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Meditation: Living the Entire Enchilada

Rev. Toni Fish, Associate Minister

In every spiritual path I’ve studied, one of the main pillars is the practice of silence – whether it’s called prayer or meditation or contemplation or relaxation or mindfulness.  It is the activity of being still, of heightened awareness, of feeling the Presence.  This being present to the Presence doesn’t require sitting on a cushion or in a chair for twenty minutes every day.  Yes, there is a lasting benefit to the discipline of taking that time to step away from the noise and stress of the day-to-day.  However, in fact, for many of us, taking that time, even twenty minutes a day, may seem like a luxury.  We have a mortgage to pay, food to put on the table, the kids’ medical bills.  So, if we think that there’s the same disciplined practice for finding that silence, that peace for everyone – the parent with three kids or the young executive just starting a career – we’re probably creating an illusion.

What if there were another way – a way that’s not about detachment, rather “a healthy and unitive attachment”, as Fr. Richard Rohr would say.  What if we were to broaden the definition of the practice of silence – prayer or meditation or contemplation – to a understanding of that Presence as flow – God as flow and we can learn to allow and participate in that flow.  What if we consciously open to God as Love to be that which flows through us, as us, out toward others. Each moment would be a moment of mindfulness, a moment of silence.  Each reach outward would be one of conscious awareness and contemplation.  In Parker Palmer’s book, On the Brink of Everything, there is a simple definition of contemplation that speaks to me of this conscious awareness of flow: “Contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality.”  There are things that force us to that consciousness of flow – the death of a loved one, the destruction of a storm, the senseless death of children – and at the same time these things can free us from the illusion of separation and loss.  To quote Fr. Rohr again, “…sitting in silence isn’t the whole enchilada.  Life is the whole enchilada.”


Here are some thoughts to ponder as you open to the possibility of living the whole enchilada in conscious awareness of the flow that is God.

“Meditation practice is like piano scales, basketball drills, ballroom dance class. Practice requires discipline; it can be tedious; it is necessary. After you have practiced enough, you become more skilled at the art form itself. You do not practice to become a great scale player or drill champion. You practice to become a musician or athlete. Likewise, one does not practice meditation to become a great meditator. We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living.” 


“Many questing young people and stressed older people nowadays seek relaxation through meditation. They look for it in Hindu, Buddhist and other Eastern religions. They are often surprised to learn that there is such a way within the Christian tradition, a way that is known as contemplation.” 


“Meditation is like going to the bottom of the sea, where everything is calm and tranquil. On the surface of the sea there may be a multitude of waves but the sea is not affected below. In its deepest depths, the sea is all silence. When we start meditating, first we try to reach our own inner existence, our true existence- that is to say, the bottom of the sea. Then when the waves come from the outside world, we are not affected. Fear, doubt, worry and all the earthly turmoil just wash away, because inside us is solid peace. Thoughts cannot touch us, because our mind is all peace, all silence, all oneness. Like fish in the sea, they jump and swim but leave no mark. When we are in our highest meditation, we feel that we are the sea, and the animals in the sea cannot affect us. We feel that we are the sky, and all the birds flying past cannot affect us. Our mind is the sky and our heart is the infinite sea. This is meditation.” 


“For moderns – for us – there is something illicit, it seems, about wasted time, the empty hours of contemplation when a thought unfurls, figures of speech budding and blossoming, articulation drifting like spent petals onto the dark table we all once gathered around to talk and talk, letting time get the better of us. _Just taking our time_, as we say. That is, letting time take us.
“Can you say,” I once inquired of a sixty-year old cloistered nun who had lived (vibrantly, it seemed) from the age of nineteen in her monastery cell, “what the core of contemplative life is?”
“Leisure,” she said, without hesitation, her china blue eyes cheerfully steady on me. I suppose I expected her to say, “Prayer.” Or maybe “The search for God.” Or “Inner peace.” Inner peace would have been good. One of the big-ticket items of spirituality.  She saw I didn’t see.  “It takes time to do this,” she said finally.  Her “this” being the kind of work that requires abdication from time’s industrial purpose (doing things, getting things). By choosing leisure she had bid farewell to the fevered enterprise of getting-and-spending whereby, as the poet said, we lay waste our powers.” 


“In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds.”


“God’s first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation.”


Rev. Toni Fish

Rev. Toni Fish

Associate Minister

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