The Practice of the Presence of God

The monk at prayer’ (detail) – Edouard Manet, 1865 – WikiArt

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A little lifting up of the heart suffices.
A little remembrance of GOD, 
one act of inward worship
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~ Brother Lawrence

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From the remote time of the seventeenth century in Paris has come a voice whose freshness and intimacy struck a chord in many a spiritual seeker throughout the generations. The man behind it was a lay brother working in the kitchen of a Carmelite monastery in the French capital. He was born Nicolas Herman in 1614 in the region of Lorraine, but took the religious name of Lawrence of the Resurrection. What a miracle that the writing of this simple lay brother found its way down to us. But although a remarkable journey, it is understandable that it did so. For the words of this humble, hardworking man, all occupied to his cooking activities, show a mountain of dedication to God. His simplicity and softness, combined to an undefeatable and spontaneously joyful practice, is a deeply valuable gift passed down to us.

Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue; presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself. At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift itself up without any care or effort of mine, and it continues as it were suspended and firmly fixed in GOD, as in its centre and place of rest.”
~ Brother Lawrence

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Rejoice in the illuminating life and practice of Brother Lawrence… (READ MORE…)

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The Flowers of St. Francis

Brother Nazario Gerardi – ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’

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Praise be to you, O Lord, and to all your creatures. 
Especially Brother Sun, through whom you light our days. 
He is beautiful and radiant and resplendent, 
and derives all meaning from you
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~ Canticle to the Sun

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The deepest realisations and expressions of truth in Christianity have sometimes come from words and understanding, as was the case with Meister Eckhart, but it is, by far, not the most common path. Many a man or a woman have come to embrace God’s being through the expression of profound love and surrender. Such a path was trodden by Francis of Assisi, and has been splendidly shown in Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film ‘The Flowers of St. Francis’. And if all one knew of Francis of Assisi was through watching this supremely elegant film, one would know what needs to be known, one would meet the essential — the essence — of this man’s life, of anybody’s life when it is lived from love and humility. One would know of the pure joy of being, of trust in life’s bounty, of care and attention for every beings on earth.

Showing only a moment of Francis’ life, the film is more a parable on the qualities that were emphasised throughout his life and teachings, than the real description of his life’s journey. Through a succession of simple vignettes, we are exposed to a panoply of Francis’ various expressions of love. We are shown a man who lived with his heart, and a life that has been made into a prayer to god. We are shown that prayer is but an act of love. We are shown people coming together around a common faith in God, their daily life and turmoils, their behaviours. Francis of Assisi encouraged his disciples to access or express god’s being by being oneself an example of the presence of god. And by making this presence shine in all their daily activities, so that the brightness of god can be harvested by everybody around. These expressions are in the film like the little flowers of St. Francis. A whole bouquet of them.

Praise be to you, O Lord, 
for Sister Moon and all the stars, 
which you cause to shine clear and bright
.”
~ Canticle to the Sun

[…]

A homage to Francis of Assisi through Roberto Rossellini’s movie… (READ MORE…)

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I have Called You by My Name

‘Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs’ in Roma

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I – luminous, open, empty Awareness – 
am the truth of your Being and am 
eternally with you, in you, as you, 
shining quietly at the heart of all experience. 
Just turn towards Me, and acknowledge Me, 
and I will take you into Myself
.”
~ Rupert Spira

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In some of the religious texts of the world, the subtlest expressions of truth are so deeply buried in the text that they have become unintelligible. The limitations of translation, the analogies and metaphors borrowed, the time in which these texts appeared, the audience for which they were written, the veneer of poetry or story-telling, all these concur to add multiple layers of confusing elements to the original idea. And these texts have also served such inappropriate religious purposes in the course of history that they are, for all these many reasons, rejected or misunderstood by many. The Christian Bible is one such text. 

I have here attempted to find exquisite passages from the Bible, where the veneer is cracking and the hidden meanings shine more brightly. For a clearer understanding, I have selected two excerpts by Rupert Spira that will help focusing on one possible expression of truth and how it comes to be hidden behind the most innocent line in the Old Testament. They make for a necessary and beautiful introduction. They are borrowed from a video called ‘The Memory of Eternity’ in Buckland Hall, Dec. 2018. I hope you enjoy, for when we come to these texts with the right perspective or understanding, they come shining with a new glow of truth…

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Our mind is just a temporary limitation or localisation of the only mind there is, infinite consciousness or god’s infinite being. So our mind is permeated with the memory of eternity, permeated by the memory of its origin. Why? Because it is made of it, although it is a limited version of it. So in everybody’s mind, there lies this memory of its own eternity. And that memory is felt by a person as the longing for happiness, or the longing for love. When we long for happiness, or we long for love, we are desiring to be divested of everything that limits us. We are designed to go back to our wholeness, our fullness, our sense of fulfilment, or completion. That’s why everybody longs for happiness or love. What people do to find happiness or love varies. But the actual longing itself is because there lives in everybody’s heart a memory of our eternity, the knowledge of our origin, or in religious language, a trace of God’s mind.

There is this beautiful line in the Old Testament, in the Book of Isaiah, where Isaiah says (Isaiah speaking on behalf of God): “I have called you by my name. You are mine.” I have called you by my name. I have planted my name in your mind. The name your mind gives to itself — that is the name ‘I’ — is the name of ‘me’. So the ‘me’ (God is saying) the ‘me’ in ‘you’ is in fact the ‘me’ in ‘me’. I have called you by ‘my’ name. That makes the ‘you’ of ’you’, ‘mine’ — or ‘me’. […] Everybody’s experience is permeated by what they call ‘I’. Experience is limited and individual, but the ‘I’, the self that permeates all experience doesn’t share the limits of experience. So Isaiah is saying that ‘I’ is God’s mind in our mind. It’s not even God’s mind in our mind. All there is to our mind is God’s mind, with a limit attached to it. That’s what seems to make it ‘me-the person’. But the ‘me’ of ‘me-the person’ is infinite consciousness.”
– Rupert Spira (‘The Memory of Eternity’ – Buckland Hall, Dec. 2018)

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Read some beautiful expressions of truth from the Bible… (READ MORE…)

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A Vehicle for God

‘Thanjavur Ganesha’ – Unknown author, 1820 – Wikimedia

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Regarding all things spiritual, I have always trusted the vision of India’s perennial understanding. And there is one thought that bothered me recently, which is simply: why do Hindu gods need a vehicle, a mount? Why do they all have an animal by their side, or to ride on? For god is God. All powerful and reaching far and wide. Self-sufficient and contained in Itself. So why would Shiva need a bull as his vehicle, why would Saraswati have a swan by her side, or Kartikeya a peacock, Lakshmi an owl, Indra an elephant, or Durga a tiger? Why such partnership? And for what purpose?

So I pushed further my enquiry. I discovered that these vehicles, these animals, symbolise some of the qualities inherent to the god they are attached to. For example, the swan represents the beauty, wisdom and grace in Saraswati. Or the peacock the splendour and majesty contained in the Hindu god of war. Many qualities like strength, swiftness, sharpness, fierceness, speed, effortlessness, and so many others, are attributes of god which are reflected in, or represented by, their own vehicles. So I looked at myself, as I am too, deep down, this radiating presence of consciousness, of god’s being. Could it be that, in the same way the dreamer becomes conscious of a dreamt world through the agency of a subject of experience in the dream, consciousness is experiencing a world through its being refracted by a mind? So the mind is the vehicle that consciousness needs to experience a world. Doesn’t that make me, in some way, the vehicle of the Self? And do I radiate the qualities of this presence as should a vehicle of god?

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A playful text asking why god needs a vehicle… (READ MORE…)

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Search me, O God

I am presenting here a text excerpted from the Christian Old Testament, in the Bible. It is commonly known as Psalm 139, and belongs to the Book of Psalms. ’Psalm’ in Greek means ‘instrumental music’ and is by extension, a hymn. These hymns are mostly praises to God. This particular Psalm was brought to my knowledge by Rupert Spira. This is certainly one of the richest for it expresses the all knowing and pervasiveness of God, of that deep presence that is the nature and heart of our utmost self. It also stresses that this presence shines in all circumstances, including in our darkest hours. The psalm seems to hold in itself the soft power of a prayer, which is the ability to make us aware of our true self. For this is the function of a prayer, to throw us back into our self, into the deep silence that is the core of our being. As Stephen Mitchell wrote in ‘A Book of Psalms’, “Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.” Listen to the depth of this poem. As its promise reads, you may be led “in the way everlasting”.

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O lord, thou hast searched me, 
     and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
     thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
     and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, 
     but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
     and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
      it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
     if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, 
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
     and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
     even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
     but the night shineth as the day: 
     the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: 
     thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
     marvellous are thy works; 
     and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, 
     when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought 
     in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book 
     all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, 
     when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 
     how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, 
     they are more in number than the sand: 
     when I awake, I am still with thee.

[…]

Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
     try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
     and lead me in the way everlasting.

~ Psalm 139 (King James Version)

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Psalm from the Holy Bible (King James Version)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Book of Psalms: King James Version’ – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial)

Websites:
The Bible (Wikipedia)
King James Version (Wikipedia)
Psalms (Wikipedia)
Psalm 139 (Wikipedia)

Suggestion:
Other prayers from the blog at Fragrance of Love

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This is Meister Eckhart

‘Trinity’ – Andrei Rublev, 1410-1420 – WikiArt

 

The eye wherein I see God 
is the same eye wherein God sees me; 
my eye and God’s eye are one eye, 
one vision, one knowing, one love
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~ Meister Eckhart

 

In the Middle Ages, in the heart of Europe and of the Christian faith, rose a voice of such richness and profusion, of such dumbfounding wisdom and precision of thought, that it is a duty for all serious seekers to be reminded of it. The name shines with a polish of spiritual mastery and authority: Meister Eckhart. Eckhart von Hochheim OP was born in 1260 near Gotha in central Germany. OP stands in Latin for Order of Preachers, which is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church — better known as the Dominican Order — of which Meister Eckhart was a monk and a leader. His teaching and sermons left a deep impression but he was so ahead of his time and of the general understanding of his pairs, that his work went into oblivion only to reappear in the 19th century. His voice and light could not possibly be left unnoticed. He is now accepted as one of the most profound and eminent theologians, philosophers, and mystics of all times.

Little is known about his family and early life. From 1295 onwards, he held many posts of responsibility in various states of central Germany, and as far as Cologne or Strasbourg. Among others, he was a Prior of the Dominicans, managing tens of convents, and was later made Provincial of Saxony. He also travelled around Europe and more specifically to Paris where he studied Aristotle and the Platonists. With the degree of Master of Arts, he later on became a professor of theology at the school of Dominicans in the French capital and was invited as a magister — equal to the doctorate — for two consecutive years. At this time in Europe, during the Avignon Papacy, Christianity was prey to many tensions and confusion, the Inquisition was blowing a wind of suspicion and terror, as a result of which many new groups and movements were forming in search of new avenues of practice and understanding. It goes without saying that Meister Eckhart was a coveted source of wise counsel in these times of darkness. 

Let’s say it plainly: Meister Eckhart was a scholar, but it is as a preacher that he is most remembered. His sermons in the vernacular German were highly unusual for the time and took many a liberties with the conventional church rituals and dogmas. He stated: “When I preach, I usually speak of detachment and say that a man should be empty of self and all things.” […]

 

Blessed, supremely blessed, are they who are installed in the eternal now, 
transcending time and place and form and matter, 
unmoved by weal or woe or wealth or want, 
for in so far as things are motionless they are like eternity
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~ Sermon 16 

 

An exploration into the teachings of Meister Eckhart… (READ MORE…)

 

God Wants it All

Photo by Gerson Rodriguez / Pixabay

“(et hi tres unum sunt)
And these three are one
~ Bible, 1 John 5:7–8

 

God wants it all.
Beware if you’re planning
A little visit.
But don’t worry now!
He’s not going to eat you.
It doesn’t work that way.
Rather you will be pushed,
Through some gentle pressure of His,
To eat Him yourself.
How do we eat God?
Now relax!
It’s all been chewed already.
You just need to let go,
To leave the place for Him
To move in.
It’s not such a big move.
He’s here anyway,
Occupying your couch,
Eating your food,
Breathing your air.
Only gently move away.
Start by going out
Of your precious apartment.
It lives perfectly well
Without your being present.
Give it some air,
Take a little walk,
Have as many outings
You feel!
Let God gather its belongings
And get used to the place.
It’s His already but
You failed noticing it.
Don’t think you will feel crowded
When you come back.
God is the best room-mate ever.
He will make it all nice for you!
I bet you will enjoy
His presence.
He will only stay to the extent
You let Him in;
So don’t be so anxious!
He’s not the kind to impose Himself.
Rather do it yourself:
Impose Him on yourself!
You will feel so free;
You will enjoy and pray Him
To stay,
To live here for ever
While you keep on strolling
In the city.
But don’t feel shy!
Make the effort,
Pay Him a little visit.
It is your home after all!
He’ll be happy to see you,
For by seeing you,
He is enjoying your sweet friendship 
And flavour —
Which is His by the way!
Befriend Him as your best friend.
You might even start
Going out with Him,
Everywhere,
To enjoy the world:
Listen through His ears;
Admire through His eyes;
Sense the world with all
His generous being.
You will laugh!
You will love!
And who knows,
You might even date Him
Just as He might date you,
And you two will melt and
Go back home.
He might move in.
You might move in
Back into your flat.
But not alone this time,
And yet not two either.
Yet your presence
Will not feel lonely.
You will feel bigger,
Wider,
Richer,
Though still
Your own unique self.
As for your friend,
You won’t even see Him
Anymore,
For He is just only you.
But His glorious heart
Will beat inside you
Manifold
In your life.
I warned you!
Remember…
God wants it all.

 

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Text by Alain Joly

Photo by Gerson Rodriguez / Pixabay

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Suggestion:
Eternity with a Smile (other pieces from this category)