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!
John 3: 31-36
“The one who comes from above testifies to what they have seen and heard.”
Sometimes that’s just a bit different from prevailing religious thought. It was for Jesus. That’s why he was killed.
What have you seen and heard? What is the truth of your spiritual journey in life? How do you give witness to that? Has it gotten you in trouble with prevailing religious thought?
I think of the many people who challenge me by giving witness to goodness, kindness, self giving, sacrificial love – by never saying a word. They simply live it. They preach by the way they live. I think this is the most authentic witness that we can give to “what we have seen and heard.” When someone is able to see that I am able to grab onto faith in the midst of crisis, when someone sees that I am concerned for others, when someone is fed and calmed by my presence – I am a witness to what I have seen and heard, I am a witness to what I have read, digested, what I have prayed and meditated.
What message is my life speaking today?
“If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from your view.” (See Luke 19: 41-44)
What gives you peace? What are the practices that keep you in a peaceful place? What are those things that you do, even when you don’t want to, but you know that if you do them, you will be in a better space?
How easy it is to loose the path to peace, to drop those actions and activities that keep us focused and centered. It could be skimping on our time for meditation, or exercise, suddenly getting into a pattern of not eating right, watching too much TV and doing too little reading, spending more time on the internet than interacting with people.
I cannot tell you how often I have heard someone in a 12 Step Meeting say that they did not want to come today, that they had to drag themselves there – but they felt so good that they had!
Sometimes we don’t FEEL like doing the things that keep us in a good, peaceful place and we have to force ourselves to do them. Making this effort is well worth it, for in the long run, getting off our butts and doing something that we know will make us feel better is a good investment of our time.
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.
There is a still place within all of us to which we can retreat, no matter what is going on around us or within us. Like the ocean, that on the surface can be tossed about violently in a storm, if we go deeper the waters become calm and still.
I believe this is what Viktor Frankl speaks of, in the midst of his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. This is what Eckhart Tolle speaks of when he describes the place of Being beyond the incessant chatter of the ego mind.
The good news is, we all can go to this still place within. We need not stay on the surface waters of any storm in our lives, but we have a key, a secret place to which we can retreat!
Last night I was awakened suddenly and my mind immediately began to whirl with various concerns, both personal, national and global. I lay, tossing and turning for about an hour. Then I remembered this still place within; and as I visualized myself going deeper, to the place of Being beyond the chatter of the mind, I slowly fell off to sleep again.
We have the key. We know the secret. We just need to become conscious of it and use it!
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?
I’d like to go back to the image of the duck and detaching from what other people say or how they react or behave around me. The goal of detachment may not be to change my circumstances, but to change my thinking, my insides, so that I can remain relatively peaceful and in a positive frame of mind, no matter what is happening around me. That being said, there are certainly some circumstances that are abusive from which one should remove oneself.
If anyone has been to Al-Anon you will know that, contrary to what people may think, it is not so much about how to change the alcoholic, as it is how to change one’s self and how one reacts to the alcoholic. It’s learning how to deal with things as they are and practicing different ways of reacting and responding so that one can have some semblance of peace in the midst of the chaos. It’s about removing one’s self from the “game,” the drama of the addiction. It’s about detachment and the ability to begin living peacefully and with some semblance of joy.
This morning after my meditation I read a bit more of Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. In the second chapter entitled “Consciousness: The Way Out of Pain,” Tolle says that most of the pain that we experience in life is self created. “The pain that you create now is always some form of non acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. (p.33) Detachment comes when I am able to tap that centered place within myself, accept what is now and choose not to let it ruin my day. Yes, I may be upset by various circumstances, but I can choose not to let it ruin my day. It is what it is. And I am what I am. Can I live in the peace of eternity right now, despite what is happening around me? Can I be like a duck and allow things to slide off me, without affecting the core of peace at the center of my being?