Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Fr Laurence's Advent Reflections

Advent Reflections 2017

These reflections are drawn from the readings for the four Sundays of Advent, which is a season in itself and the run-up to Christmas. The best benefit comes from reading the scripture passages themselves — so the references are given and are available on the wccm.org website. The reflections themselves might also be usefully read during the rest of the week, not only on Sunday.


Advent Week Three

(December 17th  Is 61:1-2A,10-11; 1Thess 5:16-24; Jn 1: 6-8,19-28) – for Scripture Readings --  READ HERE

We have to burrow deep down through disappointment and even despair to find the source of hope. Only at the place where it bubbles up from the bowels of the earth is hope more than wishful thinking, crossing your fingers, keeping up morale. This may be why prophets (and we all have a bit of the prophet in us) seem often to oscillate from the dark to the light.
Today Isaiah is all light. You would have to have a professionally hardened heart not to be moved by his vision of an event, a coming – that brings glad news to the poor, heals the broken-hearted, gives liberty to those held in bonds of fear or fantasy and sets prisoners free. At Christmas many people remember this hope, and feel connected to its pure, fresh and simple source. That is why Christmas is about a birth and children and Christmas go together so well.
This hopeful vision of the human theatre is usually buried deep in the noise and glitter and excessive indulgence of the festivities. Inevitably, we will hear about the economic impact of Christmas spending on the economy; much less about the special shelters for the homeless run by volunteers, the people who will search out and comfort those who with their families have lost home and livelihood because of war and are looked at by their new hosts with suspicion and hostility.
How do we dig down to find this spring of hope that can face the inhumanities of humanity and still not give up trying to make the world a kinder and more just place? After all, many who start off idealistically become cynical. Politics smothers purpose. And many more perhaps burn out in the process, giving themselves generously but imprudently in ways that break the mind or the body.
Paul says ‘pray without ceasing’. This hardly means spending all day in church, mosque, temple or synagogue. Nor does it mean thinking about heavenly realities all the time. It means unblocking the channel of consciousness that is the continuous pure stream of prayer in us.
I once sat down to meditate with a small group in my meditation room on Bere Island. Then an awful smell and a worrying sound of gurgling came from the nearby toilet. It was overflowing. Bad news, like we read of every day. My cousin, who is an expert in everything, came round and feared it was the septic tank. Big problem. Later as I walked around outside I saw a hole where the pipe led from the toilet to the tank. I looked in the hole and saw a stone lodged there. Hardly believing my luck and beaming with pride that I had solved the problem I plucked out the stone and everything flowed thereafter in the right way.
We don’t have to try to pray continuously. We just have to remove the blockages to enjoy what Paul calls the soundness, wholeness, of body, mind and spirit. This is the biblical understanding of the human – the triple dimension that lifts the duality of body and mind to transcendence. This third and most subtle dimension is clearly present in today’s gospel, as John the Baptist points away from himself to the ‘one who will come after’ him.
We can only say so much and see so much. We can only keep the attention on ourselves for so long. If we don’t clear the blockages in consciousness that foul up ourselves and the world, we will endlessly look and not see and chatter so much that we drown out the healing silences of life. The Baptist says ‘there is one among you whom you do not recognise.’
What a hopeful thing to say.


Advent Week Two

  (December 10th,  Is 40:1-5,9-11; 2Pet:3:8-14; Mk 1:1-8)


Stillness in meditation is, despite appearances, the fast lane of the spirit. Without knowing it we are covering a lot of ground and we do not become aware of it until we realise there is no going back. People stop meditating for a variety of reasons. One is impatience; another is fear that we are travelling too fast. Advent is an opportunity to readjust our awareness in the strange, fluid dimension of time in which we live and die every day. Tough love can be this wake-up call.
Isaiah today seems captivated by the melting tenderness of God. It is different but not incompatible with last week’s emphasis on the painful estrangement between the human and the divine. Actually nothing is incompatible with God. The greater the difference, the deeper the paradox to be resolved and then the greater the delight in seeing opposites united. But, the divine shepherd? If you have ever met a shepherd close to his sheep you may have been surprised by his manner. On one hand tough, unsentimental, masculine; on the other, gentle, attentive and nurturing to even the weakest runts in his flock.
In today’s gospel we meet another prophet, John the Baptist, the last of the pre-Christian ones, the same age as Jesus. The tradition has imagined him hairy, unwashed and angry, ascetical and denouncing corruption and hypocrisy. Maybe there is more to him than this. Prophets are characteristically hyper-sensitive, lonely, dysfunctional and they rarely get their message over without offending people on all sides.
But their intention (the true prophet’s) is kindly: the health and well-being of others. The call to change our mind and way of seeing things and to adjust our life-style to this new way of being is painfully kind. The people who came out into the desert to hear John asked him ‘what shall we do?’ They were – as we are often are, and more than we realise – quietly desperate.
There is not much that fills us with unconscious dread more than the glimpse of our lives trickling away from us without meaning, without discovering what we were really supposed to do with our lives, trying to keep the accusatory awareness of our mistakes and self-deception from surfacing above the waves of consciousness. Prophets get this out in the open.
But the tension between patience and urgency can resolve as we see in the letter from Peter today: ‘with the Lord one day is like a thousand years’. If we see that, then two meditations a day seem more doable. John Main said (prophetically) this was the minimum. Even if it takes a millennium to understand and comply with this, it is a truth always worth listening to.
The prophet may appear to us this coming week in many guises. In whatever outward form, tough or gentle, the effect should be the same: to make the glimpse of life’s urgency last a little longer until we steadily look the truth about ourselves in the eyes. Hard as that may be, we will not fail to sigh with relief that the truth is finally out and we can stop pretending.

Advent Week One (December 3rd  Is 63:16b-17,19b, 64:2-7; 1Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37)
Prophets are not fortune-tellers, much as we secretly crave to know whats going to happen – or to think that we could see into the future. Isaiah is a prophet and his gift to us is not a prediction but a reminder – an urgent one – to be really, fully present. He is someone who has experienced God and cant get God out of his mind – although, like any God-believer, at times he would like to be free of God. Isaiah deals with this by asking this searching question of God: why do you let us wander from your ways and let our hearts harden?

We wont get final answers to this kind of question, but just asking helps powerfully to clarify the human dilemma. If God is God – good, loving, caring for us – why do we go off-track so easily, so ruthlessly and so often? Why Syria? Why human trafficking? Why political prisoners and torture? Why off-shore tax havens? For that matter, why the hardening divisions associated with American and European politics? As Advent begins, this is a good question to keep fresh and to keep our waiting increasingly, not decreasingly, conscious. ‘Advent’ means that something is coming and, good or bad, is heading straight for us.

Isaiah yearns for a time when we would be mindful of you in our ways,’ rather than constantly forgetting that we are the clay and you the potter.’ So perhaps the answer to the human failure to be humane is not in God but in us and especially in our forgetfulness.

So, today and throughout this season, Jesus has one word for us: watch. It means make an effort to see, take heed, look both ways, be alert at all times. Watchfulness is an ancient virtue. It does not mean packing in more words, plans, reports, meetings and projections. If we are watchful these will be mercifully reduced and our decision-making and collaboration greatly enhanced. To watch means simultaneously keeping focused and expanding our field of awareness. If this balancing act is lost, we become either distracted or obsessive. Then everything falls apart.

So the answer to Isaiahs question is not an answer, but a response. The response is a change in behaviour, a practice. The mantra coordinates that for the meditator. The sign that we are watching is what Paul, in todays second reading, observes with spontaneous gratitude: giving thanks that we do not lack any spiritual gift.’ Its really and presently all given if we can but see it.

(I was looking up Mark Chapter 13 to check the Greek text and googled ‘Mk 13’. The search showed me a bolt-action snipers rifle’ used by the US Seals. Thats one kind of watchfulness but not the one we should work on during Advent.)

Monday, 1 April 2013

A New Consciousness

A New Consciousness





This blog shares the fruits of Meditation. Inspiration flows from embracing the present moment- so recommended in the practice of Meditation. Unexpected moments of grace occur in and beyond the time of meditating. Hope and trust can be built by embracing the living moment- fear and isolation displaced in the communal embrace.

How do we see our responsibility for the wellbeing of our environment? Our earth community?
More and more we are understanding with our minds our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us - the visible causes and effects operating on global and individual levels along with the invisible net work of energy exchange of which we are a part. We learn of the interactions between individual wellbeing and environmental causes, and of effects of human actions on the wellbeing of the planet.

When we begin with meditation as ‘the way to reality”- the reality of our own being, it is the opening of a deeper way of knowing, “ listening with the ear of the heart”, experiencing our oneness with the ground of being.

As Fr. Laurence has said “ In meditation we create a spaciousness of mind to give us the ability to experience a different reality and an ability to see differently.”

What does the Earth need from us? We need the totality of our understanding to respond to this question - from the inner world of consciousness, spirit, as well as the outer physical world of the senses and the knowledge of the mind .

John Main ‘There is a deep and urgent need in the world today to recover the true experience of spirit”

In the West we have largely focused on human well being to the neglect of wellbeing of the earth. In our nature-dominating social and economic systems we have not only endangered the earth’s well being but our own – stress, depression, emptiness, anxiety and addictions being some of the symptoms of our dis-ease. Like cells in a larger body, we feel the trauma of the world.. our pain for the world and love for the world are one as we act to help transform the world in our individual callings. 

In these blogs we invite you to explore and share your understanding and experiences of how meditation can help transform our relation to the wellbeing of the earth…to help create, and live from a new consciousness.
Janet O'Sullivan