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Truth Is Lived, Not Spoken

The truth is not just what you say. You can wait for your lawyer to give you the oily words that will get you off the hook. But truth is lived, not spoken. It is what you live and how you live. Truth cannot be hidden. When the dust of the explosion that tries to destroy it settles, whatever you tried to conceal is more visible than ever. If you have something to hide and if you are afraid of the truth, then this is the terrible, inescapable truth of truth. It will come to light, just as reality will emerge from the ashes of the illusion that tried to evade the truth. This is true not only of deeds done. It is also true of a truth repressed in our minds and memories. A feeling that is too painful to face, a mistake too hurtful to admit, an insight too transformative to welcome. Until we come into the open and let the truth expand in the light, we will be hounded, and we will be on the run. Meditation is living the truth. In the light—in the open.

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

 
 
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Life Is More than Winning and Losing

We say things like “There are two kinds of people…” or “We can do one of two things…” The mind likes dualities because there’s always a winner and a loser. But, as God and the meditator know, dualities are only two-thirds of the story. The deeper, subatomic mind thinks in threes and so winning or losing isn’t the main point. As a teacher, using stories that were both simple and subtle, Jesus used the dualistic to get to the Trinitarian. Don’t we all have moments when we feel superior, if not to everyone else, then at least to the lowest? And don’t we all have, in the murkiest corners of our ego, an awareness that we are very screwed up and can do nothing about it except open ourselves, in that very place, to the God we only discover in humility? Except we do even that imperfectly. So what is the mind that is aware of this duality within us? The third, which makes one. Except it is a non-numerical oneness, a unity and a union in which duality is both healed and transcended in the process of meditation. And so there’s the paradox when Jesus says, "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted." You obviously can’t stay long in either place then. So where are we? We arrive at that non-geographical place when we see that God is smiling.

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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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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

 
 
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