An excerpt from Laurence Freeman, OSB, “Dearest Friends,” Christian Meditation Newsletter, Vol. 33, No. 3, September 2009, pp. 3, 4, 5, 6.
It is practice not deprivation that drives the spiritual journey and pushes us to grow beyond our limits.
In a noisy and overactive lifestyle, drenched in media buzz and bombarded by visual intrusions, the times of morning and evening meditation purify and recharge our silence.
Attention is the muscle of silence. It is built up strongly through regular and moderate exercise. [. . .
The true nature of silence is that its way of seeing penetrates beyond the apparent surface of the object being attended to. Instead we become one with it. As we stop thinking about it we start to be with it. Silence, as Ramana says in a way very challenging to the modern
mind, is the absence of thought
[But] our contemporary lifestyle and the institutions that monitor us do not set much store by silence. The very nature of silence makes it easy to lose, without even realizing it. The more distracted you become the less you notice that you are not paying attention. The more external stimulus occupies the mind, the less we know that we have lost inner spaciousness. When we do eventually sense that something is wrong, or missing, we struggle to find a name for it. [. . .]
Learning to be silent involves taking the attention off ourselves, at least in the way we are usually and compulsively thinking about ourselves, looking over our shoulder or peering at the horizon. What should I do? How can I be happier? Am I a failure or a success? What do people think of me? Am I in control?
Such questions normally determine our decisions and our patterns of growth or decline. Each question arises from a self-objectifying sense of self, which has, of course, a necessary pragmatic role to play in life. . . .. But very easily these questions can become the dominant cast of mind from which we live all the time. We become their slaves. How we see ourselves (the ego like a continuously running security camera catching every word and gesture) and how others see us (the sense of being evaluated and found wanting) has, with the help of the media, generated a cultural obsession with self-image. Unchecked and unmodified it destroys the confidence of the true self that enables us to risk and to give ourselves—in others words, to live. [. . . .]
During my visit to Norway this summer I swam, one glorious day, in an Oslo fjiord. As I don’t like cold water I tested it with my toe and found it too cold for my liking. But shamed by the bravery of my Viking companion who had already jumped in I steeled myself and followed. The cold burst my mind open, a momentary agony, but then, as I swam around and my body temperature regulated, it eventually became delicious.
We are all frightened to jump it; we find excuses to avoid the sitting stillness and run from the dawning silence. But when we do become silent, life bursts open with a freshness and poignancy that is the energy of the life of Christ. In an instant the fears, prejudices and the self-constructed prisons of the human condition begin to crumble. Going into the inner room as Jesus tells us is a way of putting it. But was we enter this room we discover that we are moving through space boundlessly.
After Meditation, from Laurence Freeman, Christian Meditation Newsletter, August 1997.
[An] image that speaks of the vast mystery of Christ’s friendship. . .struck me one day [in Florence] as I was walking up the steps from the crypt of the Abbey Church of San Miniato. Half-way up the stairs I saw an uninterrupted view of the length of the basilica ending at the open door of the church. A few inches higher and I would have seen through to the panoramic view of Florence that San Miniato commands from its position on the hill. . . .But from where I was standing at that moment all I could see was the clearest bright sky framed strongly by the dark door frame and the dark simple interior of the church. There was nothing to see except the full clear emptiness of the sky outside, pure light framed by interior shade.
Jesus once described himself as a doorway through which we pass into the boundlessness of God.