Advent Week Two

Advent_week2

Once I was walking in the Australian bush in bright moonlight. As we crossed a stream, stepping carefully from one stone to another, I looked down and saw a tiny strange being looking up at me quizzically from the water. I was shocked but not frightened and stepped back to see it again. But it had gone and I realised (a bit sadly) that it was a trick of the light and my imagination. 

The gods left humanity a long time ago. They were banished by science and faded away as we better understood our own unconscious. We can do better at this point of our evolution than trying to recover the old gods. Their disappearance perhaps left the world a duller place. But the new dispensation, the new covenant whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, expels the fears attached to the old order. It is a more free world, a grownup relationship with the divine. Here we learn to wait in joyful hope even in the absence, even in the void. We wait with an imagination empty of images, sensing the real presence that will manifest in everything, everywhere, always.

Humanity is permanently pregnant with this presence. An ordinary human pregnancy teaches the expectant parents that waiting does not equate to delay or postponement. It is preparation and maturing. It is true patience that teaches us that only through time time is conquered. So, there is no reason for impatience while a new form of life grows in whatever kind of womb. While the mystery grows, ordinary life continues, with shopping, cooking, dealing with builders, talking with friends. But ‘all the time the seed grows, how we do not know..’ (Mark 4:27). Waiting in fidelity to what is growing is the present moment.

When birth happens the wonder of completion is accompanied by the anxiety of caring for what is now here to be loved but still so vulnerable and delicate. New life is resilient and yet perilously tender. So birth is the end of preparation but the beginning of an endless series of stages of growth. ‘Epiktesis’ (Phil 3:13) is the Greek word for pushing ever forward. That is what defines a spiritual life, that there is no final goal except the transcendence of every goal as soon as it has been achieved. It may sound tiring but it is the secret of the infinite, boundless expansion of love. It is reflected in the practice of continuously returning to the mantra.

People who first come to meditation with a short-term, goal-oriented mind often speak of it as a ‘tool’. Those for whom it has become a way of life, a way into deeper life, think of it more as an on-going relationship, a love story. The poet Rilke wrote that ‘even between the closest people infinite distances exist. Aren’t lovers always coming to precipices in each other?’ 

Life and the Advent season reassure us that the marriage of infinity and intimacy is incarnation, full embodiment.

Advent Week One

Advent Week One

advent01

The clock starts ticking for Christmas.. now.

If we lacked all sense of sacred time life would indeed be a bleak landscape to trudge across. It would become only a tedious cycle of work, holiday, shopping, entertainment, problem-solving, ever running from a gnawing sense of incompleteness or loss. Sacred time pours colour (purple for Advent) over such a monochrome world. It stirs a sense of expectancy, a certainty within uncertainty, an excitement of an imminent revelation of reality that will not disappoint or ever prove to be illusory.

The sacred time of Advent doesn’t just promise this: it insists that something or someone real is approaching us across the terrain of life. We play the game of sacred time and learn directly that serious that only play can give. We are waiting to see what or who is coming and deal with the niggling doubt (that easily becomes a bitter pill) that nothing may come and nothing would make our empty waiting more lonely still. If nothing comes, we are alone again. But, if we become less and less burdened by possessions and attachments, then waiting will be reciprocated. Because whoever or whatever is moving through time towards us is waiting for the encounter, the recognition and the embrace that welcomes the new arrival. And whenever it comes it will be – literally – amazing.

Advent offers us a sacred time to reflect, several times daily if we wish, on how consciously we are living. In ordinary life we barely manage to reflect on deeper things for more than a few moments snatched from busyness. Reflection begins with self-questioning. Are we fully accepting the moment we are in or fantasizing about something in the past or future? Are we really waiting? To be truly in the present means to wait, to be real and to know with the wisdom arising in stillness that what we are waiting for has already arrived. This kind of waiting is real hope – not the usual compound of daydreams and desires – but the core certainty that the final outcome has already happened and is waiting to be born in time and circumstances. To reach this state demands a frequently repeated and at times excruciating renunciation of illusion and all self-serving imagination. Illusion re-forms and reappears constantly. Hence, we need a regular practice. And, if we emphasise fidelity to our twice-daily appointment with reality in the next few weeks, it would be time well spent

Are we really waiting? Or, are we running away from the doubt that nothing is happening in this stillness and silence?  Waiting is not thinking about our sense of separation or incompleteness, or indulging the fear we will never be whole. Waiting means giving up these obsessive thoughts and feelings and breaking out of the orbit of the fearful ego. It means yielding to the thrill of fulfilment and the heart-melting beauty of Christ being formed in us now and who will, for sure, be born in time. Advent, then, is about waiting for love. But as Rumi said, ‘lovers don’t just finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.’

If we lacked all sense of sacred time life would indeed be a bleak landscape to trudge across. It would become only a tedious cycle of work, holiday, shopping, entertainment, problem-solving, ever running from a gnawing sense of incompleteness or loss. Sacred time pours colour (purple for Advent) over such a monochrome world. It stirs a sense of expectancy, a certainty within uncertainty, an excitement of an imminent revelation of reality that will not disappoint or ever prove to be illusory.

The sacred time of Advent doesn’t just promise this: it insists that something or someone real is approaching us across the terrain of life. We play the game of sacred time and learn directly that serious that only play can give. We are waiting to see what or who is coming and deal with the niggling doubt (that easily becomes a bitter pill) that nothing may come and nothing would make our empty waiting more lonely still. If nothing comes, we are alone again. But, if we become less and less burdened by possessions and attachments, then waiting will be reciprocated. Because whoever or whatever is moving through time towards us is waiting for the encounter, the recognition and the embrace that welcomes the new arrival. And whenever it comes it will be – literally – amazing.

Advent offers us a sacred time to reflect, several times daily if we wish, on how consciously we are living. In ordinary life we barely manage to reflect on deeper things for more than a few moments snatched from busyness. Reflection begins with self-questioning. Are we fully accepting the moment we are in or fantasizing about something in the past or future? Are we really waiting? To be truly in the present means to wait, to be real and to know with the wisdom arising in stillness that what we are waiting for has already arrived. This kind of waiting is real hope – not the usual compound of daydreams and desires – but the core certainty that the final outcome has already happened and is waiting to be born in time and circumstances. To reach this state demands a frequently repeated and at times excruciating renunciation of illusion and all self-serving imagination. Illusion re-forms and reappears constantly. Hence, we need a regular practice. And, if we emphasise fidelity to our twice-daily appointment with reality in the next few weeks, it would be time well spent

Are we really waiting? Or, are we running away from the doubt that nothing is happening in this stillness and silence?  Waiting is not thinking about our sense of separation or incompleteness, or indulging the fear we will never be whole. Waiting means giving up these obsessive thoughts and feelings and breaking out of the orbit of the fearful ego. It means yielding to the thrill of fulfilment and the heart-melting beauty of Christ being formed in us now and who will, for sure, be born in time. Advent, then, is about waiting for love. But as Rumi said, ‘lovers don’t just finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.’