DONATE NOW!

Minute Meditations

RSS

Seeking Radical Simplicity

Because we are so bombarded today with messages and demands, and our attention is being pulled in many different directions, we like the idea of simplicity. We may also like leaving big decisions that we should take for ourselves to other people like the government or doctors or, though less often today for obvious reasons, to clergy. There is a plethora of courses and programs on the market offering to sort us out and give us skills we need to take control of our lives—provided we buy (and believe). Corporations and governments, distractedly aware of how much they are losing the war against distraction, are especially interested in these solutions. A spiritual solution, however, is different in a number of ways: it’s been around a long time and doesn’t claim to be new; it is not for financial profit; it is a discipline, not a technique; it is simple, not easy. Today’s teaching says the most important thing in life is to love God, your neighbor and yourself—equally. You will have to have become very simple before you can do this, but in the trying you will be radicalized—in the good sense—radically simplified and your capacity for love fully amplified. 

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Are You With Me?

“Are you with me?” It’s a question we might ask an audience to make sure they haven’t gone off to sleep while we were talking. Or at a critical moment in negotiations when we need to know who is on our side and who isn’t. Or to a companion during a dark and dangerous walk along a cliff-edge to reassure ourselves he hasn’t fallen off. I don’t think Jesus means any of these when he says, "Whoever is not with me is against me; and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Luke 11:23). We might still be “with him” even if we have fallen off to sleep or feel isolated in a hard place. He himself felt abandoned, but not disconnected from his Father at the end of his life—a strange and perhaps unique experience of communion and separation. In this saying, however, I think he means a deeper knowledge than is provided by evidence-based research—what we can see or deduce. It’s the knowledge that is knowing, not the knowledge stored in memory. The opposite of it is being “scattering.” To be scattered is to have our sense of self diluted by distraction, overextended by stimulation or fragmented in myriad lines of fantasy. It is a state in which we can say or do nothing useful and in which we may be dangerous if we can pretend to be there and with it. How might you respond to Jesus's question: "Are you with me?"

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Be Your Real Self

When we see hypocrisy—the enemy of integrity—we are cautious. If we condemn it—as Jesus and the great teachers did—we expose ourselves to attack. No one likes to be called a hypocrite, yet at some level we all know that we are. The word comes from the Greek hypokrisis, which means “actor.” Yet it is almost inevitable that we pretend to be or feel what we are not, or do not, even if we would also like to be what we pretend. We don’t have to despair about our inauthenticity, simply admit it. That defuses it and prevents our false self from blocking the way to the deeper level of consciousness. The sign that we are heading there is that we don’t take ourselves too solemnly and that we laugh at our false self and welcome other people to do the same. Gradually the actor’s mask becomes—as in great theatre rather than in soap opera—a transparent means of revealing the deeper truth. Form can then communicate the emptiness that is fullness. The wonderful thing is that this happens—if we allow it and make the space necessary—in subtle ways and in the most ordinary things of life. That is why Lent is about small things. And why meditation is more about practice than good intention.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Take Off the Mask

When we see hypocrisy—the enemy of integrity—we are cautious. If we condemn it—as Jesus and the great teachers did—we expose ourselves to attack. No one likes to be called a hypocrite, yet at some level we all know that we are. The word comes from the Greek hypokrisis, which means “actor.” Yet it is almost inevitable that we pretend to be or feel what we are not, or do not, even if we would also like to be what we pretend. We don’t have to despair about our inauthenticity, simply admit it. That defuses it and prevents our false self from blocking the way to the deeper level of consciousness. The sign that we are heading there is that we don’t take ourselves too solemnly and that we laugh at our false self and welcome other people to do the same. Gradually the actor’s mask becomes—as in great theatre rather than in soap opera—a transparent means of revealing the deeper truth. Form can then communicate the emptiness that is fullness. The wonderful thing is that this happens—if we allow it and make the space necessary—in subtle ways and in the most ordinary things of life. That is why Lent is about small things. And why meditation is more about practice than good intention.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Silence Is the Greatest of Teachers

A good new practice to highlight, even at this midway point in the Lenten period, is silence. Silence is the greatest of teachers. This is increasingly true in our highly distracted culture. Distraction is unnecessary noise. If our natural environment lacks silence, how will we ever understand what it is? We will know we have lost something, but will have no word for what it is. Silence will just mean that the audio doesn’t work. So we must speak about silence, communicating what it is until the penny drops into the bottomless well. Silence heals, refreshes, energizes, inspires, sharpens, clarifies. It simplifies. It is the medium of truth. And it is the font of the pure single Word that both perfectly communicates it and leads back to it. If we consciously turn off the TV or close the computer, restrain unnecessary speech, avoid gazing at advertising posters, look people lovingly in the eye, we are enhancing the same direct work of silence that we return to meeting in our meditation. And we are making the world a more silent and awakened place.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Persistence Is More Important than Success

We cannot pursue success, acceptance, and acclaim as authentic goals of life, and be real. In meditation we score no goals but we win the match. Most people who stay faithful to the practice find the inner freedom that comes with an embraced discipline. The experience of meditation is unlike any other. It is extremely difficult to define because it is an entry into such radical simplicity that we lose even the words to describe it. Because it gently penetrates to the deepest center of our existence, it involves and influences everything in our life with a marvelous capacity to unify. Past and future merge into the present. Fears and obsessions melt. We see the good in our enemies. We are expanded by love and we expand the world by love. In the process it lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and helps us sleep better at night. With the focus of simple awareness, other-centeredness and self-knowledge that Lent develops, however, we awaken to just how simple, unified and “good”—in a way that goes deeper than any moral sense of the word—each moment of each day is. That’s why we hang in and ignore the egocentric feeling of failure and don’t worry what people say.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Meditation Dissolves Sticky Sin

There is, as we all know, personal sin. We all know our faults—or suspect them. They are the causes of our individual, psychological hell—the domain of the false self. However painful, they present no great obstacle to the love of God welling up through our cracks to heal us and give us always another chance. But there is something else in the realm of sin that affects us because it conditions us through the culture we live in. It is more collective and impersonal than our personal faults. This sin possesses not just individuals but whole groups. It gives an ersatz sense of community—a perverse and self-destructive version of the solidarity that all human beings seek. Sin, personal or collective, is sticky. Even when we try to detach ourselves from it, it becomes more attached. How can we extricate ourselves and our world from the horrible stickiness of sin? Heavy injections of the reality serum. The work of meditation, according to the fourteenth-century Cloud of Unknowing, dries up the root of sin. A big claim. But true. And it won’t make you popular. Meditation is a powerful dissolvent of the glue of illusion and selfishness. Like a great product we discover that does a household job we have not been able to complete, meditation does what it promises. Provided we use it. Lent is the time to get these jobs done. Keep going—it’s worth it.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

Who Do We Want to Be?

Experience is a stronger persuader than argument, and we act well to the degree that we see clearly. The parable (better called the parable of the two brothers) has an obvious moral point. Given the two brothers’ personalities, which seems closer to the father? They are in fact equidistant. The prodigal brother can’t understand the nature of the father’s expansive love. The older, killjoy brother is entirely lacking in the generosity that characterizes his father. They are the two faces of the ego in all of us: the one part that wants to run after pleasure and the other that likes to take the moral high ground and feel justified in condemnation. Without knowledge of the essential truth of the joy of being and the unconditional nature of love, the ego will prevail. Each time we meditate, we are like the prodigal returning home to be embraced and also like the older brother learning that being good is more than doing good. Lent is a time when, by simplifying selected aspects of our lives and strengthening our discipline where it is weak, we can see ourselves in each of these three characters and decide—is it so difficult?—which one we want to be.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now

The Stone Rejected by the Builders

The ecological dream is to produce new energy by reprocessing all waste. Whatever has been thrown away or rejected is then reintegrated into the economy of life and a sense of equanimity and balance is achieved. But this is as hard to do in the inner life as at the global level. Whenever something is thrown away (waste) or labeled as useless (rejected), there is an accompanying feeling of failure, or of a missed opportunity, or of incompleteness. The deepest human instinct is for meaning, wholeness, connection and integration. Nothing should ever be seen as separated from the whole simply because it can’t be separate. We all have memories or relationships that we want to exclude because they don’t fit in with the desired pattern of our life. We need to realize that rejection never works. It only entangles us more with those aspects of a memory we dislike. Eventually it returns (as the rejected Jesus did) and is seen very differently. The rejected stone becomes the foundation stone.

—from the book Sensing God: Learning to Meditate during Lent by Laurence Freeman, OSB

 
 
Read now