Tag Archives: Mind

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’.

 


The Shed: Be, Into Silence (Part 1)

It’s November now. It’s been a good couple of months since I got back from the Shed and Mossy Point (see The Shed: Be In Time and Poised for Adventure below). I’ve been giving time to other writing projects and, as a result, I haven’t been contributing much to the blog.

One of the fruits of time in the Shed was a re-connection with silence. I forgot just how much the general activity and sound of life can get in the way of quiet and silence. The Shed and the nature of Mossy Point had in them an invitation to come back into the sustaining silence which we are always in and from which we all come.

One book that I took with me into this time was Silence: A Users Guide (Volume One) by Maggie Ross. Reading this book, in the solitariness of the Shed, was a needed ‘kick in the pants’. It laid bare the need now for more of us to engage in ‘the work of silence’: to prioritize a life committed to cultivating practical silence in life. In silence we encounter the roots of our being, not just in God, but also in creation – a creation which God has fully and lovingly given the divine life to. In silence we remember that we are a part of this creation, especially when we find ourselves in the silence of creation itself.

So many lives today are divorced from our being in silence and the silence of creation. As a result, the union with creation that we all share, a union that this silence can re-acquaint us with, is lost. Add to this our tendencies to over-consume and view the planet as more of a resource than a revered and precious home,  and we can see why this planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity are in trouble. Ross pulls no punches when she maintains that we are ‘sleepwalking towards our own extinction’. At the very least we are meandering towards a planet that can no longer sustain the sum of us as we are now, nor the consequences of our actions as they currently stand.

In the face of this the divine life is fostering contemplatives – in all walks and ways of life. A contemplative is simply someone who accepts deeply that we are human beings. A contemplative is someone committed to the practical living of life from the deep of who we are. They accept that learning to be ourselves involves learning to be receptive and responsive to the deep mind – where the mystery of us is and where we can unfold from. From this deep we can learn to live lives of connection and reverence with each other and the whole planet.

A contemplative is not a consumer.

Encountering our humanity at this depth means somehow entering silence. Human wisdom maintains that in order to enter silence we need to  lay aside self-consciousness with all its thoughts, imaginings, and emotion. We have lived in a time where an over-focus on the self-conscious mind has lead to a forgetting of our deep truth. We are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings.

We are at the point now where the life of the planet and the future of humanity depends on us coming home to the deep of who we are. This is why contemplative practice of any kind is so important right now. Whether it be meditation, gardening, knitting, good conversation – anything that has attention lost (for a time) to our over reliance on self-consciousness. We are too self-conscious.We need relationships and spaces where it is safe to forget ourselves. As we do this we discover that forgetting ourselves is as natural as breathing. And as this happens we remember ourselves: you and me in the depth of us sharing nature with divinity itself; a divinity that is relational and loving.

The future of us on this planet depends on us practicing a turning away from self-consciousness (a denying if you will) and expressing more of our relational and loving selves.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

 

 

 


Never Let Me Go: Florence + the Machine and Spiritual Surrender

In his short story ‘Klein and Wagner’ the novelist Herman Hesse has Klein (his main character) coming to an understanding, an insight about the nature of the human mind. Klein experiences this insight one still night as he gently slips through the surface of a dark lake, sinking irretrievably into its depths.

Klein’s insight: ‘..the only thing that filled the world with differences, opinions, suffering, conflict, war, was the human mind, the young, tempestuous, and cruel human mind in the stage of rash youth, still far from knowledge, still far from God.’

It could be said that sin (that ‘old-fashioned’ term that means basically a falling short, a failing to act in ways consistent with goodness and love), has many a seed in this still young and tempestuous human mind.

Florence + the Machine’s song ‘Never Let Me Go’ brings to my mind this experience of the character Klein. Indeed the lyrics of the song could be coming, I think, from Klein’s mouth as he sinks (albeit he is sinking into a lake and not the sea).

Have a look at the ‘Never Let Me Go’ YouTube link above before reading on.

‘..it’s peaceful in the deep’, ‘..no need to pray, no need to speak’, ‘..found a place to rest my head’, ‘..all this devotion I never knew at all…for a sinner released,’ ‘..and it’s over, and I’m going under, but I’m not giving up! I’m just giving in.’

The song speaks to me of an experience of abandonment, of surrender, a giving in. Life sometimes invites surrender and openness to experience. It is our minds, at times so caught up in caution, distrust, difference, distraction, the fear of uncertainty; it is our minds that can come between human life and an experience of openness to divine love and freedom at the heart of life. Surrender and openness can be about embracing life as basically good and out of our control: holding a lover’s hand, watching birds in a tree, seeing the opportunity in crisis – all these and more have in them invitations to abandon to and grow in openness to life as a creation of Divine Love.

Christian spirituality also speaks of the importance of this giving in. It is indeed not a giving up. Giving up can speak of hopelessness more than hope. Giving in is more about entering into the grace-filled pilgrimage of allowing our egos to be divinely loved; allowing them to fall away from attempts at control and being at the centre of things. As this allowing happens in and through the experiences of life (sometimes in psychically painful and disorientating ways), what can be experienced is a mind ‘falling’ into a new centre: that mysterious ‘selfless self’ of being. In this new centre we can experience the mind of God and allow this mind to affect our own mind. And in time we can find our mind drawing ever closer to God’s mind. As our human minds continue to mature in this grace we discover that maturity means being secure enough in mind to surrender to life’s experiences knowing that these experiences will not annihilate who we most deeply are.

A practice like Christian meditation is about the encouragement and facilitation of a human mind growing deeper into this maturity of surrender. Our faithful giving of attention to our mantra de-centres mind away from ego and readies us to embrace the grace waiting for us within both life’s external and internal experiences. Indeed there can be times during meditation when the mind is quiet and still enough that all that is left is our surrender to Being. And this Being, this Divine Love, never lets us go.

(For more on music, spiritual experience, and Christian Meditation have a look at the Facebook page ‘Art of Depth: Rock and Spiritual Experience‘).


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