Saturday, August 16, 2008

One of my teachers re-appears

I read Sophy Burnham's book, The Ecstatic Journey, several years ago, learned much and included it in my collection of must-keep-close-at-hand reference books. When Matthew and I almost moved this winter, it was packed--along with ten or twelve other texts--in a box labeled, Precious and Important Spiritual Books.

This week, as I began to unpack that box, and the 15 or so others culled from the Great Packup of 2008, I found it again.

Now, all of my life, whenever it's time for me to encounter a book, and its author, what happens is that the book kind of "glows" at me. Whether it happens when unpacking a box, or passing a friend's bookshelf or when I am wandering the stacks at the library or at Barnes and Noble, there's no other way to describe this mysterious allurement that draws me toward it. It's almost as if the book speaks--calling, pulling at me.... Well, let's just say that last week, when I pulled open the Precious and Important Spiritual Books carton, The Ecstatic Journey was ablaze.

I pulled out the book as if greeting an old friend and set it on the table to savor .... soon. And one thing led to another and finally, I dropped it into my briefcase... and carried it around for three or four days. And finally, today, I got out early and sat down with my tea and this glowing book and ....

Well, let's just say it's taken hold of me in a very deep way... and I am moved to share some of it with you... and to suggest that if you, too, feel called to read on, that it's worth it.

The rest of this blog is excerpted directly out of Burnham's book, from Chapter One: Rowing Toward God.

“They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears. They say that it is not the soul that struggles first toward God, but this Universe of Love which is fishing for us. God puts the longing in our hearts so that we will leap upstream, like a spawning salmon that throws itself against the river current, leaping up waterfalls in its passionate urge to reach the source, its birthplace, spawning ground, and death.”
“In the tradition of seekers from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Aldous Huxley, I took a long journey through Buddhism, then Hinduism, before returning with new insights to my Christian roots.”
"There are many paths to meditation but as Burnham puts it, all are similar and “all lead to the same golden center, for at the mystical level all religions have more in common than they differ, and all derive from the same source and long for the same goal.”
“Plato called the mystery of meditation theoria. Early Christians called it contemplatio.
“Once the Buddha was asked, ‘Is there God?’
‘I will not tell you,’ he answered. ‘But, if you wish, I can show you how to find out for yourself.’ Then he taught the gift of meditation.”
“The Buddha, the Compassionate One, understood how easily we become dependent on others, asking them to do the work for us. Unlike Christ, he refused to heal the sick.
“’I will no make you well,’ he would say to the leper, the blind man, ‘but I can show you how to heal yourself.’ Then he would teach the seeker how to meditate.”
“Sages tell us that meditation confers three gifts. First, it brings deep peace and tranquility of mind. Second, it brings clear intuition, wisdom and insight. Third, if it is pursued with constancy and devotion, it leads to the direct experience of God. Some pople claim meditation does no more than transport us to our own interior and highest self, and others that it opens a doorway through which the Beloved comes. All we know is the love and power it confers.”

“Meditation is always done by total concentration on one repetitive act. Perhaps you place your attention on your nostrils, watching your breath pass in an d out, each breath as unique as a snowflake. Or perhaps you repeat a mantra, of which the best known is the Tibetan Buddhist Om mani padme hum, the mantra of compassion. Or the mantra is a Christian prayer. Saying the rosary becomes a meditation, or repeating over and over the Pilgrims’ Prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.’ Weeding the garden may become a meditation, or knitting, cooking, eating, walking, painting—doing whatever you are doing, so long as you do it alertly, with absolute attention, watching each movement of your hands or feet or breath.”
“The Dalai Lama meditates for four hours a day, and he is only just beginning, he told me, to sense accomplishment, ‘like a seed just starting to sprout…’”
“The Buddha spent two hours a day practicing one particular forgiveness exercise—tow hours a day, sending forgiveness to the world. Mother Teresa insists that her Missionaries of Charity carve out time every day for meditation, and she says that she herself could not do her draining and difficult work without this sweet and daily communion with God. For hours at a time, continuously, a Sufi master, practicing the Muslim mystical tradition, repeats the dhikr, the remembrance of God: La ilaha ill Allah, he silently cries. ‘There is no God but God, alLah’—until slowly the words seep into his soul, like running water, excluding all other thoughts. His heartbeat slows. So quiet does the Sufi master become that they say he can repeat twenty-one dhikr on one long breath.”
"Many books describe how to meditate. You sit quietly with your back straight, either on the floor or in a chair. You close your eyes, scan your body, and relax, then set your attention on your nostrils and watch your breath pass in and out through this gateway, the portal of your life. At each inhalation, you take note: In, you say silently to yourself; on the exhalation, you say, out.

There is more, so much more to share... if you're interested, I'll leave it to Sophy Burnham to tell it to you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dearest Amy,
What a beautiful computer spot! It was just what I needed today. Sometimes the negative creeps in and we need to remember what really is real. Thanks for all your help with my story. I will never forget you. Looking forward to more blogs.

Love and Light, Ellie Blood