation. That’s what I’m Christian does not in that excursive discursive sense. But in the contempt of sense empty yourself completely and sit waiting for content with the grace of God like a chick who eats nothing and taste nothing but what the mother hen brings it. Right, right, right. That’s that’s to me. That’s what I do when I sit on my soft food. Try any way that I can do is I can empty myself. Myself. Well that is that is from my experience that he was with the Buddhist teaching is telling you the same thing is to empty your mind. I agree with income and allow it to come to a lot to fill you. I agree about the same thing. I think that the short-term goal of all the practices. We really do agree across Traditions. That’s why we have such wonderful conversations between traditions. We may not agree. On the ultimate end of the Y, right? No, but the nature of this self and Nirvana and God in heaven. That’s that’s doesn’t matter because most of us were at base camp anyway, right? That’s very true. Yeah, that’s very good that you empty yourself of the small self and being yourself with a phenomenal self. This is. This is the wisdom that we share right now that I mean, that’s the whole purpose for the podcast. You know, it’s to find these things. Yeah.
I’m just the last question is how do we promote compassion in ourselves and the world around us?
How do we promote it? Well, first I think we have to find it in ourselves. I know for the Buddha was one of the most attractive things about the life of the Buddha to me. Are that wisdom and compassion always go together, you know when he understands. The four noble truths, you know of suck freighted permanence. It’s because of this clinging to sell for cleaning, too. Selfish clinging then that immediately becomes compassion because he sees why others are suffering. Do you want to relieve them of their suffering too I just love that and I assume that’s the whole basis of the bodhisattva principle is based in that in that own sentiment in the Buddha’s life? Right? And I see that as one of the links to the life of Jesus who? As mentioned in the gospel of saying he had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And I don’t think we can conjure up compassion. We can’t force compassion. but the root of even that word in English is to feel with. the pot they comb paseo to feel with somebody. It is since I want to say compassion is also a gift. Right, we have to actually find the passion in our self. We have to find the feeling in our self. We have to understand that nature of. maybe that nature of suffering which is. Pretty avid in the Christian tradition to this is why Jesus has compassion on the crowds. He sees their suffering like sheep without a Shepherd, right? And once the feed them and wants to heal them and wants to give them a sense of the benevolence of the universe and the one who is in charge of the universe. That’s why I think we can’t we almost can’t promote it but we can’t promote is actually finding that within ourselves says it’s something we’re realizing. I mean, that’s a great word realize. Because it means two things at once it means becoming aware of something and making it real and I think those two things are connected things don’t become real until we could become aware they and we become aware of something they suddenly become real to us. So we open ourselves up to compassion and then realize we are being compassionate or do is it something that you’re not really realizing you just doing it? I think the Buddha would talk about the interconnectedness of all things, you know independent co-arising but. Even from the Christian tradition didn’t take me a whole lot of research to figure out that we are organically intimately connected at a material Level and at a psychic level and certainly our scriptures teach also at a spiritual level, right? So I mean compassion. Yes for other human beings because they’re suffering. But even compassion for the Earth because whatever we’re feeding Mama, we’re taking into our own selves we can how can we not feel with Mom? We have we’re putting into the air. We’re putting into our lungs whatever we’re doing to our own selves. We’re doing everything we could be if we could feel that link. First of all intimate link with all material reality. We’d find some compassion right there right with the Earth with plants with animals because we are actually affecting our own body. Of course because our this is somehow an extension of our body it’s harder to get to on a psychic level, but I think especially in the post-911 Years here in the states. This idea out there being a kind of a collective Consciousness in a Collective Soul and a collective mood is very obvious to Americans, you know, also in Donald Trump’s America, there’s really you can get a sense of a Collective Consciousness a collective anger one side of the other. So this us being attached to each other as psychic level and how a wave can go through a crowd or where you can go through a whole state or a whole city certainly in a community like this. You can feel a wave a psychic emotional wave Pastor the home Community. Yeah, and hence. That’s that’s kind of where the whole question came from. Yeah is just being seeing a world around me and realizing that all sides. Yeah, all sides need to do. Realize the compassionate they have if there’s a promotion to compassion that that has to happen. I guess I would lean on the side of overcoming the ignorance of people not realizing that we are interconnected sure like a web. You know, there’s a little bumper sticker version of is it blackout this says. Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth. The whole version of his beautifully talks about this web of interrelated realities of how we’re tied together what we do to one strand we’re doing to the whole strand including to our own selves right you that I would say overcoming the ignorance of not realizing that intricate web of relatedness interconnectedness. That would be the thing right then. You just run smack dab in your compassion flashes through you, okay? That’s great. That’s I lastly if there’s anything else along these lines that I’ve missed or something that we were talking about. I’d be open to hearing that if you’ve got something final to say just following in and what you’ve been doing with these podcasts and why meditate I think that though it doesn’t look to be material materially profitable or even like the Corporal Works of Mercy as we would say in our tradition feeding the poor clothing the. Naked teaching mindfulness teaching meditation overcoming the ignorance, you know about our interconnectedness. This is a great thing to be doing for the world right now because I think that the only way we’re going to survive and thrive as soon evolution of Consciousness, right and the Consciousness is not going to involve into we dig deep and find this deepest core of our being. The transpersonal transformation is going to happen only if we reconnect with the ground of our being in the ground of our Consciousness and as I tell everybody in on any of my students is just it’s one person at a time. Yeah, absolutely not trying to change the masses. I’m not trying to change anybody’s beliefs. I want to reinforce their beliefs through meditation. Yeah, whatever they believe that doesn’t it really because I found so many similarities in all of these that they’re there. They can come together. Yeah, we can be one person. They are one, you know out of anyone. Yeah. Anyway, I appreciate that. I appreciate your time. Thank you so very much good. Yeah, I’m glad I could and I’m glad I was able to get the two of you and actually get up here a good talk with Father Thomas. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. He had he had a lot to say and it was it was really interesting