Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Allowing troubled waters to deepen our reflections

I've been working hard to stay above the political fray, to remain calm and trusting in the midst of all our country's current turmoil.  But yesterday I got hooked: a post came across my facebook path a couple of times that seemed both eminently rational and utterly terrifying.

But instead of re-posting the link, I decided to pass it through the bubble, to a dear and trusted friend who lives and works "on the other side," a man whose political and religious persuasions, though we grew into faith in the same environment, differ markedly from my own.

... and I have to say it helped.  Not just because he debunked some of my worries, but because he reminded me of the importance, in such times as these, of deepening our spiritual center, and because he believes -- as do I -- that somehow God is working through all this for good.

But still, sleep was hard to come by, and my dreams were troubled by nightmares I'd not previously experienced: houses tumbling; children covered in white ash, permanently frozen in attitudes of terror; fire-blackened cars that wouldn't start... So it was with great eagerness that I opened my reading for this morning, knowing as I do from experience that often what I need to hear will be revealed in the day's text.

I've been reading Cynthia Bourgeault's latest book, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice,  and though I'm not quite halfway through the book has already had a significant effect on my meditation/Centering Prayer practice.  Sure enough, today's reading helped enormously, so I'll try to share the gist of it here with you. 

She begins my passage for today by explaining that the word "passion" comes from the latin verb patior, which means to suffer; literally, to be acted upon -- as in "he did not suffer fools gladly." (my example, not hers). "Thus," she says, "in the ancient insights on which this spiritual teaching rests, passion did not mean elan vital, energy or aliveness.  It designated being stuck, grabbed, and blindly reactive."

So a major practice of Centering Prayer is the releasing of thoughts.  But, she goes on to say, when a thought becomes entangled with our sense of identity (I read ego here), then an emotional value or point of view is suddenly at stake and we get hooked. "Once the emotion is engaged, once that sense of "I" locks in, what follows is a full-scale emotional uproar."

Yup.  A perfect description of the state I was in last night. So what do we do with that? Cynthia tells us that the trick here is that if we can disengage that sense of "me," we can channel the energy that's been generated back into a sort of deeper heart awareness.  "A heart that is divided," she says, "pulled this way and that by competing inner agendas, is like a wind-tossed sea: unable to reflect on its surface the clear image of the moon."

If we understand our meditation practice -- and our role in life -- as a way into the reflective stillness that enables us to see the connectedness, the goodness in the world, then we can view the rising of this energy as an opportunity to deepen that reflective stillness.  I know -- it sounds impossible. But somehow, for me, thinking of it that way helps me past the passionate turmoil into a kind of deeper confidence that what is meant to be will be. Not that I will not act when so led, but that my actions, fueled by that deeper understanding, might be more effective.

And so, after reading, work, thought, and meditation I can find myself again in a place of hope.  But given the nature of things, I feel certain this process is going to have to keep circling around, over and over -- and hopefully deeper and deeper -- over the coming times. I hope I have the courage, faith, and motivation to continue in the face of the storm.


Doris said...

I agree that we have to work harder these days to maintain our inner peace. For me that means, no TV news, no newspapers, no Facebook posts other than what my family is up to on any given day. Your images contribute greatly to my inner peace. Please do not abandon your contemplative photography. Doris

Diane Walker said...

Thank you, Doris!