Tag Archives: Balance

“Contemplation Is the Highest Form of Activity”

I was recently watching a program on PBS called “Excuses Be Gone” featuring Wayne Dyer. In it, he quotes Aristotle as saying:

“Contemplation is the highest form of activity.”

I so resonate with that statement! I am wired differently from what society, corporations and even churches applaud and hold up as good. “Idleness is the devil’s workshop” we were often told as kids. Certainly that was the message in the church and family in which I was raised. For me, the opposite is true.

The more “activity” I am involved in – the less I do – and the quality of anything that I do, and even the person I am, suffers greatly! It is in the silence of nothingness, in time, seemingly wasted – where great things are born within me. When I don’t take time to be, read, write, pray, listen to music – my life and work suffer. When I have, or take this time – despite great pressure not to do so – then my work finds life and creativity and I am a decent person to be around.

I find this is not very much appreciated either in society or the church. Produce! Produce! Produce! This is the message that most of us receive. It’s funny. I don’t find society, churches or countries any the better for all the incessant activity! Perhaps we would be wise to slow down, take stock. I recently heard these very words in a church, coming from a man who’s an unredeemed, angry workaholic whose toxic energy is oppressive to his staff and his church. He does a tremendous amount of work; but I don’t know of anyone (who really knows him) who looks up to him or actually wants to spend time with him. How sad. But I believe, like all addicts, he’s basically a good person at heart. Perhaps he just needs to slow down and take stock.

Call Me Mary!

“Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it.”

See Luke 10: 38-42

In a world that canonizes the “Martha’s” of the world, those who go, go, go and work, work, work, I am so grateful for this story – because I’m definitely a “Mary.” The society in which we live canonizes work. The more we can produce, the better. The more we can get out of an employee for the least amount of pay, the better.

There are Mary’s and there are Martha’s in the world. I have some friends who are Martha’s. They are the movers and shakers, the ones who get things done. Not that I don’t get anything done, but I envy the energy that I see in these people and have always felt a bit of guilt because I don’t seem to have that same energy. I am however passionate, a dreamer, one who, I’ve been told, has a way of inspiring and moving people. It is only when I am rooted in my inner “Mary” that this passion thrives. When I run all over like Martha, with many worries and concerns, the passion within me freezes, gets paralyzed.

I am so grateful for the Martha’s in my life. And I think the Martha’s in my life are grateful for the Mary in me. A balance between the two is probably optimum in living life well.

And, as an aside, what a great thing for Jesus to get all those men pissed off by allowing Mary, A WOMAN, to sit in the company of men and listen to the teacher! This is the real clincher of the story. Women were indeed deprived of learning and were not to be in the company of men. We only need watch the movie “Yentl” to get a sense of what that was like. Jesus, here, as in many places, takes the assumed religious/cultural understanding and turns in upside down! You go boy!


Electric Silence

I write this meditation at the airport after having spent a few days in Big Sur CA for retreat.  Initially I was assaulted by the silence of Big Sur.  Now I find myself assaulted by the frenzy of traffic, sound and multitudes going every which way, . . . and doing it as fast as possible.  And to think we call this “civilization?”

I wrote before that we are lulled into a semi-catatonic state in the noise and activity that is daily life for most of us.  After entering the silence again, I am made aware of the quality of life that ensues as a result.  When we enter the silence our internal senses are more clearly tuned so that when we do listen to a piece of music or watch a movie or encounter someone, we experience these in a deeper way.  The silence provides a framework or space around which sensory input via sound and sight gain greater brilliance.  It’s ironic that in the frenzy of daily life we instinctively begin to look for things which will excite and thrill us.  In actuality we’re looking to escape the lulled state of consciousness in which we live.  Silence is the only way to tune our inner and outer senses again.  When we do so we will find that our activity and relating will take on a clarity that move us beyond the lulled catatonic state with which we‘ve become accustomed, to a way of living that is awakened to the sights, sounds and people around us!

Like the Spring of a Watch: Balance

Some years ago while on a 30 day retreat, the man who directed me in that retreat asked me to do some painting; just random painting, whatever came to me.  One of the works that I produced was a simple spiral in dark blue.  When I showed him the work, he asked if the movement of the spiral was outward or inward.  I said, at the time, that is was outward.

Yesterday, while talking with a friend of mine who is a monk, I spoke of this same circle and something different struck me.  I told him that the movement of the spiral was both inward and outward; and that the outward movement was dependent on the inward movement.  Any outward work, music, writing, public speaking, socializing and loving that I do is based in and dependent on the inward movement.  In other words, the heart of all that I do is based on the contemplative movement inward.  That’s why I resonate with the archetype of monk in the world.  The spiral then has become an inward and outward dynamic, like the spring of an old watch, that keeps me moving forward.  It is the balanced energy of the spring moving inward and outward that keeps the watch running.   If there is too much inward movement, the spring is in danger of getting too tightly wound, collapsing in on itself and stunting further growth and dynamism.  If the spring is too outwardly directed, energy is dispersed aimlessly outward and the spring is in danger of getting sprung, becoming useless.

The essence of who I am is defined in the inward movement.  The outward movement then becomes a manifestation of the centered point within.  Without it, I am lifeless and lack forward movement!  Is your spring well balanced?

Why Are We Afraid of It? – Silence II

I sense that there is something, an energy, that wants to keep us away from silence.  Part of it stems from the lull of consumerism.  We are bombarded with messages that say we need this or that to make us happy.  Perhaps if we entered the silence we would find that we don’t need all of those things we think we need, that in fact, we need very little.  Are we are held in a state of frenzy to keep the economic machine going?  Or perhaps, as Eckhart Tolle says, if we sense an incompleteness within and find ourselves reaching out for this or that thing or situation we are ego driven, in the mind and simply not present to Life. (See The Power of Now:  A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment).  If we don’t become aware of this we then find ourselves in a perpetual state of reaching for something or someone outside of ourselves to complete us or make us happy.

There is also something within us that wants to hold us from the silence.  We are so conditioned to think that if we just worked more, tried harder, pushed ourselves further, that we would somehow arrive in life – whatever and wherever that place is.  And yes, we need to work to bring ideas into reality, no question.  But we get to a point where we are  conditioned to think that silence, doing no – thing, is a waste of precious time.  We have so much to do and simply don’t have the time for silence.  When in reality, can we afford not to enter into the silence??  Look at our frenzied lives.  Look at our world.  Look at our relationships.  Would they not all benefit from taking some time in silence and quiet to be renewed?  Wouldn’t your Partner, your children or your co-workers like to experience a kinder, gentler you?

Silence – Try It and See What Happens!

We have no idea how frenzied we are!

I write this the first morning of a time of retreat in Big Sur, California at The Hermitage.  When I arrived last night I was talking to one of the monks and said that I am always initially “assaulted” by the silence here.  He was struck by the word “assaulted.”  But that indeed is what it feels like!

In our day to day living it’s as if we are lulled into this frenzy of noise and activity that we don’t even notice over time.  It’s like a drug that keeps us numb to the deeper reality of Life and the awesome power it has to offer.  We walk through life like robots, going here and there, running; and for some reason, we get to a point where we’re afraid of the silence.  It feels uncomfortable.  We need some noise, the radio or TV in the background, the flash of images on the internet, the rush of activity in the city or within our own homes.  We NEED it, like an addict who feels like they need a drug to function in life, without which they would fall apart.  And when the radios, TV’s, internet, the rush of our daily life and even the day to day phone calls to family and friends that we feel we can’t live without – when these are taken away, our senses are “assaulted” by the silence.  Something within us feels betrayed – like an addict who has his drug taken away.

Ah, . . . But if we give ourselves to the silence, if even for a few moments, let alone a time apart from the norm of our living, we will there discover a stream of energy and vision that the barrage of incessant activity could never quite accomplish.  Ironic hugh?  It is the no-thingness of silence that gives energy and purpose to our activity.  Without it, we’re like hamsters on a running wheel, . . . going nowhere fast.

Try some silence today and watch how it energizes your living!

Are You In A Good Place?

Isaiah 55: 10-11

Matthew 13: 1-23

“Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful . . . so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”

As I have said before in these meditations, we are, each of us, a Word of God, a spark of the Divine, spoken in time for a reason. There is a mission that each of us has, a purpose for our existence. Did you ever wonder why you “woke up” at this point in time? Why didn’t you wake up at some other time, in some other place? Why not in the year 1026BC? Why now? I often wonder about that and come up with no answer other than for whatever mysterious reason, I woke up in Life when I did and I hold to a belief that there is some reason I am here now. Because we walk this planet for a brief time, it will be shaped and people will be changed and affected by our presence here, hopefully for the good! The Word that we are is not to return to Divine fullness void. The Word that we are is to be spoken, as we have seen these past few days.

Jesus, in the Gospel, expounds on what happens to various people in life. I think these various phases happen to all of us at various times in our lives. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the Word that we are and we walk through life blind as it were, not awake to Life and all that is around us. Sometimes we get excited about something, but when the going gets rough, we back away. At other times we get distracted by job, bills, possessions, etc and we begin to lack any depth of concern for people. And then, at other times we are on rich soil, rooted, awake, aware and making a difference for others.

Am I doing what I need to do to keep the Word that I am growing and active? What is the good soil that I need to make this happen? Various things that keep me on good ground are:

+ time for meditation

+ spiritual reading

+ physical exercise and care of the body/temple

+ social time

+ going outside of myself to give to those in need

Also, having some community that is nourishing and open would be good such as a 12 Step Group, a Meditation Group, a Faith Community, a group that shares a common interest, etc.

When any of these is not present in my life, the Word that I am is out of balance, not on the best soil and thus not making much of a difference.

Perhaps today we could look at our lives and see if we’re on good soil. If we’re not, what’s one step we can take to getting ourselves on good ground?