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For the Week of June 9 - 15: Presence, Consent and Silence

Makota Fujimura, Silence-Kairos, 2015

Amen, amen, I say to you, 
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat; 
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

- John 12:24
 

"Contemplative prayer is the world in which God can do anything. To move into that realm is the greatest adventure. It is to be open to the Infinite and hence to infinite possibilities. Our private, self-made worlds come to an end; a new world appears within and around us and the impossible becomes an everyday experience. Yet the world that prayer reveals is barely noticeable in the ordinary course of events."
- Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 11 (Twentieth Anniversary Edition)


And so, we begin Part 4 of our curriculum, Transforming Body, where we will explore dimensions of energy, vibration and transforming practices in the context of full three-centered embodiment and relationship. We rightfully begin with presence, consent and silence, each a vast subject with dimensions ephemeral yet real and accessible. Let us begin with our house of being and its seven centers; two are the Higher Emotional and the Higher Mental which we will speak of more in-depth later this year. For now, we can say simply that they each can be regarded as a kind of portal into higher realms, finer energies and their harmonies. Importantly, we are assured in the Work that we are born with them. They are in us from birth, there 24 hours a day, always ready to inform us and open us to deeper dimensions. How to access them? They can be reached through our emotional center and emotional parts of all centers. All of our practices, prayers, writings, art, music are in service of this numinous connection. And for this reason, we submit ourselves to purification of the veils that shroud our emotional center and open wide the gates of our being to allow what is already there to illuminate and transform our being into Being. It begins with silence – the realm of all possibilities in the great Ray of Creation, the realm of very fine vibrations. It is here that we can glean echoes from Worlds 12, 6 or even 3. A direct C influence


Silence and The Presence of God

"The presence of God in [t]his world as its Creator depends on no one but [God]. [God's] presence in the world as Man depends, in some measure, upon men. Not that we can do anything to change the mystery of the Incarnation in itself: but we are able to decide whether we ourselves, and that portion of the world which is ours, shall become aware of God's presence, consecrated by it, and transfigured in its light. We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real and which lives by a shadowy autonomy for the brief moment of earthly existence, and the hidden inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists. It is this inner self that is taken up into the mystery of Christ, by Christ's love, by the Holy Spirit, so that in secret we live 'in Christ.'" 
- Thomas Merton, "The General Dance," New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 301

God is inside of us and the rays of God, so to speak, suffuse us. First, we must wish for it – give oneself to it. This wish is to be passive in the sense that we submit to a transforming, ascending Octave. It involves consent, receptivity, listening, a calling forth – a calling forth to the unknown – and participation in a journey into the center of oneself, and, hence, all reality. Jeanne de Salzmann explains what happens: “A call from the depths of oneself is always here. It becomes more and more insistent, as if a different energy were wanting to be heard, seeking a relation. In a state of immobility, in stillness, the relation can be better established, but this requires opening to a different inner density, to another quality of vibration. Sensation is the perception of this new quality. I need to feel the Presence of the spiritual in me. The spirit penetrates matter and transforms it. I need this act itself, to be spiritualized." (The Reality of Being, The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, p. 67).

I need this act: my soul yearns for it, so says the Prophet (Isaiah 26:9). Yet, this act of receptivity and its fulfillment is impossible if I am identified with my sufferings, buffers, anger, making accounts, self-pity, memories of the past, or plans for the future. These higher influences with their high frequency, so to speak, are unable to reach me, cannot free me from myself and allow the expansion of my being into spaciousness. So, we freely enter into the silence every day – ideally, twice a day – and consent to Presence and to the action of the Divine. In so doing, we lay down our thoughts, perceptions, feelings, sensations, preferences, everything acquired and return to essential being. We are simply here, now, consenting to What Is. The time of silent communing with All That Is is both a method of prayer and prayer itself.  Thomas Keating explains: "Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation … A restructuring of consciousness takes place which empowers one to perceive, relate and respond to everyday life with increasing sensitivity to the divine Presence in, through and beyond everything that happens" (Op. Cit., pp. 102). Ultimately, Centering Prayer can work hand-in-hand with the Work as an unfolding process of liberation from negative things held in the psyche, thus reducing the obstacles and allowing grace of Presence to unfold in us.  Its effects are expansive, spacious, liberating, and prompt a whole new way of life. 

Throughout his works, Fr. Thomas explains this unfolding process as having seven movements. We will briefly highlight them though each can be elaborated on from many angles – energetically, philosophically, theologically, and even cosmically:

1. Silence: a stepping away from all forms of external and interior thought, perception, complexities, planning, noise, and abiding in receptivity and consent to Presence. External silence for specified periods of time supports this movement.

2. Solitude: a movement away from entanglement and subjectivity, polarization and positionalities, neediness and clinging, to non-duality and wholeness. This movement emerges from a sustained practice of daily silence.

3. Solidarity: the emergence of a refined inner eye that perceives the oneness of the human family, and indeed, the oneness of all creation. As one moves into one's own inmost being, one comes into contact with what is the heart of all creation, the inmost being of everything else – beyond divisions of any kind. Deep empathy, connectedness and intimacy unfold.

4. Service: the promptings of the Spirit in every detail of life to serve God by serving creation. Stores of energy come forth giving us inspirations and capacities that we did not even know we had.

5. Stillness: Here Maurice Nicoll gives us insight into this inner faculty: "Now I want to add only one thing tonight. It is about inner silence. In working on yourself and noticing how the swings of the pendulum go in yourself and now you think or feel this, and now you think or feel the opposite, and in not identifying with either side, so far as possible at one's present stage, there is something called in the Work 'inner silence.' Different 'I's', ranged along the orbit of the swing, wish to say now this and now that, as the light of consciousness touches them and wake them to momentary life. To a limited extent one may permit them to speak, provided one has a distinct idea that neither side is right. Inner silence means being silent in oneself. It means not taking sides in yourself and so being silent. This is impossible if you identify with every 'I.' You may let talk take place on one side or the other, but you observe it and are in yourself silent" (Commentaries, "The Opposites," September 15, 1943, Vol. 1, p. 334). From this inner stillness, eventually, the need to talk, to tell one's story, to assert one's opinion, abates. One listens. One abides.

6. Simplicity: Externalities and the non-essential gradually drop away, and along with it, desires born of consumerism, excitement, stimulation, self-calming and a thousand different forms and influences in the orbit of the pendulum of life as Dr. Nicoll expresses it. Achieving, having, getting, give way to reverence at the suffusion of Presence in All That Is.   

7. Surrender: Ever-so-gradually, consent becomes surrender … and surrender becomes total receptivity … and, as the process continues, total receptivity becomes effortless, peaceful. There is will-to-God and God reaches down, so to speak, and takes it – giving in its place Real Will and Conscience. Nothing is lost; everything is gained.

"The level of being is determined by what enters into one's Presence at a given moment, that is, the number of centers which participate and the conscious relation between them. … This Presence, this body of another density, needs to have an action on me. I must have a close relation with it for finer energy to penetrate and be absorbed, a kind of space must appear in which reactions do not arise, a zone of silence that allows this Presence, this second body, to expand with its subtle vibration. I need a circulation of energy that is free, that is topped nowhere. I do not intervene. The energy is distributed according to an order beyond my understanding. This free circulation takes place through the breathing, which nourishes this Presence by the air, bringing active elements we are not aware of. This breathing is a participation in the forces of the universe. But it is not just any kind of breathing. It is very light and subtle … as if this Presence were breathing."
- Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff, pp. 179, 235

The Presence breathing me, breathing all creation, abounding, unfolding, becoming: Yes. 


Homework: 

  •  View Thomas Keating's video, an excerpt from "Centering Prayer" in his Invitation from God series. It is about seven minutes in length. Here Fr. Thomas talks of the evolution of spiritual will which is a faculty one might say of the higher centers. It is evoked through silence.
     
  • View this short video about the extraordinary Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura whose Silence art series (one piece is this week's art) came out of his writing Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering largely in response to Shusaku Endo's powerful 1966 historical novel Silence which was made into a movie of the same name in 2016 by Martin Scorsese. The video is about four minutes in length. It speaks of fragmentation and brokenness, and wholeness and grace, that is the base of the universe. Fujimura calls his work "slow art." It is born out of silence, presence and the luminous seeing of beauty. His being seems to transmit Presence. 
     
  • If you do not have a Centering Prayer practice, you may find more information about it in this informative brochure. If you do have a Centering Prayer or other silent meditation practice, for this coming week, commit to two sessions per day, if you do not currently do so. Or, if you do, add an additional 10 minutes to each session.
     
  • Earlier this year, those who are Oblates consecrated themselves with a vow which included commitments: one of which is to attend a multi-day Centering Prayer retreat. Has one been scheduled?
     

June Practice: Kneeling in Nature

"The Lakota was a true naturist – a lover of nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, that attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. … The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. … He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too. So he kept his youth close to its softening influence."  
- Chief Luther Standing Bear, born in 1868, spent his early years on the plains of Nebraska and South Dakota, cited in Touch The Earth, p. 6

This week, you are invited to "keep your youth close to the earth's softening influence." How will you do it?


Attend The Journey School Thursday Class Tonight: All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and, importantly, to produce a container of beings seeking to be more conscious and whose efforts assist one another:  7:00 pm Central Time via Zoom only.

  1. Click on this link and Zoom should open automatically on your laptop or tablet: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09, or

  2. Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778, passcode: CCH

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