Who? and What?

Today the effort to concentrate went better. There were still the trains of imagery and mental conversations, but about twenty minutes in to the meditation these seemed to die down and I found I could just concentrate on the breathing. The images continued but they were less distracting, running beside the awareness of the body and breathing. The strange thing is that they seemed to have nothing to do with me – talking heads I did not recognise. Some ancient memories when I was a young boy surfaced too. All these, however, were much less vivid than usual and easy to ignore. I am still faced with the problem of the barrier, as I call it. It is when there is nothing going on in the mind apart from simple awareness of breathing and of the body. This is the moment when I want to pierce through the darkness and the limitations of mere bodily existence – and nothing happens. Boredom quickly sets in and the mind becomes easy prey to distractions. I know there is a beyond because I have experienced it, but it is not accessible at will. All this raises the questions, ‘Who is the I?’ and ‘What is the beyond?’

Afternoon – meditated again for about 30 minutes. It was easier and took less time on this occasion to arrive at simple concentration. There were less hypnagogic phenomena but habituation leading to a sort of numbed drowsiness. Simply holding the attention there without any diminution of concentration or awareness is very difficult. Telling oneself that this limit of awareness is the threshold of the transcendent is not enough. The thought lasts for a few moments until it too merges into dull and unremarkable familiarity. Is there a barrier that can be penetrated? I don’t know whether those terms can apply. I am inclined to think that the Church’s attitude to Pelagianism, full-blown or semi, is right. The encounter with the Transcendent is a gift. All one can do is prepare for it by removing barriers and obstacles.

And yet – everyday reality is shot through with a divine luminance. When we look for it and try to grasp it it is not there. But in the quiet moments, moments when the hands are busy and the mind relaxed, it surprises us with a tranquil joy.

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