Archive for October 31st, 2009


Such a wonderful crisp Fall day, spent visiting farm stands for fresh produce, warm muffins, and cakes. Then, off to our next stop at a local vineyard for a delightfully relaxed wine-tasting. We sampled a young but pleasant Merlot, a Cabernet Blanc, (a complex, dry red blend with hints of blackberry and overtones of oak), and a Riesling (not too sweet).

Leaving the winery, our laughter and novel sentence structures suggested the need for food. So, next to a favorite Greek restaurant. We dined, told stories, debated theological questions, shared tales of killer algae, opined about the excesses of high fructose corn syrup, the virtues of vegetarianism and the desperate need for insurance reform. Too many calories later, we blithely stepped out into the parking lot and discovered it was now getting quite dark. The gibbous moon lit up the southern sky and joined Jupiter’s light in casting a silvery glow over the pastoral landscape. On the way home, we pulled off the road into the parking area of a small municipal beach. The sea sparkled in the moonlight as if dusted with scintillating diamonds.

As we slid into a parking space, a visual illusion made it seem that we could drive right off the pavement into the sea, creating a magical moment at the end of a spectacular day. It was then we saw her, the luminous woman emerging from the surf, her features obscured in the shadows. A lonely silhouette, she walked slowly down by the water’s edge, tossing pebbles into the surf. The way the light played on the water’s surface, and not seeing the water’s edge, it appeared that she was not on the beach but walking on the surface of the water.

This was a night of strange illusions indeed, well-suited to All Hallows Eve.

Then, suddenly, as we fixed our gaze on her movements, a visage from which we could not break away, she began moving towards us. Our good friend, a Dominican Nun, commented that it was all just a bit menacing, and that set us off on wild associations and imagining. In the very next instant, when I thought the night could not get any more surreal, her whole head became luminous, surrounded all around by a soft blue glow. It was a Marian blue, I thought, the color of the maternal, the color of the Holy Mother  in so many paintings from the Renaissance.It was a captivating moment. We were silent. I felt like a little child. Something in me wanted to throw the car into reverse and leave, while another part, the one to which I listened, had no intentions of doing so. We were a little spooked but mesmerized, transfixed by this other-worldly scene.

Then, as she drew nearer, we saw more clearly, and with all the suddenness of a tumble down a flight of stairs, all our imaginings and musings went silent, our colorful images flat-lined,  in the flash of undeniable and anti-climactic realization.

She was talking on her cellphone: A thoroughly 2009 digital ending to an otherwise timeless and magical day.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Practitioners of meditation in all its guises, including your’s truly, often talk about the challenge of quieting the mind. The mind resists mightily. This perpetual motion machine does not warm to slowing down very much.

In Zen meditation, we often hear about “monkey mind,” an apt description of the “hyperactive” nature of these 24/7 circuits of light-speed processing. Following the breath, finding the quieter environment, candles, incense, subdued lighting, zafu and zabuton, Tibetan gongs, chant, mantra, and so many other related practices rest on the idea of changing the usual rhythm of thought and reducing it all down to a simpler, cleaner, less cluttered focus. We watch as ideas are born and pass away. Our coaches remind us to stay mindful and to stay in the moment. Distraction, or drifting into the stupor of waking-sleep, is the illness we are trying to treat. Nothing like a good bamboo stick crack on the back to wake you up (Japanese Zen style). It’s all useful practice and it all holds merit.

However, a moment’s reflection and then a different question pops up: So, if the human person evolved to consciousness where thought became primary, it must have been an adaptation to the real and a significant natural boon to survival. Evolution simply does not happen in response to fantasy. So, where is the problem? A player at devil’s advocacy might suggest: the brain/mind nature is precisely what makes us Human. If we evolved in this way, why so much struggling to make the mind behave counter to its true nature? If enlightenment means restoring the mind to its original pre-evolved state, I want none of it!

It pays to carry this heretical notion farther I think. Let us take some time to appreciate the brain/mind nature and consider it from the standpoint of the virtuous rather than the vicious cycles.

The mind is a time machine. We can map out scenarios from probable to possible and even the seemingly impossible. We can relive earlier times and project ourselves forward into diverse environments and circumstances. We can, as novelists do, invent whole worlds, plots, characters, all either based strongly or obliquely on historical fact, or not at all. Nonetheless, a lot of science fiction tends to later come true. Carl Jung spoke of our powers of “active imagination” through which we can positively and therapeutically dream our dreams forward from the point at which we left them upon awakening. We can intuit and tap into tacit knowledge.

Our minds engage in the mental gymnastics of higher mathematics with stunning agility and utility, and, through the squiggles and symbols on a piece of paper, we often predict what so often later we discover in the world. Through thought we can make ourselves ill, or we can stimulate the immune response and make ourselves well. Through metaphor and imagery we can affect others, bring joy, be inspired by the thoughts of others, experience things at depths quite extraordinary and look at our own condition. So finely evolved is the Mind, that we can invent technologies that save lives and advance the cause of community and outreach. We can put people on the moon and send devices to other worlds to study the universe of which we are a part. We love in action, in word, and in our prayerful intentions. How majestic, powerful, abundantly enaged and mysterious is the Mind.

With all this having been said, all this being undeniably true, how might we look differently ( or, perhaps, more precisely) at the work of meditation?

In contemplative states, all the above converge when the worlds of imagining and the ideas of possibility create transformation and conversion in a mystical alchemy. This is the alchemical marriage through which all the separate capacities combine to produce a wave of creative indwelling that reaches into infinity and connects to the Heart of the Cosmos. There is a point of singularity and, as we approach the event horizon, we don’t reduce or subtract from the rich faculties of mind.  We bring its faculties into direct contact with the world-mind, the soul of creation, the collective consciousness, and release the even deeper reservoir of knowledge that resides in the collective unconscious.

Through this convergence of the Mind’s n-dimensional faculties, we bend time, warp space, and travel to the stars without ever leaving our seated place on the cushion. So, it’s not about stilling the mind to a hollowed out shell in anti-intellectual fervor, and a primitive stillness. Quite the contrary, it’s about bringing clarity and precision in applying psychic energy to exploring the deepest mysteries.

It’s not about stepping the Mind down but stepping it up. It’s not about eliminating thought, but achieving crystalline sight; not closing one’s eyes, but having them fully opened.

“Now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall see face to face?” – St. Paul

When is “then”?

How about right now?

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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