Our retreat day notes continued (from part 1):
In prayer, grace quietly and gently heals the ego. Ego is then, over time, less reactive as we relate with each other. Over time our relating becomes more compassionate, kinder, more loving. We are not so self-conscious; we grow in just being with each other. And over time the lines between prayer and community become blurred. Both become each other.
For meditators, because the practice of meditation is so central to our lives, it follows that as meditators decide for a community life we would begin to meditate together.
This is why the weekly meditation groups of The WCCM are so important. In these groups the meditator’s commitment to community, wherever it may be for them, is included in their meditation practice. In time, the group itself may even become a community.
Perhaps it could be said that a meditating community is a meditation group that lives together.
Meditating together is being alone and together at the same time. Community remains balanced if its members can be both alone and together. Solitude is a part of community.
So how can it be that meditation actually creates community?
Attention on the mantra, in stillness, is a participation in the healing of the ego by grace. Over time ego and heart integrate.
As this happens what is revealed in our own experience is our true nature as human beings: we are “being-in-relationship” – with ourselves, each other, creation, God. Meditation is not reflecting on this experience; in meditation we experience who we truly are without reflection, in growing thought-less-ness, in growing stillness, and in growing silence.
We then take this experience, this new and emerging awareness of our communal human nature, into our daily and ordinary communal relating. There we discover ourselves in a new relating: one that is more and more compassionate and patient and less and less reactive and fearful. This happens as we experience together in meditation our nature as being-in-relationship.
It is not just meditation that creates community. Any practice that has us, together, giving attention into stillness and silence can help us come into contact with divinity, our true nature, and the reality of all creation as a unity.
Our true nature as being-in-relationship is the image of the divine life: being-in-love. Meditation and community enable our relating to become the expression of divine being-in-love.
Yes, it continues to be a struggle. The ego resists who we truly are. However, regular meditation practice, when done as part of the practice of community, reveals and empowers our true nature for each other and the world.
Over time community can become more about the practice of loving as ourselves in the everyday and less about fears of being alone, overwhelmed, or abandoned.
Our retreat day finished with a labyrinth walk together. Our labyrinth walk leader, Donna, suggested that as we walked into the labyrinth we ‘release‘, simply let go, allowing as best as we could whatever was happening as we walked. The centre of the labyrinth was a space for us to ‘receive‘ whatever there was for us there. The walk out was a time to ‘return‘, gently back.
A labyrinth walk can be an invitation to self-knowledge: perhaps impatience at the person in front as they move ‘too slowly’; frustration as our thinking fails to settle into quiet; discomfort as a hidden pain emerges; learning as we realise that we are walking like a task ‘to do’, rather than as a contemplative practice that grace wants to use for our slowing into the moment.
As we walked together, weaving in and out in differing directions, we all walked at our own pace. Some were quicker than others; some would stop to experience their feet in mud (it had been raining). We paused as we let others walk; turned shoulders to give room. A flow of being together emerged.
Like meditation, walking a labyrinth helps attention to move beyond the ‘aware that we are aware’ experience of the self-conscious mind and into simple awareness. This awareness is an inner space were we be, together; it is a space where the place of community slowly matures.