Tag Archives: Meditation

Ten Bulls 6. Riding the Bull Home

6. Riding the Bull Home

The rope is let go; the bull is now faithful.

The bull has been loved into gentleness.

Human nature is no longer hidden in struggle.

Herdsman and bull walk as one.

The melody of the heart draws them home: the herdsman plays and guides, the bull listens and carries.

Still the bull is the bull: strong, energetic. This energy is now for life – not resisting what is good.

The mantra is in the heart: keep listening to its song until it is no longer needed (you will not know when).

Isolation has passed: the bull is secure alone and together. Kindness happens without thought.

All this is the fruit of faithful discipleship: “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)

And the herdsman keeps feeling the bull, sensing the powerful movement underneath, hearing the snort. While this remains, still there is reaction, desire, however slight.

If we are to be here and now fully at home, these too must be graced away.

Experience the bull (without thought). It is now safe to go deep.

The bull wants to carry us home.

We must continue on in this intimate awareness of the bull.


Ten Bulls 5. Taming the Bull

5. Taming the Bull

Taming is done gently, firmly, consistently.

Never give up on the bull! Hold the rope!

This is how we keep growing in (thoughtless) awareness. Grace is in the struggle.

In time, the bull starts to follow the herdsman. As awareness persists, respect grows.

The herdsman no longer looks at the bull as he holds the rope.

Self-consciousness and consciousness are uniting.

Still the bull can struggle: stubbornness, wildness, deception.

Yet slowly, very slowly, the bull grows humble.

Say your mantra in the struggle. Keep going, persevere, remain faithful: one foot.

Practice good works. Attend to daily kindnesses: the other foot.

The bull is close, and now we see its scars: some new, some deep, some old. Long has the bull struggled.

Compassion grows. We see the bull with Divine eyes.

In time we see that the bull has emerged from the heart, the centre of consciousness.

The bellowing, the snorting eases. The bull is knowing true love.

We are losing egoism and finding heart.

As awareness, we love the bull.

‘For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.’ (Mathew 16:25)


Ten Bulls 4. Catching the Bull

4. Catching the Bull

The energy that is this flaring, simply be aware of it (without thought) as it erupts: this is catching the bull.

See how the herdsman holds the rope: this is being aware.

As this awareness grows so does our hold on the rope.

Our hold helps us to remain stable as the bull stampedes – again and again.

If it all becomes too much and we let the rope go – this is ok. All will be well.

Be still as you search and you will experience the bull again – without fail.

In all this, learning to stay with the first experience rather than splitting into thought and forgetting, we discover that not only is the bull wild: our bull is also wily and deceptive.

The bull always sleeps with one eye open.

This is why we say the mantra from beginning to end.

Attention on the mantra is experiencing the bull without focusing on the bull: a vital work! Here we become aware (without thought) of its subtleties and tricks.

More and more tricks: pleasure for pleasure’s sake, showing off, distraction and hiding.

For the bull it is all about survival.

Again and again we are dragged off. Keep a hold of the rope; find the rope, again and again!

Saying the mantra is learning to hold the rope.

In community our bulls herd together. They buck and rage, distract and hide.

Together we hold the rope in meditation and daily life.

In time it all becomes a kind of play: serious not solemn. It’s ok to smile, shake your head, and begin again.


Ten Bulls 1. The Search for the Bull

TheSearchForTheBull

Why do we search? What are we looking for?

Is there a recognition, however hidden, that something is missing?

But what? Is it happiness? Peace? Meaning? Wholeness? God?

Something is missing, and we can itch with a desire to find; a desire that grasps and tests, that consumes and moves on.

How has this happened?

We live in a divided state, somehow estranged and yet somehow ourselves.

The desire is to find ourselves. But, who am I?

Notice the herdsman: feet pointing one way, head looking the other.

We are divided; self-consciousness is separate from consciousness.

Our head is pointing in the wrong direction. How can we possibly see where we are going?

Conversion is the turning of the head so that feet and head are together as we walk.

Metanoia: change your mind, turn your head. Be attentive to your feet.

The two feet are meditation and daily life. With these we walk on our way; sometimes restless, sometimes listless, sometimes happy, and somehow searching. As we practice, as we live, our heads slowly turn.

On we go into the experience of our own division, into the ways in which we live with true nature forgotten.

On this path of life, we live out of habits and attitudes that seem to hinder. We resist people and happenings that could be somehow good for us. What’s going on?

Let the grace in walking turn your head.


Cemetery In My Mind: Midnight Oil

The Australian band Midnight Oil are back together and touring the world. Their Great Circle Tour is circuiting the globe with the band’s distinctive sound and message. Politics, the environment, social justice, and the ‘human condition’: all are featured. Distraction and lethargy are not an option. The prophets have returned to wake up the dead and jolt the living.

I had a search through their catalogue to find a song that might be of use for us. While most of their music is decidedly action-focused, there are some that attempt an ‘introspective kick-in-the pants’. Cemetery in My Mind is one such song.

For me the message of the song is blunt: what do you want to be – death alive or living a life?

There is a dynamic in culture that distracts from purpose, from meaning, from the heart’s calling. It would have us in the mall, the shopping centre, consumers. How many of us seek to salve emptiness with the latest product or device?

Life as going through the motions, life as avoidance of hurts, life as fear of possibilities: all this can make a cemetery of the mind and life.

What of our dreams, our purpose, our meaning, our calling? How do we find these? How do we deepen in them? Is it too late? Purpose, meaning, calling: what is the experience of these things?

When life becomes dry enough, when dreams die, when no direction affects us enough, despite fear we can start to ask deeper questions: ‘You can fall, but can you rise?’

In the now, not in tomorrow, is the heart. In the centre of consciousness, in the centre of mind is the always alive spiritual heart. It has for us purpose, meaning, and calling. Amid distraction, hurt, and fear we can (if we want to) learn to steadily hear it. In the hearing, there is the following.

We cover consciousness and the heart with too much thinking. Too much imagining, reflecting, assessing – all this and more can keep attention from being in touch with the deeper wisdom of the heart. We then forget how to hear the heart, or if we do, the hearing can often be fleeting – like an echo of the sound of something loving and familiar.

Healthy spiritual paths will have practical ways to guide us into the hearing of our hearts. If all we get are ‘mother statements’ – listen to your heart, follow your dreams – with no practical ways, then hope becomes strained and frustration can rise because the path has become ethereal.

Long standing spiritualities and religions do have practical ways to the heart. One such practical way is meditation. How can meditation help? By giving attention to a word or phrase, for at least 20 minutes a day morning and evening, there will be an effect. Regular practice of this way will see the mind, over time, quieten. As thoughts and imaginings soften, there will be more space for feelings to rise and fall, heal and integrate. Thinking will become something that happens more appropriately and less often. In the space now within, a space once occupied by too much thinking and emotional disorder, the heart moves into awareness.

As we become aware, we experience the heart’s drawing and longing. In time and with guidance we can come to understand that certain people, places, and things draw our hearts and cause them to long. The practical ways in which we follow this drawing and longing become our way of purpose, of meaning and calling.

Life can be more than ‘wake work drink sleep retire’.

 


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


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