Tag Archive | meditation

Thinness of Self

handleafveilbwI had lain in bed at dawn, savoring the taste of silence, appreciating the moment of dark quiet with Widget snuggled against my side and Phoenix curled at my feet. This was a moment of sweet peace, relaxing, breathing in the silence that would sustain me during the rest of the day. A short while later, when I took the dogs outside and we stepped into the dove-gray softness of liminal light, a small bat was flitting back and forth above my head quite near but silent. Gaia’s Grace was tangible.

There is a line that I love in A Book of Silence: “the thinness of my sense of self” (p.17). When I read this, I felt I became intimate with the book’s author, Sara Maitland. I’ve never met her and probably never will, but with this comment, I felt we were kindred spirits. She is writing of how difficult it is for her to sit in silent meditation with others because she is so aware of them it intrudes upon her own sense of silence.

I nearly squealed in recognition of this sensation of “thinness of self” because I experience this when even one other person is in the house with me. I usually considered this due to my personal insecurity, or perhaps embarrassment or discomfiture that I was somehow being “judged” and could feel the judgment oozing through even a closed door. However, I also usually experienced this at Kripalu — though to a milder degree — in group meditation, where it was highly unlikely that others were judging me since they, too, were meditators. Nevertheless, I was often feeling a disturbance of energy in the room rather than my own peaceful silence or the group silence. I simply am not at ease in group meditation. And this went against (which added to my feeling of being an “outsider”) the teachings of all the benefits of meditating in groups to assist with maintaining and encouraging spiritual focus and energy. Occasionally, the meditation was long enough I could reach my own silent center and personal sacred space of nothingness, my core of being. But not often.

When I think it is my insecurity creating this inability to feel the silence in a group, I feel negative overtones. But what if this is a “thinness of self” that is naturally spiritual? What if it is the natural thinness that comes directly from one’s soul? Sara Maitland seems to worry, as do I, that this is some kind of “fault” in our character. But is it? Why would it necessarily be so? Why would we assume it is? Is it not simply a trait that is natural? Perhaps our discomfort or inability to rest in group silence is a judgment of our society, even a spiritual one like at Kripalu or a retreat center? A judgment that is more comfortable grouping everyone together and not comfortable with those who are solitaries in their silence? The only advantage I personally could see to a group meditation was that it provided a structure for the ritual, something that says it is to be done now, not put off, not shortened or skipped — group practice can create a sort of discipline if one has a hard time doing this alone. And yet, even if that aspect is helpful in the beginning, it is still adherence to someone else’s control of our path. At some point, will our spiritual path be important enough that we are disciplined by self?

Is it possible that this “thinness” of self goes further than imagined? That it is a gift allowing a permeability of spirit to more easily flow in and out of soul, and that solitude is needed for some of us to lower the barriers we maintain in any group? Is it this “thinness” that can sometimes be perceived by others as a “madness” or a form of dysfunction because it doesn’t adhere to the group mind? Or is it a source of creativity in some sense? At least for some of us? Clearly not for all of us because many people go deeply into meditation in groups or create marvelous works of art in the company of like-minded individuals or even strangers. But, for some of us, why do we automatically assume that this thinness is a fault, a flaw in our constitutional construction?

Some contrasts I feel here with Maitland are, for instance, that I’ve avoided groups my entire life; preferring one or two people at a time to crowds; even being uncomfortable at my own family’s dinner table at times. Whereas Maitland speaks of her joy in the bantering noise of discussions in family and other groups … that she didn’t begin to yearn for silence and/or solitude until later in life. Which shows her to be following a somewhat normal basic inclination — a healthy one — as described by Ayurveda, i.e., the Vata phase of life. Further, Maitland divorced — she began her journey into seeking silence while on her own, without a life-partner to consider, and this allowed her more freedom to fully engage with the Call of Spirit, to deepen her relationship with silence and solitude. I, however, have a beloved husband. Yet we, in our partnership, continue creating ways for my “thinness of self” to be nourished and encouraged.

Our partnership has been built, in part, upon early recognition of my need for solitude and silence. We didn’t call it “thinness of sense of self” though; an easier and more common term, though one just as socially unacceptable, is introversion. Confessedly, moving to Arizona has been a trial in this area, due to some confusion, loss, misunderstanding, and stumbling.

GatesPassHowever, come winter and cooler weather, I will be able to drive fifteen minutes into the desert, walk a short distance, and experience vast silence and that will, hopefully, induce a greater sense of solitude … one where my thinness can breathe more easily — if I can release my fear of the desert. As Maitland puts it, “the silence of the desert has a horror to it, as well as, born of the horror, a deep and joyful beauty. The desert is vast, cruel and very silent” (p. 128). Perhaps there is a way for me to replace my fear of the desert with love for the opportunity it provides in its unique manifestation of silence and solitude? To balance the environmental overwhelm I feel in this harsh landscape with a freedom of expansive space once the extreme heat recedes for the winter? In that silence, what will happen out of the thinness that is my self and the prominent desert elements of fire and air?

I seek a greater spiritual appreciation of the desert. I seek this so that even though my preference is cave and forest, where I feel safe (and, interestingly, another contrast is that Maitland does not feel safe in the forest), I can move into a state of gratitude for this opportunity of spiritual exploration through desert presence. After all, Maitland who lives in the United Kingdom had to travel to the Sinai Desert whereas my desert is all around me. Maybe my “thinness of self” will facilitate my becoming one with the desert silence, and, through that grace, find a deeper peace here?

May Bast guide our journeys to self through silence and solitude.

Hestia at Winter Solstice

Flame Pendant

Morning, December 21, 2012, meditation: 

Soft, subtle music plays in the background as I sit in contemplation, welcoming the Light of dawn.

In the recesses of my mind, I find myself crouched in front of an old, soot-tinged fireplace made of rough-hewn stone, a modest fire licking birch logs. The room is dark, but I know it is a cozy log cabin far off in a mountain forest, familiar and safe. I take a twig from the crackling fire and light three candles, clockwise, for the other directions; I face the fireplace, which is South.

Within the circle, Hestia comes to me. “Keep the home fires burning.” Her voice is crisp and raspy like the crumpled paper I use as tinder when wood is wet or kindling scarce. Hestia shows me that part of Her ‘homing’ is in the aspect of ‘frequency holder’ and that She is here to support that essence. She holds the point of convergence which is heart-communication; she is the core, the focus, around which wise women sit and pass the ‘talking stick.’ And she tells me this includes writing. I feel so welcome in Her warmth.

I touch my flame pendant and know that Hestia is a major component of inspiration and creativity … that the fires I write and ignite don’t have to be a bonfire someone could see from space! “Just use the flame that comes naturally.” Her unobtrusive whisper warms my inner ear. Hestia encourages me toward the flickering colors of creativity, alternately wielding “the Torch, the Candle and the Coal.”

With Hestia in the cabin, I relax into an exquisite sense of belonging.

Pre-Dawn, December 22, 2012, meditation: 

I return to the cabin of yesterday, a heavy patchwork quilt wrapped around my body, a veil upon my head, and light a single candle on the mantle to welcome the growing Illumination of longer days. Just one. For the Dark isn’t quite ready to relinquish her shadows … not just yet.  Hecate sings to those in the blackness … “come out, come out, wherever you are, and meet the young lady, who fell from a star.”  Hestia joins her voice in harmony, a gentle background of flickering, dancing flame, for She is the Great Goddess, unlimited by form or figure, by night or day.

Hestia is as old as the suns of a million stars, and Her spark is within every atom of existence.

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Note: Hestia is often depicted in Classical Greek artwork as wearing a veil in supposed ‘modesty.’ I would proffer that originally her veil (pre-Hellenic) is actually part of her inward-focus attire, that the seers perceived her in a draped veil of introspection. Why do I see the veil symbol differently? Because I experience deeper contemplation when wearing a veil/scarf draped upon my head. The curtain-effect of the outer separation promotes and supports inner reflection upon that which is sacred, which allows the sacred flame to consume us within the ecstasy of eternal knowing.hestia

Gayatri Mantra – Dhiyo

Continuing my journey through the Gayatri / GaiaTree Mantra …

Dhiyo — definitions or understandings of the actual word/sound are:

mind, intellect, link between world and spirit,

to ask how use our minds to manifest a Divine Path in the world

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Feeling Her in my heart and soul, I invite the Divine to create with me a world wherein Her essence of joy and light of love are clearly visible. We join hands and dream through heart and act through a mind-image to be in the world a certain way. 

Seeing Her around me, what are the gifts She shows through other forms? How do the animals bring presence and right action? How does the mountain stand firm, while the snow melts and runs down in canyons, and the trees reach high into the sky?

I open to Gaia’s guidance, and ask Her to show me how to use my mind for the benefit of all of us; not to let my mind use me in wasted efforts of excess or poor choices. I invite Her to turn Her bright light upon the clearing in the woods of my mind, bringing all to life, and then the light spreads into the forest through leaves and roots, and is sung into the darkest recesses by birds and crickets and bats, and reflected upon dew-laden webs and icy springs flowing over rocks that change colors depending upon the angle in which they are viewed.

The mind can be a powerful force of nature — ours and the world’s. We can succumb to its egoic determination or we can recover our power and align our minds in uniquely expressed ways in the direction of Divine Light. 

How many times in a day do I let my mind take over? When I have a feeling that leads to an emotional response, do I simply follow my mind along the breadcrumbs down a path of memory laid decades ago to a dead-end where those thoughts in the past control my present? Or do I pause at the beginning — or even mid-way — and say “hold on now, that’s over, what is valid right now?” 

Do I allow my mind to take over, running film after film in my head without pause? If my mind likes to play re-runs, how about setting up the projector myself and playing only cheerful, or educational, or humorous, or soul-enriching films that lift me up? Why not provide images and impressions current and loving?

This is why many spiritual paths encourage some form of meditation, prayer or chanting. They encourage us to use a repetitive focus so that when our mind tries to take over, the first thing it comes to is a Divine pattern. Kind of like food awareness practice (also known as dieting) … it isn’t so much about restriction as it is choosing healthy foods and making lifestyle changes. And once our systems and taste buds have adjusted to those clear flavors and pure foods, we want more of them, and we feel wonderful nourishing ourselves with them. But, in the beginning, isn’t it easier to make sure that there aren’t any junk foods in the house? That when we reach out for something to eat, only healthy options are nearby? 

That’s similar to giving our attention to directing our thoughts consciously, being present, and asking the Divine to help us keep our minds and intellect focused upon a path of joy and love, to act in service to Gaia and all life, all form. To ask … how is this thought, this action, these words, helping somehow? To ask for Divine guidance of our minds and She will show us the way to the Light.

So what is Her Light? I know we, in our elemental forms and visceral, sense-oriented body-minds, see the duality of light and dark. We use these as pointers, but sometimes forget that form is illusion and opposites are for understanding the world and our concepts of creation. And, while She can illuminate our minds when we open to Her (and often even when we don’t), ‘light’ is a limiting thought/concept, for Her Divine clearing of debris is not light-in-contrast-to-dark but rather perhaps a vibratory pattern that resonates pure Love, Bliss, Sattva.

And so, I invite and welcome Her Love and Bliss and Joy to permeate my mind to heal our world, and I ask Her where She resides within me to expand my consciousness, re-mind me into awareness and empowerment and devotion to Divine Life.