The Churches of Rome

This is the end of my old ways, dear Christ!
Now I will hear Your voice at last
And leave the frosts (that is: the fears) of my December.
And though You kill me, (as You must) more, more I’ll trust in you.
For though the darkness and the furious waters of that planting
Seep down and eat my life away
Yet my dark night both eats and feeds me,
‘Til I begin to know what new life, green life springs within my bones
.”
~ Thomas Merton

 

Ah the churches of Rome! Here I am, trodding for the second time the worn, disjointed, unsettled paved streets of the eternal city, with one thing in mind: visiting and admiring some of its most beautiful basilicas, churches, chapels, oratories… It is said that there are about 900 churches in Rome, so the choice is wide and elegant. One thing to remember here: this place is the cradle of Christianity and hosts the Holy See of Catholicism, a religion to more than a billion people in the world. The sheer number of tourists and pilgrims is huge and many want to see the Vatican in their lifetime, with its most famous Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum of the ancient Roman Empire, or the Trevi Fountain. I have just come from a retreat in the mountains of Umbria, and I wonder what will touch me here, after this week of thinking and meditating on the non-dual nature of experience. 

I am the light of the world.”
[John 8:12]

What strikes me most here, is not the gigantism and wealth of the most famous basilicas, nor the beautiful art that you will find hidden in the innermost corners of many churches: Raphael, Caravaggio, the Baldacchino and Ecstacy of Saint Teresa of Bernini, the Pietà and Moses of Michelangelo, the frescoes of Gaulli and Pozzo. No, something else touches me profoundly. …

An essay on the churches of Rome and their deeper meanings (READ MORE…)

 

Kissing the Toad

Here is a reminder inspired from the words of Rupert Spira. It is necessary and terribly efficient to look into these matters for ourselves. This is why I like to share here the parts of a spiritual teaching that sounds like ‘something to do’, something to experiment and verify for ourselves:

See that you never really meet your uncomfortable feelings, that you are always avoiding them by activities, thinking… Try to be brave, turn around, and face the feeling. Welcome it, invite it in, be interested, get to know it… Experience for yourself the power of courage and avoidance… See how the avoiding of the fear, or of anything, is worse than the fear, or the thing itself… See how the facing of any uncomfortable feeling that you have has a releasing effect…

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Further exploring on the subject:

The instrument of your torture, the thing which once threatened to break your spirit, eventually becomes your salvation, even wakes you up, to presence, to gratitude, to the miracle of creation. When we turn to fearlessly face apparent darkness we may discover only undivided light, find a part of ourselves longing for love. Freedom lies not in escaping into the Absolute but in affirming life as it is – in consummating our marriage to our humanity, including all its trials and tribulations, and knowing God as the unbreakable principle present even in our pain, that which holds us even when we cannot hold ourselves.” 
~ Jeff Foster

~

Just trace your feelings back to their counterpart in the body as sensation, and then trace these sensations back to this luminous empty knowing. It’s all that’s there. This luminous empty knowing, the stuff out of which these sensations is made, to know that, to touch that – THAT is the experience of happiness, or peace. The happiness we seek lives at the heart of our deepest, darkest feelings. We don’t find happiness by avoiding our deepest, darkest feelings and trying to replace them with another kind of feeling. We do the opposite, we trace our way back deeper and deeper and deeper, to go right to the heart of the feeling where we expect to find the monster – the one that is really responsible for our feelings. We never find the monster. If it recurs, then meet these recurring feelings with this recurring exploration. In other words, meet it with your experience. Your feelings cannot stand the truth of your experience. In the end, they have to bow down. They will in time bow down.” 
~ Rupert Spira

~

Eventually, it occurs to me to stop trying to do (or not do) anything, to give up the search for a solution or a distraction, to simply be present, to allow everything to be just exactly as it is. Suddenly it becomes possible to completely surrender to the actuality of Here / Now, to resist nothing, not even the compulsive biting of my fingers if that is what is happening. Instantly, I feel the heart open. This is the end of grasping and seeking, the end of resisting and avoiding, the end of trying to fix myself and be somebody else, the end of trying to figure it all out or get the right conceptual map nailed down. This is not knowing anything and not needing to know. Suddenly there is no problem anymore. There is no me. There is only this undivided, spacious presence that includes everything, just as it is. Everything is okay, even fingerbiting or feelings of uneasiness or anxiety. Nothing needs to be other than how it is, and when there is complete openness to how it is, I find it is no particular way at all. Everything is moving and changing and dissolving. There is a huge sense of relief. The problem was imaginary.”
~ Joan Tollifson

~

If we trace our suffering back far enough,
there, right at its heart, right at its origin,
we find the experience of peace and happiness
which we were previously seeking
by avoiding the suffering.
The moment we kiss the toad,
it turns into the prince.”
~ Rupert Spira

 

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The picture is by Helena Cuerva/Pixabay

Bibliography:
– ‘Presence’, Vol. I & II – by Rupert Spira (Non-Duality Press)
– ‘The Way of Rest: Finding the Courage to Hold Everything in Love’ – by Jeff Foster – (Sounds True)
– ‘Nothing to Grasp’ – by Joan Tollifson – (Nonduality Press)

Websites:
Rupert Spira
Joan Tollifson
Jeff Foster

Suggestion:
Fleeing to God (other pointers from the blog)

 

The Intelligence of Chaos

The first line of this poem: ‘Trust the intelligence of chaos’, is a phrase borrowed from Jeff Foster. I was inspired with these few lines after reading it…

 

Trust the intelligence of chaos

It wants to find its way
Through layers of you

It wants to knock at your door
And make you open your heart

It wants to be protected by you
And let itself melt into your emptiness

It wants to see that it is not a bad guy
To be looked upon and pushed away

It wants to be found inexistant
In the inexistence that you are

It wants to be your friend
Claim your love again and again

It wants you to know that it cares
You only can find its implicit order

 

~~~

Poem by Alain Joly

Photo by Nicki Gwynn-Jones

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6E052D74-E6E9-433B-A389-30CB554DE9B1Nicki Gwynn-Jones is a British photographer currently living in Orkney, a group of islands north of Scotland. She has a passion photographing birds, and the coastal life around, full of a wilderness shaped by wind and water. In 2012 she was awarded a Fellowship in Visual Art by the Royal Photographic Society. 
Nicki’s Websitenicki gwynn-jones

 

Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)