Sunday, June 24, 2012

Journal of a Soul 7

The universal call to be Mindful: The Bell
It is said well that the longest journey is from the Head to the Heart.  In making our slow way through life we have to engage both, otherwise we are in danger of doing damage to both the Self and to the Other.  The philosopher in me tells me that there is also the faculty of the Will to be engaged also.  Thinking and Feeling alone will not bring me safe and sustained along the road of being and becoming.  There is also the ethical drive in me to will to do the right thing.
When literature really speaks to me is when the author either consciously or unconsciously engages at least two of the three faculties of Head, Heart and Will.  I have just recently finished reading John McGahern’s wonderful book That They May Face The Rising Sun, and therein the author writes with a lightness of touch that can only come after much practice at his craft and after a deep melding of Head and Heart and Will.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge once said that the signs of a great style of writing in any author were simply the right words in the right places.
Now, to get the right words in the right places is no easy task orally, let alone in its written format.  How often do we “put out foot in it” with others by insensitively using the wrong words?  In short we often don’t engage heart and head in unison. 
Indeed, in the old days a lot of people who made it to the top were often what the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) called high Ts or high Thinkers.  Nowadays all Business and Administrative courses use many different indicators to train their students so that those who get into any position of power will know more about what makes us humans tick.  Heart and Head have to be deployed in unison for the better (I won’t say best) decisions to be made by any of us in any human encounter.
Then, there is the classic quotation from T.S.Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral which deals with the assassination of Saint Thomas a Becket which our author places in Thomas’s mouth: “It is far better to do the right thing for the right reason, than merely doing the right thing for the wrong reason.”  Now, the words I have quoted here are not verbatim, but they capture the essence of what Eliot had in mind.  It is easy, and indeed right to give money to charity.  It is perhaps easier to give it if you know that others will be impressed.  However, we all know that in this latter case the person’s motivation is selfish and ego-centric.  He or she is doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  There are, then, those who give to charity and they do so quietly – these are doing the right thing for the right reason.  Those who belong to the existentialist school speak of the second of these actions being authentic and the first inauthentic.
To travel the road to Selfhood is no easy task.  When one questions one’s motivation from time to time one often finds that we are a cauldron of contradictions.  We are a mix of motivations, and have not really sorted out what the Self is at all. 
Even the art of grafitti can call us to Meditation!
Meditation, I find, is a good tool to help the Self reach some sort of equilibrium, but it has its high points and its low points.  Let me explain.  There are some people who literally cannot sit still – they have to be up and doing all the time.  This is more than likely because sitting still will cause them to look inside to face the abyss within.  Slowing down, then, is a far too costly thing to do if it means facing what they cannot accept about themselves.  It is often crises in their lives like a heart attack, a bout of cancer, or the sickness or death of a loved one which makes them stop in no uncertain manner to face the real Self within.
Even for those of us who have looked inside and faced the abyss, all is not a garden of roses either.  Sometimes within I find a sense of a very fragile and brittle Self, a Self that can be buffeted way too much and way too easily by the winds of change.  Now, indeed, at other times I find a stronger and more solid sense of Self, too.  But, I can never guarantee which Self I shall encounter.  As I say, even though I have been meditating for years, and possibly not as often and as regularly as I should over those years is no guarantee that I still don’t have to wrestle with “my inner demons.”  That’s why meditation is no panacea, no quick cure for a troubled soul. Meditation brings us down into the abyss of the Self and we will find many frightening things below in the unconscious level of the Self.
However, that’s where the practice of literally concentrating on one thing only, say the breath can bring a stillness or, in the title of a previous blog I wrote, a Still Point – the method of concentration or still-pointedness, if you like. The other main method of meditation – that of awareness – can lead, I find to a dissipation or separation or scattering of the Self as there may be too much going on to be aware of.  Hence, to return to the method of concentration can draw the dissipated, separated and scattered parts of the Self somewhat together.
There is nothing as bad as when I am scattered or “all over the place” or confused or pulled in many directions at any one time.  It is at these times that meditation can help.  It is also at these times that I attempt to engage the Heart as well as the Head, and, indeed the Will.

No comments:

Post a Comment