Tag Archives: Art of Depth

Third Eye: Florence & the Machine. Seeing and Living Truly

Humanity could be described as ‘embodied spirits’. Both of these words are as important as each other. We are embodied, incarnated. The stuff of life is valuable and sacred. Florence affirms this when she sings: ‘You are flesh and blood!’ And we also have in our mysterious depths that essence of us, that who we are at our deepest; our point of Originality in and with the divine life – our spirit. Is this what Florence appeals to (perhaps unknowingly) when she sings ‘Hey, look up!’ ?

Living truly, from spirit, helps us to see and live in the embodied sacredness of life. This means living relationally – with ourselves, others, creation, and the God within all.

For me this song is about the struggle to live truly, from this spirit as a whole human being. This spirit within us is our ‘original lifeline’. The mysterious spirit within is our Point of Truth, an always present Home to which we can return and, with practice, live life from. It is the ‘where within’ that prayer can help us be attentive to. It is where our spirit and the Divine Spirit are already one.

Our ‘third eye’ could be described as that mysterious intuitive perception that both includes and goes beyond the rational. It is a divine gift that originates from our oneness in spirit with the Divine Life. It is human intuition infused with divine wisdom. This song asks us to grow in seeing ourselves as our third eye sees us.

This third eye is appealing to that which Divinity has not created: the lies of worthlessness we have absorbed into the marrow of our bones; the deep memories and psychic wounds that get in the way of us accepting and living in the glory that we already are. We get caught, trapped, in the lies of a real unreality.

We are loved, deeply and completely. No lie can stop this, but a lie can stop our experience of it. This is the power we give to lies.

It is the ‘original tragedy’ of human relating that we are not more expressive of our fully loved and loving roots.

Our third eye sees into the original tragedy of our woundedness – that hole in our hearts where lies fester. Part of healing and integration is allowing this third eyesight into our awareness. Yes, our conscious selves can pull away from what our third eye sees. Yet, with time and living, this deeper intuition can become irrepressible. In this song Florence is chronicling some of her own irrepressible journey towards wholeness.

As the experience of our wounds moves into awareness suffering grows. Some of us actually cling to this suffering, allowing it to define them. Rather than the experience of suffering being a part of healing it becomes a meaning for living. Rather than have love embrace us, the pain of suffering can be worn like a mantle – that piece of experience we clothe ourselves with to keep life, love, and intimacy away. The lie that we simply do not deserve what we already have and are can be stubborn and strong – we make it so. While wearing this mantle, we can reject the people and experiences of life that are inconsistent with the lies we live and believe.

But your pain is a tribute
The only thing you let hold you
Wear it now like a mantle
Always there to remind you

Where is the way out of all this? We can feel the same, like nothing is changing. Something in us doesn’t want to change. And yet, still we try to change as if something in us does want to change.

The true and the loving in us embraces change. To grow in the spirit is to change. We change into who we most deeply are. This change is what we are here for – to become in our whole humanity who we already are in spirit: a unique, glorious, and beautiful life of love. This reality, once touched, once experienced, is too enticing to be ignored.

The contemplative life is a human life enticed by the spirit, a life drawn into becoming true love on earth. Only God can make this happen. It does involve struggle. It is a struggle that grows into the ‘slow burn’ joy that only divinity can fuel.

Prayer in touch with our contemplative and human roots is prayer at the service of our growth into love. This kind of prayer is deep and therapeutic. It is prayer as therapy for the soul.

Meditation is one form of this deep prayer. Attention on the mantra gives divinity within us the time and space needed to heal and integrate the whole of us. As this happens we may need to name and experience thoughts, emotions, and memories that our consciousness has (up to that point) repressed. At these times it is useful to have someone wise to journey with.

Meditation guides attention towards our spirit and its third eye. A fruit of regular meditation practice is an inner life more and more attentive to this third eye, this deep human and divine intuition within us. As we heal and integrate we grow in being able to see a little more clearly with this eye ourselves, and the people and the happenings around us. This seeing is divine gift that happens as we grow in self forgetting.

Christian spirituality describes this self-forgetting seeing with the third eye as having the mind of Christ.

The spiritual person, on the other hand, can assess the value of everything, and that person’s value cannot be assessed by anyone else. For: who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his advisor? But we are those who have the mind of Christ. (1Cor2:14-16)


Dithering: Ani DiFranco. Attention to Being as a Cure for Over Thinking

Knowledge gives us meaning. In our search for meaning many of us want know all about the many things and the many stories around us. This can be an important part of life, whether it be important to our work, lifestyle, temperament, compulsions.

The assumption has been that a rational approach is the best way to know and the best way to find the meaning in life. Our system of education is still very much based on the development and exercise of the rational in the pursuit of knowledge. And so we classify and name, gathering more and more information.

When the experience of a groundedness in our own being takes second place to living life rationally we risk rationality becoming the only way to find meaning and reason for existence. Without the balancing of an experience of our common humanity in being, rational pursuits can become overburdened and judgmental.

The journey from gathering and naming, to assuming and then to judging is a short one. We can all too easily and without being aware of it fall into judging people and circumstance with the limited information we have found (or have been given).

As we find meaning in this limited information we have we begin to feel secure and assured. Insecurity is offset by judgment. If we are not careful judgement of difference can become the focus of fear. This is how racism and xenophobia are born.

Fundamental meaning is found in the experience of our common humanity in being. Our rationality is meant to serve and name this experience, not take the place of it. We need being and rationality working in context and accord.

We now live in a world in which the ways many gather information are being tailor-made to their ideas and assumptions. A Google search will factor in your search history and show you results that are consistent with this history. Facebook will put on your news feed subject matter that is similar to you and your friends likes.

There is more the expectation today that research will be done for us and presented to us ‘efficiently’. This research is telling us that attention spans are getting shorter. As a result, the intelligence of many, it seems, (that very intelligence we have a rational tendency to over rely on) is being ‘dumbed down’.

An excessively rational approach views the mind as akin to a computer data base and limits the mind to the brain (existing only “behind the face”). I had a spiritual mentor once point to the palm of his hand and say “this is my mind”. It was his way of saying that the mind is an embodied reality and experience. Emotions are in the mind and are felt in the body. Thinking is done in the brain. The whole of the body in its feeling and thinking is the mind and the whole of the mind is the body.

If our attention is trained to focus excessively on just one part of the mind – the brain – then it is understandable that we feel the strain of this. Information comes to classify us rather than simply inform us. We come to define ourselves via what we think and how we think. Knowledge is reduced to information “in rotation”. With this idea of knowledge, an idea divorced from the experience and wisdom of being, we attempt to answer life questions independent of this experience of being. The result is dithering. People can become uncertain, indecisive, and agitated.

Meditation focuses attention on our whole being, not just on the mind as ‘brain thinking’. As the experience of being grows in us our idea of mind is transformed. At depth, mind and being are the same experience.

As we practice this attention on being, day after day, the experience becomes one of God within us and all. Our experience of being changes our idea of mind and then loses us in the Being of God. We grow in seeing as God sees and experiencing life as God experiences life: all is one in love. Compassion grows and gently replaces judgement.

We have to begin somewhere. We have to begin with ourselves and by learning to be silent with ourselves. This means simply learning to be, to be ourselves, rather than defining ourselves by what we do or what we think. As an art and a practice, meditation brings us towards this state of simple being through the still, silent repetition of the mantra. (John Main, Word Made Flesh, 8).

This is all we need do: simply and faithfully give and re-give attention to the mantra. All else has been given and awaits our discovery.


Thing of Beauty: Hothouse Flowers. Seeing With the Eyes of God

Seeing life as beautiful, the ordinary of things as things of beauty, is a wonderful fruit of the spiritual life. To live a human life something like this is to be living from the spiritual core of a human life. To be human is to be spiritual. We cannot help this, even if we don’t give the world ‘spiritual’ to these experiences as many do.

Seeing life as a thing of beauty is the result of a shift of consciousness. We come into a space of being where self-consciousness is forgotten – if even for a moment – and we become centred on someone or something outside of ourselves. We discover, through experience, the way in which God sees all the time. Divinity has ‘self-emptied’, or forgotten its own life in the ongoing act of loving that is Creation. That’s what love does. Christianity says God is love, so God is like this all the time – simply seeing the beauty of all.

Thomas Merton, 20th century spiritual writer and mystic, tells us the story of an experience like this:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream….

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

This song is coming from the same place as Merton’s experience, that place of the gift of divine sight – a ‘super-ordinary’ way of seeing that is open to all.

It is ‘truth sight’, seeing things as they are in all their imperfect splendour, their ‘broken holiness’ and knowing deeply, intuitively, that all is beautiful, glorious.

It is living life with love-sight, far enough away (in that moment) from the noise of our inner lives and seeing life with the eyes of the heart.

It does not exclude the problems of the world as if we are seeing somehow naively, or choosing to ignore the pain and suffering that continue to happen within and around us. This way of seeing embraces all this and experiences beauty even while accepting the deep paradox of beauty and suffering existing together. And so seeing beauty can become a two-edged sword: it can possess us, and then compel us into compassion. Beauty mysteriously present to suffering can draw us into living a life that serves the transformation of suffering into a plain-sight seeing that is life fully alive in glory.

“A thing of beauty is not a thing to ignore”. Once in touch with our contemplative hearts – the ‘no-place’ of our deep communion with God – we are seeing, in our own human ways, with divine eyes. We have forgotten ego and the illusion of separateness. Life is within the consciousness of Christ. This is Christian enlightenment.

A Christian contemplative prayer practice, whatever it may be, is about the realisation of this Christ consciousness within life. Globally there is a recovery underway in contemplative seeing and living. Christian contemplative practice is but one aspect of this recovery. The recovery is being documented in songs like this one from Hothouse Flowers.


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