Calling all theology nerds! In Presence and Process, Daniel P. Coleman merges ideas from contemplative Christianity alongside the mindfulness movement of Buddhism …and I’m telling you, the book will make you THINK. I’ve been chewing over Daniel’s thoughts for the past couple of weeks, and already have a handful of people I want to pass this book along to after I finish reading it. But for now, read the story behind Daniel’s story (and head to Publishers Weekly for another review), then leave a comment here or head to Instagram to win a copy for yourself! Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? My parents emigrated from England to Canada, where I was born. We then sailed on a ship around the world to live in New Zealand and then Australia, but ultimately made our way to the U.S. So I come from a family of explorers, though my own explorations tend to be theological rather than geographical. I spent my formative years in Colorado and then as an adult moved to Seattle. My wife Carla and I have been married for thirty years (we met as musicians playing in a Christian band together). We had one child, who is now grown up and finishing his PhD in Physics at Rice University. Carla and I spent twenty-odd years (some of them very odd years) in the non-denominational charismatic church. About twelve years ago we became Quakers. At this point I consider myself a progressive Christian Quaker with Buddhist leanings.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? In Presence and Process I begin by looking at the concurrent phenomena of the decline of Christendom in North America (as evidenced by the Nones and the Dones), and the rise of a Westernized form of Buddhism and various secularized applications of Buddhist meditative practice (as evidenced by the Mindfulness movement). There is an interesting juxtaposition there that warrants exploration. I point out that Christianity also has a rich tradition of contemplative practices.
The book brings together three strands: Buddhist meditation, Christian contemplation, and Process Theology. I provide a brief historical overview of each, including key figures and their contributions. My emphasis is on identifying points of affinity between these three strands. I begin by defining general characteristics of contemplative/meditative practice and then examine Buddhist and Christian forms in some detail. I conclude by postulating how the interaction of these forms, along with the insights of Process Theology, will have an impact on Western Christianity in the twenty-first century.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? It was definitely borne out of a personal quest. I grew up in a non-religious home and became a Christian as a young adult in the mid-1980’s. But after a few decades I became disillusioned. I thought, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” I was profoundly dissatisfied with the lack of spiritual depth and maturity I saw in myself and in my church peers, including our leaders. Bible studies, sermons, seminars, heart-felt worship choruses, etc. seemed to have produced only a modicum of spiritual maturity into our lives. We all still struggled with petty things: anger and jealousy and lust and fear and prejudice and dishonesty and selfishness and impatience and cynicism.
In the charismatic church we believed there would be a great world-wide revival, always just around the corner, which would fix everything. But the decades passed and it never came. I gradually became convinced that there had to be something more, something that was transformative not as a grand future event but right here and right now amid everyday life. But I had no idea what that transformative something might be. That is what led me to explore contemplative spirituality, first among Quakers and then in more general Christian and Buddhist forms. In Presence and Process I am sharing what I found in this exploration.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? My primary goal is to provide readers with a basic understanding of the rich Christian contemplative tradition, the remarkable story of Buddhism’s migration to the West and the fascinating concepts of Process Theology, and inspire readers to adopt contemplative/meditative practice for themselves. Along the way I point out lots of resources for further exploration.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Carla and I did find that transformative something we were seeking. The journey that culminated in this book truly was life-changing. And it continues…
How and where can we find you on the internet? My website is http://danielpcoleman.com
Well, there you go: if you’re interested in writers like Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren and the ancient mystics, you’ve got to pick this book up. I’m loving my early mornings alongside Daniel’s thoughts, and if this sounds like your cup of tea, I think you will as well. Leave a comment here to be entered to win a copy, or head over to Instagram for extra entries to win. Contest ends on Friday, October 27th. Good luck!
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