Sunday Quote: Deep within

File:Sherrard Point-Larch Mountain-Oregon.jpg

Keep your feet on the top of the mountain

and sound deep to that

of God in everyone

George Fox, 1624 – 1691, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers)

With thanks to Cilla at for the thought

photo wyldnthewoods

All there is

File:House Sparrow (6818475877).jpg

Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That’s all there is.

Charlotte Joko Beck.

photo nottsexminer

The Basics of Practice 4: Just watch

Mindfulness is cultivated by assuming the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience. To do this requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experience and learn to step back from it.

When we begin practicing paying attention to the activity of our own mind, it is common to discover that we are constantly generating judgments about our experience.

Jon Kabat Zinn

Remembering our own goodness

st francis san damiano
The greatest thing you can do for another is not  share your riches,
but reveal to them their own.   Benjamin Disraeli
Today is the feast of Saint Francis, from Assisi in Umbria, a peaceful and beautiful place I have visited many times over the years, and where I took this photo on Easter Sunday morning after the dawn liturgy. Francis was a man deeply in touch with the beauty and wisdom of creation, and he demonstrated a great capacity for being with his experience, and honouring every element – the moon and the stars, the earth and water – go so far as to call each one his brother or sister.  As this lovely poem recounts, he showed a fundamental respect for all creatures. We often can find this easier than respecting and honouring our own selves. But meditation is essentially this – being gently present with, without judgment, honouring our experience – dropping into what Jon Kabat Zinn calls the “Being Mode”, where we can taste our original goodness. In that place we do not have add anything in order to be complete. And “mindfulness” is related to the verb “to remember”, remembering to be present, but also remembering the space that resides beneath the clutter of thoughts and worries. Doing this gives us a break from the busy, frequently judgmental,  doing and thinking mode, which often leans towards wanting more.
The bud stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;   
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;   
as Saint Francis put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch   
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow   
began remembering all down her thick length,   
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,   
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine   
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering   
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow

Balancing different aspects

File:Round hay bale at dawn.jpg

When I was young I went on holidays to my uncle’s farm in the West of Ireland and this day, which was a holiday, was seen as  marking the change from the Summer season to Autumn. My aunt would say that the days started getting shorter once this day was over.  Maybe so,  here in this part of Western Europe.  However, there is a different awareness in mainland Europe  –  in countries such as Italy – where this day ,  Fer Agosto , is the central day of the Summer Holidays, characterized by warm weather and family meals.  This is an ancient day of celebration, stretching back to the Roman feriae Augusti  (August break) when horse races were organized, as they are still in the famous Paleo in Siena.  It marked the high point of the Summer heat, realizing a human need for a break before the important work of the harvest began,

The religious calendar often piggy-backed on these human rhythms and celebrations and August 15th is no exception, celebrated by Catholics as the Assumption of Mary,  the mother of Jesus, believing that Mary was taken directly, bodily,  into heaven.   I am not too interested in understanding the theological mystery of this day or looking at things from the viewpoint of what may or may not happen at the end of time. I am more interested in the fact that Carl Jung stated that establishing this feastday was the most important religious event since the Reformation in the 16th Century. He felt it finally gave due recognition to the feminine aspect of the person, emphasizing the role of the anima alongside the animus.

Jung said that this was “the profoundest problem afflicting the human psyche: an imbalance which favored masculine principles and archetypes over the feminine ones”It is an imbalance which seems to have been recognized in all religions and wisdom traditions, as we find representations of female figures from the Virgin Mary in Catholicism and Orthodoxy  to Quan Yin in BuddhismHowever, what  Jung is drawing our attention to, is the need to acknowledge these aspects not just outside us, in our religious figures, but also within ourselves and within society, a task which clearly has a long way to go. 

It is clear that Western Society is built on an over-emphasis of traits and activities that are considered masculine –  logical thinking, analysis, action, and has neglected its feminine,  more contemplative side (while ironically at the same time, having an objectified,  sexualized version of romantic love). So Jung prompts us to reflect on the need to balance aspects within ourself and within society, embrace the energies and understandings that come from both male and female principles.  In simplistic terms this may alert us to the need to hold both logic and creativity, decisiveness and compassion, inner work and outer ambition. He goes on to say that this can fulfil “that yearning for peace which stirs deep down in the soul, and for a resolution of the threatening tension between opposites. Everyone shares this tension and everyone experiences it in his individual form of unrest”. 

Jung seems to suggest that the unrest we experience comes when we do not get a balance between the different elements within us. It seems that becoming whole is a matter of balancing the different intelligences with us, the head, body and heart, and this can be help by a meditation practice which consciously holds the  inner and outer, the self and others.  However,  we frequently overemphasize one aspect over another. working too much at times, such as spending too much energy on the outer while neglecting relationships or leisure. Furthermore, when we do not find the balance inside we tend to project it outside.  This can often be noticed when we are moved to see in another person or in an object or career all the qualities which we think will definitely fulfil and complete us, alerting us to the fact that what we are actually glimpsing are missing aspects of ourselves, or unlived parts of our life. .

The quality of all of our relationships is a direct function of our relationship to ourselves. Since much of our relationship to ourselves  operates at an unconscious level, most of the drama and dynamics of our relationships to others and the transcendent is expressive or our own personal psychology. The best thing we can do for our relationships with others, and with the transcendent, then, is to render our relationship with ourselves more conscious.

James Hollis, The Eden Project

photo Fir0002/Flagstaffotos