Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sit for a bit

It is the return of the fall schedule with soccer and dance and violin and Chinese and badminton and yoga and climbing.  All good things but all a distraction from contemplation.

I am reading an amazing book of essays by Thomas Merton.  He was a catholic monk who espoused the spiritual importance of contemplation.  It has been illuminating to read a Catholic whose spiritual leanings walk so closely with Zen practice.  He had a long standing dialogue with D.T. Suzuki, an eminent Zen scholar and traveled to to India to meet with the Dalai Lama.  On that trip, he was accidentally killed when he was electrocuted by a defective fan, the cooling device, not a stalker. 

All of the essays are worth reading but "The Inner Experience"is something amazing.  I have finished the first reading with the understanding of my poverty of understanding.

The important thing in contemplation is not gratification and rest but awareness, life, creativity and freedom.  In fact, contemplation is man's highest  and most essential spiritual activity.

Merton had a prescient sense of the world and what is coming our way:

Now all our existence in this life is subject to change and recurrence....but life becomes secularized when it commits itself completely to the "cycles" of what appears to be new but is in fact the same thing over and over again.  Secular life is a life frantically dedicated to escape...from the fear of death.....Secular society is by its nature committed to what Pascal calls 'diversion' movement which has, before everything else, the anaesthetic function of quieting our anguish....hence the growth of economically useless businesses that exist for profit and not for real production, that create artificial needs which they then fill with cheap and quickly exhausted products. 

Christmas Tree Store, you have been called out by a spiritual master.  I find it ironic that I barely have time to read and ponder contemplation, much less actually contemplate.  Each year, I come up with a grand meditation plan.  This year's brilliant plan is to meditate at work during my lunch break.  Note to self, you can't meditate with a walkie-talkie.  Turn the walkie off, the phone rings.  Don't answer the phone, and you will be overhead paged right out of  the mantra "I have arrived, I am home."  I have been left alone exactly once.

Merton lived in a monastery and then a hermitage.  I don't think I can go down that road but I believe he was right in talking about how often and how much we allow ourselves to be distracted from what is real.  You have to go inward and be bored and "look at the things not seen."  One could postulate that setting up  mediation time at work allows you the illusion that you really want to go inward, knowing you have set it up to stay out.  Ah, my monkey mind, I am on to you.  I'm off to sit for just a  bit.


  1. The hammock is my place of contemplation. I'm never bored there though. I can look at nature's bounties, listen to the river rush by below me and the wind whisper around me, and just think - some thoughts deep, some not so deep. But boredom is not my companion there.

  2. You're just too needed and indispensable at work, that's all.