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!
Today is Wednesday.
Wednesday is like my “Friday.”
I came home from work, took a jog and meditated – relaxing into the thought of my “weekend” ahead. Instead of staying in this NOW moment, my thoughts quickly shifted to Saturday, which is my “Monday,” and what I will have to do when I return to work. Gratefully the next thought that came to me was: “It’s not Saturday yet. It’s Wednesday 7:30pm. Stay in this moment!” I remembered a spiritual guide that I once had who, when I would be fretting about some future task or event, would say: “It’s not here yet. Live this moment.”
How often I live life focused on the next thing instead of this moment. And in so doing, am I really living?
I am convinced that it was my meditation that brought me to this little awareness this evening. Meditation focuses us simply on the NOW. 12 Step Groups often talk about “one day at a time, one moment at a time.” Simply living THIS moment. When an addict is focused on not ever being able to use in the future this hinders recovery. But when an addict focuses on simply not using today, or this moment it, makes recovery much more manageable. In the same way, when I am focused on the future, this hinders living. When I am focused on today, or this moment, life unfolds.
I imagine that my friend who had a stroke right before Christmas and his partner can easily get paralyzed when they begin thinking about the future, when various stages of recovery will come and what will happen in the weeks to come. Sanity or some peace of mind must come from simply focusing on today’s progress, instead of a whirl of thoughts about the future. I can only imagine how difficult this must be for them at times! I know how very much and how very quickly I want to see my friend recover. I can’ only imagine how much more they want the same. I will pray that, with a focus on today’s progress, life will unfold for them in good and positive ways, as indeed it already has these past 12 days!
The silence of no thought
It speaks with increasing volume
Enticing me . . .
“Wanna figure it out?”
“Wanna live well?”
“Wanna die well?”
In this silence, the song rises in my heart again
And I am made new.
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!
The other day I was made aware of a movie called “Into Great Silence.” It is a documentary film directed by Phillip Groning which portrays the lives of the Carthusian Monks of the Grande Charteuse Monastery high in the French Alps. It’s known to be one of the most austere monasteries. I imagine that many people might be bored out of their minds by this movie, as it definitely takes one “into great silence,” as its title suggests. The movie is around two and a half hours long and most of it is silence. It simply shows the monks in their day to day lives – without offering commentary or explanation. These monks do not talk, except when they are in common prayer and once a week after a meal on Sundays. So it’s quiet! Disturbingly so! Yet, . . . Refreshingly so. Talk about counter-cultural!
After watching this movie I wondered how much we may all be seduced away from the silence by the incessant, and sometimes, unnoticeable noise all around us. I wonder if all the noise that surrounds us, or that we choose to be surrounded by – lulls us into a dull sense of living, and ultimately – in our society – a crisis of meaning.
When I enter into the silence, which is initially disturbing, I am lead to a greater sense of myself, a more peaceful place and, in the process, I become a more compassionate presence in the world. It is nothing short of hard work to stay with silence, but I am becoming more and more conscious of the tremendous difference it makes in my life and work. I feel as if I am slowly being seduced by it. In entering the silence I give up control to a Higher Power, which is initially disturbing. But now I am intrigued by it, curious and interested to see what happens. And something is happening. I don’t quite know what it is, but I know it’s good.
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!
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.
Can you relate to this?
Why is it that when I hit a stressful time in life, the very things – like meditation and exercise – that would help relieve stress, are the very first things to get bumped from the daily routine? It’s like something within me says, “there’s no time for this!” And so, I begin to shave these things from my daily routine. Then over time, I wonder why I am getting more stressed, having difficulty sleeping and focusing!
In reality, these are the most important things NOT to bump from the schedule in the midst of a difficult time. They are the very life-blood that keeps me grounded. Without them, all else begins to suffer – my work, my relationships, even my play time!
I lay awake last night, once again, feeling the pent up energy in my body and my restless spirit as my mind whirled. I have not exercised in a while. No wonder I am having difficulty sleeping. So much pent up energy! I have not really given myself to meditation in a while. No wonder I have difficulty focusing!
The irony is this: when I bump meditation and exercise from the schedule, it seems I don’t have enough time. When I take the time to meditate and exercise, it seems as if I have much more time on my hands, time even to play!
First things first. What are the REALLY important things that I need to maintain in order to live well, even in the midst of a stressful time?
When I write, I usually go to Pandora.com and turn on some light music. I find it soothing and inspiring to write with some soft music in the background.. This morning for some reason, Pandora wouldn’t load. I tried several times and then gave up. Just as I gave up, I began to “hear” the silence. I looked out my window and saw the overcast sky and the snow gently falling. I was reminded of the silence of winter. If you’ve ever walked in the woods after a snowfall, you know what I mean. There is a silence that is palatable.
Instead of fighting the silence I welcomed it and find it soothing to my soul as I write this meditation. I am again reminded of the importance of listening to the silence. Far from being a void, there is a fullness in silence. It blesses the spirit in ways that a plethora of sound and sight simply cannot. It is the silence, after all, that makes sound itself possible! And it is in the silence that Divine presence is most fully found. “Be still and know that I am God.”
It is also in the silent spaces between our thoughts that God is to be found. When we are able to silence the chatter of the ego mind within, we open ourselves to a space that is eternal and abundant. This is the place of creative energy. It’s no wonder that when our lives are simply a barrage of activity, of running from this thing to the next, it’s no wonder that we begin to feel a lack of energy and our zest for life diminishes.
This season brings with it much activity. Social gatherings, increased traffic, running around to buy gifts, plays, school activities, final exams, decorating, baking, cooking, etc. All of this sometimes leaves us exhausted by the time the Holidays actually arrive. In the midst of such madness, it’s all the more important to take time in silence. It is in this silence that the sights and sounds of this season will then come alive.
This morning as I meditated I felt a sense of surrender. My thoughts and my prayer were not centered so much in what I want or need, but in how I could be an expression of the Divine.
So often our prayer can be about what we want or need in life. Ultimately we are an expression of the Eternal or Unmanifested spoken into form. If I am an expression of the Divine, perhaps my emphasis in prayer should be more on how the Divine wants to express itself in my life, rather than how and what I (read – the ego) want the Divine to do in and for me.
It feels good to surrender, to be taken, to allow oneself to enter an adventure – to walk into the unknown, to be lead. There is a sense of ease about surrender. Instead of the work involved in trying to arrange my life as I want it, there is an ease about surrendering and allowing myself to be lead.
The synchronicity of things amazes me sometimes. Just as this sense of surrender was emerging from within, I read this passage in my morning prayer: “We must let ourselves be plowed so that the furrows of our person become deeper and deeper, so that our earth becomes softer and softer” (Jean-Marie Howe, Cistercian Monastic Life/Vows: A Vision, p. 367). Perhaps it is in surrender that I become a softer person and, conversely, perhaps its in running and trying to arrange it all myself that I become hardened.
Perhaps today we could think more about what the Divine wants to do in us, rather than what we want out of the Divine.