Tag Archives: Love

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


Meditatio House: Goodbye, Farewell, and Community

After calling London home for the last two years I now find myself back in Australia. My time at Meditatio London House has come to an end.

The last two years have been, for me, an exploration and a deepening in the experience of meditation and community.

Through the years I have experienced community, both formal and informal. I have been a part of seminary and novitiate communities, as well as Christian communities intentionally set up to explore what being human together in Christ might mean. I have grown in the maturity of friendship and discovered that friendship is also community.

In other formal, live-in communities that I have been a part of, meditation was not part of the communal prayer life. As a result my meditation practice, while contained within the communal life, was not really a part of it. It was something that I did as an extra.

Meditatio House was and is different. Because the practice of meditation is placed at the heart of the communal life of prayer, divinity active in the meditator at the time of this prayer is also active in the life of the community as we meditate together. In this we experience our being together and discover that our being, in its very nature, is being-in-relationship. This being-in-relationship, the being that we give attention to at the time of meditation, is the same being expressed for each other during the everyday practicalities of life together.

Meditation done together is a powerful way of forgetting ourselves so that we can leave room for each other in our hearts and in our daily routine. We discover through the experience of meditation and community together that the invitation to leave self behind is just as active in the practice of community as it is in the practice of meditation. Meditation is a part of community; community is a part of meditation. The practice of both together is about losing egoism so that we might mature in the inner and outer life of love. Commitment to this together practice is the most important thing. Success is secondary.

Community was important to John Main. He highlighted for us the reality that community is a fruit of meditation. For John Main meditation without a maturing in community was not yet being practiced at depth; meditation was not yet sharing in the human reality of being-in-relationship.

Meditation creates community. Our true nature revealed in stillness is being in relationship. Stillness together shows that we are members of one body, and that body is Christ. (Monastery Without Walls, 29).

True community happens in the process of drawing each other into the light of true being. (Word Into Silence, 73).

A monastery [or contemplative community] is a centre of prayer only to the degree that it is a community of love. (Community of Love, 96)

There were plenty of times during my stay at Meditatio House when I got caught up in putting too much emphasis on my and others performance as community members. I would forget that community, at its heart, is about growing in the grace of acceptance: of ourselves and others and of God’s offer of Godself (Love) to us. In acceptance there is space for healing and transformation.

I discovered that in a community of love any failure at loving makes our growth in love possible. How? When we fail to love, our fear of being ultimately unlovable can stir. If the people around us can show us the compassion and forgiveness that God has for us (even just a little), this deep lie of our own unlovableness can be exposed (become conscious) to us. In this exposure we have the chance to see and accept this unlovableness as the lie it is. With others around us behaving counter to this lie, we have the opportunity to grow in the experience of love. In time the love already within us and for us can move into our awareness and be consciously experienced. In this experience we are then freed to express love for others. This dynamic of love in human relationship is oftentimes imperceptible. All that is needed, however, is for one or two of us to be open just enough to the reality of this love, a love that is always with us.

Meditation creates community out of the energy of paradox. In the light of the experience of meditation we see ourselves and others as united and no longer as alienated. We are then free to act on the basis of what we really see. (Laurence Freeman, John Main: The Expanding Vision, 126)

Just as there is, at the surface, a paradox in saying a mantra that leads to silence, so there is a paradox in living and meditating with others who are disturbing to us. These paradoxical experiences, in time, lead to the peace of an integrated psyche. This is because integration seems to require an inner and relational tension. In meditation this tension is attention on the mantra. In community this tension is attention on the other and what is happening within me for this person to be experienced as disturbing.

This tension becomes the catalyst for change and growth – if we can stay present to it. This tension, when experienced in the present moment, becomes a part of the process of healing. It becomes a doorway into integration. Consequently it is not a tension that saps energy. It becomes the creative tension of the Holy Spirit – a tension moving within us as we meditate and live together.

Another part of my experience at Meditatio House was the opportunity to be in an environment that openly encouraged gifts and gave space for practice. During the course of the last ten years or so the desire in me to be a writer has grown. This continued at Meditatio House. The house gave me the change to practice writing. The life of the house also provided the opportunity to get back into playing guitar. I was also able to practice teaching meditation. These three things: writing, guitar, and teaching are what I am invited to continue doing after life at Meditatio House. And like the talents gifted to everyone, they are gifts for everyone. Our giftedness comes alive in the Spirit when it is done for others.

My thanks and deep appreciation to Laurence, Henriette, and to all the others I lived with while at Meditatio House. We were gift to each other in ways obvious and mysterious, seen plainly and to be seen in time.

 

 

 

 


Meditatio House: Woundedness and Essential Goodness

Here on the blog things have been a bit quiet of late. Attention has been elsewhere. The house community has been active with other things: the annual Bere Island WCCM Holy Week Retreat, and moving house. And for me personally, there has been the ongoing experience of grief with the death and passing of my mother.

For me, the Bere Island retreat was many things. Speaking generally I experienced an intensification of my inner reactivity towards others. Inward reactions that would have been more or less held in check until I could (hopefully) re-experience and process them later just poured out. It was a shock, I think, for others to see it and (in their own way) to experience it. It was a different side of the psychological me – the dark side of my moon. Andrew, unfiltered – the gap between feeling and response substantially narrowed. Response became reaction.

My sharp experience of community during the week, and the emerging experience of grief being done far away from family and friends, all this made the experience of Holy Week very difficult. Private emotions paraded themselves. Performance anxiety tightened its grip. Perfectionism swirled and coloured sight. Fear of rejection became (once again) a conscious companion. All the buttons were being pushed. My attention was claimed by, and caught in, the emotions, the wounds and the insecurities of my psyche.

Thankfully and wonderfully meditation was there to provide a balance to all this. During meditation attention was focused and re-focused on that essential goodness that is God and Self in communion deep within all of us.

An important part of the experience of the contemplative nature of spirituality is learning to hold together these two aspects of the human condition: our woundedness and our essential goodness. Something deep in us says we are not good, that we don’t deserve to be good. And yet, the more we practice attending to the depths of us, the more our already given goodness is lavished upon us.

As attention on the mantra is deepened, clarified, and focused (thanks to a regular practice) the paradox that is woundedness and essential goodness experienced together becomes, over time, resolved. Deep in goodness awaits the healing and the mercy of Christ. Perhaps we will spend a lot of our time, both during meditation and during life in general (over many years), pulling away from this goodness, this healing, this mercy. Divine love never gives up. If we can keep meditating, the chance of us giving up on ourselves lessens significantly.

It is so important that the mantra take root in the heart. As this happens real and substantive psychological healing takes place. Memories and feelings formally locked up and suppressed can be experienced, healed, and integrated. Energy that was used to suppress, repress, and protect is released for living. Jesus, the Divine Physician at the heart of us, loves us mysteriously and wonderfully into life.

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Bere Island 2016

This healing journey to the truth of us often requires the support of others, of course. A counsellor, a therapist, a spiritual guide, an experienced and wise meditating mentor – all of these can help. The Desert Mothers and Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries were these for many of their fellow monastics. What is important for the healing meditator is that the person they are receiving help from value meditation as a healing way. And it would be wonderful if this valuing was based on their own personal experience of meditation.

During Holy Week I experienced the both/and of the exposure of my reactivity and psychological wounds, along with the stability of attention in the goodness of being. Both happened alongside each other. The paradox of my inner life as both whole and as fractured was experienced. This was hard going. An established meditation practice can anchor us in our wholeness when the psyche becomes too tumultuous.

And remember: the mantra can be employed at any time. We don’t have to wait for our regular meditation time. The mantra sounding in the heart at any time as our psyche twists and turns can release divine healing and comfort in us for us.

Perhaps it would be best to end with some words from John Main: the one who, for many, ‘went on ahead’ into the experience of Christian meditation:

Now we must be very careful that we are not just intoxicated by the ideas of meditation, by the theory. The theory, once we begin to encounter it in practice, in our own heart, will fill us with wonder, but encounter it personally we must. That is why our daily practice is of supreme importance. What we have to learn to do is to take our potentiality absolutely seriously, to understand that the Spirit of Him who created the universe dwells in our hearts and, in silence, is loving to all, and we have to enter our own hearts to discover that Spirit within our own spirit. (The Door to Silence)


Meditatio House: (Stay Awake) and Do What is Appropriate (Part 2)

…and do what is appropriate.

What is the appropriate thing to do in any given moment? How do we know that it is appropriate?

The more attention we give to the moment and the longer we can simply be in the moment with this attention (that is, to stay awake), then the more we learn (through experience) about the now of the moment. We learn what it is about the experience of the now that invites appropriate action.

Zen and Christian spirituality (along with their own meditation practices) are both ways to practice being in the present moment and to develop the necessary sensitivity to live and act in the present moment, the now.

The Christian spiritual master Meister Eckhart has said

The most important hour is always the present. The most significant person is precisely the one sitting across from you right now. The most necessary work is always love.

Love can only happen now.

Christianity teaches that God’s will, in all its manifestations, is simply loving attention in action now. The Divine Life, as love, gives its attention fully to each moment. Our task is to learn to live attentively in this attention, being and acting more and more with and in it.

As I walked out the café gate I saw an older lady looking at a chalk board that was hung on the gate. “Oh, it’s closed” she said. “I was hoping for a coffee.” I looked at the board; on it was written ‘Closed’. I found myself saying “They’re still serving. I’m sure you could go in and get maybe a takeaway.”

Contemplative practice seeks to live the heart of Christian spirituality: living life open, attentive, and responsive to what the Divine Life in the moment is being attentive to. We simply grow in learning to love in the circumstances of the moment – whatever those circumstances might be.

The morning air was crisp and fresh. Attention, at least for now, was not caught in the compulsions that have it chasing thoughts and being lost in imaginings. The calling birds sung into clam. From deep within me came a soothing. It rose, welling, and enticing. In this silence of the morning an invitation came: “give yourself some loving attention. Be with me while you can.” Time to be, time to be in love – time to have attention turn (in)to Love. I gave Love attention as best as I could. Now, in the moment, attention became the way God loved me, the way I loved God, and the way we loved together.

Another way to practice staying in the present moment is to give attention to our bodily senses in the everyday. Using our senses in this way we can give attention to such things as the feel of a t-shirt on the body or the sensation of feet on the ground while walking. Smells and sounds can also ground us in the now, as can everyday practices such as brushing our teeth, washing up, and ironing. Giving and re-giving attention to these things is a spiritual and human practice that, when done regularly, helps ground us in the now where God is and where our attention can be re-claimed by a Love that wants to act through us.

As well as using our external senses to practice staying awake in the moment, attention can also be turned internally to observe thoughts, emotions, feelings, and imaginings. We can grow, for example, in the practice of observing our everyday reactions to events and people. Reactivity can be like a momentary release of repression revealing to us hidden wounds and attitude we would prefer to forget. In time, as we grow in a gentle, non-judging attention to these rich flashes of the deep of us (something that meditation helps us with), Love in the present moment heals and shapes us. Soon we find enough courage to see and grow in the acceptance of that within us that does not want to love.

Strangers broke into affection in front of me. Straight away I began to feel uncomfortable. “Why do people insist on treating public spaces like a living room?” Then they began to speak in intimacies: ‘I know life’s been a struggle, but I’m here for you.’ ‘Please call me if you need to.’ Their bodies clogged the space. Spontaneity and concern had them lost in their own familial world. Rather than soften, I cursed them for the inconvenience.

The more our senses can stay in the present moment, the more our attention can be shaped by the always present love-life of God. Living attentively in the moment leaves us exposed to a divine dynamic that would have us slowly forgetting ourselves for love’s sake.

The more time I spent in the palliative care room with mum and my family, the more I sensed that the most important thing to do was to be in the moment with mum and her experience of dying. Any time that I found myself away, distracted, or doing something else, these were the times when God and conscience invited me to come back and be present in these last physical moments with her. As I did this I experienced the challenge of my own experience of mum’s death. In the moment with mum was the invitation to simply be in love with her. The more I could be in the moment with mum, the more I was in love with her and my family. The more time spent in this moment meant less regret later.

Life in the present moment is where divinity has the chance to shine in us and through us. The Zen Master Robert Kennedy, while teaching us that evening at the Meditatio Centre*, passionately cried out: ‘Burn bright, breath by breath!’ Our everyday practices of attention now – meditation and attending to the people and everyday things of life – can enliven us and have us burning bright with other-centred loving attention.

Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. (Luke12:35-36).

* See ‘Meditatio House: (Stay Awake) and Do What is Appropriate (Part One)’.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Meditatio House: Disturbance and Stillness

In the sayings of the Desert Fathers there is a story about three friends. All three were not afraid of hard work. The three friends chose three different ways to engage with the world. One chose to work for peace among people who fought each other. One chose to spend his time serving the sick. The third went to the desert to live in “the stillness of prayer” (1).

The first friend found that he could not make peace among others. The second found serving the sick disheartening. After telling each other of their difficulties they decided to visit the third friend. After explaining to him what had happened, the two asked the third for advice.

After a short silence, [the third friend] poured some water into a bowl and said to them, ‘Look at the water’, and it was disturbed. After a little while he said to them again, ‘Look how still the water is now’, and as they looked into the water, they saw their own faces reflected in it as in a mirror. Then he said to them, ‘It is the same for those who live among men [sic]; disturbances prevent them from seeing their faults. But when a man [sic] is still, especially in the desert, then he sees his failings. (2)

The third friend had discovered in the desert that without inner stillness we cannot come to an appreciation of our faults, our shortcomings, the ways in which we fail. As long as these failings go unacknowledged the roots of our failure will undermine efforts for peace and make a compassionate life hard to maintain. The roots of our faults lie within us.

The third friend came to this discovery because he chose an environment free enough of others’ disturbances so that he might experience his own disturbances – both his faults and their roots. He chose to be with God in the tension of this experience. He did not distract himself from this tension. He was honest enough, true enough. With and in this truthfulness the Divine Life was able to integrate and heal his inner life. Rather than experiencing his mind as a bowl of water always disturbed, the third friend came to experience his inner life as stillness.

The roots of our faults could be seen as those wounds, motivations and beliefs we carry within us that contribute to the distorting of both our vision and our action away from love.

To see our faults is to both observe the action and to experience its roots. It is from this seeing that ‘holy tears’, the tears of own existential remorse, can flow.

At first sight this story seems to be about the promotion of living in the desert as the better way. In a world of disturbance, it seems, we cannot come to stillness, much like a bowl of water that is always disturbed.

Perhaps we could see the whole story of the three friends as a story of integration. The first two friends became disheartened with their choices because they were not yet integrated or still enough within themselves. It took the third friend to show them this and to offer them a way.

The way offered was the way of the desert. What is this desert way? It is a way committed to the minimising of external disturbance and distraction so that we may experience our own inner disturbance and distraction. In the honesty of this experience is the promise of healing and transformation – of a coming to stillness. In this stillness there is a clarity and simplicity of vision that has deep roots in Divine Love. In this stillness ego is quiet enough to be a servant of this Love rather than captive to woundedness and disintegration.

Meditaio House is a community committed to this minimising. We value and encourage silence. We have no TV. We regularly meet to practice and encourage honesty – honesty with ourselves and each other. We have guides, mentors that help us in this desert lifestyle. And we meditate. In meditation we gently experience that within us which prevents honesty.

Meditation helps us to live with each other in self honesty. Disturbances happen. The goal is to learn the art of staying in the tension of these disturbances – the present moment of them – without analysis or judgement. This is what the third friend can teach us all. In this present moment there is God and healing. If we can all do this together enough, then as Fr. Laurence said recently – community itself is therapy.

An old man said, ‘The monk’s cell is like the furnace of Babylon where the three children found the Son of God, and it is like the pillar of cloud where God spoke to Moses.’ (3)

Our cell, both of the heart and our physical living space, is the place where we can all encounter God and be purified in this encounter.

In this cell we grow in attention to stillness and the divinity in this stillness. Like Martha in the story of Martha and Mary (Lk10:38-42) we discover ‘the one thing necessary’: the stillness that is the foundation of contemplative action. Action from this stillness is a gift of love to a disturbed world. It is action which is not a striving. It is action as an expression of being. This is the kind of action (action that Chuang Tzu called ‘non-action’ (4)), which the world needs more of today.

Martha and Mary: He Qi

Martha and Mary: He Qi

(1) Benedicta Ward (trans) The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (1975, 1986), 1.
(2) Ward, 1.
(3) Ward, 25.
(4) ‘Action and Non-Action’ in Thomas Merton (trans) The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965, 1997), 80.


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