Here we are...

Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

Anytime at all (The Beatles)

To Continue...

I had to drop, let go of, the walking stick of prayer I had used for so many years. It was not doing anything to get me off the wall to which I was plastered.

I wanted and needed to do something, and I was willing to do anything.

There was an important deep truth which I was not conscious of in those early transition days; that God was with me, beside me, within me through it all. I was, honestly, more focused on mechanics than on Presence. (In many ways, I still am.) That deep truth of Presence has been a growing dynamic as I learn to use my new walking stick.

As time went on my guide reminded me over and over that focusing on mindful compassion and nurturing a kind curiosity were profound ways of connecting with God. I was desperate enough to forgo any theological analysis of this strategy. Such analysis had not proven useful in the past....not to the self stuck to the wall, at least.

You'll remember that there were three core presenting issues: that maelstrom of inner noise, the condemning Cloud of Law, and the liability of religious practices.

I met these at first with silence...and then mindfulness. And, here is the Tale of Two Bells.

My first challenge was to silence the inner noise. I was directed to Martin Laird's book, Into the Silent Land, and began to learn about finding God and finding self in Silence.

The initial technique was quite simple. Set aside a few minutes to focus. When words appear in the mind say, "TALK". When images appear in the mind say, "IMAGE". I would do this for two minutes, then three, then five, and finally ten. The result was as dramatic as the turbulent descent out of class five rapids into a calm quiet pool. My inner space, which had previously felt as constricted as one might feel in the crush of a noisy nightclub, was now expanded into the broad reach of a mountain meadow. This was a palpable change. I could literally feel the cavernous edges of my inner being, swimming with my awareness in a vast womb.

Note that there is still no theology or religion attached to this dynamic. I was learning to replace noise with silence.

I found an iphone app which sounds a zen bell or gong at the end of a set period (say 15 minutes) of time. The bell marks the end of the silence.

The second step in this journey was one of mindfulness; learning to be a compassionate observer of my inner world, rather than an anxious victim. Kind curiosity is how I have heard this characterized. So, now I am learning to pay attention to what my body is feeling, and what my mind is considering or working on. The very particular walking stick I use for this (to continue that metaphor) is my breathing. When I feel something in my body I breath around the feeling. When I think something I breath into that thought.

The work on mindfulness is not to analyze, judge, measure or categorize thoughts, feelings and sensations. Rather it is to be curious, observant, and compassionate. Thoughts, feelings and sensations (and mental pictures) come and go constantly. My practice is to note them coming and going, without putting any labels on the observation.

"There is that feeling of sadness." (Or, "This is what sadness feels like.") "There is an itch on my left big toe, huh!?" "There is that familiar thought about my job search."

With mindfulness there is no attempt to quiet the mind, no attempt to seek the refuge of silence. Awareness and compassion are what matter.

Wouldn't you know that there is a Mindfulness App which provides one with all sorts of meditation guides, each one beginning and ending with a zen bell (one at the start...three at the end).

I am working both bells, the silence and the mindfulness. All of it I call meditation, or my practice. From what I have read this two-pronged practice can eventually lead to a unity of silence and mindfulness. Setting a goal of this particular outcome would be counter productive, especially given my proclivity toward religious/obsessive practice. I will take what comes as it comes. And, I do believe that God is in the midst of it all...and in that respect my prayer life continues.

A recent edition of Time Magazine had Mindfulness as the cover and lead article. My internist cites positive medical studies to encourage me in my practice when I go in for my annual check-up. The Wailin Jennys have two or three songs specifically aimed at mindful living...quite moving and deep.

In the past I would recoil from any identification with a modern fad. I am a conservative traditionalist. Screw that. This works. If I can manage to say this with the right tone, and with appropriate gratitude and humility, I am literally taking one quarter of the pills I used to take on a daily basis....since I began my journey into silence and mindfulness.

"Anytime at all, all you've got to do is call, and I'll be there." Lennon and McCartney



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Location:Hemlock View, Grafton, NY

The Eighth Day (a lot happened)

The End of Prayer...as I have known it.