Tag Archives: Meditation

On Doing Battle With The Adversary or A Tale Of Learning To Love The Station Master

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

Today I had the blessing of attending mass with Father Daniel Schuster.  I’ve only heard FR Schuster preach a handful of times, but each homily he’s preached has moved me; to me FR Schuster is the real deal, a rock star among priests.  Today’s homily was on becoming a sanctuary.  Today’s homily rocked me to my very foundations.

The foundation of this homily was a Gospel reading from Matthew, Chapter 5.  Matthew is my favorite New Testament work with chapters 5 – 7, The Sermon on The Mount being my favorite of all biblical writings.  “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  WHOA.  This hit me hard and in a new light.  Love your enemies – and then it hit me — I’m my own worst enemy.  Pray for those who persecute you – no one has every persecuted as painfully as I persecute myself.   Who do you need to pray for Kenneth? You need to pray for you Kenneth. Not a prayer of vanity or a prayer of asking, but a prayer of forgiveness and love.  “Help me God to forgive myself for the way I have abused and treated myself.  Teach me to be more loving of myself so I may love others more fully.  Fill me with light and illuminate my mind.  Help me to be worthy to be a sanctuary.”

Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds.   We all struggle with.  Yes, we’ve all heard the saying “I am my own worst enemy.”  But hearing this today was different.  I heard this with my inner hearing – my spiritual ears.

“Your actions are your only true belongings.”

Allan Lokos

Instead of loving myself, I obsess over whether or not someone could find me loveable and used superficial targets to validate my existence—possessions, grades, jobs, friends, cash, and degrees for fancy coursework.

I feel like a voracious black hole of yearning.  I consumed everything that was closest to me—food, love, validation — in an attempt to fill the void that I experience on a daily basis. That feeling of not being good enough, of seeking desperately for the last piece of the puzzle, the piece that would round me out and make me whole.

I micromanage those around me, offering help that has not been asked for, repairing others because I don’t have the courage to believe I’m repairable.

I require my own love and support. I need my actions to resonate with the deeply hidden spark thriving inside my spirit, that light that hopes someday I’ll come to retrieve it and be a worthy sanctuary.

Now, I often tell people that the spark inside of them, no matter how dim or deeply hidden, is like Tinker Bell as Tink’s light is being extinguished in Peter Pan. That, like Tinker Bell, that spark is enlivened and emboldened by the clapping and cheering and belief in its relevance – belief in yourself. 

That spark represents your inner wisdom, your inner light — the light that will guide you directly toward a life that is tailor-fit to your specifications, a life that is in harmony with all, a life that is worth of being a sanctuary.

And yet, there are times when I doubt its integrity, I doubt myself, favoring instead the words and programs and gospel of experts and gurus, wanting desperately to be fixed, to be whole.

There are those days where I’m certain that if I just read enough or I’m kind enough, that I will be transformed into a person deserving of a beautiful life, deserving to be a sanctuary.

I forget I am the one that I am waiting for.

Who looks outside, dreams;

who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Gustav Jung

So how do you shift this perception?  You do the work.

We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.  Loving ourselves isn’t a onetime event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process.  It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation.  So despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourself – LOVE YOURSELF.

The best way to create this is to begin your day with love, not technology – don’t start your day with email, voice mail or Good Morning America; turn the phone off. Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.

Take time to pray, mediate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Pray is talking to God and meditation is listening to God.  Begin with 5 minutes of pray and meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.

Journal to remember all the times you’ve been your best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Break these moments down into distinct parts, like a chemist in a lab distilling the most significant components.  If there was a place that felt injured or broken or if you can’t think of a time, give yourself the permission to imagine what might feel really good there. Let yourself dream.

Take that list and boil it down to five needs.  My five daily needs are: adequate sleep, plenty of hydration, spiritual study, moving my body, and silence.  Those are the five ingredients that I could provide myself to concoct a truly supported and nourished day where my body felt whole, my mind felt alive and my spirit felt encouraged. Your list might look radically different than mine, but the importance is that it is something that works for you. Try to meet those needs in whatever way you see fit, however imperfect or intermittent.

Over time, you’ll begin to see yourself as a person worth loving. You’ll begin to believe you deserve a life that is deeply immersed in and led by your own inner wisdom and self-love.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters

compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, I know; learning self-love isn’t easy. I look at it this way. Throughout the day, I’m confronted with many opportunities to disregard or attune to my feelings, to judge or to honor them, to keep commitments and be responsible to myself, and to act in accordance with my needs, values, and feelings. I have an opportunity to learn self-love all the time. Every time I talk myself down, doubt myself, exhaust myself, dismiss my feelings or needs, or act against my values, I undermine my self-esteem. The reverse is also true. I will make healthier choices, because you and I will both benefit from this.

On The Rings Of Contemplation or A Tale Of Give Us This Day Our Daily Silence

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
George MacDonald

Many years ago while living in San Francisco I found a dusty little book in Dog Eared Books, The Cloud of Unknowing. It is this wonderful, anonymous 14th century book that presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God to me.

This form of meditation, more commonly known as ‘Centering Prayer’ (from a text by the brilliant Thomas Merton) can be traced from and through the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on God.

Silence is God’s first language,” wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross. And silence is the normal context in which contemplative prayer takes place. But there is silence and then there is silence. There is an outer silence, an outer stopping of the words and busyness, but there is also a much more challenging interior silence, where the inner talking stops as well.

The purpose of prayer is the noughting of oneself and the all-ing of God.
Anonymous

Most of us are familiar with this first kind of silence, although we don’t get enough of it in our spiritual life. It’s the kind of silence we normally practice in retreat times and quiet days. With a break from the usual hurly-burly of your life, you have time to draw inward and allow your mind to meander. You may pore over a scriptural verse and let your imagination and feelings carry you more deeply into it. Or you may simply put the books away and go for a walk in the woods, allowing the tranquility of the setting and the relative quieting of external pressures bring you more deeply in touch with yourself. You listen carefully to how you’re feeling, what you’re wishing. In this kind of work, the free association of your mind provides the key to the renewal, and silence furnishes the backdrop where this work can go on.

But there is another kind of silence as well, far less familiar to most students of spiritual growth. In this other kind of silence, the exercise is exactly the opposite. In silence, you encourage your mind to float where it will; in this other silence — or to use the generic description, meditation — a deliberate effort is made to restrain the wandering of the mind, either by slowing down the thought process itself or by developing a means of detaching oneself from it.

Intentional silence almost always feels like work. It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and there is in fact considerable resistance raised from the mind itself: “You mean I just sit there and make my mind a blank?” Then the inner talking begins in earnest, and you ask yourself, “How can this be prayer? How can God give me my imagination, reason, and feelings and then expect me not to use them?” “Will I go crazy?”

Perhaps the most powerful argument is the one from authority. Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it. Whether it is the meditation of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal avowal that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.  All major, worldwide religions, most urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human being. And while it’s true that we don’t have pictures of Jesus teaching a meditation practice exactly — this can be read between the lines fairly easily on any number of occasions in the scriptures.

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our world, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be — that busy, anxious little “I” so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues — is never even remotely the whole of who I AM, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger life. This is why, according to His teaching, the one who tries to keep his life will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing. Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the ego with its insatiable needs and demands.

This confusion between ego self and I AM is the core illusion of the human condition, and penetrating this illusion is what awakening is all about.

God hidden within me.  I find Him by hiding in the silence in which He is concealed.
Thomas Merton

At the center of our being is a point of emptiness which is untouched by ego and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point of light which belongs entirely to God. This little point of emptiness is the light of God burning in us. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of an inner sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely and it is the gateway to heaven.  As we enter contemplative prayer, we draw near the wellspring from which our being flows.