Weekly Readings 2/6/2013

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Dearest Friends,” Christian Meditation Newsletter, Vol. 28, No. 2, May 2004, pp. 4-5.

Contemplatives know that the work they are doing in silence and stillness touches and affects the whole person. The wounding division between body and mind is gradually healed and the meaning of resurrection becomes clearer.

 Restored to ourselves, we find our right place in the world and accept our responsibilities in it. The ways of peace and justice are highlighted, and courage to bear witness is born of the new peace in the soul.

John Main once said, provocatively but truly, that “imagination is the enemy of prayer.” He is pointing to what happens when the mind slips out of harmony with the body. It develops a deracinated, imaginary life that no longer serves reality. Our media-saturated culture of virtual reality illustrates the consequences on a global scale. . . .human woundedness is painfully and dangerously associated with daydreaming. Our basic human needs (physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual) are rarely fully met all the time. When we first realize this the first innocence of life is over. The long journey towards the second innocence, the mature integration that is holiness, has to begin. To reach that goal, however, we have to understand the nature of desire. Unmet basic needs become wounds. To relieve the pain of wounds we imagine what would fulfill the need and that image crystallizes as desire. Consciousness moves from the wound to the desire; our attention is distracted and actions follow attention.

We have begun a life of desire. Day-dreaming, as Simone Weil says, is the root of all evil but also, she adds consolingly, the “sole consolation of the afflicted.”  Its only problem is that it is unreal. Diadochus of Photike in the 5th century saw the same problem of desire with the same clarity and drew the same conclusion. He says that desire lingers as unreality in the mind until imagination gives it form. Then it takes on a false existence and when we act on it, trying to fulfill it, it unleashes, through its very unreality, the power of darkness. It is from this sequence leading to suffering and evil that contemplation saves us. We are restored to the real world. Sitting on this river-bank, walking through these trees. Welcomed to the wonders of the real world.

Meditation is the practice of contemplation. In daily life it develops our spiritual senses. It allows us to see the difference between needs and desires, to smell out reality from illusion, to feel the difference between the gravity of spirit, which is love, and the gravity of ego, which is fear. The aim of daily meditation. . .is simply to allow this sense of reality to become the standard way of seeing and responding to life. Attention can only lead to this if it is sustained. This fidelity is what the mantra teaches interiorly and what community shows externally. Without perseverance faith is merely good intention. “It is your faith that has healed you,” Jesus says. Faith lived in meditation is the energy of pure consciousness, the momentum of reality.

After meditation: from Mary Oliver, “Coming to God: First Days,” THIRST (Boston: Beacon, 2006), p. 23.

Lord, what shall I do that I
can’t quiet myself?
Here is the bread, and
here is the cup, and
I can’t quiet myself.

To enter the language of transformation!
To learn the importance of stillness,
   with one’s hands folded!
When will my eyes of rejoicing turn peaceful?
When will my joyful feet grow still?
When will my heart stop its prancing
   as over the summer grass?

Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake.
I would climb the highest tree to
be that much closer.

Lord, I will learn also to kneel down
into the world of the invisible,
   the inscrutable and the everlasting.
Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree
   on a day of no wind,
bathed in light,
like the wanderer who has come home at last
and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things;
every motion; even words.

Carla Cooper - cmcooper@gvtc.com