Sometimes we can’t see what is in plain sight. The small concerns of life, the little worries; the daily round of cares: all can gather round us claiming attention. Soon our emotional lives are caught up in this disturbance and distraction. Whether it’s thought or emotion, all is energy. We are always energy in form and in motion.
When these words, images, and emotions make a home in our minds, the meanings they carry begin to affect how we see things and how we relate to people. ‘Has the world gone mad…Is it all so very bad…Or is it me?’
There seems to be no reprieve from a way of seeing that becomes our way of seeing. We soak in it. We identify with it. It seems we can’t change it. It has become just the way we are and the way it is.
It becomes more and more difficult to ‘keep the peace’, to be at peace. Any promise or demand of peace, be it within us or around us, is trivial. The reality of peace slips away, forgotten and unattainable.
In these times we cannot see the love that lives in plain sight. In times of kaleidoscope and whirl, of these small things gathering and fusing, we cannot see it. The experience can be one of love absent – a hole inside that cannot be filled. Love is veiled, hidden behind the small things.
Being so out of touch with the Reality of Love and so identified with thought and emotion – this is a kind of madness.
There is a way out of this madness. We can practice a refocusing, a retraining of attention away from the kaleidoscopic of internal existence that Ben Howard is singing about here. It is a refocusing, a retraining. And it is so much more than this. It is also a way of loving transformation: the transformation of the mind from disintegrating to integrating. On the inner journey towards this integration there is peace.
The contemplative way is a way of this transformation. The transformation is done by this Love, the divine love life within us. We co-operate with this love life as it transforms us.
If we are to co-operate, the way into contemplation must be practical, it must be a practice. Meditation is one such practical and contemplative way. A mantra based meditative practice asks of us something very simple. It invites us to choose a word to give our attention to. The practice of giving and re-giving our inner attention to this word, over time, allows Love to work at loosening our attachments, our identification, with the ‘small things’ of thought and emotion.
The word maranatha is one such word we can use. Recite it, internally, gently and faithfully, as four syllables: ma-ra-na-tha. Have a straight back and a still body as you meditate. When you find attention no longer on the word, gently re-give it, again and again, until the time of meditation is finished: see if you can do 20 minutes.
You keep him [sic] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah26:12)
This is the long-term fruit of a regular meditation practice: our mind is stayed on the God who is Love. Our mind settles into the deep stability of the divine life. Awareness stays there. The kaleidoscope ceases to turn in the mad way of before. Our minds may still be at times buffeted and blown, however, during these times we can actually experience a new reality of ‘I am not my thoughts; I am not my emotions’.
Attention becomes grounded in the deep life of being and being is grounded in God.
The regularity of our practice grows as it slowly dawns on us just how transformative, how important to sane living a practice like meditation is. The choice is ours.
A contemplative practice unveils the God who is always there – in plain sight. It is our inattentiveness that often causes us to experience God as absent.
I have been telling you these things in veiled language. The hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in veiled language but tell you about the Father in plain words. (John16:25).
The ‘hour’ of contemplation and the contemplative life, are about the absence of veils. It is plain living, simple living, true living. As the veils fall, as the small things subside, the presence of God becomes vivid, the language clearer. As our minds transform, so do our lives.