This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.
Craving for signs is like demanding that one answer will resolve all the aspects of a question. It locks us into the most superficial dimension of reality. We miss out on the deeper and more satisfying significance of life and the tangible truth of full experience. Get over it, Jesus says to the superstitious and their near allies the fundamentalists.
Through direct experience meditation teaches us what thinking and talking cannot. Communication without this dimension of silence becomes babble and leads to the conflict that arises from confusion. ‘Let’s sit down together and get things cleared up’, we say in difficult personal situations. That is precisely what we do in meditation. It doesn’t look like this, however, until you have tried and tested it.
Why does going into the desert (eremos) help us live better in the world of the city? The desert is more real than we imagine. The city is more illusory than we like to admit. In the desert there is nothing real to contemplate except nature itself in its simplest, barest forms. How do we know – what is the sign – that what we are doing is real? Perhaps it is the experience of beauty, meaning the instantaneous penetration of our being by the whole mysteriously present in a part which touches and changes us. We don’t think beauty or decide to feel that something is beautiful. We cannot deny beauty or explain it. We surrender to it. Imitation beauty seduces us but its fakeness is soon exposed. The real thing , like the beauty met in the desert, exposes the glamour of the mall. Once the false has been seen we need to drop it quickly. If not, illusion gets a grip and addiction will ensue.
This is why we need eremos, to sit and be. Children, to the amazement of their teachers and parents, can and love the interior desert. For us it involves a re-learning. Unless you become like little children. . . The learning begins with physical posture. The body is the greatest of all signs, the primary sacrament, the beauty (even after it has started to decline from its physical peak) that is truth. An emaciated, wasted body is no less sacred or essentially beautiful than the fit and firm because the body never lies. Even more than being a sign, the body is our primordial symbol. A sign merely points. A symbol embodies. Not body image. But the body that embodies you.
The way you sit in meditation expresses your mental attitude to the session you are beginning. It frankly reveals to you the truth of your mind and expectations. If you are slouching or slumping that’s where your mind is and it will make the interior uprightness of meditation more difficult. So sit upright. This will also help you to breathe better which helps you to be calmer and more awake. If you are on a chair you might shift forward, towards the edge of the chair to keep the back straight. Maybe put a small cushion behind you. If you are tall sit on a cushion. If you are short put something under your feet letting your feet form a 90 degree angle with your knees. Sitting on the floor, you probably need a cushion so that your back is straight and your knees touch the ground. If you kneel with a prayer bench, keep the back straight, hands on lap or knees. Shoulders relaxed, jaw loose, breathing normal, chin slightly bent to straighten the back of the neck.
What could be more beautiful? What a sign to you and others around you that when we sit and are who we are we don’t need to look for signs.
Read other Lent Reflections 2019: Week 1