Today at Bath Abbey the parish communion was about the sad state of the world and in particular what is happening in Gaza. Edward Mason the rector gave us an extract from Time for Action about ‘Our shame: Britain and the historical conflict’ … he also spoke carefully about the danger of apparently simple solutions and the need for prayer, protest and belief – that things can change. http://www.kairosbritain.org.uk/
During communion one of Henryk Gorecki’s Sorrowful Songs was played. As we moved slowly through the church towards the communion rail the music was powerfully affecting. Played slowly and quietly it’s a reminder of the death camps, of Gaza and Ukraine, of the countless wars and suffering caused by war and cruelty. The suffering to all involved,.. human – both the perpetrators and the victims and indeed the suffering of all creatures and creation caught in violence and war zones. This is the context of the Lord’s table. In the song the singer cries for ‘mother’ … for Mary to protect us. Edward writes that it’s also ‘a reminder of a child longing for a parent as Jesus longed for his Father – a reminder of longing for the joy of heaven, a joy that God promises us today,. A joy that will come’.
Listening to the music again is a powerful and upsetting experience but one that moves me to hope that somehow something might change … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miLV0o4AhE4
In meditation time takes on a completely different quality and as Thomas Merton said ‘one really lives, even though nothing apparently happens at all’ . Through deep silence one becomes centred in the vertical and though we might not be conscious of it it is after all what really matters…
And silence is the greatest luxury in the world today and it is getting really hard to find…
Instead the constant sounds act as a brilliant distraction and avoidance of the one thing that really matters which is the search for spiritual identity and that can only take place in solitude and in silence…. sshh!
On Monday evening we had a CPD group meeting. This is a group connected with The Analytic Network and we meet every 3-4 weeks to look at a subject relevant to psychotherapy as part of ‘continuous professional development’. As it was near the end of term it was difficult to feel enthusiastic about the subjects that were offered and eventually it was agreed that we might listen to part of a CD by Eckhart Tolle. Then there was about 45 minutes of a gradual calming and a sense of stillness as we listened to Tolle talking about our crazy world and our distracted minds.
This morning at a yoga sutra workshop the leader Leila spoke about the mind which is like a drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion. In other words we are not centred or present or in any way still. She also said that a great deal of what goes on in our mind is the same as what went on in there yesterday and the day before and week and year before that . It’s the hamster wheel existence. So part of the answer is meditation and becoming aware of being in the present moment.
The interesting thing last Monday was that after what felt like a good experience of gradually calming down and listening we all spoke about the insanity of the world: the sabotaging of the environment, the killing and endless suffering from the violence that goes on and on, the cruelty to animals and those of us in the west suffering from consumption disorder. The clarity that came was the seeing how sick the world is. This is CPD in the sense that sometimes it’s hard to stop and realize this. And the answer Thomas Merton and Eckhart Tolle would both say is about waking up to what is happening and being alert and aware of how and who we are in this same world and how to live with the awareness of a different sort of reality.
Years ago I played competitive tennis at the junior level. I had to practise for hours and there was intense competition to get sponsored coaching and even sponsored tennis wear and racquets. I remember the thrill of getting a letter from Dunlop and another from Fred Perry giving me a deal on various items – it was a way of their logo getting out there on the courts albeit in rather a minor way on the junior tennis circuit. But then the pressure began as to keep the sponsorship you needed the results. To get to play for the county team you needed the results and to get entry to what was then Junior Wimbledon a national and not then an international competition you needed to win against what then seemed big names. In other words the pressure never eased off. You were always trying to prove yourself better than others. Competition was everything and it was cut throat stuff. Needless to say I never moved out of the Junior game into the big league – my heart wasn’t in it.
The difficulty is that that pressure to perform permeates everything and not just ‘harmless’ games of tennis. And I’m not sure it is so harmless … after all the other then becomes the enemy whatever the context. The worry of the pressure leads to a lack of authenticity and integrity and coming out on top seems the only way forward. Here I think is part of the development of the false self. And all this has to be dismantled and starts to become dismantled and to be seen for the illusion it all is and that can happen both in psychotherapy and in meditation. Bit by bit the pressure to perform can lessen and then there’s something a bit more real left.