Velcro or Teflon?

I’m a long-term devotee of Franciscan friar Richard Rohr’s many books and (enthusiastically recommended) daily meditations. He’s currently writing a series under the banner Alternative Orthodoxy and today’s piece hits a large nail squarely on the head. I hope that this “taster” will encourage readers (of all faith traditions or none) to follow the link to the full piece, and maybe go on to subscribe to the daily emailed Meditations.

Dan O’Grady, a psychologist and Living School student,
told me recently that our negative and critical thoughts
are like Velcro, they stick and hold; whereas our positive
and joyful thoughts are like Teflon, they slide away. We
have to deliberately choose to hold onto positive thoughts
before they “imprint” …

Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed
has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate
around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In
fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing
comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at
least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store
itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t
stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to
significantly change our regular attitudes and moods.
And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro”
negative thoughts.

Excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Alternative Orthodoxy: Week 2 – Turning toward the Good
Thursday, February 18, 2016

This is game-changing stuff, I think, if we reflect a bit on the fact that the world’s contemplative and / or praying traditions have long intuited instinctively what sticks – and what doesn’t, what makes human persons feel positive, happy and fully awake – and what doesn’t.

Whilst some undoubtedly continue to think of prayer as ceremonial, or as a shopping list, or “Life” insurance policy, many, many others around the world have recognised, and are recognising the literally immeasurable benefits of savouring something ‘consciously for at least fifteen seconds’ so that ‘it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory”; otherwise it doesn’t stick.’

What a difference 15 seconds, or 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes-worth of conscious savouring could make to everyone’s daily life. How did humankind manage to get something so fundamental to personal and corporate peace and concord holed up in exclusive religious institutions and complex commandments for so long? Consciousness-capability is an already-present charism or gift, in and for everyone. Let’s teach our children that, early.

It’s truly no wonder that the great teachers – the Prophets, the Buddha, the Eastern mystics and Jesus of Nazareth, together with the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis in our own time, and all the other great bodhisattvas, gurus, natives and sages through the ages – have been a bit suspicious of religiosity. Each, in their own way, has pointed humankind to the obvious fact of our evolving and growing.

Loving “success” in the growing process will involve appreciating (giving worth to or worshipping), considering, contemplating, feeling, hearing, knowing, meditating, praying, remembering, seeing, sensing, smelling, tasting, touching, uniting and velcro-ing-in goodness!

Pen strokes paint

Light oak polished
floor, mantel-shelf,
hundreds of books
lining walls each side
small tables, reading
lamps, wall lights – four

modest tv, and film
collection, clicking
knitting needles, coffee
cups, pens, inks, paper
iPad, Mac, iPhone
Bethle’m nativity scene
star above stable door

bright Persian rug
set centred on the
floor – Libertino’s
Italian magic carpet
rides to places
unheard of heretofore.

Beige leather sofa
and chairs, black
stove warming
hearts and home
low round table
books, journals, arts

Zbigniew Herbert poems
Thomas Merton, Thomas Mann
watercolours, Richard Rohr
Rabindranath Tagore
Ken Wilber, Austin Farrer’s
The End of Man

Rembrandt’s The Artist
in his Studio
has inward
looking eyes – painted-out
dulled and black. His
great paintings seen
in mind’s eye and

nothing did they
lack. So from my
mind’s eye in a
favourite room at
home, pen strokes
paint – in words

alone.

Simon Marsh

Self-conscious spacetime

I’ve been praying through Ernesto Cardenal’s “Cosmic Canticle” (481 pages) with ever-increasing awe – and yes, I have to say it, quite decidedly religious awe. Heavens, literally! – here’s wind in my wheels. I’ve long sensed, and still sense, deeply, and always and everywhere, that our humanity is on the cusp of one of the greatest evolutionary leaps it has ever known, and I am spiritually awestruck – and grateful for the perception:

100,000 million galaxies can be seen through telescopes now …

There are numbers in the universe which cannot be written
except with a universe of zeros.
In spite of everything you are important, you, molecular structures
on a middling planet of a common or garden star
in a suburb of an average galaxy.
We are self-conscious spacetime.
We are the explanation of the Cosmos according to Hawking.
We are the mid-point between atoms and the stars
and between the mini-particle and the observed universe.
– The decidedly strange form of the human body

Ernesto Cardenal
Cosmic Canticle, p208

Yes: I believe the prayer-book canticle, “Christ is the image of the unseen God” – Colossians 1.15.

My entire life has depended upon this Christ. But this Christ, the Christ, is not ‘just’ the homely, humanly church-tameable Jesus, carefully and deliberately holed up within the walls of ‘church’, the Christ who appears – to some – to appear only between the pages of a somehow infallible scripture or prayer book. This Christ, the Christ, is Christos, the ‘Anointed’ of whom Richard Rohr has written – here –

“The Primal Anointing – “Christening” – of all matter with Spirit, which began in Genesis 1:1-2, is called “the Christ” in Christian shorthand.”

– and of whom, of himself, Jesus of Nazareth spoke when he said “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (… and the works that you have seen me do, you can do too …). The Cosmic Christ, the Source of the universe’s evolving, is, as Richard Holloway once famously described him, a “tombstone roller” – here.

And we’re all, absolutely and universally, evolving. So we can absolutely and universally own “faith” – even where we’re unable, in company with billions, to subscribe to an understanding of a particular religion. Cosmic faith. “Cosmic Christ.” Cosmic Canticle. There are numbers in the universe which cannot be written. But the “primal anointing” in all of us tells us that

“In spite of everything you are important …”

The Ubiquity of a Presence

Writing, like faith, springs and falls in seasons: sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly …

And months have flown by since my last post here and “Fall” is now upon us – in glorious technicolour in my part of the world. As leaves fall reflections rise – ever-renewing the want to meditate, to pray, to reflect and to remember, and to set aside a little time to write.

Today, I think, it was reflecting upon the ever-changing technicolour around me that brought to mind one of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations at the end of September. Writing, beautifully and generously as always, in a piece called “Your Imaginarium“, Rohr cites Joseph Campbell quoting Thomas Merton:

One cannot apprehend a symbol unless one is able to awaken, in one’s own being, the spiritual resonances which respond to the symbol not only as sign but as ‘sacrament’ and ‘presence.’ The symbol is an object pointing to a subject. We are summoned to a deeper spiritual awareness, far beyond the level of subject and object.

Thomas Merton
Symbolism: Communication or Communion?
New Directions 20
(New York: New Directions, 1968), pp 11-12

. . . Mythologies and religions are great poems and, when recognised as such, point infallibly through things and events to the ubiquity of a “presence” or “eternity” that is whole and entire in each. In this function all mythologies, all great poetries, and all mystic traditions are in accord; and where any such inspiriting vision remains effective in a civilisation, everything and every creature within its range is alive. The first condition, therefore, that any mythology must fulfil if it is to render life to modern lives is that of cleansing the doors of perception to the wonder, at once terrible and fascinating, of ourselves and of the universe of which we are the ears and eyes of the mind.

Joseph Campbell
Myths to Live By, p 255
The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell

Here’s a vision that sets the spirit’s wind whistling in my wheels: ‘great poems … the ubiquity of a “Presence”‘.

Ah yes: always and everywhere, no matter the circumstance or season. Vivifying challenge to both the xenophobic and the theologically smug.

Would that all of us might find our locus in poetry’s truths. I’m reminded of some words in Michael D Higgins’ wonderful poem, Take Care

… Belief
requires
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
more firm
from experience
in the soil
made fragile.

Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.

Michael D Higgins
from Take Care
New and Selected Poems
Liberties Press, Dublin, 2011