Monday, August 08, 2011

Comments Worth Foregrounding from Exploring Silence IV


"..meditation is only a first and minor step in a process that shifts the centre of consciousness..." What follows? Thank you.

Maggie Ross:

Meditation can be abused as well as used. One can, for example, meditate in order to become a more efficient killer.

Meditation has to have a context and be subject to intent. The modern distinction between religion and spirituality is very dangerous—not that believing the propositions of a particular sect is important, but it is vital to know what you believe, what your ethics are, and your purpose for meditating, that is, your intent.

Meditation can introduce you to silence, but it will not root you in silence, or shift your centre to the deep mind. Meditation can introduce you to the possibilities that silence offers for trans-figuration, but these effects are only incidental.

Most people go no farther than meditation because they are more interested in justifying who they think they are, rather than becoming who they really are. The reason for this is that they are unwilling to pay the price, unwilling to let go of their ideas of themselves, to begin with; unwilling to wait in the dark in complete openness; unwilling to turn away from noise and static in their minds whenever they notice it in order to to reach into the dark; unwilling to seek solitude and silence; unwilling to radically simplify their lives. 

These are not conditions of entry in to the silence; rather, the silence itself demands them. Realising that the silence is costly, and not willing to risk the effects what they do not know, most people sell their souls for a mess of pottage and miss their inheritance, which is the kingdom of heaven, i.e., a life animated by contemplation.

Changeinthewind replied:

Wow! A thoughtful and provocative response. Thank you.

"These are not conditions of entry in to the silence; rather, the silence itself demands them.


I feel willing to do all of this. 

What you say is necessary to a contemplative life I now do or try to do.

There could be improvement but I live a deliberately simple life.

"..unwilling to wait in the dark in complete openness.."

Perhaps "just living" can be the dark I now feel? What once felt purposeful and beautiful is now a feeling of stuck ness in what seems to be just a meditation practice.

Are you suggesting that the stuck ness reaction was/is an ego defense; a not yet willing at the core to pay the true cost?

Or is it, this too shall pass.

Maggie Ross replied:

Perhaps the most important thing is not to worry what it "feels" like, nor to worry about the outcome, or the price, or anything else. Let go expectations. Let go ideas of what it 'should be like'. Let go evaluations. Just be.

Equally important is that you turn to 'reach into the dark' (or listen every more deeply in the silence, or whatever metaphor works for you to get you beyond what often becomes a meditation-generated capsule) outside of meditation, in your ordinary life. 

When you catch yourself allowing the noise and static in your head to be your entertainment, deliberately turn away from it towards the silence and make some sort of interior metaphorical (entirely metaphorical) intention/gesture (again, whatever metaphor works) of opening to the silence, of 'choosing' the silence instead of the noise, of reaching into the dark in love. 

It's utterly simple; there is nothing to 'do' except choose to have this intention when you catch yourself in noise of some sort [it will also help you survive environmental noise you can't do anything about, and calm strong emotion]. You only need to do it once in a lingering, leisurely sort of way and then forget about it and go on with ordinary life in as much simple silence as possible—forgetting even this. (You will recognize the paradox of intention).

Then the next time you catch yourself being entertained (or abused) by noise (internal especially, but also external) repeat the exercise. Gradually you are using your intention to influence your deep mind to change/shift your energy centre from self-consciousness to the deep mind. Eventually you will wake up one morning , or quietly realize over a cup of tea in the afternoon, that you no longer have to choose do this exercise, that the silence is now doing the animating.

Don't make too much of this. it's simplicity itself. It's a bit like trying to look at the star cluster called the Pleiades: if you look at them directly they tend to fade; if you look at them out of the corner of your eye, obliquely, they shine clearly and brightly. Try to avoid looking at what's going on out of your sight (you can't see it anyway and it's none of your business!); just make the simple choice/intention or 'reaching' into the silence in faith—a faith that is deep enough to relax and forget you have done it.

When you find yourself in noise, choose silence; that's it. As the shift takes place, the degree of simplicity of your external living conditions will find its own level. 

No two people are alike in this, and simple pleasures are important—think 'Babette's Feast'—in the sense of, for example, delectable, very fresh, food now and again, food that is carefully, thoughtfully, beautifully prepared in love and eaten with great attention and love; or some other simple pleasure—are greatly to be desired. For Fr Zossima in the Brothers Karamatsov, it was jam in his tea. It can be something very simple: a flower, a starry night. These moments of deep gratitude, beholding, appreciation, etc. enhance the silence and help you deepen into it. 

It's important to continue your regular meditation until the day you realize that silence has taken over, and meditation actually seems like a form of noise, or withers. All the same, you will probably have to go back to it from time to time as a kind of refresher, because it's rare that the shift is permanently seated; we do slip. It's not a fault. It just happens; we're humans, not machines, and we live in particularly tumultuous and uncertain times. Paradoxically the silence makes one both more sensitive—acutely so—and simultaneously more unshakeable.

It is also important always to read very good things, a little at a time (like eating the good food above—quality, not quantity); to keep your eyes from harmful images—you will become more impressionable to such things and purging bad images, if you let them in, is a chore; to keep your ears from harmful words as far as that is possible, or violence in any form, ditto. Again, these things will follow automatically as you choose/intend/reach into the silence. If bad things are said to you or happen to you allow the silence to absorb them and your feelings with them.

Simple, simple. 'Unless you become as a little child. . ." This is what that passage means, in part. Bless you, and bless you for the courage to share these questions with others.

PS I have used neutral language in describing this for the most part, because religious/theological language has been ruined. But you can make the translation, I'm sure.


Blogger changeinthewind said...

"that you no longer have to choose do this exercise, that the silence is now doing the animating."


"Don't make too much of this."


"..until the day you realize that silence has taken over, and meditation actually seems like a form of noise, or withers."

YES. And don't throw it away.

"It's a bit like trying to look at the star cluster called the Pleiades:..."

Exactly so.

Thank you and Bless you for this.

6:30 pm, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous AM said...

Less to do with this post. Praying for you and for the rest of the UK beyond London. I was trying to recall one of your posts in this blog because I thought it was foretelling of the worse that could happen in the streets of London. "A Matter of Degree" was the title post:

With all public services for which Britain is highly regarded held out to tender, with the unbreakable contracts that can be bought and sold that this move will bring, the social fabric of the UK will be so badly torn that it is doubtful if it can ever be repaired. There will be no choice for anyone about this. In consequence, human need will be at the mercy of the cash-cow milkers, the bean-counters and the bottom line."

"What can be done to halt this dehumanizing takeover? Can Britons take to the streets with any effect, or will the sort of police brutality that was seen during recent student gatherings in London put people off? And what, pray, is the difference between this government's intolerance of protest and that of the tyrants it purports to rejoice to see overthrown, except one of degree?"

11:56 am, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

To AM:

Thanks for your thoughtful remark and for your concern.

These riots are very different from what I was writing about in the earlier post as far as 'taking to the streets' are concerned. The present riots are not students with a legtimate cause, but rather young people who have been raised in a culture of violence (video games, gangs, completely amoral 'families') looking for what they perceive as a good night out.

As far as I can tell they don't have enough mental development to have a cause or to stand for, or care about anything except mayhem for mayhem's sake. They are organizing themselves by using Blackberry's encrypted messaging system. It is pointless, senseless, and I hope the authorities lock them up and throw away the key.

Someone in one of the neighbuorhoods this morning called these kids "feral rats". They are certainly feral, and there is very little hope that they can ever be woven into the social fabric. It's not only the parents' fault; it's the social, economic and amoral underbelly that seems to have a life of its own.

I have often felt that people should have to get licenses to have children, they way they have to get licenses to drive. They would have to take courses in parenting and prove that they can make the commitment.

One of the heartening scenes yesterday were ordinary decent people getting out into the shattered streets to clean up. They were not going to allow anarchy to beat them into despair.

As always, it's a very complex set of issues. One, a very touchy one, is immigration. There are simply too many people here on this tiny little island, which would fit 7 1/2 times into Alaska. And over-crowding does breed violence. Add to that gang culture, the cultural violence that people are exposed to on the internet, in cinemas, on TV, in the so-called music of the day, not to mention the economic mess, and it adds up to a real witches' brew.

Thatcher was responsible for the acceleration of this process; she made acceptable not caring about the community, being publicly greedy and selfish—the beginning of the end of the British values that saw this country through two world wars. If something like a world war were to happen now, I shudder to think about the outcome.

12:19 pm, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous AM said...

I stand corrected, enlightened. Thank you very much for your insights...

6:53 am, August 11, 2011  
Blogger changeinthewind said...


I was so shocked and excited by your last response. I wrote back without reading your remarks in full. I missed the PS and that PS is so immediately relevant.

So, yes, after a more careful and through reading of your comments and suggestions including the PS I can make one translation of your secular language. So also can I take the suggestion that the techniques of meditation must rise up from the cushion and take a deliberate stance in everyday living.

This is so obvious and so easily forgotten. You offer a reminder both necessary and clearly expressed.

The suggeston that mediation itself can become noise is new. I sit now with "new" eyes and ears.

Sometimes the stars are obscured by overcast and rainy skies, sometimes they are not. One must look up and into the darkness to know which it is. :)

Thank you so much.

1:19 am, August 12, 2011  

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