Tag Archives: Stillness

Into The Mystical

Mystical – Word of the Day

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The Blackwood River, Augusta, looking north east, one of my mystical places.

Mysticism comes from thε Greek root of μυω, which means to conceal. Mysticism crosses every religious boundary and belief system. That which is mystical is hidden. In the great debates about God from a Christian point of view there is the mystic view that God is both knowable and unknowable at the same time, that as such, there are elements of God that are visible, definable, but that mostly, God is concealed and unknowable.

Many have pursued mystical experiences. Aliester Crowley (1875 – 1947) was one of the most famous occultists of the twentieth century, trying to make connection with a world beyond. Carlos Castaneda trained as a shaman and explored mescalin using peyote as a mystical experience, inspired by the Toltec. Timothy Leary went with the synthetic drug LSD. There are trance groups, fasting practices, musical experiences, ritual practices and more. True tantra, like Tibetan Tantra, was only ever a form of meditative practice whereby the delay of orgasm and the control of orgasm is said to increase ecstatic experience, but for the purpose of prayer and meditation (and should not be confused with “Californian tantra” as I call it, or with Hindu left hand practices). Kabbalah originated as a Jewish mysticism, but now has non-Jewish paths as well. A number of celebrities have dabbled in Kabbala from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna.

In the third and fourth centuries Christian men and women from Israel, Jordan, Asia Minor, Egypt and North Africa went in droves into the deserts to develop a communal and contemplative life. And from John Cassian to Theresa of Avilla, to Thomas Merton, a few Christians became mystics, seeking the unknowable God.

I think the unknowable attracts, and we pursue it, partly to make it known, to unravel the mystery, to bring the hidden into full view, in the main, to experience what is concealed. Most of the writings of mystics that I have read reaffirm that God, Other, the divine, is unknowable, but that in the journey of mysticism, there is connection, ecstasy, love, wholeness, union and more.

For me any sense of the divine comes more through nature and the contemplative. The photograph shows a familiar walking space I take in, some days it is beautiful, some days it just is, but always it evokes a sense of mystery, of the divine in some way. There is something about certain places that does that for me. Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Elachbutting Rock, Boranup Forest, and more, are places that move me deeply, places where I sense an otherness beyond myself or other people. I have felt ecstasy in these places, I have been overcome with joy, they can be erotic (in the pure, emotive sense) experiences, I have experienced deep inner stillness, and sometimes a confusion of feelings rushing in all at once. Such things tell me I am more open in these spaces, yet I also know that my openness is also because I sense something more. This for me is the mystical.

As Van Morrison wrote in his song “Into the Mystic” – “Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.”

I stand in silence
mystical nature envelops
the heron smiles

©Paul Cannon

Van Morrison “Into The Mystic”

 

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Live in the Present Moment

via Daily Prompt: Present

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One of my favourite lines from Winnie the Pooh, and, as with many Pooh sayings, profound. Today is the present moment, there is no other.

Living in the pesent moment has deep roots in many cultures. Living in the present moment is aided my a number of helpful practices, all mindful, all

I am told that among the Australian Aboriginal peoples there is Digerie, a contemplative practice. Notably, the word digerie is the root of digeridoo, the wooden wind instrument. Buddhism, Hinduism, Tao, and several other practices, all encourage meditation in some form. Even within the Christian tradition, meditation developed in the desert monastic communities of the third and fourth centuries. Now there are other non-aligned forms of meditation. Jon Cabat-Zinn at MIT has done substantial research in meditation, showing that it has multiple benefits. Meditation is a pure form of living in the present moment, putting aside all distraction and pressure and focussing on one’s breath and mantra is releasing. To put aside the current crisis, to let go of the tyranny of time, to engage with stillness and breathing is fabulous. Through meditation I can live in the present moment, and I find I’m better for it. I notice more about my responses, behaviour, and thinking. I am challenged to let go of the past and embrace the present. The stillness grounds me so that I am able to face doubt, and the endless permutations of my mind (the monkey mind, of which the Aussie version is a tree full of Galahs).

Jan Glidewell once said: “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.”

When our lives are completely filled up with the stuff of doing, there is little time for being. Be still for a moment, breathe, focus, let time slip away, and make space in your arms for the present.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Up Around the Bend

via Daily Prompt: Horizon

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For me the horizon is an invitation to discovery. What is up around that bend? (queue Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Up Around the Bend’) And the horizon is a metaphor for life. What comes next? It can be engaged immediately, or I can wait and savour the moment, take my time. I don’t want to conquer that bend, I just want to see what it is inviting me to, what gift is offered, and what wil I take from this moment? A little bit like my meditation practice, there is the horizon of stillness, and I wonder what that will bring to my life, what gift will arise? I’ve never been disappointed either way, and there’s always a new horizon.

“There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’, come along, come along with me.” (John C. Fogerty)

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Launch

via Daily Prompt: Launch

 

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Sometimes even the sheer effort can be daunting, all the prep, all the organising and the getting there, but once launched, it’s really worth it. There’s something really meditative about kayaking, the smell of the water, salty downstream, brackish upstream. There’s plenty for the eye to rejoice in, dolphins, stingrays, King George Whiting, black swans and a host of birdlife (some migratory). There are sounds too, birds calling, wind rustling vegetation. And there’s the sound of the water lapping on the side of the kayak, and the sound of my paddle as it divides the water and pushes. But it is not overly intrusive, the kayak is gentle on its surrounds, respectful of nature. The fish and birds come close, they trust the quiet nature of this vessel, and so do I, it is an invitation to presence and calm, even stillness (which is not an absence of movement per se). When I launch the kayak, I launch into something too, something deep.

Paul

pvcann.com

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Busy in Solitude

Back in 2010 I was sitting in a doctors surgery, and actually found an article that interested me, ‘Time bandits stifle innovation’ by D’Angelo Fisher (BRW, July 15, 2010). Fisher’s title sets the theme, that employees are so lacking in discretionary time to think, ponder or work through issues creatively, that there is no possibility of innovation let alone productivity (although there is an argument to explore here whereby we can say that some people work well under pressure).Fisher’s solution, of course, is to suggest that companies who desire to be innovative, especially in the wake of the GFC, would be to counter busyness by providing discretionary time for their staff.

There is a resonance for me as our bishop has been particularly encouraging in trying to get all his clergy to cultivate the traditional practice of being unproductive in order to be more productive in the things that matter. We are being encouraged to take time to reflect and contemplate. It is from such a place that we can speak of God, can hear the depth of our own workings, and be able to listen in to the stories of others. I don’t disagree with that at all, I embrace it wholly.

However there is a tension for me. It is the sense that I can hardly sit by while others are rushing about. Yet part of that problem is not just my reaction to how I will be viewed, it is also that there is a communication problem for anyone wanting solitude. It revolves around framing language within a context and trying to explain (as opposed to justify) it to those outside that context. Easier said than done. The repetitive question I often hear after a retreat is “so how was your holiday?”

Although neither Fisher or my Bishop use the term solitude, that’s how I relate to time for reflection, meditation, prayer, contemplation, sacred reading or Lectio. Solitude is time to draw aside, to regroup, to sense direction.

The danger is, perhaps, to compare and contrast, even demonise what we call busyness in order to provoke the thought that solitude is necessary.

My own view is, perhaps ironically, that busyness and solitude need each other in order for either to function and bring balance. Hedley Galt (corporate facilitator and coach) expresses this in the metaphor of dance; “A life that’s full and yet balanced is like a dance: you need to be able to step forward and embrace experiences, and also to step back to regroup or change direction.”

For many people solitude is daunting. Of course there are those who suffer a phobia such as monophobia (the fear of being alone) or isolophobia (the fear of being isolated) which (without treatment) precludes the sufferer from enjoying even the thought of solitude. Yet for most people there is no phobia, but rather the need to learn the dance steps for a balanced life.

The steps towards putting things on hold daunt many. A friend in management once confided that it exhausted him just to think about reorganising his life even just for a few days off so that it seemed less complicated to stay at work! Others are concerned for their reputation (a concern founded in the past and which is lived in the present) for some that reputation is wholly vested in busyness. Others might well be driven, feeding off the energy that comes from work, new ideas, and a plethora of directions and projects (a little like anxiety in that drivenness is a concern for the future). Does anyone live in the present?

We are distracted by the past (the self-perpetuating culture of retro-capitalism intrudes here) and drawn by the future. It is this busyness that I believe affects our ability to simply be, and to live in the present moment. Physical busyness alone may be demanding, but not (in the normal scheme of things) debilitating. In the metaphor of dance, it might mean for some engaged in purely emotional and mental tasks that a physical task may be the change necessary, the step to embrace. For those in purely physical work it may be to withdraw and contemplate, a step back. But either can be experienced in solitude.

For me the most meaningful solitude is when I am hiking in the bush. It is as if the motion of walking is the mantra and the scenery an organic sign of God and God’s creative work a feast for the eyes and yet more than a sign because I am in the midst of it. While I am walking I can pray and reflect, and in setting camp for the night I can undertake an Examen. But it is the physical act of hiking that facilitates the solitude I thrive in. I still enjoy mediation, and silent retreat, quiet days and the like, but I am at home walking and sitting in the bush.

The point I am making is that while some might question hiking in the bush as a form of solitude because, for some reason, there is little stillness, I believe that solitude, and thereby contemplation, can be active. However, being active doesn’t mean that you are busy! Both yoga and meditation involve action (mantra for one, movement for the other).The busyness that I think we really battle is not the ordinary tasks of life and domesticity, or work, it is the busyness of the ego and its ally the mind.

So unproductive time, discretionary time, is certainly important for contemplation which can lead to creativity and spiritual flow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be still or completely restricted in activity to do that. Indeed, the opposite is true for me on many occasions.

Paul

Notes: Leo D’Angelo Fisher ‘Time Bandits Stifle Innovation’ BRW July 15, 2010; Hedley Galt ‘Solitude’ Nature & Health, June -July 2007

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