Tag Archives: Christ Consciousness

Ten Bulls 10: In The World

10. In the World

Contemplation and action are the same: this is compassion without fatigue.

Divine energy is all there is.

There is no observer; attention is now.

The fearless are love being Love in the world.

‘Every Christian is called to be a reincarnation of Christ’[1].

We are all saints, fully revealed and on our way; always beginning.

Together we are the body of Christ: this is community.

The risen Jesus ate fish and so can we[2].

 

 

[1] John Main, The Way of Unknowing, 128.

[2] John 21:4-14.


Meditatio House: Growing in the God-human’s Yes.

We are living in an age when the possibilities for the development of human consciousness have been radically transformed by the resurrection of Christ. Every human consciousness has undergone this transformation because in his risen and universal consciousness we have access to the Father, the source and goal of human life and indeed all creation. We live in an age of the infinite mystery realised in Christ and in us. Meditation is simply openness to that reality. (John Main, Word Made Flesh, 3. Italics added).

In Christ Jesus (the God human) humanity can now be a full human participant in the divine life. This is the startling gift and message of Easter.

Jesus’ full yes to God (in his life, death and resurrection) can be our yes to God happening within God and us now.

The fullness of divine Love as transformative of the human condition resides in our human consciousness waiting for our acceptance of Jesus’ yes to his Father as our yes. This yes of Christ is what the Christian grows into over a lifetime.

All that stands in the way of what God can do in us (and with us) is our unbelief in what God can do. All other impediment is gone, dissolved in the yes of Jesus.

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, that is, by me and by Silvanus and Timothy, was never Yes-and-No; his nature is all Yes. For in him is found the Yes to all God’s promises and therefore it is ‘through him’ that we answer ‘Amen’ to give praise to God. It is God who gives us, with you, a sure place in Christ and has both anointed us and marked us with his seal, giving us as pledge the Spirit in our hearts. (2Cor1:19-22).

In the depths of our being we already are what our egos desire to be of themselves. This is what the Reality of Christ consciousness reveals and makes possible in our human lives. Humility and faithfulness (part of any yes of the human creature to its Creator) are the foundations of the realisation of this revelation in human development. Our deepening acceptance of this (as we grow in the yes of Jesus) is perhaps the key to any ongoing human and Christian transformation in this material part of life. With humility and faith Divine Love transforms us into love here and now.

The resurrection appearances of the Gospels are God’s imprimatur on all of this.

In meditation, as we  give attention to the mantra, we grow in openness to what God has done in Jesus and what God wants to do in us through Jesus. And what is this doing of God? It is nothing less than the transcendence of ego consciousness. Ego consciousness is transcended as we grow in this openness. This transcending of the ego is “the hinge that allows us to swing into the Mind of Christ” (Laurence Freeman). In meditation we transcend into the yes of Christ. Our yes to Jesus and the yes of Jesus to God become one. We then experience ourselves in the divine life and discover this life as Home.

This growing openness is a pilgrimage in itself. It is why we are always beginners in meditation. We are always beginning humbly and faithfully from any point on the way.

The Easter season, Eastertide, is a time to reflect on just what the divine life can do in and for human consciousness and human life. We need more than one day (Easter Sunday) for it all to begin to sink in. It is profoundly and radically freeing. Psychologically, it is the integration of our conscious selves (ego) and the unconscious (where the source of Self and God are at our depths).

Internal and external growth in self-forgetting is key to this process of integration. Meditation and community (where ever we find it) can be where the external and the internal work together for integration, for salvation. Our life at Meditatio House is where we are experiencing this working together – often in ‘fear and trembling’.

Eastertide, as the ongoing celebration of the Risen Christ, is also a celebration of what we have become in this Christ and what we are becoming because of this Christ: Beloved Daughters and Sons of God. In one way or another, Love will have its way.

Waiting for the Sun 6

 


Meditatio House: the Spiritual Art of Weed Pulling

I spent some time this week pulling weeds. The physicality of it made it a spiritual experience. It is the body that grounds us in the here and now, making possible our experience of life and of the Divine in life. God and life can only be now and the body cannot be anywhere else.

Any spirituality grounded in human experience (and any authentic spirituality must be) values the use of the body as a way of practicing attention in and on the present moment.

The extent to which we are not in the present moment is the extent to which we are subject to fantasy and illusion. The past and the future are not here. They may be, for some reason, in the mind and heart, however only the present moment is the present moment. We are made for the present moment. In it there is a purpose and meaning and a full living of life that the past and the future cannot provide.

It follows then that our senses must be trained in staying enough with the body and the now. If we are going through the motions of doing something, without awareness of what we are doing now, then something may get done, however we will not be present to the experience. The gift of life and the gift of the divine life (grace) in life will be lost, unnoticed.

As I pulled the weeds I tried to be aware of what I was doing. I looked at my gloved hands as I pulled; I looked carefully so as not to miss any green shoots; I was present to my body with all its stretching and movement (and eventual aches). I also caught myself in daydreams; sung, whistled and hummed; said hello to the birds and apologised to the worm I accidentally cut in half.

I also remembered another time in my life when I was doing the same thing and was feeling quite lonely and depressed. Rather than repress this memory I welcomed it and accepted it as best as I could. As the sadness rose I experienced it and also experienced a compassion that rose to meet and love it. As I weeded, memories integrated and wounds healed. God was there and I was there enough.

The art of any doing as a spiritual practice is all about the forming of good habit first. Whatever else is given is given as gift. The more time we spend practising attending to the moment is more time accepting that each moment is the only true place and is the place to be. In this way we have a much better chance of staying alert, awake to the now in the day for longer. A good present moment habit practised daily sees us less in fantasy and more in reality.

Before enlightenment: hewing wood and drawing water; after enlightenment: hewing wood and drawing water. (Zen proverb).

The path to enlightenment is all about practice, practice, practice – with whatever is at hand. As we practice we come to see that everything is contained in the present moment, so we continue to do the very same things that helped us into the present moment. Anything done with attention teaches the present moment and keeps us there.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.. (Ephesians 1:17,18).

This prayer attributed to St. Paul can only be realised in the present moment. The enlightening of our heart’s eye – the mysterious gift of Divine life and understanding – can only happen in the now.

Meditation is only present moment when we are still enough in mind and body and our attention is on the mantra. It is at this now time of meditation that the enlightenment of the heart and the transformation of the soul happen. We must transcend all within us that would keep attention from this moment. However, we cannot transcend without God. The Christian needs Christ – the human enlightenment of God – if we are to transcend that within us that keeps us from the now: the ego and its use of distractions.

It does seem that the ego would prefer not to pull weeds or do the housework because activities like this have within them the potential of the present moment. Life and divinity in the present moment undermine the ego’s preferred position as the centre of attention. Consequently, we can often experience the same kind of inner resistance around housework (for example) as we do around meditation.

If we must do the ego prefers doing in a daydream, spending the time in the past or the future, or in some kind of alternate ‘now’ (fantasy).

If we are to be with God and grow in love, then an important part of this adventure is weed pulling – or chores of any kind, indeed anything that divinity can use to draw attention into the present moment and into the Divine Life itself.


Meditatio House: Bere Island (Ego) Laid Bare

The house community has just got back from the annual WCCM Easter retreat held on Bere Island, Ireland. Bere Island is located on Bantry Bay about 2 hours south south west of Cork.

Bere Island is a wonderful place to hold a retreat. Its natural pace is slow. Cows have more to say about setting the tone for the island than any traffic. The island is ancient. It holds lightly and faithfully a contemplative spirit.

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We were part of a group of meditators (old and new) who rented three houses located about 15 minutes via bus from the Bere Island Heritage Centre. Fr. Laurence gave his talks at The Heritage Centre. This centre was also where all the retreatants meditated together.

We were on the island for the entire week leading up to Easter. This week is called Holy Week in the Christian tradition. From Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday we lived together, ate together, and prayed together.

As the week went on we all experienced the challenges that new beds, new people, new living space, and communal travel had to offer. Our differing personalities and temperaments began, in their own unique ways, to ‘feel the pinch’ of the conditions we found ourselves in. By the middle of the week I felt thoroughly overwhelmed by it all.

I felt. Who was this I who was overwhelmed by it all? It could be said that this I was my ego, that conscious part of my inner life which was painfully discovering that it could not have the retreat experience on its own terms. The experience became one of rawness. The vulnerability of my ego to too much change too quickly was laid bare, revealed for all to see.

The way my ego wanted to present itself to the world became too hard to maintain. An ‘in control, warm, loving, and quirky’ persona became instead increasingly anxious and rigid. Rather than ‘how can I love these people’, my rationale was fast turning into ‘how can I survive this week?’

As the week went on I could see the people around me start to fray around the edges. Impatience and frustration began to leak into our relating. Psychological subsistence and the cooking roster met head on. The tendency for us all to end up in the kitchen all at once had me exasperated.

Then came a realisation: this was part and parcel of the community experience for the week. Anger and resentment began to rise in me. Ego felt ‘ripped off’, manipulated, ambushed.

By Good Friday I could see a choice before me: participate as practically and as gently as you can or shut down. In a moment of grace, a moment that the practice of meditation quietly prepares us for, I chose to contribute as I could from moment to moment. Inner movements of perfectionism and anxiety (‘You must do more!’ ‘People think you’re lazy!’ ‘You must be liked!’) began to settle somewhat. I began to accept that I could not do everything (and did not need to). As tiredness and impatience increased I began to trust those around me to understand. I began to risk rejection.

Bere Is 2

The art of the spiritual life, of a human life growing in full health, is all about the de-centring of the ego, that is, about our attention being more on loving others than being fixated on ourselves. Sometimes this is just too hard, and that is ok. When it’s too hard we have the opportunity to experience the limitations we have at that moment and to mysteriously grow a little more in the grace of compassion that awaits within all of us.

If this growth in graced compassion is too hard to see and accept, that’s ok as well. Sometimes all we have left is the experience of the ego suffering, experiencing fallibility, failure, and limitation. Easter is here to remind us that Divinity is already in this experience, even if we cannot see or feel it.

Dying to egoism and rising to love does involve psychological pain, or suffering. Good Friday too lives on in us. Good Friday, though, is only part of the story.

The good news is that when ego is experiencing this pain, this disorientation, it can be the very time when the divine life can move powerfully for integration and healing. The illusion of control which ego maintains is exposed as a lie. In this experience we have the chance to let go into Love just a little bit more. It can all be a part of the experience that is the integration of ego with the deeper Self in God.

As a part of the retreat experience there were regular periods of meditation. These periods really helped. Attention on the mantra was attention off the experience of being overwhelmed. It is important to note here that attention off this experience of being overwhelmed was not repression of the experience. It was simply attention on the transformative and integrating consciousness of the Risen Christ within us all. The last three days became easier. The experience of love for myself and others began to return.

Then something else happened. On Sunday, as Fr. Laurence read from John’s account of the first Easter morning, a new, subtle, gentle experience of Christ rose into awareness. This experience was the fruit of both the meditation and the struggle of the week. The words of the Gospel story had new clarity. The experience of Christ risen, mysteriously held within the words themselves, was resonating afresh within. Another veil had fallen.

Bere Is 3

I am learning that any growth in the acceptance of Divine Love, so radically and completely given to us at Easter through the death and resurrection of Jesus, frees us to engage struggle with a growing compassion and a gentle curiosity. Growth can be a painful struggle. Peace, joy, and humility are (just some of) this struggle’s fruits.

So then, now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God’s favour in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God’s glory. Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

 Bere Is 4


Small Things: Ben Howard. Madness and Plain Sight

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.


Meditatio House: Contemporary and Contemplative

At Meditatio House we have just completed what we call a Study Week. During this week people come to the house to spend some time (up to a week) living with us. During this time our guests join in the rhythm of the house, experiencing our explorations in what the Christian tradition has come to call the contemplative life.

It needs to be noted here that the contemplative life is not some form of spiritual specialization. To be contemplative is to be, not only Christian, contemplative is to be human. Christian spirituality can use the word contemplative to describe any human life that is prioritizing and living contact with the human spirit. The human spirit is “our lifeline with the Spirit of God” (John Main). The human spirit is in constant union with the divine life. This spirit and divinity pervade soul and body. The contemplative life lives and promotes a life of integration and communion with divinity – where ever and however this may be authentically found.

During Study Week we have four times of meditation a day, as well as praying with the psalms and scriptures (Hebrew and Christian Testaments). We practice silence after Night Prayer until breakfast the next day. One day during the week is a silent day.

During the week we have morning workshops. This week we learnt a little bit about what St. Benedict had to say about silence, as well as what St. Augustine (of Hippo) had to say about contemplative prayer.

Another of the workshops we conducted discussed what it might mean to be contemporary and contemplative. What is it like to prioritize and live spiritually today?

It could be said that we live in a Western culture that is principally ‘post-modern’. Modernity was about making rationalism the dominant approach to life. Post modernity, however, rejects the modern tendency to see life through just the one rational lense. Instead it values diversity, equity, and a plurality of approaches to life and living, while being deeply suspicious of anything and anyone who asserts a ‘universal truth’. Tina Beattie describes it as

…the world-view which asserts that there is no world-view, paradoxically laying claim to the universal truth that there is no universal truth.

This time in Western history can also be named as secular. We could view secular in one of two different ways. A secular consciousness can be one that cannot or refuses “to acknowledge some reality beyond or transcendent to” the human (Sarah Bachelard). In other words, there is no God. Another way to look at a secular worldview is to see it as embracing “the collapse of the distinction between sacred and profane” (Bachelard). In other words, God is everywhere and not just in church or in the heart of a ‘believer’.

A contemporary contemplative could be someone who experiences and embraces divinity as in the all of life, not just in their church community and church activities. The Christian contemplative experiences Christ as really present not just in the tabernacle. Christ is really present in our hearts, our relationships, in all the mess and glory of the human journey. To be Christian and contemplative today is to be a secular Christian in the sense of living all of life as sacred.

To be Christian and contemplative is also to risk making universal truth claims. These claims will be based in our understanding of the Christian story and how this understanding combines with our contemporary and contemplative experience. Perhaps the universal truth claim that we can make (in all sincerity and humility) is one about love:

Love is uncreated, divine. This Love created and creates life. This Love is profoundly personal and intimate to all of life. This Love values human freedom. This Love wants humanity to be love. We are made for Love and to be love. We can be love now and will be in Love after death. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals this to us and empowers us for it.

This would seem to be the post-modern testimony of many secular and contemporary Christians who are living into their human contemplative-ness.

How do we become love? The contemplative tradition of Christianity (like all of Christianity) tells us how by witnessing to one of the basic dynamics of human life: we are growing in love when we have forgotten ourselves enough to love.

What can we practically do to become love? Christianity asserts that we love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbour. In these practical acts of loving, the Love we love with loves us into love.

The contemplative heart of Christianity says that we need to be regularly and faithfully still and quiet in this Love. Doing this empowers us for a life of loving ourselves and others. Doing this allows divine love to love us.

One practical act of loving is contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer invites us to practice a letting go, a losing of what could be the greatest gift that life has given us: our self-consciousness.

The giving and re-giving of attention to a mantra as it sounds deep in us is one practical and inner action that helps us to grow in the forgetting of  self-consciousness. As we do this what is given us is the ability to live life in a fully conscious way. We live life growing in a deep intuition and Love that our self-conscious, rather than getting in the way of, integrates with.

So what role does Meditatio House have in all of this?  Meditatio House is an experiment in a ‘new’ or ‘evolving’ Christian contemplative community. It is in the world, in dialogue with the human needs of a post-modern and secular age. As Christians in this dialogue we encounter Christ afresh, living the fruits of this encounter for and with others. The Study Week is one way we do this living. Meditation and the Rule of Benedict are what we commit to in this experiment, this investigation with grace.

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Meditatio House: What Comes Up on the Way

John Main describes the first task of the mantra as “to bring those surface areas of the mind into harmony with the deeper peacefulness within.” (Awakening 1)*. There is always a deep peace within us. The more we live with our attention at the surface of consciousness (our self-consciousness) the more out of touch we can be with this deep peace. How long this first task of the mantra takes is not important. What is important is that we meditate with a growing faithfulness, steadily growing in our attendance to the mantra. The fruits of our attending grow in us and in our lives as we journey into this harmony between the surface and the deep.

As this harmony grows, what John Main describes as “the second task of the mantra” begins to take place: the mantra can begin to stir what lies in our psyches’ shadow. The energy we have used for years to repress fears, guilt, and painful memories begins to shift. What was in the dark of us begins to move into the light of our awareness. It is not uncommon for meditators to feel in these times feelings that they have not felt for some time (years, perhaps going back into childhood), or perhaps to feel more intensely feelings that they have been feeling for some time (anxiety, for example).

For many, this shadow experience is part of the meditation pilgrimage into a conscious awareness of the union we all share with the Divine. If we are to consciously experience in the ordinary of our lives this union, then what is in the shadows must come to light, be named, and in this way be integrated. The ‘oneing’ of our psyche with the Divine life cannot happen without this integration of consciousness. In fact, in a very real way, the oneing is this integration.

As this integration happens awareness of the Divinity within us becomes a conscious experience. The words of St. Paul come alive: ‘It is not I who lives, it is Christ who lives in me.’ We experience the mystery of who we most deeply are as we lose self-consciousness more and more in the light of Christ consciousness as it rises though our shadow’s fading dark. Our consciousness, in time, becomes Christ consciousness. This becoming is a work of God that in no way compromises our uniqueness.

As this process happens energy is released from the project of repression that is the cause of the shadow in us. This energy then becomes available for life and for loving. It becomes easier to be and participate in love. We discover a new normal, that is, we encounter our original normal.

This second task of the mantra can take decades. It can never end.

As this integration is happening we continue to say the mantra. It is the mantra that facilitates the integration. It helps us to experience and name what is coming up for us. Sometimes this is done in and with peace, sometimes not.

Attending to the mantra may be a challenge at times, especially if we are encountering strong feelings and painful memories. Compassion for ourselves may require that we stop meditating as these feelings and memories come up. It may even mean that we seek psycho-therapeutic help and/or assistance from a wise spiritual companion.  What is important for the meditator is that we ultimately remain faithful to what grace is doing in us through a gentle re-giving of attention to the mantra sooner rather than later.

In the words of Fr. John

Just say the mantra and keep saying the mantra. This is what will free you from the bondage that prevents the majority of people from praying with absolute freedom. It will free you from the chains of your own repressed fears and anxieties that are the principal cause of those surface distractions. That is why this form of prayer is of such immense importance, because it frees you from those compulsions and the chains of guilt and fear. (John Main, Awakening 1).

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This is an important point: the “principle cause” of our surface distractions are our own “repressed fears and anxieties”.

What is happening during this second task of the mantra is the eradication of the deep inner roots of our distractions. As this happens the noise, bustle, and hyperactivity of the external world loses its hold on us. The external world’s ‘points of purchase’ in us fade because our repressed fears and anxieties are fading in the light of Christ and our growing integration. We are experiencing Jesus as the ‘divine therapist’ (to use the description used by Thomas Keating).

What is happening here is nothing less than the transformation (or salvation) of the whole of our psyche. For this transformation to be ongoing what is required from us is a growth in the giving of the whole of us to this ongoing transformation. Divinity has given everything, God’s whole life, to this transformation of us and all creation. To be a full flowering of this divinely inspired transformation we too must give our all to it. In this giving is our greatest happiness because we are made to be  conscious manifestations of Divine Love in creation. Our attending to the mantra is the giving of ourselves to this process of transformation.

However, as we attempt to give ourselves to this process of transformation, we soon discover that we cannot do it ourselves. We need God to help us give ourselves to God. We come to experience our own inner poverty in the form of ego fear, stubbornness, and pride. In time though attending to the mantra becomes not only our practice of giving ourselves to God, it also becomes our practice of dependency on God.

As this giving and dependency grows we discover a God of unconditional love restoring to us our birthright: a life of free, loving, and creative adventure. The trust we grow in enables God to restore us to ourselves.

This is the inner pilgrimage of meditation that happens as a stable practice grows. The community at Meditatio House is committed to assisting the establishment of this stability in every meditator who meditates with us. We know and are coming to know these stages of the mantra from and in our own experience.

* The full transcript of Awakening 1 is available here from the WCCM website (2014).


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