A choice of practices

Anders Zorn - Le tubWhat can I get from spiritual practices? What do I want? (Yes, I am still goal-oriented. There is a lot of conditioning there, and it may be primæval.)

I heard Valerie Brown’s guided meditation on paying attention to the breath. It was richer than I had imagined, the breath flows through the entire body, the breath is rich and varied, the breath is like waves, the breath is Life and Spirit. The effect it produces is calm and consciousness, presence in the moment. And- I can enter that state. I can have that appreciation of things, and of my own body. I can be in a task- cleaning my teeth and washing dishes do it for me- or present in a place, the park or the supermarket. She says how Meeting for Worship may be the only time in the week the busy Quaker gets to sit down in quietness- well, that may be true of a busy attorney, who even makes time to write Pendle Hill pamphlets- but it is not true of me.

In her book, she also describes the Christian practice of centering prayer. Rather than calling attention back to the breath, one calls it back with a particular word. I thought, what if that simply gets me into the same state of Presence- I have read that the Way is not about seeking “states” but that is where I am, it seems a useful apprenticeship for my eventual Union with God, or whatever.

My practices of metta meditation for me, and channelling Qi for me, are practices of self-care, because self-care and self-valuing are what I need. And- my link to God is at the core of my being, and I want to find and express that Real Me beneath the layers of conditioning and scarring. Will it help me journey There?

What about using as the focus word, rather than “Jesus” or “God” or whatever, the word “I”?


Félix Vallotton Baigneuse penchée à droiteI boasted that I can attain Presence any time, cleaning my teeth, so “Prove it” said Johanna my inner critic. Here I am, cleaning my teeth with an electric toothbrush, in the morning, before showering. I close my eyes to reduce the sensory input, which might otherwise overwhelm. I feel the vibrations, the liquid in my mouth, the movement on gums and the inside of my cheek. I hear the motor, and a car outside. My attention moves to my fingertips in the air, and my feet on the floor. I do the task.

Presence showering is more difficult. With cleaning teeth, I start the task and continue it, I will not break off half way through. Showering, turn the  taps, get the  right temperature, soap, rinse- so many opportunities for breaking off into reverie, and indeed imagining writing this. I feel the water. I see the familiar decorative tiles, with fish, anemones and a sea-horse. I break off into reverie. In presence with a task, now, my task has to be simple.

I see the value of this state, being less involved in repetitive thoughts of past and future, which get in the way of feeling, seeing, being- look up, there is the lily, petals, stamens, stigma, fallen petals round the vase- as a thing to practise at any moment of any day, and for extended periods with breath. If I look to the horizon- “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills“- I can get that sense, in this rural area, of being one with my environment.

It felt a breakthrough, and I recorded it on facebook:

 success is illusory

failure is illusory

Then my friend wrote, Illusions are illusory. Bummer. I wrote back, the line between profundity and platitude
is illusory. Jings crivvens, profound, eh? Whom shall you follow, Lao Tzu or Clare Flourish?