Tag Archives: Spiritual Writing

Meditatio House: Stay Awake (and Do What is Appropriate) (Part 1)

Recently the community at Meditatio House was privileged to have Robert Kennedy (Zen master and Jesuit priest) with us for lunch. He was to present a workshop at our Meditatio Centre that evening.

Robert Kennedy teaches and practices Zen meditation at Morning Star Zendo in New Jersey.

It was wonderful to spend time with Fr. (and Roshi) Kennedy during the informal time of lunch. Those present had the opportunity to share and ask questions about Zen, Christianity, and meditation.

During this exchange Fr. Kennedy said what he cautiously considered to be the essence of Zen. He described this essence as: “Stay awake, and do what is appropriate.”

Stay awake…

Zen, like all great spiritual traditions, invites us to be in the present moment. Ultimately, the past is memory and the future is fantasy. A human alive to the now is a human fully being and ready to express this being now.

To be awake is the essential work of being present to each moment as it comes, to experience the moment with our senses alive in the moment. Even describing the present as ‘each moment’ is to kind of ‘hem it in’ with a past and a future on either side. Being awake is being awake now with notions of ‘past’ and ‘future’ forgotten.

How do we stay awake? We practice in our lives that which anchors sense and experience now. One such way is the practice of Zen meditation.

That evening Fr. Kennedy guided us through a session of Zen meditation. He asked us to use the Zen mantra mu (pronounced ‘moo’ with lips slackened). We said aloud and together this mantra for about five minutes, exclaiming it from deep in the gut as we exhaled. It is in the gut, just below the belly button, where the Zen meditator experiences their centre. After this opening five minutes we repeated mu softly and to ourselves in union with our breathing.

We were asked to keep our eyes open rather than have them closed. Fr. Kennedy invited us to fix our eyes on one point in front of us. He suggested between the shoulder blades of the person in front of us. He asked that we focus on this point and look nowhere else. For the Zen meditator keeping the eyes open and fixed is an aid to staying alert in the now.

As we meditated Fr. Kennedy taught us. This is the way a Zen master can choose to teach – as the student meditates. The teaching serves the now, is in the now. In the practice of being now, the student is taught about the now in both word and experience.

The practice of Christian meditation differs in some aspects to Zen meditation. Some aspects stood out for me after experiencing Fr. Kennedy’s brief introduction to Zen meditation. Rather than saying aloud our mantra, the Christian meditator repeats the mantra internally. Also, our eyes are closed rather than being open with gaze fixed. Finally, any teaching with words is done before and/or after a session of Christian meditation, not during.

What struck me in the (brief and introductory) experience of Zen meditation we had with Fr. Kennedy was the absence of an emphasis on silence. Mu was said aloud, and then whispered; Fr. Kennedy taught while the meditation was happening; the eyes remained open. In the emphasis on the now that Zen teaches, silence seemed to take a back seat.

Within the practice of Christian meditation there seems to be a reversal of this emphasis: the now seems to take a back seat to a coming to stillness and then a moving into silence. The mantra, sounded interiorly and with eyes closed, draws attention into stillness and then into the mystery of silence. Closed eyes assist this journey into silence.

A question arising from this very basic and incomplete comparison of the way in which these two meditation traditions approach meditation is: are silence and the now somehow mutually exclusive? Another way of asking this question is to ask: it possible to view silence and the now as somehow complimentary?

It is possible for Christian and the Zen meditators to answer this question from their own experience of meditation. Being a Christian and a meditator, how can I answer the above question in the light of my own experience?

A fruit of the work of giving attention to the mantra (along with a growth in silence) is consciousness becoming grounded more and more now. The Christian meditator, over time, experiences the past and the future fall away. Indeed, a self-conscious awareness of the present also falls away – self consciousness (or ego) can get in the way of being now.

As this happens we discover, thanks to this non-reflective experience, that silence and the now are part of the same experience. There can be no experience of silence without being now; there can be no experience of being now without silence. Now is silence; silence is now. It could be argued that this insight from experience can be the insight of any meditator from any tradition.

It is assumed that as the Zen meditator continues in their practice, becoming more experienced and more grounded in the now, that there is less reason for the Zen master to teach with words. With eyes open and fixed, and with mu gently said, the Zen meditator falls into the silent now, the now of silence.

In this silent now any meditator from any well-founded tradition of meditation can come to be in the oneness within and beyond all things.

In Christian meditation, as we go beyond any notions of now and silence, we experience the no-where of the Divine Life. In this no-where we discover ourselves in the prayer of the risen Jesus. The light of Christ then shines more brightly in the practicalities of our Christian and human lives.


Meditatio House: Imagination, Detachment, and Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meditatio House: 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 is Dead Shall Rise

Morning and evening meditation here at Meditatio House is combined with morning and evening prayer. Our morning and evening prayer is based on the Divine Office. The Divine Office is a way of praying which has its formal origins in the Rule of Benedict and roots in the prayer life of the Desert Mothers and Fathers. It is based on the psalms and also has regular scripture readings. One of my favourite readings from the Hebrew Testament is included in these scripture readings, a reading from Ezekiel:

The Lord God says this: I am going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from the graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord God who speaks. (Ezek 37:12b-14).

A literal interpretation of this text has me remembering the zombie horror movies which I have seen over the years. Shaun of the Dead comes to mind or even the current TV series The Walking Dead. The text here, however, is not referring to the divine reanimation of corpses.

A question which comes to my mind when I read this is: where in life am I dead? That is, are there parts of my life and living that just seem impossible to engage with, to change, that I have given up on; so much so, that they are dead to me? Part of the appeal of zombies is that they are a kind of physical representation of our ‘dead bits’ and the ways in which we have given up on living. Too much giving up on life means becoming a kind of zombie, an automaton going through the motions, the living dead. This kind of death can eat up the life around and within us.

When I hear this reading from Ezekiel I am also reminded of the story in John’s Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. When Jesus eventually arrives at Lazarus’ home Lazarus is already dead, his body four days in a tomb. Jesus stands before the tomb and

…crie[s] in a loud voice ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with strips of material, and a cloth over his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free. (John 11:43b-44).

In Ezekiel it is God who raises us from our graves, in John it is the Son of God – Jesus, the one who lives a fully divinised human life, a human living his earthly life fully one with and in the love that is God. In his humanity he is divine; in his divinity he is human. What God can do, he can do. His faith in God is faith in himself.

In both texts the loving intentions of the divine are revealed through what the divine does: making what is dead live again. For the divine, death in all its forms still holds the seeds of life and transformation, of a rising to a new creative life. Death, whether physical or of the psyche, is not the end. All that is asked of us is a faith that can accept this – even just a little bit.

That the raising of Lazarus be literally true is not of primary importance. What is of more importance is the nature of our faith in the divine here and now. Can we accept that the divinity in us is of a different order to the death in us, that its life does not die with death?

Recently one of us in the house was given a Rose of Jericho, or a Resurrection Rose. This is a desert plant that, without water, curls up on itself and, for all intents and purposes, dies. When dry it gets blown along on the desert breeze until water is found. Water raises the plant from its sandy grave. It opens up, becoming green with life.

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The Rose of Jericho reminds me very much of what is dead in us, of what we have died to in life, given up on, and of what God wants to raise in us.

Does our faith in what the divine life can do now include the gentle raising of what is dead to us? Compassion can live again; the capacity to love, the ability to reach out and participate in life – all of this and more, like the Rose of Jericho, may be dead and it can come alive.

The God of Ezekiel declares that we can be lead back to the soil of Israel, that is, be resettled on our ‘own soil’. This soil is the richness, the fertility, of our being in union with God. Deep within us, beyond the limitations and maneuvering of self-consciousness, there is the reality of a divinity that can transform this self-consciousness and our human life. We can, with grace and faith, grow into a life that is more and more alive, growing in harmony with the divine within us. All that is needed from us is just a little faith and a little co-operation. God will do the rest.

Our meditation practice is one such little act of faith and co-operation. It is a little act that expands in us as we experience just what God can do with this little act. And what God can do, if we allow it, is mind-blowing.

Attention on the mantra allows the mind to soak in the living water of the divine within us. Slowly, imperceptibly, what is dead in our lives is rejuvenated by the life within us not dependent on us for life: divinity itself. The fruits of meditation that slowly and quietly grow in our lives also grow from those places within us we believed dead. Our living death is transformed into living and fruitful life. Believe it. The silence within us is a living water causing what is dead in us to become new life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meditatio House: 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: Everyone is Holding a Mirror

I can be hard on myself. Too hard. This hardness comes from many years of expected too much from myself. Over time there has been some improvement in this state of mind, improvement that happens as my psyche inches into grace.

There is a wonderful song by Luka Bloom called Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself. This song has been with me for many years. It’s one which I tend to play when I do feel low. If I am feeling low and somewhat overwhelmed by what is going on around and within me, well that’s when this tendency to be hard on myself can rise, or indeed is already active.

One reason for this tendency is the sustained rejection which I have experienced in life. This happened mainly in my adolescent years. The logic of my hardness goes something like: ‘be good enough and no one will reject you.’ Call it the product of rejection anxiety. Call it perfectionism. Call it ego’s lie. It has been quite a challenge to live by this axiom. Parts of my life have had to fall apart under the strain of hyper-expectation and anxiety for me to learn the art of gentleness (an ongoing journey).

Recently the tendency to be hard on myself became quite energetic. This is understandable. I am living on the other side of the world, living with people who are new to me, and in a place and lifestyle which I am still getting used to.

The problem with high expectations is that these expectations can easily turn into judgement and condemnation. When this happened recently, rather than experience this harsh judgement of myself from myself, I projected it outward and onto the others around me. They were the ones doing it, not me. I was unaware that I was doing this. I was just so caught up in the dynamic. A meeting with a wise member of the wider meditation community helped me to name and re-member what was going on. The projection seemed to come full circle when this community elder looked at me and wisely said ‘I’m not judging you!’.

Before the meeting I was questioning (to myself) my fellow community member’s motivations for being a part of the Meditatio House community and judging their personality traits (or at least my perception of them). Ego was having a field day. Humility and the deeper self fell out of awareness. Compassion dried up. Spiritual pride began to rise: ‘I’m better than them, I’m more spiritually mature.’

The people around me were like movie screens onto which I was unconsciously projecting certain traits and feelings held within my own personality that I did not want to see. If I was to see them within myself, well there was the risk of self-judgement and self-rejection. This risk seems heightened when we are caught in the dynamics of ego (as I was).

So what were these traits, feelings? They are a part of the shadow of personality; those hidden aspects which we do not want to know about or live out of, and consequently have difficulty facing. And yet they do exist in the darker places within us.

Arrogance..jealousy..the anxious need to control..shame..perfectionist Prejudice..hatred..anger..harshness..possessiveness..puerile..miser

These seem to be some of the traits and feelings that have been coming up recently for me as I sit with these projections. The energy in motion (emotion) empowering my projections resonates with these names.

This ongoing process of naming and integrating ‘negative’ or ‘dark’ feeling and traits is the fruit of a stable enough grounding in love. The practice of Christian meditation grounds our attention in this love. The glow of the divine love-life soon warms and permeates more and more of our inner life. A soft and enduring light and warmth is experienced as emanating even from those crannies of psyche which we have long turned from in abject shame. Over time there is the graced acceptance of our own lovableness – crannies and all. God never gives up on us. Our psyches come to be built on rock.

We become less dependent on the fractured expressions of love that come to us from ourselves and others. And yet over time our own expressions of love grow gently in this divine fullness within us, and we come to appreciate anew the human expressions of love that happen around us.

The wonderful thing is that once we realise and accept that we are projecting and can come to a place of naming what is feeding these projections, the energy around the projections subsides and the feelings diminish. As these parts of our shadow come out into the light of awareness they are slowly integrated into the overall personality. This is the gift that community can be – if we can stick it out.

Once we come to see that we are projecting it’s like the people around us are holding up to us a mirror. Someone we first judge as arrogant is seen as holding up to us a reflection of our own hidden arrogance; someone whom we may judge as petulant is holding up a mirror reflecting an intolerance of our own temperamental selves.

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As this process unfolds we grow in a forgetfulness of ourselves. We go beyond, transcend, those parts of us that get in the way of love and living. Energy is released from the need to repress the dark within us. Darkness becomes light. Attention grows in a freedom for everyday loving. The mantra’s roots grow even deeper into the heart. Grace enlivens us.


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