In a world that shouts and clamours to be noticed, we struggle to hear clearly a still small voice, a whisper, scarcely a breath, that carries the wisdom of the cosmos and that is our more sure guide …
It was an Iraqi man who introduced me to the beauty of Rumi.
Today’s post from Spirituality and Practice also celebrates the spirit of this wise medieval poet and mystic”
Search the Darkness
Sit with your friends; don’t go back to sleep.
Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.
Surge like an ocean,
don’t scatter yourself like a storm.
Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
Night travelers are full of light,
and you are, too; don’t leave this companionship.
Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
don’t slip in the dirt like quicksilver.
The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.
from Love Is a Stranger: Selected Lyric Poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi by Kabir Helminski
Every so often a word grabs attention because it seems alien to everyday speech, yet begins to appear prolifically. It begs investigation. Yesterday “mindfulness” appeared frequently in a Virtues Project workshop hosted at our church. Later in the evening, I received an unrelated invitation to complete the final phase of a survey being conducted by a university study on “mindfulness.”
So what is it? The Virtues Project describes mindfulness as “living reflectively, with conscious awareness of our actions, words and thoughts. Awake to the world around us, we fully experience our senses. We are attentive to others’ needs. We refuse to rush. Living mindfully lightens our lives by helping us to detach from our emotions. We transform anger to justice. We seek joy instead of mere desire. We cultivate our inner vision, aware of life’s lessons as they unfold. Mindfulness brings us serenity.”
This description, of course, gels well with terms that emerge from the practice of Christian meditation, such as “wakefulness”, “awareness,” and “paying attention.’
In these terms, Jesus spoke of mindfulness often and carefully cultivated it within his own calling. I think this is why he was able to differentiate a different kind of touch in the midst of a clamouring crowd (Mark 5:21-34). Of course this is not the only instance where Jesus models mindfulness. There are many more where Jesus teaches it – just survey the Sermon on the Mount!
So, if you’re a New Years Resolution sort of person, “mindfulness” might not be a bad one to aim for.
Lent is not a customary observance within the tradition of Christian formation that nurtured me. But I have come to it much in latter years. There is something very powerful about being caught up in the re-enactment of the Christian festivals and fasts that tell our story year after year.
Contrary to the popularised idea of Lent as a time of denial of self-indulgence in one (usually small) simple pleasure, prompting the oft asked question “What are you giving up for Lent”, I am attracted to the idea of “taking something on for Lent.” I notice that other bloggers have also been attracted to this variant and in my view, truer stance. See More Meredith Gould and The Go-Between God. After all, Jesus’ constant refrain throughout this season’s commemorated journey with his confused disciples is “Take up your cross (daily) and follow me.” The invitation is to consider what this metaphorical cross is like. Surely it is the work of allowing God’s Spirit to mould oneself to the way of Christ – the way that gradually replaces self-indulgent me-ism with other-focused compassion. These are the hallmarks of the reign of God that Jesus modeled and taught. It takes focus, and, for many, fasting helps pay such sustained attention.
For me, meditation works best. So it was affirming to hear, during his Perth visit, the leader of the World Christian Meditation Community, Fr Laurence Freeman, encourage us to “take on compassion for Lent.” He also said “practicing kindness” was the best preparation for meditation. So – an outer practice that is other centred to prepare for an inner focus that is self-stripping – not in self-negation but in a way that engages silence, stillness and simplicity in the quest for the reign of God in all that matters.
That’s worth taking on!