Tag Archives: thoughts and feelings

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)

 

 

 


Meditatio House: From Distraction to Nothing

Martin Laird, in his book Into the Silent Land, has this to say about the contemplative approach to distractions during prayer:

If we cannot weather these distractions in stillness, they will give the impression that the doorway into the silent land is closed. But if we are simply still before them and do not try to push them away or let ourselves be carried away by them, they help deepen our contemplative practice. They initiate us into a certain education by ordeal. (92).

Distractions are needed. It is the way we are with them that matters. The practice of attention on a prayer word/phrase or mantra means less and less attention on distractions. Less attention on distractions means less energy given to distractions. Stillness is then nurtured within us. As we persevere, the way distractions are experienced changes.

Laird describes three doorways into silence that we pass through as we meditate. Each door is guarded, as it were, by distractions. As we grow in faithfulness to the mantra, or prayer word, we come to realise as we pass through the first doorway that:

“…we are not our thoughts and feelings.” Space grows between attention and distraction. What we identify with is shifting. We are growing in ‘looking past’ distraction as reaction to distraction lessens. Peace can rise. So too can anxiousness. Anxiety is normal as identity shifts. In all this faithfulness to the mantra is paramount. Anxiety is simply an ego response to its own decentring. You are not anxiety. All will be well.

This first realisation that we are not our thoughts or feelings comes as we practice saying the mantra. Faithfulness to simply saying the mantra was described by John Main as the ‘first task’ of the meditator. The meditator may spend years saying the mantra, and generally saying it in the head. To have the experience of not being our thoughts or feelings means that the mantra is moving from head to heart, taking our attention with it into the heart.

As we pass through Laird’s second doorway we discover that

“Our own interiority is not a cramped space, but a valley of spaciousness.” We are being liberated into the expanse of being within us. Because of ongoing attention to the mantra, being and awareness are coming together, that is, the experience of awareness is becoming less self-conscious. We are not so aware of being aware. We are simply just being aware. It becomes easier to ‘look past’ distractions to the measureless mystery of our own inner vastness.

John Main described this movement through Laird’s second door as the mantra taking root in the heart. The heart is simply a name for that vastness from which thoughts, feelings and images can distract. Being still and being aware without thought (looking past distraction) has the meditator hearing the mantra in this vast heart. We are not thinking the mantra in the head; we are hearing it in the heart. Attention becomes hearing.

Moving through Laird’s third doorway

“…we realise that what beholds this vast and flowing whole is also the whole. We see that these thoughts and feelings that have plagued us, clouded our vision, seduced us, entertained us, have no substance. They too are a manifestation of the vastness in which they appear.”

As we practice with the mantra attention becomes so grounded in this vastness that we experience the reality of our true and deep identity. We are this vastness. Over time thoughts and feelings loosen and unravel and fade to nothing. The still point of divinity is experienced in deep awareness within this vastness. Here, in this no-place where words do not matter, we are no-thing being loved by a God who is not an object.

Here is where we grow in listening to the mantra (to use John Main’s description). The mantra itself is becoming no-thing, without object. In good time it too may fade into this silent vastness. If this happens it is because it has served its purpose. When thoughts and feelings return so should our attention to the mantra. With the mantra we return to stillness and vastness.


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