Thursday, 14 May 2009

Yesterday's technique

Yesterday my yoga/meditation was good. Today I try to remember exactly what it was that made it good. What technique was I using? But the Now Show doesn't work like that. Today is today. I have to start afresh, as if I had never meditated in my life before. What worked yesterday did so because it was appropriate for me then. To borrow yesterday's practice for today's discipline is to turn it into a technique. In the spiritual life I am like a recovering alcoholic. I am only as 'good' as this present moment. I can only say, 'today, at this moment, I haven't drunk the intoxicating draft of mind games and religious techniques'. Spiritually speaking I can't devise plans which will work in the future, nor can I be sure that what worked yesterday will work today. I can only trust that moment by moment I shall find the grace to be present and centred. The paradox is that such presence requires discipline and I suppose you could say, 'well there you are! - that's technique!' But somehow it isn't. The discipline is to seek to stay in touch with who I really am and that means not being carried away by mind games through which I seek the security of knowing how things are going to work out in the future

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Sarah Montague does an interview on the BBC Today programme this morning with a French scientist, turned Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard. (sp?) He is supposed to be the happiest person on the planet according to the introduction. "How do you learn to be happy?" asks Sarah. Ricard tries to explain that meditation is not about finding happiness. It's about long term mind training which produces powerful gamma brainwaves which are associated with altruistic love. "So we should meditate to fill our minds with love?" suggests Sara,or "just sit still and think of something nice". Matthieu is, I suspect, somewhat perplexed by this line of questioning. "Are you ever sad?" asks Sarah. "Of course," replies Matthieu but then there wasn't any time left in the busy Today programme schedule for any more on the subject.

Do the Today editors and Sarah Montague really understand so little about meditation that they choose to approach the interview with this line of questioning? It's rather sad if this is the case. Meditation is not about trying to change anything. It's about noticing what is actually the case with me at this moment. It is good to know, however, that there is scientific evidence to show that such a simple discipline produces measurable effects in the working of the human brain. Perhaps one day we'll be teaching this discipline to school children just like we teach them to read, write, sing, and play games.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Good and the Bad (but not the Ugly)

Today my morning session of yoga/meditation went well. I wasn't thinking about the next posture while in the one I was in. I was centred on my body and aware of the difference between imagining this limb, this organ and actually experiencing it in the here and now. 'This is good' said my mind, until I remembered that, to the witnessing presence in me, 'good' thoughts, like 'bad' thoughts, are just ... thoughts. They are not who I really am, this wordless, silent consciousness/Being which I share with the rest of the universe. I am offered a glimpse of the radical trust in this witnessing presence in my depths which Jesus called for when he said, "Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not neither spin. Yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." But in his parable of the sower Jesus talks about the seed which falls where weeds grow up and choke it, with the cares and worries of the world. So it is as I move into my daily life after meditation. Decisions, decisions! Planning, ethical choices, chores, things I 'ought' to do, the kind of person I 'ought' to be; they can all crowd in demanding attention, distracting me from the present moment which is the only one I have to be alive in, the only one in which I can stay trustingly centred. If I am centred then most of the decisions and 'issues' seem to fall into place.

Cynthia Bourgeault points out that when I am present as the witness of my thoughts and emotions it is as if I 'back into' the still, silent centre which is within me and everywhere. I don't have to fight the thoughts and distractions. Centredness is there as I witness them - the good and the bad - without judgement.

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Here I am sitting in a Cafe Nero opposite St. Clement Danes church in The Strand where the bells are ringing for Sunday morning worship. I've just come from a service in St. John's Waterloo where the words were an interruption of the profound silence and stillness within me. "God does not know how to be absent", says Martin Laird so there's nothing out there to pray to. There's only the silent presence deep within. Here in these depths I am one with all that is. But the priest at St. John's has a cold and there I was worrying about catching it from him. If God does not know how to be absent, if this spacious, silent stillness is the universe becoming conscious of itself what about viruses, cancers? Sebastian, in Petru Dimitriu's novel, 'Incognito' discovers 'God' while being tortured in a Romanian Communist prison cell. "They went on beating me, but I learned to pray while the screams issued mechanically from my ill-used body - wordless prayers to a universe that could be a person, a being, a multitude or something utterly strange, who could say? We say 'thou' to it, as though to man or animal, but this is because of our own imperfection: we may no less say 'Thou' to the forest or the sea."
Earlier I was 'visited' (I can think of no better word) by an embarrasing memory which is now 13 years old. I felt embarrased all over again. It is like a mental virus, one which never goes away but lies buried in my brain to be activated at random intervals (rather like herpes). Some of these mental viruses are much more active; resentment for example, or censoriusness which are easily activated by some immediate event. And yet, underneath it all is 'God', this silence and stillness which is not disturbed by these viruses. Sometimes the viruses take me over and I get 'ill', dysfunctional. Quite often, these days, I am able to stay in touch with the still centre but it has to be a wordless experience. If I think about it I lose it. As a 3rd century Christian contemplative said, if I think I am praying then I am not praying.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

David Bohm

This morning in Cafe Nero a friend tells me about David Bohm who I had never heard of. I look him up on Wikipedia and find the following:

"Bohm was alarmed by what he considered an increasing imbalance of not only 'man' and nature, but among peoples, as well as people, themselves. Bohm: "So one begins to wonder what is going to happen to the human race. Technology keeps on advancing with greater and greater power, either for good or for destruction." He goes on to ask:

What is the source of all this trouble? I'm saying that the source is basically in thought. Many people would think that such a statement is crazy, because thought is the one thing we have with which to solve our problems. That's part of our tradition. Yet it looks as if the thing we use to solve our problems with is the source of our problems. It's like going to the doctor and having him make you ill. In fact, in 20% of medical cases we do apparently have that going on. But in the case of thought, it's far over 20%.

In Bohm's view:

...the general tacit assumption in thought is that it's just telling you the way things are and that it's not doing anything - that 'you' are inside there, deciding what to do with the info. But you don't decide what to do with the info. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us. Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. This is another major feature of thought: Thought doesn't know it is doing something and then it struggles against what it is doing. It doesn't want to know that it is doing it. And thought struggles against the results, trying to avoid those unpleasant results while keeping on with that way of thinking. That is what I call "sustained incoherence".

Now it's that problem which Eckhart Tolle so brilliantly analyses in 'The Power of Now' and offers a solution to; a solution which I call, The Now Show. I must get hold of a book which Bohm wrote together with J. Krishnamurti - 'The Ending of Time'