Tag Archives: Humility

Meditatio House: Imagination, Detachment, and Play

There are many distractions of many kinds that claim our attention during meditation. Often these distractions are related to what we are attached to. Recently, as I sit and meditate, rugby union has been on my mind.

At the moment, in London, the 2015 Rugby World Cup is on. Every four years the top twenty rugby nations get together and play for the chance to win the Web Ellis Trophy. Australia – the team I support, and number two in the world – is through to the semi-finals after a fortunate ‘win at the death’ against Scotland.


My attachment to rugby union runs deep. The secondary school I attended (from age 12 to 18) has always been a ‘rugby school’. Consequently, during the formative years of my teens, a strong attachment to rugby developed. The highs and lows of the Wallabies (the animal after which the Australian team takes its name) became my highs and lows. Consequently, the Rugby World Cup became a distinct time of emotional attachment. During the 1999 World Cup (which Australia won) my then spiritual director politely suggested to me that it would be a wonderful thing if I could take the same passion that I had for the Wallabies into life generally.

Lately at Meditaito House, during meditation, my mind has wandered onto the rugby pitch and imagined a sweeping backline move for a try or a strong shove from a dominant scrum. I have found these imaginings quite gratifying and felt quite self-satisfied after imagining them.

…meditation is our pathway into surrendering the very self, the separate, self-conscious identity that looks for experiences to ‘have’ in the first place. Meditation is a radical opening into a new possibility for being – being given and received as gift, being centred in and wholly transparent to the life of God. (1)

These words from meditator and theologian Sarah Bachelard are a challenging reminder to me at this time. There is a “separate, self-conscious identity” in me (in us all) that is using my attachment to the Wallabies and the world cup as a way to distract attention during meditation. This separate self-identity can be called ego.

The temptation to be gratified by the imaginings of this “separate, self-conscious identity” can be at times too great. Perhaps a new parent, during meditation, may find their imagination straying to their new ‘bundle of joy’ (assuming, of course, this new parent is not too tired to meditate at all). Perhaps a person obsessed with technology will get lost in the gratification that a new phone or computer is ‘providing’. And the feelings that a new love interest is generating in us can indeed be more immediately and powerfully gratifying than the ‘nothing’ happening as we meditate.

We all have attachments. It’s part of being human. Our attachments reveal themselves in our imagination. A life growing in awareness has the chance see this, accept it, be humbled by it, and begin to smile gently at it.

And yet if we surrender to our imaginings, we could experience the bliss and gratification of a being lost in attachment and imagination. Why meditate at all if I can feel this alive while entertaining imagination?

To seek and to be with God, to experience who we most deeply are, and to grow in true love, we need to go beyond using imagination in this way. Imagination used in this way can keep us from God, ourselves, and love – caught in self-consciousness as alienation from these realities.

The bliss and gratification of imagination is not the deep contentment and inner stability that we receive as gift while we attend to, and integrate with, the divine life within us; it is not the meaning and purpose that loving others can give us.

If we are to grow in becoming “centred in and wholly transparent to the life of God” imagination needs to be put aside and our attachments must fade. This is the work of meditation. It is the fruit of a commitment to a daily practice of attention on a mantra.

Over time attention on the mantra has the mind growing still and silent. Attention on the mantra draws attention deeper into being until the whole of us is lost in being and we become silence.

Rather than exercising the mind so that we might have an experience, we instead learn the value of being. Instead of awareness caught in imagination and attachment at the self-conscious level, during meditation awareness can come to transcend this self-consciousness, go beyond it. Rather than being aware of reflecting on an experience, we become free to attend without self-reflection to being. In this attending to being we have forgotten ourselves and commune with the Ground of Being – God.

‘Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it. What benefit is it to anyone to win the whole world and forfeit or lose his very self.’ (Luke 9:24-5).

The life we are invited to lose is a life based on attachment and its use of imagination, a life that tries to make a separate self-conscious identity the centre of living.

Winning the whole world is the practice of a self-consciousness wanting to have, to own, to possess. However, a life of being is a life “being given and received as gift”. We are all a part of the gift of life for life’s sake. We cannot win a gift. Life being simply lived, rather than acquired, is life expressing the adventure of being. This adventure can happen anywhere and at any time – even on the rugby field. Attention lost in the adventure of life is awareness lost in being.

Perhaps the Wallabies (and professional sport people in general) and their supporters (including me) could see sport more as a creative and playful part of the adventure of life and less as an expression of hardnosed competitiveness for the achievement of reward. It is easier to do this when attention is on being; much harder if attention is caught in self-consciousness (with its attendant imaginings and attachments).

The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.
The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman
serves the communal good.
The best leader
follows the will of the people. All of them embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao. (68) (2)

Detachment is about living life “in the spirit of play” and becoming like children (cf. Matthew 18:2-4).

(1) Sarah Bachelard in, John Main: The Expanding Vision (Laurence Freeman and Stefan Reynolds, eds), 70.
(2) Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching (Translated by Stephen Mitchell).

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).

Meditatio House: A Hat in the Wind

I once heard God described as a bit like a hat in the wind. Some of us may have chased a hat in the wind. It can fly from our heads, land in front of us and fly off again – just as we were about to grab a hold of it. We can end up playing a game of slow frustration with the wind as we chase our hat down the street.

Perhaps it might be better to say that our ideas of God are a bit like that hat in the wind. The wind is in fact like God, moving our ideas and assumptions on ahead of us before they have a chance to solidify into ‘fact’. There is always the tendency in us towards identifying and objectifying God through our ideas and assumptions about God. God is not an object. It is best to experience God like we experience the wind: swirling with a mind of its own, uncontrolled by us, here then gone then mysteriously here again.

The Christian experience, of course, says that this mind of God (whatever mind might mean) could be described as Agape, Love. And so we risk a word. Love does what it is. It can do nothing else. Prayer is about learning to recognise the movement of this Love as it blows in us and our lives – and to go with it. What a wonderful adventure this is!

Many mystics and contemplatives of the Christian tradition have experienced grace – another word describing the gift of God’s love-life fully given to all Creation – as kind of wind like. It can blow within us and our relating with caresses of love, holding and supporting us in the moment as we allow, and then the wind can die down, disappear just as mysteriously as it came.

The Desert Father Macarius The Egyptian (300-390 AD)*, in one of his homilies, describes the movement of grace as such:

There are moments when grace kindles up and comforts and refreshes more fully; there are moments when it retreats and clouds over, according as grace itself manages for the man’s [sic] advantage (Homily VIII, 79).

In another homily Macarius describes the working of grace in the human soul:

The spiritual influence of God’s grace within the soul works with great patience, wisdom, and mysterious management of the mind, while the man [sic] for long times and seasons contends in much endurance… Homily IX, 81).

The action of grace in our lives moves and ebbs, flows and retreats in ways that reveal a great tenderness, patience, and wisdom that is always there with us as we live the seasons of our lives.

Recently at Meditatio House we held our weekly teaching night. If Laurence is not with us we often play a recording of Laurence or John Main as the meditation teaching for the evening. It was my turn to plan and run the evening. Earlier in the day I had played for myself and picked a recording from John Main to use on the night. However, a couple of minutes before we were to start, I discovered that the iPod’s battery had failed.

It had been a particularly hard day. I was psychologically and physically drained. I had made some basic notes about the talk which I was to give as a way of introduction. I realised then that I might have to speak from these notes about the talk myself.

As I sat there in that moment of realisation, attending to the mantra as best as I could, a movement of grace began in me. It arrived gently in my gut, soothing a tightness that had been there all day. As this was going on my mind fell into quietness of a kind that I did not create. In that moment grace moved like a gentle breeze, calming and loving me for the task at hand.

Afterwards there was a quiet and simple drawing back of this grace. The wind had died down. It was time to pick up the hat and to walk on, renewed, in gratitude and humility.

* Macarius The Egyptian was also known as Macarius of Scete, or Macarius The Great. He was, in the words of Oliver Clement, “a disciple of Anthony and teacher of Evagrius” and “the organiser of the monastic life at Scete.” (The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 357. See the blog post ‘Meditatio House: The WCCM and the Skete’ for more information about the Scete, or Skete.

Every Breaking Wave: U2. Stability and Commitment in the Face of Change

Part of the maturing of our humanity over time is a growth in psychological and spiritual stability. The writer James Bishop, in his commentary on the Rule of Benedict (A Way in the Wilderness), says stability is all about ‘always aiming to do the right thing without constantly changing our direction’ (105). Committing to the ‘right thing’ is about not ‘chasing every breaking wave’, that is, not ‘constantly changing direction.’

Often our commitments are a heart choice. This, I think, is the choice that Bono is singing about: the heart choice of committing to another person. An early conviction of the heart can, over time, be clouded by fear and doubt. Circumstances of life change, the way we approach life changes. Feelings change. People change. It is only natural that a heart choice is buffeted and challenged by these winds of change.

But what is this heart? Of recent times it has become a symbol for love and feeling. Put these together and it seems that love is only a feeling. In the story of Judaism and Christianity the heart is that mysterious ‘place’ of being deep within us where our divinely inspirited uniqueness resides. In Christianity this heart can also be the place of our deepest longing for love. Ultimately this longing is for God because only this God is the True Love that will fulfill us. That ‘God is Love’, true and unconditional, is the great Christian testimony. Everyone else, including those whom we are in relationship with, is at best a manifestation and humble expression of this True Love.

Being in touch with this heart-place of our deepest identity and longing is of great assistance when it comes to both choosing and keeping heart commitments.

Some questions to ask ourselves while discerning a commitment to another person therefore could be: ‘can I be myself with this person?’ And ‘can I give full expression to my longing for God with this person?’ Heartfelt affirmations to these questions are among the indications that the person concerned is a good fit for us.

Being in touch with this heart is what stabilises us in the commitments we make. Being out of touch with this heart has the potential to destabilise us and our commitments. The question that we keep coming back to while we live this commitment over a lifetime is ‘where is my heart in this commitment?’

Contemplative prayer is about the practice of giving attention to this heart, about staying in touch with this heart. This practice grounds us in the heart of who we are and, ultimately, in the divine. Over time there is developed in us a stability that has its roots less and less in our changeable psychology and circumstance and more and more in the Being of God. This Being is our rock. This Being is our source. This Being is our very life force. From this Being we can commit with divine stability. Christian Meditation is one such contemplative practice.

If what we mean by heart is only feeling, and we believe love to be simply a feeling, then it can follow that when our feelings of love change so does the very nature of our heart commitment. But who we most deeply are and who God is are both beyond feeling. Love is not a feeling. We can have feelings in response to the presence of Love. Just because a feeling has changed is no indication that True Love has‘gone’.

And so we come to the struggle that U2 in this song are embracing:

Heart commitments can be a gamble because at any one time we may not have a good enough sense of where our heart is.

Fear and anxiety can cover the heart preventing our experience of this deep place. Stability in commitment is about staying the course until fear fades and our hearts are recovered.

Like the sea, our inner experience can change quickly. We need to be respectful of this. What is stormy at the surface can be still and calm at the depths. A decision based on the surface of inner experience can leave us shipwrecked.

For the Christian the captain is Jesus Christ. His human and divine consciousness lives at our depths, in our hearts. His ‘voice’, those movements of divine life within can be listened to if we can become still and quiet enough. These movements can guide us to, and sustain us in, our lifetime heart commitments.

To drown, to be so overwhelmed by feelings of fear and doubt, to question everything, even to leave after doing your heartfelt best may be a failure, but it is no sin in the sense that it is not a condemnation of our hearts.

‘You know where my heart is, the same place that yours has been’. Often the experience of instability within a commitment is the journey back to the heart. The heart can be the experience of the original choice for that person, that commitment. Back in touch with this heart we can be ‘swept off our feet’ by the divine life within our heart commitments. Intimacy here is about being in God and bringing God to each other.

Meditatio House: Pride and Conkers

Lately I have been aware that I have been walking less. Back in Australia I would do a lot of day to day walking – mostly to bus stops and to work. It was good for both my waistline and my body-mind balance. Walking is often where I go to help my body ‘work out’ any thinking and/or feelings that might need to be attended to. Sometimes energy expended bodily can loosen up a mind that is stuck in particular patterns. I need my walks.

One particular afternoon I set out for Ealing Common, a large expanse of public land which takes about 10 minutes to walk around. Three laps, thirty minutes – just the thing.

As I walked I noticed a lot of what I assumed to be chestnuts on the ground beneath the trees that circle the common. This immediately brought back memories of a time when a friend and I went to an open garden in The Blue Mountains about 3 hours west of Sydney in the Australian state of New South Wales. At that time the chestnut trees were dropping their nuts. We carefully collected as much as our pockets could secrete. Once home we placed them in a microwave for a few seconds, removing them just before they exploded. We then sat down to a snack of cooked chestnuts. It is a fond memory.

As I rounded the Common I began collecting the tree’s fallen nuts. Soon I had pockets bulging with memory. Sure of myself I headed back to the house. Once there I put two in the microwave. The one that didn’t explode I took out to taste. It tasted like a raw potato and not at all like a chestnut. Too early to eat, I assumed. I put the rest in a bowl on the kitchen table.

A couple of days later WCCM community members Sarah and Georgina* were in the kitchen.

‘Have you ever cooked a chestnut in a microwave’, I asked as I reached for the bowl.

They had not, they said. I explained the process as I pulled the first nut from the bowl. I could tell them my Blue Mountains chestnut story. Things were going well.

‘I found these underneath the chestnuts trees on Ealing Common.’

‘They are not chestnuts,’ Georgina said abruptly.

‘No, they’re not,’ agreed Sarah. ‘I can’t remember what they are called, or the name of the trees. Boys collect them and call them conkers. They run a string through them and use them in a game.’

As Sarah explained and showed me with her hands the way boys would hold a conker with its string, striking with force the conker on a string in front of them, I felt my stomach grow tense. I was reacting to Georgina’s abruptness as if it were arrogance.

Georgina and Sarah then went on to tell me about the differing shape of the chestnut as well as the season for them. They had lived in England all their life. They knew all about it. I was the ‘blow-in’ – the new guy. I knew nothing.

Pride rose in me. An ego that thinks it should know these things was reacting, sparking up. I am being made to look like a fool, aren’t I?

An inner storm was breaking. It was like one of those videos of a big thunder storm being played in fast motion: dark clouds were billowing forward at speed crowding out a calm blue sky.

Then something happened: the mantra began to sound within me – like a storm warning.

Attention moved from ego to the word. I felt my attention move deeper and into a calmer space. It was like grace had just pressed the reverse button.

‘Well, I guess I can throw these out then.’ I looked at the conkers, with inner attention on the mantra. The storm was subsiding.


A fruit of a regular practice of meditation is the mantra ‘taking root in the heart’. The felt sense is one of the mantra being sounded gently and faithfully there, in the heart. Once this starts to happen we may begin to discover that the mantra becomes available to us at other times of the day, outside our formal meditation times. Perhaps it may come to mind while we are in a queue at the bank or in a traffic jam. It may be times of stress and anxiety that cue the mantra within us. Whenever and wherever this happens, it means that an awareness of the mantra and what grace can do with it is making its way into our consciousness.

This reminds me of a part of John Cassian’s Tenth Conference. Through his writings John Cassian (who lived about 360-435), brought the wisdom of the early desert Fathers and Mothers to Europe. In this Conference Cassian has the desert Father Abba Isaac saying

Let the meditation of this verse, I tell you, be revolved in your breast without interruption. You should not stop chanting it, regardless of what work, office or travel you find yourself in. Meditate on it when you are sleeping, eating and in the basic necessities of nature. May this pondering in your heart, once it has become like a formula for salvation, not only protect you unharmed from every attack of the demons, but also lead you to those invisible and heavenly theories, purifying you from all sins by earthly pollution, and so carry you on to that ineffable ardour of prayer experienced by very few.

This verse that Abba Isaac recommended was ‘Oh God come to my aid; oh Lord, hasten to help me’ (Psalm69:2). It is this verse that the Christian meditator reduces to its essence in the mantra ma-ra-na-tha (come Lord).

We may find that the mantra does indeed “become like a formula for salvation”, sounding at times within us when energetic forces of ego-centric pride, of shame, of anxiety and others threaten to ‘take possession’ of our inner life and awareness. It is a formula for salvation because the mantra itself has become, for us, a sanctifying word – a word saturated with grace and divine potency working faithfully and lovingly towards the full transformation of our consciousness. Our attention, over time, follows the mantra home to our own being and into union with divine Love in silence.

All of this, of course, emphasises the importance of a regular practice. Only through regular practice can the mantra become part of our heart to be pondered, or sounded, at a distance from rationality.

It is a wonderful gift of grace to discover a remembering of the mantra rising up in the everyday of our lives just when it is needed. As this happens, and as we give attention to the sounding of this mantra as it rises, we grow in a gentle awareness of the many times in a day when the energy of egoism can take hold of our inner life, influencing what we say and what we do. It is in these moments when grace becomes our healing, our transformation into love. All we need do is keep practicing the giving of attention to the mantra.

* The names have been changed.

Meditatio House: A Humble Practice (Part Two)

Central to Benedict’s Rule is humility. He spends a whole chapter (Chapter Seven) describing humility and how it can be established in the person whilst in community. He breaks down his description into 12 steps. Each step, he says, is like a wrung on a ladder. As each step is satisfied the ladder is ascended. As each step is dissatisfied the ladder is descended. We descend the ladder through our own exaltation (which Benedict calls “a kind of pride”). Going up the ladder means growing in a life of authentic relationship with ourselves, others, and the God in all relationship. To exalt one’s self is, ultimately, egocentric. Egocentricity cuts across healthy relationship. Any praising or raising of our person is not up to us. To seek attention is to court egoism. Any praising or exalting that happens comes to us from others to be accepted by us while experiencing a grounded and earthed life. Exaltation, while accepted and valued and important, is simply seen as not central to our character, our identity. We don’t need it. It’s like a box of chocolates – nice to receive sometimes, however not essential to a balanced diet.

Benedict writes:

Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of the ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.

Growth in humility is a very human experience. It involves body and soul – the whole of us. It can be quite an uncomfortable experience, especially if we discover that we have been acting out of ego more than anything else. It can be easy to fall into ego’s self-importance, particularly if we have just done or said something which we and/or others think is quite good. We can end up doing things (usually out of our own giftedness) more for our own aggrandisement and less in the service of Love and relationship. The Reign of Love needs to be our focus, not the illusive reign of ego. Much easier said than done!

Central to the structure of Meditatio House itself is a staircase. The house has five levels (including an attic), each of which is accessed via the staircase.

IMAG0840_BURST004_1 (2)

It strikes me that this staircase is much like The Rule’s ladder. It is central to the house. All must use it if life in the house is to function. So too, the ladder in The Rule is central to the life of The Rule and is to be used if life in the community is to grow in God and the expression of deep Self.

Because my room is on the top floor, I have found it quite a humbling experience when I get to the ground floor and realise that I have forgotten something in my room. It is a practical exercise in humility and self-compassion when I turn around and ascend the stairs! The good news is that I ascend with grace (no matter how I might be feeling about my own forgetfulness).

And this is also what we do as we face the ladder and the reality of where we might be on it – we ascend with grace. Ascent of the ladder is not a matter of performing well enough. The ladder is not part of an obstacle course. The realisation and acceptance of just how poorly we are equipped to ascend the ladder is in fact part of climbing the ladder itself. As humility grows grace empowers the way up.

Our meditation practice here at Meditatio House is another way for us to grow in humility, to ascend the ladder. Giving attention to the mantra can be quite a challenge. There are times when whatever is going on in our minds (thoughts, images, memories, emotions) can be all that seems to be happening. We can be lost in them, far away from the mantra and the silence. This is wonderfully ok. The slow and gentle acceptance of this lostness as part of our human condition is part of the humbling journey that grace invites us into during meditation. John Main (our first teacher of Christian meditation) would often talk about ‘the grand poverty of the mantra’ as a way of expressing this humbling journey. We encounter our own poverty, our own lack, on the way of meditation. And what a blessing this is! In this encounter are the seeds of grace. Our struggle with distractions is the soil from which our own transformation grows. The more we can be faithful to our meditation journey, gently and ultimately not giving it up, then the more grace has the opportunity, during meditation, to transform us away from fear and into love.





Meditatio House: A Humble Practice (Part One)

Christian spirituality continues to value the art of humility. Why is this? Perhaps because humility is like the needle on a compass. When we are living authentic humility it means that we are living life more from the deep Self (our True North) and less from egocentricity.

There are times when the ego wants to be all of us. It can fool us into the belief that our identity is all about it and nothing else. An egocentric life means that there is little or no room for a person to co-operate with the broader reality of  divine Love working in life for the deep good of all. Egocentricity at its worst can only work willfully, insecurely, and faithlessly for its own perceived good and at the expense of others. It sees the good as a limited commodity, something that must be taken now for its own needs.

Humility can grow in us when we experience and accept the limits of what ego can and cannot do. Humility can grow in us when we experience events in life that are more important, or somehow bigger, than our own limited perspective. It grows when we are blessed with the experience of unconditional Love (a love ego cannot create). Experience, experience, experience. When ego alone cannot solve our problems or give us what we most deeply need, often the fruit of the experience of this lack is the sense of our own limited humanity. Many times this is a sense that emerges from the soil of our own suffering. Often we suffer because we have fallen for the lie that ego can provide the answers to all the questions and problems of life. It cannot. Ego alone lacks the wisdom and context needed.

We are of humus, earthly and grounded and also of divinity. This both/and of earth and divinity is the wondrous tension we live everyday. Being humble, experiencing and accepting our finite human reality does, paradoxically, help provide a stable ground for the expression and experience of our deeper Self – that ‘no-thing’ of us which is our deepest part, that mysterious identity Christians share with God in Christ. Living from this identity on earth is life to the full. Living from ego is surviving on scraps.


What I am discovering at Meditatio House is that the community and the people who come here are bigger than my ego. This can be an ongoing discovery for anyone who lives with others and wants to be involved in their lives.  The simple structure of each day – three times a day of meditation, lunch together, household chores, the welcoming of visitors and fellow meditators, and the times of service with the wider meditation community beyond Meditatio House – all of this can gently counter that life of energy within me that would rather protect itself from exposure to newness and people it does not know. Much of the dynamics of my ego are about maintaining safety and preserving energy – on its terms. What Meditatio House is about is providing a safe and loving environment for the regular de-centering of attention off ego and onto a life growing in practical service for others. As this happens I continue to learn that in relational love there need be no fear. And I experience an ‘unlocking’, a releasing, of the energetic life within as the knot of ego continues to gently (and with grace) untie and unravel – the journey of a lifetime. As this happens energy becomes less something to preserve and more something to participate in.

The scrooge within me continues to give way to largesse. What ego sees as risk (an energetic and involved life), my deeper Self sees as normal. So much of life is about the conversion of ego back into a freely giving and loving participate in life – what we were as children before the struggle to survive became too much for us.

Self needs the ego if Self is to love in this world. Ego needs the Self if it is to lovingly serve and so experience true purpose. With grace and struggle, and in growing humility, Self and ego  come together. This coming together, this integration, is the manifesting in us of Love on earth for the world.



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