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Archive for October, 2009

The prose poem is a hybrid approach to writing that affords more flexibility and free-form expression as it is unconstrained by the demands of rhyme. Today, I find myself thinking about using it to explore the worlds of perception through which I perpetually navigate.

Years ago, I read “Varieties of Religious Experience” by psychologist William James. What I loved about it was the exquisite care that he put into describing the experiences people had in moments of religious epiphany. This is one of the many works of the phenomenological movement that dedicated itself to the study and detailed description of the human experience. The phenomenological method holds a linguistic mirror up to experiences. It gives us the chance to do better at describing and bridging our subjective universes.

Using the approach to look at ourselves as a reflection of the Creator’s imagination is an intriguing idea. It is also a core aim of inter-faith dialogue and panentheistic theology ( i.e., creation spirituality, process theology). [Unlike pantheism, a panentheistic theology does not equate G-d with the universe, but rather G-d is conceived as being both in all of creation and  transcendent. The Cosmos and G-d coexist in infinity and co-evolve. The panentheist argues that the Divine is the organizing matrix of matter and psyche, and while matter and spirit  show  the guiding hand of Divine patterning, they are not to be equated with the sacred persona on which their existence, character, and evolution depend. This process theological viewpoint is held by practitioners of both Judaism and Christianity, though admittedly, by a minority of thinkers.] I appreciate this view as it opens up great possibilities in pursuing dialogue between science and religion. It also seems to me to be more consistent with human experience and history, and the evolution of the idea of G-d as humanity has uncovered more knowledge of the world around us.

Religious thought should not be allowed to ossify around one model that was shaped in ancient history. While holding to certain coherent archetypal motifs, religion should nonetheless fully embrace new knowledge and experience. To do otherwise would be to freeze creative mythologizing around one set of cultural models and points in time, and break the connection that should be protected between consciousness and our intimacy in the here and now with the Beloved. Just as our relationships with people evolve over time as we come to understand them differently and as our union with them grows ever deeper as we age, so too our relationship with G-d should proceed as naturally.

Beginning with this post, I will launch a series of prose poem studies of my own experiences in the World as an experiment in looking to find traces of the Creator’s presence in consciousness, in imagery and cognition, perception and feeling. These will be short prose poem montages attempting to paint a picture in words. I offer it as a series of experiments showcasing a descriptive method that you too might find valuable on your own spiritual quest.

Sunday, October 25, 2009: “Seeing My Children off at the Airport”

α

Not enough time. Wanting each day that draws closer to departure to move more slowly than the one before it.

A knot grows in my stomach. I recall so many great times.

Furrowed brow moments tense with knowing that these are about then and no longer about now.

β

Many nights on which I was reassured by checking the house over before bed, and checking in to say goodnight. Now, I check on empty rooms.

Life flows like ketchup from a bottle: First slowly then way too fast.

That great Cosmic Comedian, Creator of the absurd; how s/he loves a good puzzle.

γ

I too like puzzles, but, if it’s too much, I can put it down. Life puzzles are Jumanji Boards. Once you start play, you have to finish.

My senses are on tilt; stomach cramping, shallow breathing, a tense neck, tired eyes from sleepless nights, reluctance, procrastination, and worry.

Scenarios dance through my mind in all manner of pre-planning: A control-wish neurosis; a deep need to get ahead of  butterfly effects.

δ

Twisting and turning, my mind reels from  changing inner landscapes.

My heart aches, eyes well up, yet all is as it must and should be.

Birther of the Cosmos, how hard it must be to let Creation just Be, to let it unfold in shifting tides of probability!

ε

To incarnate is to suffer. To become embodied is to change. To exist is to recognize the inevitable ceasing: heart stops, mind stills, memory dissolves into nothingness.

Longing is as much a part of life as breathing. Letting go and being opened is the heart of every sacrament.

Letting go and being opened is the way home now.

ζ

Just not enough time. Wanting each day that draws closer to arrival to move more swiftly than the one before it.

A knot grows in my stomach as I anticipate great times. Furrowed brow moments, tense with unknowing –  it’s all about when, and forever about tomorrow.

Light grows dim before Nova. Then, the heavens burst open with the Light of many Suns.

η

Warmed by timelessness, my yearning for yesterday with the children makes me more vigilant.

My listening is deeper. My vision penetrates farther. The yearning draws me nearer the Heart in which I am forever contained (though I may often fail to feel it).

Ephatha ( Be Opened!)

NB:

Future posts will look at a variety of other experiences such as intimacy, loneliness, fear, being loved, loving, joy, solving a puzzle, seeing a child born, leaving home, and coming back again. May your day be filled with illumination and the always welcoming invitation to the Cosmic Dance.

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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1

rings of years and shows of scars, watchers of epochal landscapes changed,

great arms of Mnemosyne, in greenness and dew, tell tales in silence of things rearranged.

long-suffering and true, no vow ever deeper, no focus so treasured, so dear,

tall guardians cherishing smallness, guiding hands for all that draw near.

2

fires, floods, diseases and quakes,  lumberjacks missions to slash and erase,

sweet spires of Paradise are mercilessly defaced.

great Spirit of the woods, father of the skies, mother of the common and the rare,

can you move hearts among us, can you move all to care?

3

memories now fading, stories yet untold,  shadows crossing crumbled towers,

noble heros rise and choke the darkness, be midwives for future’s flowers.

we are mere dust alive with purpose, off-springs of love and wonder,

the sundial shadow falls again, no more of Eden’s Plunder.

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© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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James Joyce was a self-possessed, brilliant, arrogant, observant, modern Irish writer who gave us such memorable stories as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, Ulysses, and the comedic, opaque, largely unintelligible Finnegan’s Wake. The latter was a stream of consciousness work without much, if any, punctuation. A novel of one seemingly endless sentence. Stream of consciousness writing attempts to get the interior monologue out on paper. At its best, it captures movements of thought as if narrating the world of dreams in which non sequiturs and jarring juxtapositions are to be expected. What this form of writing is not, though many think it is, is mere gibberish or word salad. It is intelligible prose though less encumbered by usual rules of expression. Writing of this kind has one particular virtue: It gives the writer a medium through which to bring conscious and unconscious processes into closer contact in waking time.

It is just such an experiment I turn to today. The spiritual value is considerable  as the writing increases fluency of thought without the continuous editing that renders the text “more acceptable” to supposed audiences.So, I embark today on this type of writing to explore the thoughts that are moving through me now after three days of challenging, real-world formal presenting, and conversation with other professionals. In doing so, I have one specific question in mind: What does my inner monologue show about my state of mind, feeling, and consciousness? What are the signs, symbols, terms of reference, and dynamic forces that underlie my choices? What more can this process show about unconscious dynamics that can open doors to new rooms in my psyche? I begin ……

“Exhaustion.

Time itself seems heavy, fat with sluggish, molasses-like movement, after a marathon session of presenting, talking, conversing, questioning, and answering. Three days of watching adults drawn irresistably to their “crackberries” and laptops. They gaze at them as if mesmerized and they do so even while colleagues are talking, and presenting ideas. It really put me in a mood.

It doesn’t take  long after asking people to put the e-toys and tools away out of respect for the process, and being essentially ignored, before you stop caring and turn on your own Blackberry. Ah, self-importance, how completely the narcissistic impulses dominate. While so many talk about the addiction to cell phones and decry the assault on civil society and the loss of decorum, the beat goes on without hardly a dent in the habits. It confirms the truth of the matter:  behaviors don’t change because nobody really wants to change them.

Like rats pounding a target for pellets when that target lights up a particular color, the habit is well-entrenched. Looking at and tapping the keys on a cell phone to send and read e-mail releases endorphins. After all, so many emails must mean we’re pretty damned important. We matter. People care what we think. They care about us. Our lives have meaning, we proclaim to ourselves. Deep down, though, the gnawing corrosive truth eats away at us: Nobody really gives a shit! Ah, but the pleasure center is really  hot. This is powerful auto-erotic stimulation and, truth be told, we are all susceptible to the same urges.

I  enjoy mindless movement and moments of aimless entertainment, like changing channels on the remote control. Channel surfing is great sport. Inane though it is, it has the same character as cell phone addiction. Like any addiction, we become dependent on stimulation. Why? Are we that bored? Are there not better ways to occupy the mind? Sheer laziness of thought could explain it. We move so fast these days and sleep is generally in inadequate supply. Maybe  spacing out with one’s favorite electronic pacifier is a cheap substitute for what sleep accomplishes better and more wholesomely but we don’t get enough of it. Maybe it’s a stand-in for just letting the mental circuits cool down. Hmm, I wonder if Freud would consider this an oral fixation?

It’s annoying behavior when engaged in by other people though I confess it’s quite pleasing  when I am the one doing it. Since we are more alike than different, what does it mean that I find it so disturbing and offensive when I see it all day, all around me: in meetings, at dinner, in theaters, in doctor’ offices, at supermarkets, in trains, planes, automobiles,while driving, while standing at a urinal or sitting in the stall in a public bathroom, and even crossing a busy street. It seems all are glued to their cellphones, and it ticks me off. I resort to seeing them as somehow devolved and primitive for doing it.

Why so judgmental? It’s a bit hypocritical since I do the same thing from time to time. Is there a message in my annoyance? Let me follow the irritation down the rabbit hole, as Alice did before me, and Orpheus before her, who descended into Hades to rescue Euridice. I need to rescue part of myself from the mind-numbing habit of  browsing the web on Blackberry, reading email (a lot of it fairly trivial). Rescue myself from what? Maybe, from stupefaction and walking around in an electronic fog, a post-modern techno-daze. ….

Life is challenging. Things are getting more and more complex. Days are very long. I worry about my health and the health of my family. Pandemics are much in the news and encroaching on our colleges. H1N1 is here and the vaccine is already in short supply so you can’t get it. Flat out incompetence!! Public places are becoming riskier. Will there be another 9-11? Probably. Financial well-being is uncertain but the Wall Street fat cats are again awash in big bonuses. The magic Obama presides over mission-impossible. Is he losing his mojo? Will we get the “public option” or “Medicare- Part E”? Global warming will redefine the coast lines. Species are perishing rapidly, the oceans are heating up, the polar ice caps are melting along with the Greenland Ice Shelf, and storms are ever more ferocious. My best days are behind me as I move past middle age. The nest is empty, and the central mission of our lives is all changed. I pursue many hobbies. I read voraciously. I am desperate to know the truth, to know my purpose. When I die, is that it? I like reincarnation: another shot at it all. A second chance. Looking back, did I use my time well?

Both hands are getting numb from the typing, yet I type. So many questions. Dizzying. Worries are legion.

Ah, the reassuring, tap-tapping on the tiny keyboard, such a sweet anesthesia: Surfing the net, googling random ideas, catching up on the news about “balloon boy” and his insufferable mom and his dad, the insipid, erstwhile pseudo- “science detective.”

Now I wonder: if I were Neo ( in The Matrix) and Morpheus gave me the choice – red or blue pill-  which would I pick? How about you?”

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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Walking on the road to Caesare’a Philip’pi, according to the Gospel of Mark 8:27-33, Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do men say that I am”? They answer variously, Elijah, John the Baptist, and one of  the prophets. Then, he refines the question, and raises the stakes: “Who do you say that I am”?

In seven powerful words, he invites the disciples to reveal their inmost thoughts and, in doing so, their state of openness and vision. This question reverberates in my thinking and draws me into the scene as I imagine my own response if he posed this question to me today, right now.

I would reply:

” You are the voice and touch of the Divine Heart, the Teacher of Righteousness, the face of the Beloved.”

I

whisper on the wind, saying, “come this way, be joyful;”

light on a clear night, lead the way to freedom.

II

I am afraid and cannot speak nor clearly see the path before me;

but sweet and gentle warmth consoles this fretful fever.

III

consumed with doubts and questions, yet I step into the night;

arms outstretched to clasp the Light that draws me ever nearer.

IV

though I walk headlong in chance and awe, into this time’s enigma;

my heart awakens, eyes reach deep, into the Blessed Kerygma.

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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Monsters, ghouls, alien creatures, and all manner of dark figures are playfully personified on October 31st each year. It is one day out of the year, traceable to celtic pagan celebrations, when children and adults alike don costumes and masks, makeshift and elaborate, and revel in the  bizarre and macabre.

While the Vatican, under Popes Gregory III and IV, attempted to eclipse pagan elements with the Christian symbolism of All Saint’s Day, celebrated on November 1st, the secular theater was never pushed aside or superceded, reason being that the psychic inspirations for each express different, though complementary, archetypes.

All Saint’s Day is the Christian commemoration of the souls that have already completed their journey back to G-d. The archetypes inspiring this ecclesiastical celebration are embodied in images of the soul, “anima/ animus,” as conceived by C.G. Jung. Halloween, however, manifests the Jungian “Shadow,” that part of the unconscious that represents the irrational, our weaknesses, instinctive fears and existential dread. We ignore the Shadow at our peril. Doing so, according to Jung, would only increase the power of the darkness it embodies which would then be projected on others. Confronting the “shadow,” embracing  it and making it conscious, alternatively, unleashes creativity. The soul navigates the delicate interweaving of opposites throughout life. The depth of our spirituality depends on our integrating the opposites.

All Hallows Eve, followed by the Feast of All Saints, is an outward enactment of a psychic dilemma, and provides a time to flaunt, in dramatic and playful ways, the things that remain otherwise generally submerged. In fact, monsters are not to be denied. Monstrous acts are reported daily by the media and perpetrated globally. Real monsters exist and monstrous thoughts populate our nightmares. Masks afford a conscious shift in persona toward the “shadow,” mimicking the anonymity of the masked ball, or masquerade. In its’ positive expression, it is a healthy, public, spirited, and socially legitimized form of exorcism of things that “go bump in the night.” It represents the hero’s quest to master these same fears.

The horror genre in literature and cinema is an interesting illustration of the cathartic power of exposing dark fears that make us cringe or scream. Those who choose this genre enjoy being scared. They force themselves (with enthusiastic expectation) to recoil, avert their eyes, yet peak back and look again. In the horror genre, the hero defeats monsters through the sheer force of his or her reason; a capacity to put fear aside, and act boldly and courageously with powers of intelligence and cunning. In “Aliens,” Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) rises to the challenge, and takes on H.R. Giger’s monstrous, wholly “other,” and perfectly adapted bio-mechanical creatures. Serving as foils for Ripley’s strength, combat soldiers and other support characters merely cower in fear, and seemingly freeze in their places waiting for the beast’s gruesome bite.

Fear, generated either through the pages of a book or in a safe theater,  elevates vigilance and emotional intensity, while providing a path through the monstrous and the darkness toward resolution. Vampires have long been popular in this genre both in literature and in cinema. Television series (such as “True Blood”) and movie adaptations of the Anne Rice stories ( e.g.,”Interview With a Vampire,” and “Queen of the Damned”) and the more recent success of “Twilight” and, already presumed success of soon to be released, “New Moon,” attest to the fascination with drawing near to what we fear.

What do these paradoxical approach-avoidance. attraction-aversion, terror-romance polarities teach? Is there a spiritual practice in all this worth considering? We all fear something. Our nightmares are the playground of these darker forces. They invite us to enter into what Joseph Campbell called the “inmost cave,” wherein we come face to face with our demons. In doing so, we have the chance to overcome them, and release our creative powers. J.R.R. Tolkien, facing the horrors of war and fear for his son serving in combat, wrote the “Lord of The Rings” in installments to occupy his son during his tour of duty. There are many other authors of fiction that found release from the prison of fear by harnessing the psychic energy unleashed by writing spiritually therapeutic tales.

In a few moments of quiet reflection, we can bring to mind our  fears in the face of life’s mysteries, uncertainties, and risks; our worries over things over which we have limited control. In an act of bold and creative active imagination, we can envision our own inner strengths doing battle with “creatures of the darkness,” and experience the blessings of Light that stream into all soul’s that open themselves up with vulnerability, humility, and love to the Spirit.

In meditating on inner turbulence and the psychic dilemma:

  1. What is it in my thought’s today that stirs up agitation, dread, anxiety and worry?
  2. How deep do these thoughts run? What memories do they dredge up from my past as I worry about the future?
  3. At what point, as I think on these things, do I feel a need to rush off, push away the images of the darkness, and get involved in something else?
  4. Staying with them, what physical sensations come over me?
  5. What do I envision as a force of inner protection and blessing ( a Saint, a force, a feeling, a symbol) that proceeds from the Spirit and pierces the darkness?

Prayers of protection are an entry level practice. At higher levels of contemplation, the healing and transforming Light is given to the Soul that enters communion with the Beloved. The price of admission to the contemplative state is full awareness, recognition, and acceptance of the path through the darkness that leads to  the well-spring of renewal and epiphany. Jesus went into the desert for “40 days and 40 Nights” where he was tempted. Only then did he present himself to John the Baptist for baptism in the waters of the Jordan. We cannot purify the human stain by attempting to go around it, trying to  fake-out, so to speak,  the archetypes of Spirit.  True conversion demands that we first must go through the dark corridors of mind.

As we watch our children in their costumes and our own child-like embrace of the shadowland, let us also take a moment to appreciate the subplot and the drama that surely lies beneath.

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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Albert Einstein once commented that “if at first an idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it. ” The October 17-23 issue of New Scientist reports on one such idea, initially  considered absurd by the scientific orthodoxy, that is gaining serious attention in the face of mounting evidence.

The idea revolves around the biochemistry of the origin of life itself and challenges the conventionally assumed primacy of the breakdown of ATP (Adenose Tri-Phosphate) in generating the energy that powers cells. Peter Mitchell, however, controversially suggested that the energy of cells comes from a process more like electricity (protons flowing across membranes providing the energy to form ATP molecules, or “chemiosmosis”) for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1978.

His hypothesis was that life on Earth all began in rocks under the sea floor made up of labyrinthine pores in which water mixed with the mineral “olvine” and resulted in a hot alkaline fluid rich in hydrogen. These hydrothermal vents were subsequently found, in the year 2000, along the mid-Atlantic Ridge by University of Washington researchers. These scientists referred to the find as the “Lost City,” owing to impressive spires of porous rock formed in the process. The chemicals found at these hydrothermal vents are the ones essential to genetic building blocks RNA and DNA.

Nick Lane of New Scientist writes: ” The last common ancestor of all life was not a free living cell at all, but a porous rock riddled with bubbly iron-sulphur membranes that catalysed primordial biochemical reactions” ( p. 42). This development is a stunning illustration of the march of science, and why ideas that are developed around the periphery of scientific orthodoxy are crucial. When a conventional understanding  is overtaken in this way, the release of creative energy, fresh activity, and inspired lines of research is intoxicating. Everything is, for a time, brand new, and full of provocative possibilities.

As I think about the article in the New Scientist, my thoughts travel along two parallel tracks: (1)  breaking through boundaries of thought through constructive heresy is essential to progress, and (2) the roots of all life and, by extension, the sparks of consciousness, rest in primordial fields of elementary particles that carry the signature of the first singularity, the Big Bang. Consciousness derives from fire, the “conflagratio” of the prima materia of alchemy, directed by the “Logos” (a configural matrix at the heart of Matter).

Teilhard de Chardin, philosopher, theologian, paleontologist, and Jesuit Priest, spoke of “complexification” ( the tendency of the Cosmos to evolve toward ever increasing enfoldments and entanglements) as a force drawing all of Creation toward a hypothetical fullness, “Pleroma,” fully consummated at a hypothetical “Omega Point.” In effect, matter and spirit are eternally and infinitely conjoined, both guided by elementary constellations of forces that guide and shape the fabric of space-time itself.

The whole universe is endemically personal since it is in its nature to become self-referential and aware.  Epiphany and salvation, redemption and realization, agape and compassion are all pre-configured in space-time. The expanding physical universe and the expanding noosphere, or consciousness (and then supra-consciousness), is  a matter for both physical science and spirituality. All scientific study is therefore, in its fullness, another form of spiritual practice: a stylized path to contemplating mystery.

In stumbling, as we always do, over revelations about the physical universe, such as the growing support for “chemiosmosis,” we do well to take a few steps back, and allow a time for non-scientific active imagination: a time for tacit knowledge to incite the soul along with the intellect, to see more deeply into the unfolding story of the Cosmos, and to spot, on the periphery of the canons of so-called common knowledge a surprise and moment for awe.

White Flange Section of "Lost City" Rock Formations

White Flange Section of "Lost City" Rock Formations

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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I

Grey-tones in Heaven announce the sleeping-times:

I wander in dying leaves & wonder at the scene, deep saturated yellow, brown, red, amber, orange, and green.

A gift of consolation in dormant days and hollows, reminding of the birth, death, and resurrection that follows?

Persephone’s journey into darkness begun,  a time when seed and promise are sung.

II

Sadness on the air makes memory sweet,  of the splash of warm color  in five months we’ll greet;

When dull skies turn  bright , and flowers dance in the Light.

But now, bulbs and acorns, tempests, and chill, still a sacred opus there is to fulfill;

Moving a bit slower, gently I look, to the comforting pages of a warm-storied book.

III

Coloring now with palettes of Mind, a whispering inside me of wonders to find;

Textures of crystal, ice, pine-cones, and rain, mystical landscapes,  a Holy refrain.

Grey-tones above me, rainbows inside, stargazers counsel and poet’s confide;

Light of the World, world in the Light, for all who seek it, for all with true Sight.

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© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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Monday, October 19, 2009

Our extended family of parrots here at home (our Amazon, Macaws, African Grey, Cockatoo, Quaker, Sun Conyer, and Parakeets) are passionately vocal. They squawk to draw both our attention and the notice of one another. Like all creatures of significant intelligence, they seek truly interactive and interdependent community. With quite distinct personalities, they are nonetheless fiercely attuned to the needs of the flock. They resonate to the energy in the room, and the moods of the human beings who live among them. They pick up and express our nervousness, fear, hesitations, and joy. They are the very epitome of being one’s brother’s keeper.

If their calls go unnoticed, the cries become both shrill and incessant as they escalate the call in hopes of a reply. It is all about assurance and well-being defined as being in the embrace of a visible and audible  community. While people can become quickly impatient with the loud calls of parrots, the action is quite literally a conditioning of the space in which they find themselves to the world that is more naturally their true home, the rain forests. In the forests, the Pandemonium fits perfectly. It is part of an abundance, a special acoustic landscape celebrating a very delicate and important ecology.

Humans talk of fellow-feeling but it is unfortunately rarer among men then among parrots. The poet Longfellow once wrote: ” Listening is the rarest of events among Human Beings.” In the call of parrots, there is continuous deep listening and vigilance; no malice, no ego, no zealotry, no artful manipulation, brinksmanship, nor perpetual distraction. Parrots always expect a response, demonstrate indomitable hope in receiving one, and there is never even a hint of disingenuity.

The pandemonium fills the air with the raucous affirmations of vibrant life and unflappable care for the flock (of which we are honorary members) with no reference to either yesterday or tomorrow. The dialogues of the parrots are  the innocent, pure, boisterous and joyful psalms to the Living Now.

Party on feathered masters. Call out  all you want and let all the world know you are here and, while you squawk, I type!

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© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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Dusk approaches and my room is still. My ear’s ring with the  buzz of the fluorescents and the high pitched hum of the desktop monitor.

Beneath and in between, the stillness is deep and pleasing. If hearing were touching, the silence would be warm and inviting, a blanket to wrap myself in on a cold Fall and rainy afternoon.

It is unbroken and smooth, a velvet surface that gives when I touch it. Like a soap bubble, it is airy and light, but unlike soap bubbles its surface is strong. It seems now spongiform  and impressionistic, responsive and shapeable.

The Silence knows that I am here. It is a deeply personal stillness. It’s here because I am here.

The sound of it seems to call out to textures in me, in my cells; enlivening the spaces between cells, between molecules, between atoms, between particles. This fabric is the cosmic lace, the cloth of heaven, the veil of mysteries, and the stole and cincture of eternity.

I am this silence. This silence is me.

© Brother Anthony Thomas 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.

Silent Pond

Silent Pond

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My whole world is a complex system of interlocking maps. My reality is self defined and, as Douglas Hofstadter has opined, a series of “strange loops”.

Beliefs fuel my interpretations and they are each made up of a bundle of assumptions. Maps of the world, while useful, are imperfect representations of the area and topography they describe.

So much of life is an admixture of personal and shared fiction blended, often subtly, with fact. We are first weavers and tellers of stories. We learn through metaphor. Symbols and signs are the ways in which things get stored in memory and then we imbue these symbols with emotional, intellectual and spiritual significance.

In an allegorical sense, we are in the Wachowski Brothers’ “matrix” where mental models ( constructions of mind) color much of what we see and do. Spiritual awakening in all religious traditions emphasizes waking up (e.g., epiphany, enlightenment, kensho, divine illumination, nirvana, bodhi, realization, satori, gnosis). So, how can we appreciate our maps in ways that free us to see beyond them?

I am a lover of  maps- maps of all varieties ( the world, other planets, the moon, and the stars). The map room in the Vatican Museum is my all-time favorite. The more maps that hang on our walls the less likely are we to mistake any one map for the real territory. With many perspectives, we are free of the constraining assumptions tied to just one.

The answer to how we get free of our mental models is to allow multiple ones to collide.

What does this look like in daily practice? The best strategy is to pose a regular small set of questions to whatever I perceive, such as:

  1. What beliefs am I clinging to as I invest in my interpretation of what’s real?
  2. What if I challenge those beliefs? How might thing change?
  3. On what experience does my confidence rely?
  4. Where does my knowledge end, and perception, guess, and imagination begin?
  5. What are my favorite sources of information? What other sources would add a wholesome set of checks and balances?
  6. Where is the “orthodoxy” in my thinking? Playing the “heretic” or “devils advocate”, how might things otherwise actually be?

We really hate change especially when it threatens treasured formulas and ways of understanding. It is itself an act of enlightenment to doubt, and bring a scientific mindset to our notions of spirit while listening intently to the tacit knowledge of the heart .

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© Brother Anthony Thomas 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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