Tag Archives: Ego

Meditation Creates Community: A Day Together (Part 2)

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.

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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.


Meditation Creates Community: A Day Together (Part 1)

Recently a group of meditators gathered for a day at the  Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat in The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. The day included meditation and a labyrinth walk. The day was organised as an offering by the younger meditators of the Australian Christian Meditation Community in Sydney. Also included were a couple of sessions exploring the theme ‘meditation creates community’. Below is part one of the notes that I prepared for those sessions.

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The seeds of community lay in our commitments. When people are committed to something together, perhaps to a common cause or a relationship, community could happen.

Community cannot happen if we are by ourselves in our commitments.

The husband and wife who spend little or no time together; or people house sharing, eating separately, and with a TV in each bedroom; or people working for social justice by themselves.   

Community requires a certain amount of time spent together and being present to each other.

So we can say that community can begin to stir when we make the decision to be conscious of and present to each other in our commitments, seeking mutuality and support from one another.

Co-workers who start taking lunch together; or the friendship group that meets for drinks; or the social justice group.

As this turning to each other starts to happen, something else happens: our personalities and temperaments begin to interact. Likes and dislikes begin to emerge. Talking with one person is easier than talking with another person. Given enough time together, some of the judgements, the hurts, the longings, the joys, the annoyances (and more) that live in us will stir and surface.

Within us there is who we truly are and there is what stops us from expressing who we truly are. What stops this expression started as a defence and a protection of who we are in the midst of an overwhelming and primal experience of the world. For most of us, defence and protection has (to some extent) taken over and assumed the role of who we are.

Whatever the case, as we turn to each other, and relating begins to happen, it is then that our egos become involved.

When egos rub there is a choice: we can practice staying present to this experience or we can opt out. Community starts to happen when we remain present to the tension of egos rubbing. We may go through periods of disassociating from the others we are committed to. We may repress the inner tension that is happening as we relate, or we may project it onto others calling them what we dislike or hate in ourselves. In community, we stay present to the patterns and ploys of the ego.

Maybe at this point we might ask ourselves: what is happening, why do I do this? With these questions honesty begins and self-knowledge can grow. For there to be community, there needs to be honesty.

So if community stirs when we are conscious of and present to each other, it begins to be nurtured when we commit to honesty, with ourselves and (when appropriate) with each other.

Many have discovered that, for them, it is too hard to do this without the divine life. This life provides context. And divinity heals us for each other in ways that we cannot do ourselves.

A common prayer life grows in the midst of this. We prayer together so that we might be able to love: ourselves, each other, the world, and God.

It is important that community prayer does not replace individual prayer. Both become a part of each other.

So if community stirs when we are conscious of and present to each other, and it begins to be nurtured when we commit to honesty, for many of us community matures as we pray, both together and alone.

The Chartres Labyrinth at The Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat


Poised for Adventure

After a couple of weeks in Sydney and Bathurst (my hometown), I have spent the last week in Canberra catching up with some friends. It is winter here in Australia and Canberra has been cold, getting down to -3C overnight. Some of the days though have a bright and crisp air to them. It’s been lovely to walk in the Australian winter light while frost crunches underfoot.

Someone asked me the other day ‘where are you living now?’ This got me thinking. I said ‘I don’t know.’ I’m as settled as I ever have been within myself and yet all ‘my stuff’ is still packed in boxes and stored away. I am free to roam around with a suite case (albeit it a heavy one).

So, where do I roam next?

For the next three months I’ll be on the South Coast of New South Wales (on the eastern coast of Australia) living in a shed and doing some writing. At this point I’m looking forward to it, to having a space to focus (assuming that I don’t distract myself too much).

Within myself I sense that this time is also about something else: a time to deepen in indifference.

Indifference? What does that mean? Does it mean not caring about anything or anyone; giving up on the world to live in some kind of ‘holy isolation’? No. Far from it. This meaning of indifference, for me, has the smell of fear about it – a justification for turning from others and the ‘randomness’ of life.

There is another, truer, meaning. It is a meaning that I first came across many years ago when I read the book God of Surprises by Gerard W. Hughes. In this book Hughes told the story of a black Labrador named Beuno. Beuno was easily distracted and very curious. He would wander off and come back with all sorts of things. It seemed that he would happily follow his desires for anything and everything: until he was presented with a bone. At that point all other desires fell away. All he wanted was that bone. Beuno would sit and wait, slobbering, with eyes only for that bone. At that moment he was indifferent to all else. He had a single focus: that bone.

Hughes was a Jesuit. Being so, he also used the Spiritual Exercises to help unpack a healthy spiritual and human approach to indifference:

….we must be so poised (detached/indifferent/balanced) that we do not cling to any created thing as though it were our ultimate good, but remain open to the possibility that love may demand of us poverty rather than riches, sickness rather than health, dishonour rather than honour, a short life rather than a long one, because God alone is our security, refuge and strength. We can be so detached from any created thing only if we have a stronger attachment; therefore our one dominating desire and fundamental choice must be to live in love in his presence.” (Principle and Foundation, The Spiritual Exercises, as translated/summarised by Gerard W. Hughes in God of Surprises, 63)

Indifference is about living in the ‘wavelength’ of Love. It is about living enough in this wavelength and committing to it so that we still choose from there no matter what else may be happening in life.

Indifference is about knowing what is most important in life, from moment to moment. There is a mindful non-attachment towards what could get in the way, in each moment, of a loving response. And there is poise: a balanced readiness to respond in each moment to love’s invitation to be involved in the living of life as love.

All this, of course, is the ideal. What matters is that we walk on, persevering into compassion as indifference is cultivated in us. Life has its own way of showing us what is important.

We are, however, made for attachment. What is important is what we attach to. The Spiritual Exercises, as quoted above, give us an answer as to what to do with attachment: our “stronger attachment” can be to God – to divine, uncreated Love. This is what Beuno shows us. His attachment to ‘that bone’ was stronger than anything else. Our attachment to God, that life of freeing love, can be the strongest thing in our lives – an attachment that shapes the way we live life and relationship. No matter what kind of life we are living we become more loving because love is the most important thing. For us, God is the bone.

As we meditate we grow in our attachment to God, to Divine Love. Attention generates attachment and so we attend to the mantra as it draws the whole of us into the silent life of God; until the mantra is forgotten and attachment to God is full. All else is put aside: images, ideas, thoughts, emotions. Not repressed, just not attended to as we meditate. We are left to soak in the Mystery that Love is. As we soak, we are changed.

As we meditate we practice non-attachment to that which is not the Mystery of Love. We turn from what ego would prefer: stronger attachments to that person, that lifestyle, that idea, that thing.

‘Love is dangerous’ says ego, ‘love will change your life in ways you cannot control.’ Well, yes it will. That’s life. Divine Love, as we attend to it, shows us to ourselves, helps us uncover the deepest longings of our hearts, and guides us in life to the ways that this longing can be fulfilled. This is what attachment to God does. Possibilities increase and life becomes an adventure in love.

 

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The Bus to Canberra


Lazarus: David Bowie. In Death We Become Alive

This is part two of our David Bowie feature.

The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus was written, like all the Gospels were, through the prism of the human experience of Jesus risen from the dead. After Jesus’ death those who were close to him during his earthly life experienced him as alive to them in a powerful and deeply intimate way. Free from the limits of physicality, Jesus exploded into their hearts – that place of pure experience at the centre of us where we and divinity are one, communing in spirit. The Gospels were written after this experience and during it.

What the story of Lazarus tells us is that death has no hold on life; that life is of such a force and nature that nothing can contain it. Life is of the spirit and life embodies (enlivens) all physicality. Death is a material reality, not ultimate Reality.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven.” The Lazarus that is David Bowie is now no longer limited by the physical. The scars of a human life and the drama of ‘below’ that were his have now been transcended. In this transcending, this going beyond, Bowie bursts into the fullness of life, a life that is in everything and everyone.

In the Gospel story eternal life courses into the dead Lazarus revealing to us that we will emerge into eternal life after death. This eternal life can be experienced here and now as it heals and transforms our human lives.

“I’ve got nothing left to lose…Dropped my cell phone down below.” As Bowie sings these words he floats between worlds. It seems that only his bed clothes are preventing him from floating away. Perhaps his experience of death is shedding him of what is ultimately unimportant: such things as opinions and judgements, our fears and anxieties, notions of success and failure, pride and competition, and all those things in our personalities that would stop us from living in the fullness of life already given to us. The cell phone is dropped – attachment to temporal intrigues and involvements is gone.

He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Thus the people who had come to mourn said, “Look how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?” Jesus, intensely moved again, came to the tomb. (Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed across it.) Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by this time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you that you have listened to me. I knew that you always listen to me, but I said this for the sake of the crowd standing around here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he shouted in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The one who had died came out, his feet and hands tied up with strips of cloth, and a cloth wrapped around his face. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” (John 11:34-44)

Jesus was close to Lazarus, he loved him. We can see this as Jesus weeps and is “intensely moved”. In raising Lazarus Jesus shows us that our relationships also transcend death. The depth of closeness with someone experienced on earth can continue after their death. And not only this: the closeness can deepen. Those tensions of character and personality that may have come between us and our loved ones are no more. Our ego has nothing to rub against. All that is left is the truth of who our loved ones are. At our depths and in Truth this truth is free to commune with the truth of who we are. There is no fear in Truth.

During meditation we practice attention off the ego. As we deepen in this practice we encounter and live into the truth of who we are and the truth of life.

The gift of this song and video from David Bowie could be seen as a participation in the spiritual reality of communion at the heart of relationship. Bowie lives on not only in his music, but in the relationship that his music fosters between us and him and especially in the relationship he has with those who were closest to him. Just like those Bluebirds he is free, free to be in the freedom given to us all; free from fear and free to be.

The cupboard in this video is the tomb of the Lazarus story. But who is it that comes out of the cupboard at the beginning of this video; that reaches out from under the bed enabling Bowie to float; hiding under the desk, touching and empowering him in his final moments? His muse; an angel; an embodiment of the Divine; a variation on the Grim Reaper? And what is Bowie writing? Is creativity bursting from him in his final moments?

Later, as Bowie dances and sings in front of his ‘tomb cupboard’ we can see the bandages of Lazarus in the white lines on Bowie’s black clothing. The final scene seems to have Bowie doing a ‘Lazarus in reverse’. While the Gospel Lazarus comes back to earthly life from death, Bowie seems to reverse into death from earthly life. His entry into the ‘tomb cupboard’ is a reverse replay of a ‘tomb cupboard’ exiting. He exits and enters the tomb at the same time. Death and life, at least on this earthly plane, are a part of each other. And if we can embrace death, be unafraid of it, we discover in our hearts that death is the way to into life, both temporal and eternal. Christians call this ‘dying and rising in Christ’.


Meditatio House: Sorting Out the Rubbish

To be fit for the great task of life, we must learn to be faithful in humble tasks. (John Main)

The sixth step of humility is that we are content with the lowest [position] and most menial treatment, and regard ourselves as a poor and worthless worker in whatever task we are given… (The Rule of St. Benedict)

At Meditatio House we share around the chores, those things that need to be done to maintain a household. We share in the cooking, the cleaning, and yard tasks, anything that needs doing. This is thoroughly in keeping with the ordinary practice of living, and consistent with the Rule of Benedict. We use the Rule as a guide for our communal commitment and experience.

The Rule of Benedict is a wisdom text for the Christian spiritual life. The Rule is a guide to the integration of communal and personal living so that both serve a human life growing in love and the experience of this love as divine. It is a practical document that sees growing into love as an applied, ordinary, self-forgetting, and relational happening (1).

The three basic dynamics of the Rule are prayer, reading, and work. Prayer is central and has a communal foundation; reading is food for the intellect and heart; and work (anything from writing to lawn mowing) asks for a focus that is less on self and more on the needs of the community at hand. These three dynamics are, of course, interchangeable: prayer is also a work and work, when done with present moment attention, is prayer; reading can also be a work of attention, and a prayer (Lectio Divina). And so on.

One task we take turns at doing is dealing with the rubbish and food scraps. There are three bins in our kitchen: one for plastics, one for paper, and one for non-recyclable rubbish. There is also a couple of ‘bucket bins’ near the sink that receive compostable scraps and non-compostable scraps. Once a week everything gets sorted into separate containers which then get put out onto the street for collection. There is even a street container for non-recyclable scraps (other scraps are put in the compost out the back). This scrap container can be particularly messy and smelly.

Of all the household tasks we do, maintaining the rubbish and preparing it for collection would have to be the most menial.

The Rule sees this sorting of the household rubbish as part of our growth in self-knowledge and humility.

It is a task that has the potential to help create in someone a deeper appreciation of their own humanity. All a person need do is be faithful to the task and gently attentive to their responses and reactions whilst doing it. As we work with our bodies we can become aware of what God is doing with our soul.

Our lives, like scraps and rubbish, can be rather commonplace and somewhat messy. The conscious mind (or ego) can tend to avoid (largely via repression) the ‘mess’ of us and be inclined to reject the reality that we are just another ordinary, everyday, commonplace person.

Yet contemplative prayer and community can help us to see that the ordinary and everyday is where we experience our deep, mysterious and divinely given uniqueness. It is a uniqueness that the ego does not create, although the ego does try to cover it up with its own version of uniqueness (a version that generally wants to avoid the mess and rubbish).

The discovery of our unique selves can involve facing, experiencing, and accepting our own psychological mess. This process engenders humility. Ego shuns humility because it would mean this repressed mess is becoming conscious and being integrated (faced, experienced, and accepted). Meditation and community living assist this integration via their focus on keeping us attentive to God and our deep selves in an other-centred context.

Psychological integration that happens in other-centred environments (one such as a prayerful community) means the slow death of egocentricity. This can be quite a challenge for us.

Egocentricity is that pattern of life where a person has been fooled into the belief that ego is the centre of consciousness and must remain as such if the person is to survive and thrive. The hidden assumption is that all of life’s happenings must first pass through the prism of the conscious mind. For this to even have a chance of happening ego must exert lots of energy to maintain the illusion that it is the centre of our universe. We are all, to some extent, egocentric.

When our inner mess starts to leak into our conscious mind (as it does) this is a threat to ego’s command and control illusion. So it pushes back with repression and more attempts at control. This can last only so long. As our mess seeps in, ego’s control falters. As egocentricity is threatened this gives opportunity for a growth in humility. This is why egocentricity sees humility as weakness: humility is about the de-centring of ego. And as humility grows, it lays the ground for a healthy maturing into other-centredness and God.

Without humility there can be no authentic transformation in God and no discovery of our true selves in God. A lack of humility is a sign that we are still too caught up in the operations of egocentricity.

The root of the word ‘humility’ is the Latin word humus, which means soil or earth. In other words, to be down to earth, being realistic, honest and truthful, to avoid the temptation to act as if we are the divine centre of the universe (2).

Food scraps, though messy and smelly, are tomorrow’s rich humus.

Doing menial and messy everyday tasks can run counter to ego’s attempts at avoiding the mess of life, its own de-centring, and humility. Continuing in these menial and messy tasks, then, is important if we are to continue away from egocentricity and into the heart of God.

Sorting the rubbish is a down to earth practice. It can encourage in us a developing self-honesty. In this way it is not unlike meditation. Meditation is about engaging in the daily, down to earth practice of experiencing and embracing the truth of life; doing so faithfully with diminishing expectation. This can sound like a waste of time to an ego that wants enlightenment yesterday and on its terms.

(1) The community at Meditatio House produce a blog called The Rule of Benedict: Reflections From Christian Meditators. Have a look.

(2) Peter Ng, ‘The Contemplative Executive’, in John Main: The Expanding Vision (29).


Hospitality, Community, and the Centrality of Prayer

The below was preached as a sermon to the community Benedictus Contemplative Church on July 18, 2015.

Mark chapter 6, verses 30 to 34, 53 to 57.

The Greek word used in verse 34 by Mark, translated as compassion is splagchnizomai (splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee). It means something like to be moved deeply in the guts. Here is a deep visceral reaction in Jesus, one without thought, a reaction of human and divine solidarity with the sick, the powerless, the suffering. In this reaction is the revelation that the divine life is completely, fully committed to the human experience – with us, healing, saving, and empowering us to live a life in the simple freedom of the loving present moment.

In this Gospel story struggling humanity experiences, in Jesus, the God life. And this is how it is with us today. In our contemplative practice we too experience God in Jesus. We experience Christ consciousness.

In this experience, in ways mysterious, the struggles of our inward human lives are healed, saved, transformed.

We experience in Christ an ontological union, or a union of being between human and divine life, the same union of being that Mark has Jesus acting from in tonight’s Gospel.

In the risen Jesus human and divine life are fully present to, and alive in each other. Christian prayer is about learning to be more and more present, more and more attentive, to this union of being within us.

To give attention to this union requires solitude. The Gospel for today has Jesus going with his disciples to a deserted place to rest, a place of solitude. The more we practice prayer the more we discover that this solitude, this deserted place of rest, is within us, within our own hearts. On the way into this deserted place we experience our inner struggles, those things within that, like the crowd in the Gospel, can demand our attention on this journey into solitude. And just like in the Gospel, these struggles – be they struggles with distractions or struggles with deeper psychological wounds (wounds that can sometimes be at the root of our distraction) – when these struggles come into contact with the divine life they are (over time) healed.

It is very difficult to go on this journey into solitude alone. The disciples, in the Gospel, did it together, with Jesus.  Thankfully, it is possible to experience our own unique solitude in God together. In this experience we also experience our struggles and healing together.

This together into solitude and struggle, so that healing happens and Christ may be lived and experienced, is just one part of the dynamic of Christian community.

In the decision to be together and to embrace our solitude together, in the experience of a practical giving and receiving of love for each other, and in the commitment to a common prayer life which transcends egocentricity so that we may be more in love together – it is in the practice of these things together where Christian community is born and lived.

I experienced this threefold dynamic at Mediatio House.

This dynamic can be, at times, an uncomfortable, even painful experience. And it’s also an experience that has within it great purpose, meaning, and fulfilment.

A couple of examples of this dynamic in action from my experience at Meditatio House:

Hospitality

The commitment to hospitality at Mediatio House is a very practical way in which we, at the house, grow in other centred loving. People come to the house all the time: to pray with the community, for day activities, for lunch, meetings, accommodation. Our challenge is to be and become people of welcome, to be present to the people who come to the house, to give them our attention.

The Community

People from all over the globe come to the house to live. This can be for a few weeks, to 6 months, to 12 months and beyond. In this experience there are cultural challenges as well as challenges of personality and temperament.

Parker J. Palmer writes

…community always means the collision of egos. It is less like utopia than like a crucible or a refiner’s fire. In this process God wants us to learn something about ourselves, our limits, our need for others. In this process is the pain of not getting our way, but the promise of finding the Way.

There have been times in the last 12 months where I have experienced this collision of my ego and other egos. I have been involved in heated discussions around how I and others have been living with each other. I have witnessed the struggle of fellow members as they discover through experience the deep seated ways in which the human reaction of self-preservation via isolation can flare.

I have discovered myself sitting in judgement of another’s controlling and anxious ways only to discover that under my judgement is a denial of the ways I tend towards the control of others so that I may not experience anxiety.

I have experienced the ebb and flow, the back and forth, of humility and pride.

My pride says ‘I can do this myself’, it says ‘I don’t require relationship’. It develops in isolation, both physical and psychological. It often grows subtly, quietly. Or it can spring up in reaction to someone’s critique about the way I am living, or not living. Unchecked it grows into arrogance. When I am in the midst of it I am caught in the illusion that God is absent.

There comes a point in all of this when the experience of isolation becomes prominent enough for me to be honest about it – with myself, with God, with others. In the eventual turn back to community and relationship is the turn back to grace and the realisation that I need God and that community (where ever I am experiencing it) is a vital part of the way to God. In this realisation humility grows its roots a little deeper. My time at Meditatio House has been a humbling experience. Humility is pride’s antidote. Only a life growing in humility can truly grow in God.

The Centrality of Prayer  

At the centre of all of this was (and is) the three times a day of prayer and meditation. At these times we gathered together as a community with whatever was going on within and between us.

At these times we practiced attention off any struggles that were going on and attention on the divine life within. We were like the crowd in Mark’s Gospel – focusing on the presence Christ. Looking back, during these times I experienced the forgetting of struggle and the silent emergence of healing and integration. This emergence would not have happened in the same way if I was living by myself and meditating by myself. We all need crucibles, a refiner’s fire. Community is mine.

And as this emerging happened I discovered in myself a slow growing acceptance of fellow community members. I discovered myself living in a love for them that I did not have to make happen. I could let go. We grew in simply being with each other.

So what about Benedictus and this threefold dynamic of solitude together, practical giving in love, and communal prayer?

Solitude and together: Our service each week in an example of being both together (at the service) and in solitude together (as we spend time in silence within the service). We come and experience God alone and together.

Our times of commitment to contemplative prayer outside of this service are also done together and alone.

Practical giving in love: Acts of service for the Benedictus community, as well as for those who form a part of our communal experience  generally (partners, family, work, friends) – these acts can reveal us to ourselves. Attention to our inner lives can help us to see our motivations for giving and living as they happen within our commitments.

This practical giving is an act of self-giving: things here such as the centrepiece, wine and cheese, staying just a little longer after the service to say hello to people we may not know yet.

We also know about the practicality, the effort, and self offering of loving and being loved by a partner, family, and friends.

Communal prayer: This service is our communal prayer. The silence at its heart is the place in which we are growing in the giving of our whole selves to the divine energy at the heart of Creation which sustains us for loving and integrates ego with Self. After this silence our inner lives are freed just that little bit more to be in love with ourselves and each other.

At Meditatio House, as a residential community encouraging others to grow in love and Self, the volume is turned up on this three fold dynamic. It’s a bit like living in a hot house. The volume is turned up on a dynamic which is already a part of any life committed to growing in love and prayer together.

On this loving, contemplative, and communal journey we are all on, where ever we are on it, what is happening is that our whole humanity is growing into a union with the divine life. Jesus shows us that this growing in union is possible. His risen life with and in us is the way divinity comes alive in us and the way we come alive in the divine life.

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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.


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