Tag Archives: Mysticism

Third Eye: Florence & the Machine. Seeing and Living Truly

Humanity could be described as ‘embodied spirits’. Both of these words are as important as each other. We are embodied, incarnated. The stuff of life is valuable and sacred. Florence affirms this when she sings: ‘You are flesh and blood!’ And we also have in our mysterious depths that essence of us, that who we are at our deepest; our point of Originality in and with the divine life – our spirit. Is this what Florence appeals to (perhaps unknowingly) when she sings ‘Hey, look up!’ ?

Living truly, from spirit, helps us to see and live in the embodied sacredness of life. This means living relationally – with ourselves, others, creation, and the God within all.

For me this song is about the struggle to live truly, from this spirit as a whole human being. This spirit within us is our ‘original lifeline’. The mysterious spirit within is our Point of Truth, an always present Home to which we can return and, with practice, live life from. It is the ‘where within’ that prayer can help us be attentive to. It is where our spirit and the Divine Spirit are already one.

Our ‘third eye’ could be described as that mysterious intuitive perception that both includes and goes beyond the rational. It is a divine gift that originates from our oneness in spirit with the Divine Life. It is human intuition infused with divine wisdom. This song asks us to grow in seeing ourselves as our third eye sees us.

This third eye is appealing to that which Divinity has not created: the lies of worthlessness we have absorbed into the marrow of our bones; the deep memories and psychic wounds that get in the way of us accepting and living in the glory that we already are. We get caught, trapped, in the lies of a real unreality.

We are loved, deeply and completely. No lie can stop this, but a lie can stop our experience of it. This is the power we give to lies.

It is the ‘original tragedy’ of human relating that we are not more expressive of our fully loved and loving roots.

Our third eye sees into the original tragedy of our woundedness – that hole in our hearts where lies fester. Part of healing and integration is allowing this third eyesight into our awareness. Yes, our conscious selves can pull away from what our third eye sees. Yet, with time and living, this deeper intuition can become irrepressible. In this song Florence is chronicling some of her own irrepressible journey towards wholeness.

As the experience of our wounds moves into awareness suffering grows. Some of us actually cling to this suffering, allowing it to define them. Rather than the experience of suffering being a part of healing it becomes a meaning for living. Rather than have love embrace us, the pain of suffering can be worn like a mantle – that piece of experience we clothe ourselves with to keep life, love, and intimacy away. The lie that we simply do not deserve what we already have and are can be stubborn and strong – we make it so. While wearing this mantle, we can reject the people and experiences of life that are inconsistent with the lies we live and believe.

But your pain is a tribute
The only thing you let hold you
Wear it now like a mantle
Always there to remind you

Where is the way out of all this? We can feel the same, like nothing is changing. Something in us doesn’t want to change. And yet, still we try to change as if something in us does want to change.

The true and the loving in us embraces change. To grow in the spirit is to change. We change into who we most deeply are. This change is what we are here for – to become in our whole humanity who we already are in spirit: a unique, glorious, and beautiful life of love. This reality, once touched, once experienced, is too enticing to be ignored.

The contemplative life is a human life enticed by the spirit, a life drawn into becoming true love on earth. Only God can make this happen. It does involve struggle. It is a struggle that grows into the ‘slow burn’ joy that only divinity can fuel.

Prayer in touch with our contemplative and human roots is prayer at the service of our growth into love. This kind of prayer is deep and therapeutic. It is prayer as therapy for the soul.

Meditation is one form of this deep prayer. Attention on the mantra gives divinity within us the time and space needed to heal and integrate the whole of us. As this happens we may need to name and experience thoughts, emotions, and memories that our consciousness has (up to that point) repressed. At these times it is useful to have someone wise to journey with.

Meditation guides attention towards our spirit and its third eye. A fruit of regular meditation practice is an inner life more and more attentive to this third eye, this deep human and divine intuition within us. As we heal and integrate we grow in being able to see a little more clearly with this eye ourselves, and the people and the happenings around us. This seeing is divine gift that happens as we grow in self forgetting.

Christian spirituality describes this self-forgetting seeing with the third eye as having the mind of Christ.

The spiritual person, on the other hand, can assess the value of everything, and that person’s value cannot be assessed by anyone else. For: who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his advisor? But we are those who have the mind of Christ. (1Cor2:14-16)


Meditatio House: Silent Haiku Walking Still

Last week I went on a 7 day silent retreat. It was wonderful. It seems that the more I am able to practice meditation and take the time to stare at the trees, then the more silence is becoming my default.

On the retreat we practiced something called ‘contemplative walking’. Walking contemplatively is the simple practice of walking with attention focused on the act of walking. The walking itself is slow and gentle, though still quite natural. We would walk together in a line that snaked around a garden path. We would walk between meditation sessions or just prior to sessions.

It was hoped that the stillness we would experience in our bodies as we sat to meditate would be taken into the walking. We could then maintain and experience this inner stillness in our bodies as we gently walked. Ideally the walking would act as a ‘kind of bridge’ (as our retreat leader termed it) that would help us to take the stillness of meditation into our each day of general movement.

The movement of the body need not be a distraction to living in stillness. As a meditation practice deepens and we grow in being grounded and attentive to the stillness within us, it becomes quite natural to ‘carry’ this sense of stillness into the movement of each day – no matter what the day might bring. The reality of inner stillness, along with the silence and the peace that can accompany it, can then become more and more palpable to others through us. It’s a stillness we don’t own or possess, of course. We simply live in it more and more without claiming it as our own.

Something else some of us did on this silent retreat was to write haikus. A haiku is a form of simple poetry. First done in Japan, the poem consists of only three lines. The first line contains 5 syllables, the second 7, and the third is back to 5 syllables. This form of writing is about using as few words as possible. In this way the haiku can describe the essence of an experience without having the words get in the way of the description. The writing itself is a way of training attention primarily on the experience of something rather than on the words. Perhaps then something of this experiential essence can be relayed to the reader.

Here is one haiku I wrote about the experience of stillness and contemplative walking on the retreat:

Contemplative walk
Silent still moving body
Tappy tap tap-tap

We would meditate, walk, and then meditate all before breakfast. What I noticed at breakfast was that, although nobody spoke, there was still noise. The ‘tappy tap tap-tap’ is the sound of metal spoons on crockery as we ate our breakfast cereals. The sound was quite noticeable, even intrusive on occasions.

At the time of the experience the haiku is describing, it occurred to me that we had not yet made the connection between the silence and stillness of meditation and the same silence and stillness that we could be present to while we ate breakfast. Noise, noise that we could regulate if enough were aware of it, was covering (for me) the silence and the stillness. The contemplative walk had not been a bridge between meditation and breakfast (at least not that morning). Meditation, the morning contemplative walk, and breakfast were being lived as separate; and a noise as everyday as spoons on crockery was enough to distract my attention.

We can all live out the human tendency to separate noise and silence, stillness and movement. The quiet of a 5am start is soon lost in the 8:30am traffic; silence is experienced as being shattered by a car alarm; a gentle care between couples can appear to vanish as their children begin to scream and shout.

There can be a duality in our experience of stillness and the activity of life. One of our great spiritual and human challenges is to nurture a deep attentiveness to inner stillness and silence that can be lived in the activity and circumstance of each day. Stillness and activity, silence and noise need not be in opposition to each other. A regular meditation practice, one done in and with the ordinariness of each day, is vital to the harmonising of stillness and activity, silence and noise.

I notice this phenomenon of duality at Meditatio House. We can, after meditation, rumble about the hallway and kitchen quickly forgetting what we have just been a part of and, indeed, continue to be a part of after we leave the meditation room: silent stillness, still silence. This is not to say that noise should not be a part of life in the house, or that fun should be silent – far from it.

And yet, at Meditatio House we are invited to be a part of the cultivation of the contemplative life – a life which has at its heart silence and stillness even in the mist of noise and movement.

Meditation is about growing in the ability to live quietly amid noise and to be still while moving. Noise need not stop the experience of quiet; stillness can still be the ground of attention as we move. If this both/and is to be lived, then a connection between meditation as silent stillness and the rest of our lived lives needs to be made and deepened. As this connection grows the ‘someone who meditates’ can become, over time, the ‘contemplative who meditates’.

As the Desert Fathers and Mothers have said:

How we live is how we pray,
how we pray is how we live.


Meditatio House: Incarnation and Divinisation

During the Christmas season the words of Meister Eckhart are never far from my mind. Eckhart (1260 – 1327/8) was born in Erfurt in Thuringia (Germany). He is one of the better known Rhineland Mystics. A recurring theme in his work is that of the eternal Word of God not only being born in time and humanity through Jesus – it is also that this Word is born in time and humanity through us. Eckhart’s German Sermons in particular highlight this birth of the Word in the world through Jesus and us. For example:

Here in time we are celebrating the eternal birth which God the Father bore and unceasingly bears in eternity, because this same birth is now born in time, in human nature.

What does it avail me that the birth is always happening, if it does not happen to me? That it should happen in me is what matters.

The Christmas tree at Meditatio House

The Christmas tree at Meditatio House

In Christian theology, the eternal Word, this creative movement of the divine life, is that manifestation of the divine life that brings all of Creation into being and existence, and which eventually became incarnate (personified, embodied) in the humanity of Jesus. This Word, as a manifestation of the divine life, is uncreated Love creating.

For Eckhart this Word is always seeking birth and expression within Creation. It did not stop in Jesus. It is a condition of our humanity to have this Word in us seeking a conscious birthing in the world through us. It is a condition of the Word as Love (other-centred and giving) that it be always seeking this expression.

What is in us that can stop this birthing of Love did not stifle Love’s reality in Jesus. As a result Jesus, both within himself and in his actions, lived a radically human and loving life. In this, Jesus shows us that to be human is to be loving. And in Jesus humanity has become a full participant in the divine Love-life of God. The resurrection of Jesus is the Gospel witnessing to this full participation.

God now “unceasingly bears” the both human and divine Word in God’s own life and in us. And so, this human and divine Word can now be birthed in us – if we want it. God can be birthed in us because God was born in Jesus.

This is how, in effect, Christianity ‘gets around’ the creature/Creator distinction that is so important to its theology, while still maintaining the integrity of this distinction. With the human and divine Word of Jesus God unifies this distinction in God’s own life. This ‘unified distinction-in-God’ then becomes the catalyst through which the divine life can deify our earthly human nature. Divinity can make us divine because Divinity became human in Jesus.

To be deified, or divinised, is to have the life of God already in us be born in us. It is to allow this Word, this Christ, this Love in creative action, to transform our whole humanity so that the image of God that we each uniquely and mysteriously are can be lived by us and clearly seen by others. This is the process of a lifetime. It is Eckhart who says: ‘The more and more clearly God’s image shows in us, the more evidently God is born in us.’

It is our lack of faith and belief that this deifying can actually happen to us that stops this divinisation from happening.

Christmas, for me, as well as being the celebration of this Word incarnate in the birth of Jesus, is also about the potentialities of this creative Word in us. In the Incarnation our divinisation here and now becomes possible. It is this divinisation that makes possible the revealing of this Word, this Christ, in the world through us. In the words of Peter:

By his divine power, he has lavished on us all the things we need for life and for true devotion, through the knowledge of him who has called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these, the greatest and priceless promises have been lavished on us, that through them you should share the divine nature and escape the corruption rife in the world through disordered passion. (2Pet 1:3,4).

Disordered passion in this sense can be the way in which we attach and cling to the material and the temporary of life as if these were God. To be both deified and material is to walk through the world consciously sharing in God’s immortality, being sensitive to that of us which transcends the material of life. The temporary of life is no longer a divine surrogate for us because we are living in Divinity as deified and earthly humanity.

In the simplicity and stillness of our meditation practice the promise of our earthly human nature becoming divine is quietly being realised. The discipline of our gentle returning to the mantra after distraction is the prayerful way through which we are deified. As the mantra sinks with attention deeply into our heart and being, we grow in a silence that resonates with God’s life in us. In this resonating our humanity and Christ become one. It is in this way that all the desires of life become a divine and human expression of the Love life of God (that is, not disordered).

The internal conditions for our divine birthing described by Eckhart share a striking similarity to the conditions promoted by meditation:

The soul in which this birth is to take place must keep absolutely pure and must live in noble fashion, quite collected, and turned entirely inward: not running out through the five senses into the multiplicity of creatures, but all inturned and collected and in the purest part: there is His place; He disdains anything else. (Eckhart, German Sermon 1).

Meditation, as contemplative prayer, is the practice of inturning and recollecting our senses towards God. The more we can turn attention inward and live life inwardly turned towards God, the more this birthing, this deifying, takes place.

May Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word we carry in our hearts, continue to be the catalyst for our divinisation in the year to come. His Spirit, God’s Spirit, is with us. We already are God’s children. Divinisation is the birthing of this reality in the material of our life.


Meditatio House: What Comes Up on the Way

John Main describes the first task of the mantra as “to bring those surface areas of the mind into harmony with the deeper peacefulness within.” (Awakening 1)*. There is always a deep peace within us. The more we live with our attention at the surface of consciousness (our self-consciousness) the more out of touch we can be with this deep peace. How long this first task of the mantra takes is not important. What is important is that we meditate with a growing faithfulness, steadily growing in our attendance to the mantra. The fruits of our attending grow in us and in our lives as we journey into this harmony between the surface and the deep.

As this harmony grows, what John Main describes as “the second task of the mantra” begins to take place: the mantra can begin to stir what lies in our psyches’ shadow. The energy we have used for years to repress fears, guilt, and painful memories begins to shift. What was in the dark of us begins to move into the light of our awareness. It is not uncommon for meditators to feel in these times feelings that they have not felt for some time (years, perhaps going back into childhood), or perhaps to feel more intensely feelings that they have been feeling for some time (anxiety, for example).

For many, this shadow experience is part of the meditation pilgrimage into a conscious awareness of the union we all share with the Divine. If we are to consciously experience in the ordinary of our lives this union, then what is in the shadows must come to light, be named, and in this way be integrated. The ‘oneing’ of our psyche with the Divine life cannot happen without this integration of consciousness. In fact, in a very real way, the oneing is this integration.

As this integration happens awareness of the Divinity within us becomes a conscious experience. The words of St. Paul come alive: ‘It is not I who lives, it is Christ who lives in me.’ We experience the mystery of who we most deeply are as we lose self-consciousness more and more in the light of Christ consciousness as it rises though our shadow’s fading dark. Our consciousness, in time, becomes Christ consciousness. This becoming is a work of God that in no way compromises our uniqueness.

As this process happens energy is released from the project of repression that is the cause of the shadow in us. This energy then becomes available for life and for loving. It becomes easier to be and participate in love. We discover a new normal, that is, we encounter our original normal.

This second task of the mantra can take decades. It can never end.

As this integration is happening we continue to say the mantra. It is the mantra that facilitates the integration. It helps us to experience and name what is coming up for us. Sometimes this is done in and with peace, sometimes not.

Attending to the mantra may be a challenge at times, especially if we are encountering strong feelings and painful memories. Compassion for ourselves may require that we stop meditating as these feelings and memories come up. It may even mean that we seek psycho-therapeutic help and/or assistance from a wise spiritual companion.  What is important for the meditator is that we ultimately remain faithful to what grace is doing in us through a gentle re-giving of attention to the mantra sooner rather than later.

In the words of Fr. John

Just say the mantra and keep saying the mantra. This is what will free you from the bondage that prevents the majority of people from praying with absolute freedom. It will free you from the chains of your own repressed fears and anxieties that are the principal cause of those surface distractions. That is why this form of prayer is of such immense importance, because it frees you from those compulsions and the chains of guilt and fear. (John Main, Awakening 1).

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This is an important point: the “principle cause” of our surface distractions are our own “repressed fears and anxieties”.

What is happening during this second task of the mantra is the eradication of the deep inner roots of our distractions. As this happens the noise, bustle, and hyperactivity of the external world loses its hold on us. The external world’s ‘points of purchase’ in us fade because our repressed fears and anxieties are fading in the light of Christ and our growing integration. We are experiencing Jesus as the ‘divine therapist’ (to use the description used by Thomas Keating).

What is happening here is nothing less than the transformation (or salvation) of the whole of our psyche. For this transformation to be ongoing what is required from us is a growth in the giving of the whole of us to this ongoing transformation. Divinity has given everything, God’s whole life, to this transformation of us and all creation. To be a full flowering of this divinely inspired transformation we too must give our all to it. In this giving is our greatest happiness because we are made to be  conscious manifestations of Divine Love in creation. Our attending to the mantra is the giving of ourselves to this process of transformation.

However, as we attempt to give ourselves to this process of transformation, we soon discover that we cannot do it ourselves. We need God to help us give ourselves to God. We come to experience our own inner poverty in the form of ego fear, stubbornness, and pride. In time though attending to the mantra becomes not only our practice of giving ourselves to God, it also becomes our practice of dependency on God.

As this giving and dependency grows we discover a God of unconditional love restoring to us our birthright: a life of free, loving, and creative adventure. The trust we grow in enables God to restore us to ourselves.

This is the inner pilgrimage of meditation that happens as a stable practice grows. The community at Meditatio House is committed to assisting the establishment of this stability in every meditator who meditates with us. We know and are coming to know these stages of the mantra from and in our own experience.

* The full transcript of Awakening 1 is available here from the WCCM website (2014).


Meditatio House: Mr Curly and the Space Between

Michael Leunig (Loo-nig), according to his website, “is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet.” I, and many, would add the description mystic to this list. Many Australians, and perhaps a few others, have their favourite cartoons from Leunig cut out and stuck to fridges, notice boards and alike. Some of these cartons have followed me to Meditatio House and are accompanying me on the meditatio experience. This one, for instance:

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“Mr Curly transports wayfaring pilgrims away from the bad mood of the world to the peaceful shores of Lake Lacuna, a small, mystical and beautiful place of sanity which lies between the large, uncontrollable forces, the great powers, and the major issues. The little goat-drawn cart has been carved from a huge potato.”

Mr. Curly is a recurring character in Leunig’s cartoons. The Curly Flat website describes him thus:

Mr. Curly, of the paradoxically named town of Curly Flat, is a happy and optimistic fellow. Everyone in Curly Flat has the curious cranial feature: “..the curl is the tender, unfurling motion of nature’s growth; the unfolding consciousness; the way in which the heart reaches out into the world”.

Mr. Curly represents our loving, heartfelt best. He is a ‘fool in the world’, someone unaffected by the complications we create. He is fearless. He lives an enlightened playfulness, the playfulness of an integrated state. He is the human heart incarnate on the cartoonist’s page. He is, in his own way, the integration of ego and self that is a fruit of the contemplative way.

Perhaps a Buddhist might call him the image of a Bodhisattva. Some Christians may see him as a representation of the Christ consciousness within. I look at him and feel the pull of the divine life deep within me. Perhaps he’s just Mr. Curly. The bad mood of the world is a stranger to him.

The human and spiritual life is indeed a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage away from something to something else: from woundedness to healing; egoism to otherness; disintegration to integration; isolation to community; from fear to love. It’s a pilgrimage that does not proceed ‘as the crow flies’. It is a meandering journey, one that invites the development of patience and trust, one that reveals the destination as traveling with us.

Mr. Curly holds the reins of a goat. The goat is the force, the energy of the carrying cart. As Mr. Curly holds the reins he also guides the goat. The pilgrims can simply relax and experience the ride. Maybe the goat is a bit like grace – the grace of the goat. We need not be the energy of the pilgrimage. There is a creative energy in Creation that we learn, on the way, to participate in and be with. We learn to let go of the lie that ego is the source of this creative energy.

Lake Lacuna is the ‘unfilled space’, the gap between the forces, powers, and issues that can affect us and too much occupy the mind. It is a space because these forces, powers, and issues are absent. The absence of these things is stillness and silence. We can reclaim our inner stability and our sanity here. And we can experience the presence of Love.

What about the potato cart? Perhaps for the Christian meditator the cart is our mantra. It is a simple word, a word of the earth that grounds us and carries us, with grace, into the lacuna – the absence of things that reveals the presence of God.

Attention on the mantra is like riding the cart. As we meander along, deeper into the experience of the expansion of consciousness beyond ego, we ride the mantra lightly. Its movement becomes familiar to us. It moves with grace. Our lacunic arrival into the absence of distraction and self-consciousness, even if for a brief ‘moment-less moment’, would realise the potato as empty. Upon becoming aware of the lacuna we find ourselves in, it is time once again, to climb aboard the cart and continue our wayfaring journey into this mysterious, ever present silence.

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Meditatio House: Naked Attention and the Prayer of Quiet

This week, on October 15, we remembered one of our contemplative ‘Soul Sisters’: St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). During her lifetime Teresa set about the difficult task of reforming Carmelite convent life. She entered a Carmelite convent in 1535. In 1562, as part of the reform, Teresa founded the first of several convents for her Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite nuns at Avila in Spain.

Teresa was a mystic who simply wanted convents dedicated to the seeking of and the experience of God.

In about 1565 Teresa began writing a book for her fellow nuns of the reform called The Way of Perfection. In Chapter 31 of this book Teresa attempts an explanation of what is meant by the Prayer of Quiet. She uses the analogy of a baby at its mother’s breast in her attempt to describe what the experience of this prayer is like:

The soul is like an infant still at its mother’s breast: such is the mother’s care for it that she gives it its milk without its having to ask for it so much as by moving its lips. That is what happens here. The will simply loves, and no effort needs to be made by the understanding, for it is the Lord’s pleasure that, without exercising its thought, the soul should realise that it is in his company, and should merely drink the milk which His majesty puts into its mouth and enjoy its sweetness. The Lord desires it to know that it is He Who is granting it that favour and that in its enjoyment of it He too rejoices. (94).

What is being described here is the grace, or gift, of the soul’s experience of sweetness, of sustenance which can emanate from the mysterious event of our attention being lost in God. It is grace in that we don’t make it happen, nor do we have any control over if and when it happens. I suspect that it can happen more than we realise. We don’t have to be in a convent or monastery; we don’t need to be a monk or a nun. We simply need to be a human being who is practicing the daily art of attending in the ordinary of life.

Most mornings I sit outside as I have breakfast. It is a simple joy to be with the birds and the squirrels as they wake with the sun and begin their morning routines. We have a fountain and pond at the bottom of the yard and sometimes I see pigeons, magpies, finches all taking their turns to bathe in the fountain. It is delightful. It is a delight that takes me over, a delight that has the fragrance of the eternal imbued within it. This is something of the sweetness, the mother’s milk, of which Teresa speaks. This delight is helped along by our three times a day practice of meditation, or the giving of attention to God. With regular attendance to the divine within comes  a feel for, a sense of, just where this divine life is in each day. Life becomes prayer.

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During this Prayer of Quiet Teresa says that “the will simply loves” and that “no effort needs to be made by the understanding”, that is, no thought needs to be exercised. This thoughtlessness is what we grow in as we meditate. Attention to the mantra, when done faithfully and in growing thoughtlessness, has us growing in the Love life that we are practicing attention to. Love is about the experience of love. Lovers simply enjoy each others company. Think too much about the experience and we can miss out on having the experience.

Teresa goes on to say:

But it is not His will that the soul should try to understand how it is enjoying it, or what it is enjoying; it should lose all thought of itself, and He Who is at its side will not fail to see what is best for it. If it begins to strive with its mind so that the mind may be apprised of what is happening and thus induced to share in it, it will be quite unable to do so, and the soul will perforce lose the milk and forgo that Divine sustenance. (94).

I’m not out the back each morning taking detailed notes on what I am experiencing, nor theorising as to how it might be happening. I am simply in the experience (more or less) without thinking much about it. If I do think about it as it happens, then the thinking can get in the way of the experience itself. More than that, the thinking becomes a distraction to the experience of delight and the delight stops. My attention is elsewhere.

Each event of love invites our attention. Whether meditating, in the backyard with the birds and the squirrels, having a coffee with a friend, in a lover’s embrace, or being present to another’s pain – Love is in all the happenings of life, all the darkness and light of life. As our attention grows into God and is refined by the experience of God, we begin to see that nothing happens without the divine life being in and with it. It is us who lose touch with this.

During meditation we are practicing the sustained art of giving attention to the mantra. This practice, in effect, gives our mind the mantra to focus on while the mantra itself falls into the silence of God at our depths. As this happens the mind grows quiet because its attention is on the mantra as it falls into this silence. Grace has its own gravity. The mantra simply falls with this gravity of grace, bringing our attention and our quietening mind with it into the Being of God. As this happens we “lose all thought” of ourselves.

To lose all thought of ourselves means attention is becoming naked, losing the garments given it by a mind attempting to understand. Garments like thought, image, and emotion. What naked attention ‘looks’ like we do not know because naked attention can no longer be used by the mind to perceive. All the clothing of perception and sense have been set aside. Only naked attention can be in silence. Teresa’s Prayer of Quiet is experienced with naked attention.

During meditation, if attention attends to understanding then attention is distracted; it is being re-clothed by the mind with thought, image, emotion. When this happens we gently re-give attention to the mantra so that the clothing of the mind can, once again, be set aside.

With regular meditation we walk through each day with attention lightly clothed. With less and less to distract us we experience Divinity more and more in the ordinary of life. Like Teresa we grow in the experience of the Divine roots of life’s delight.


Meditatio House: Embers of Senseless Grace

In a meditation group that I am a part of someone recently asked ‘what do I do with my breathing during meditation, while saying the mantra?’ There are no fixed guidelines about this. Some people are attentive to the mantra as they breathe out, others as they breathe in. Still others split the mantra and say ma-ra on their out breath and na-tha on their in breath. It comes down to whatever works for us. The combination of breathing and mantra soon finds a rhythm that we are comfortable with. Our breathing comes to serve attention to the mantra.

As the mantra deepens into our bodies, as it falls over time from head into heart on its gently integrating way, our breathing can fall with it. At this time many are breathing a little more deeply and from gut. Once again, there are no fixed guidelines here.

I hesitate to talk about this because we need to keep things very simple. Meditation is not about sitting back during meditation to consciously experience and evaluate what is going on. Meditation is about growing in a whole-hearted practice of forgetting self-consciousness. It is about losing our conscious selves in the moment of meditation so that we can experience without awareness, that is without active interior sense, the deep silence of God and have this God, this divine Love, effect the all of us. Any inner activity, no matter how well intentioned it may be, is a distraction to growth in silence, to being inwardly transformed for and by this silence.

One of my great challenges in meditation is growing in the letting go of curiosity. My conscious mind can be quick to pick up and look at any experience which might be going on. Again and again I need to come back to the essence: simply and faithfully giving attention to the mantra. Once again, meditation is about the primacy of leaving the conscious self behind. It is not about the gathering of knowledge, of insight. Any wisdom given because of our meditation practice is given as gift. This gift must serve the leaving of conscious self and not become a distraction to it.

Wisdom rises from the heart. A silent intellect, precisely because it is silent, can ‘marinate’ in this wisdom, doing so without reference to itself or this wisdom. Wisdom (which is the love-life of God moving and acting within us) can then enlighten the intellect about the meditation experience while this intellect is passive, that is, while the intellect is not relying on the senses to make sense of the experience. It is in this way that our mind and our intellect are transformed, or divinised, by divine Love. It happens without us knowing about it, without us being aware of it, because the desires to know and be aware are let go, put aside, forgotten. In this way wisdom can have its unimpeded way with us.

Divinisation is the Christ consciousness within becoming more and more uniquely our consciousness. It is in this way that Christians become Christ-ians, or ‘little Christs’. As St. Paul says ‘..it is no longer I, but Christ living in me’ (Gal2:20). This is something our intellect, by itself, will never understand. It makes no sense because it is a ‘senseless’ happening. When inner sense is quiet, when consciousness has forgotten itself, divinisation happens.

A forgotten self-consciousness is thus the meditator’s full yes to this process of divinisation. It is a full yes that we grow into over time as we grow into our own forgetting. This process of forgetting is deeply relational. Any love relationship will invite us to put the other first, to practice the forgetting of our own ego-selves. A relationship with divinity (the relationship within all relationships) is no different.

Because it is so relational and loving, the yes we say to God is a yes of faith. Each time of meditation is a yes of growing faithfulness. To self-consciousness this yes can feel like risk. To our deeper selves this yes is as natural as breathing.

So what of my breathing and its relationship to the mantra? Well, it does seem that wisdom often speaks with analogy. Without analogy we can engage too much in analysis and rationality. So: it’s like sometimes my breath combines with the mantra to quietly breathe the mantra into embers of divine intimacy deep within. While ever attention is on the mantra this continues. As soon as attention falls away from the mantra the divine glow coming from these embers ceases.

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The glow from the embers is warm and consoling. Its warmth is peace and joy. These are some of the fruits of the Spirit that St. Paul writes of to the Galatians (5:22-23). They are available for all. They can be given as we meditate.

This consolation does seem to be gift (a grace), that is, something that I am not creating for myself. The experience of divine intimacy, however, is not the divine life itself. It is best not to conflate the gifts of the Spirit with the life of the Spirit.

We meditate so that the whole of us would be in union with the divine. This union happens in a silence without thought, image, or indeed conscious consolation. Silence is about the absence of these things. On the pilgrimage into silence even the consolations of God are let go and left behind. This is part of the journey. If this were not so prayer would simply be an exercise in waiting to be consoled.


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