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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

263: Dec 4, 2020: The conviction in meditation, that the darkness cannot quench the light

It’s quiet outside and cold in the mornings with a mist of low clouds and smoke over the valleys. Darkness defines the two sides of the day; dawn rises slowly and dusk is eerily soon. It’s winter and there is no rain.

It’s Advent – which is supposed to be a time of waiting. But isn’t Advent just a made-up concept to mark the liturgical calendar. Isn’t Spirit already dwelling inside each of us, around us like the morning mist and the sound of ravens. It's so real in the winter. Winter is in each part of us. Spirit is in each particle of us. Our little light never goes out.

But wait... The governor just announced more time at home. And now after nine months, I give up. I've come to the realization that I’m not in control.

  • The virus comes and I have no work.

  • The fires come and we flee.

  • The electricity goes off and we light candles.

  • The governor speaks and we stay home.

I have been forced into a weird state for me – Silence. And how to stop and be at peace?

“The silence is there within us. What we have to do is to enter into it, to become silent, to become the silence. The purpose of meditation and the challenge of meditation is to allow ourselves to become silent enough to allow this interior silence to emerge. Silence is the language of the spirit.” – John Main

In many places Advent begins with a single Aramaic word — Maranatha. It is usually translated into English as “Come Lord.” Which is a plea to please come, and make everything alright, get rid of what's wrong. It's meaning is outside us.

But there is an entirely different meaning advocated by many language scholars which is more like “The Spirit has come.” That Spirit of the huge wind and fire of Pentecost is here NOW. It becomes an affirmation, a joyful and mystical expression that clearly estates “Our Lord has come!/ He's Here! inside us - Emmanuel, Namaste (so many good words for the ability to recognize and celebrate the divine in each of us).

On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit envelops the disciples and permanently indwells a new temple – the temple of their community. This is the meaning of the kind of writing one finds in Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 12:3, where Paul affirms “Jesus is Lord.”

"I stand with those who say we are not asking for God to come down and clean up the mess we have made, rather Advent is a time to realize that there is an indwelling spiritual presence in each of us — what our Buddhist friends might call “awareness.”

- Brother Toby

Everything is extraordinarily clear. I see the whole landscape before me, I see my hands, my feet, my toes, and I smell the rich river mud. I feel a sense of tremendous strangeness and wonder at being alive. Wonder of wonders.

- Buddha

Way back in the Fourth Century a Romanian Christian mystic and monk, John Cassian, felt that Maranatha was a perfect prayer which should be repeated like a Buddhist mantra.

In the 20th Century the Benedictine monk John Main (1926-1982) renewed that practice. It's one that I follow, especially during Advent. These days we have so many things that are devastating, I don't have to list them. You are well aware of them. I am sometimes overcome with concerns, especially in the middle of the night. I need to feel my strength and the strength of others with whom I share this planet. So let me play the part of a pseudo-guru and tell you how it's done, or at least how I do it.

Divide the word into four parts, Ma Ra Na Tha.

  • On Ma, take a deep breath and hold it.

  • On Ra, slowly exhale.

  • Breathe in on Na.

  • Breathe out on Tha.

  • And continue.

I find that when I start, all sorts of concerns are whirling around my brain and soul. However, as I continue, my anxieties usually decrease and my sense of strength and well-being normally increase.

John Cassian was reported to have said that we don't need any other prayer. Sometimes it's important to keep things simple.

- Brother Toby


To Meditate

To meditate does not mean to fight with a problem.

To meditate means to observe.

Your smile proves it.

It proves that you are being gentle with yourself,

that the sun of awareness is shining in you,

that you have control of your situation.

You are yourself,

and you have acquired some peace.

– Thich Nhat Hahn


O come, O come, Emmanuel - (Piano/Cello) - The Piano Guys

Audrey Assad — Be Thou My Vision

This little light of mine - Rosetta Tharpe (1960)

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