Ever since I was a child I’ve had repeated dreams where I can fly. I literally just bend my legs and lean upward and I fly. At first there is a bit of an unsure feeling, but I quickly get the hang of it and delight in my ability to fly!
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend a day long retreat/teaching with the Dalai Lama. He spoke of meditation within our current frenzied cultural context as a source of peace, focus and something that engenders compassion. He also spoke about the endless chatter that we all have going on in our minds, whether or not we are aware of it. He said: “Who wouldn’t want a break from all that every now and then!”
The other night I had another dream that I was able to fly. As always I woke up feeling sad that it was a dream and that I really can’t fly. Yet, for some reason, this particular dream of flying began to get connected with my meditation. Meditation is a way to fly on this side of life; it’s a taste of the total freedom and total weightlessness that we will experience – both a psychological weightlessness and a physical weightlessness. When one meditates, the deeper we go, the more unaware of our body and mind we are and, in a sense, we begin to fly! Some even say we get more in contact and at one with everything that is around us – because, as physicists say, everything that exists is simply wave energy vibrating at a certain frequency. This creates matter. When we meditate I believe we are in touch with this Energy (capital intentional, i.e., God) at more fundamental levels and so we begin to experience a freedom from this particular body and a unity with all that exists, all Energy – and in this sense, we fly!
Jesus said “the kingdom is at hand,” it’s here! What a blessing and what a relief that we can begin to experience the kingdom right here and now. I believe I can fly!
I recently heard a sermon by a bright young priest at an independent catholic church. He began with a story of his Mom, in her mid 30’s huddling her 6 boys and 1 girl together in her arms, . . . at their daddy’s funeral. He said that as she held them close, she kept repeating, almost whispering “God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .” What struck me is that he said that these words, normally heard and spoken in happiness this time of year, came from a place of deep fear, uncertainty and sadness within her.
When I think of the reality of what many in the world will celebrate in a few days, it is far from the pretty, warm cozy picture that we try to create. It was cold, dirty, smelly, bloody and fearful. Joseph was perplexed by his pregnant wife to be. Instead of a warm, cozy home, they had to leave home and when they arrived in Bethlehem there was no room for them. The child was sought after and almost killed.
“God is with us, God is with us, God is with us, God is with us . . .”
Sometimes our lives can be messy, dark and cold; but the reality that we shout these days is “God is with us!” To some in difficulty, such words might ring hollow. But as sweet and sappy as some of this season can be, perhaps we need this time of year when we are reminded of what is good in the world, what is good in the human spirit and when our thoughts turn to “peace and goodwill toward all.” I can’t help but think that since a lot of us are thinking such thoughts, a little bit of it might actually manifest itself in our reality.
As I continue “Just Sitting” – my Zazen practice – I remain intrigued by what it’s doing, yet at the same time trying to be unattached from expectation that anything will come of it. This simple (and not so simple!) opening of the body, spirit and mind connects us directly to Source Energy, God, Spirit and when you think about it, that’s freak’n amazing!! I find myself more aware, looking to see what this silence will bring.
Most of the time I find it difficult not to think, and simply concentrate on my breathing. The mind, the ego will not easily shut up. It does NOT want to give up control! Yet, what a relief it is to stop the incessant chatter within! I can only imagine what this must do to the brain. I can’t help but believe that in the process of this silence of the mind, the brain is literally making new connections. I am convinced that in this silence I am more lined up with Source, and Divine will becomes my will. In this silence the ego is shut up and I somehow feel more directly connected to God – I let go of control. I get out of the way. Maybe that’s what “let go, and let God” means. Normally when I give up control, I find myself, at least apprehensive, if not downright fearful. Yet as a result of this silence I find myself looking forward in hopeful expectation to see what will unfold in my life – and that of the world (because it‘s not just about my life, but affecting the world). Instead of a problem to be solved, life is becoming a Mystery to be lived. I look forward to the journey!
Today I was meditating, and, as often is the case, my mind gets going and I want to get up and start getting something done that I’m thinking about. Sometimes it is “work” just to sit there. Funny huh? “Work” just to sit there?
The White Robed Monks call this “Just Sitting,” a practice adopted from Zen, where one simply sits 15 minutes a day, concentrating on the breath and clearing the mind of all thought. When we do this our mind, our ego revolts. That little voice in our heads just doesn’t want to leave us alone.
What struck me this morning again is that when I want to heed that voice within, when I want to get up and start moving and stop this sitting – I am not trusting! In essence, when I break the meditation and start running, I am saying that I trust more in myself than I do in Divine Power. My experience, however, says that when I stay with this “work,” when I simply sit and make an empty space in my mind, I connect directly with Source Energy, God, the Spirit. Suddenly my work is given energy and much more is accomplished – and somehow – directly as a result of thinking no-thing, my thoughts are clarified and my life is given meaning and direction. It’s like I have suddenly been plugged in!
Can I trust enough to stay with the silent embrace and make a space in my life to connect with Source? Try it. And see what happens!
Someone commented yesterday how wonderful it would be to be able to calm the mind, to be completely free of thought or worry.
Lest anyone think that that is the case with me, let me assure you it is not! I don’t think it is true of anyone. If the expectation is that with our spiritual practice we will be completely free of thought of worry, we will be disappointed. However, if we practice calming the mind, meditation, etc we will have tools at our disposal which will help us calm the mind and go to a place of greater peace and centeredness. Is it complete calm and peace? No. But our practice gives us a door, an opening into a deeper dimension of stillness, beyond the chaos of mind or life situations. And this can lead us to a place of greater peace. And when the storm comes, it’s best to have some tools at our disposal! In other words, we don’t have to stand completely powerless in the face of storms in our lives. Our spiritual practice, 12 Step work, therapy, religious faith – all of these are tools that we can pick up at a moment’s notice and use to deal more effectively with life’s issues.
The important thing is that we maintain some sort of spiritual practice CONSISTENTLY. Then, when we need it, it will be more of an ingrained habit, to which we will easily turn. Do these tools have immediate results in calming me? Sometimes yes. But most often, it is a process where calm and focus gradually takes hold. It’s like having a secure anchor to grab on to, or firm ground on which to stand. The storm may be raging around us or within us, but these practices provide a point of grounding in the midst of the storm. Do they immediately take the storm away? Not usually. But the grounding itself gives cause for hope and gradually opens a door to greater peace and clarity.
Today is the feast of a famous saint whose prayer of peace attributed to him is prayed by Christians and non-Christians alike. Francis of Assisi was a man who experienced many storms in his life and in the world around him. Yet he continually drew himself and his followers back to a quiet place within – as well as BEING the peace that he wanted to experience. “Make ME an instrument of your peace . . .” In so doing, we gain the peace that we impart to others.