“Anything less than the death of the False self is useless religion. The False Self must die for the True Self to live or, as Jesus himself puts it,” Unless the I go, the Spirit cannot come” (John 16;7) Richard Rohr
There were two monks living about 100 years ago. Everywhere they went they saw people smoking so they decided to take it up themselves.
One morning they were up before dawn for meditation, as always. One said to the other, “Do you think it’s okay if we have a smoke whilst we’re meditating?”
The 2nd Monk had no idea. He said, “The wise old Abbot visits here next week so let’s ask him.” He arrived and they each made a time for an interview
The first one went in and in a couple of minutes came out white and shaking. He said, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you; he told me I wasn’t fit to be a monk and he threatened to throw me out.”
The second monk took a deep breath and went in. After 40 minutes he came out radiant and said, “What a wonderful man!” the first monk could not believe his ears so the 2nd monk asked, “What did you ask the Abbot?”
“Well,” said the 1st monk, “I said was it alright when I am meditating to light up and have a cigarette – he then went berserk.”
“Oh,” said the 2nd monk, “I went in and asked him ‘Master, when I am smoking can I meditate at the same time?’ ’Of course, of course,’ he said and this opened up a wonderful discussion.”
Here we have an example of the art of formulating the correct question to obtain the answer you require. The second monk went on to become a lawyer and a politician (and then died of lung cancer). The point of the story is that life is about being fully present to whatever you are doing, even if it is smoking. This is true meditation, this is the practice of mindfulness -learning the art of being alive and awake to the present moment. In many ways it would be better described as mindlessness, because a large part of the practice is letting go the many thoughts our busy minds generate throughout the day.
The majority of them are unnecessary and extremely repetitious. The various methods of meditation are attempts to quiet the mind, to bring it into stillness, everything from chanting/mantras/watching your breath or sensations in the body, walking meditation, yoga or mindful movements – all attempts to still the mind.
Jesus’ whole message is summed up in the opening lines of Marks Gospel as he begins his mission. ” Repent and believe the good news that the Kingdom of God is close at hand.”
Repent, the Greek word Meta-noia; to meta – transcend; noia – the mind.
Because when we truly meta- noia we enter the Kingdom of God, the place of no separation, no judgement, the place of wholeness, where all is one.
We don’t have to be dead to experience the Kingdom of God, but very much alive, and awake to the present moment, but you have to be dead to the false self – the egoic mind-filled self, to truly enter this moment alive and awake.
Jesus says in today’s gospel to his disciples in some of his final moments. “Unless ‘the I’ go, the Spirit cannot come” (John 167). As Richard Rohr in his book “Immortal Diamond” states, the self, the false self, has to be removed before the Spirit comes, or seemingly comes. The Spirit is never absent, the Spirit, the presence of God, is always there. The false- self, occupies the world of passing forms and looks out with itself as the central reference point which is never true.
The false self is passing, tentative, and as the Hindus and Buddhists say, “empty”. With the death of the false self, emerges the true self, or Spirit. If this is true, then how do we make sense of the story we hear every Pentecost Sunday about the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit in that upper room. Whatever of its validity, something happened to those early disciples of Jesus which removed or melted away aspects of the false self which clings to many aspects of a material world, an awakening or enlightening experience which transformed them from being timid, fear-filled individuals to being a fearless united people unafraid of taking on the world.
They experienced something of the eternal, that which never dies, that TRUE SELF, ever present, and maybe they realized their deep connection to it, there oneness with it, “It” is they; and they are “it”. No wonder they became fearless, nothing could destroy them, for they had glimpsed the eternal and it had ignited a fire within them that could not be extinguished. They had experienced the meta-noia Jesus had invited them into.
Transcending the rational small mind and entered into the mind of God, where there is no separation. As the Acts of the Apostles reading states, that all who gathered to witness this phenomena, all the many and varied people who gathered could hear the disciples speaking in their own language. The breaking down of barriers, the oneness that comes with the mind of God, a mind which has meta-noied, a mind which has tasted the stillness of God, ever present and aware. Their fearlessness is a little like the Guatemalan people, Julia Esquivel describes in her poem” They have threatened us with Resurrection” Those people had become brave because they too had tasted something of the Eternal which could not be taken from them.
They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection (1980)
by Julia Esquivel; translated by Ann Woehrle
It is something within us that doesn’t let us sleep,
that doesn’t let us rest,
that won’t stop pounding
it is the silent, warm weeping
of Indian women without their husbands,
it is the sad gaze of the children
fixed somewhere beyond memory …,
What keeps us from sleeping
is that they have threatened us with Resurrection!
Because every evening
though weary of killings,
an endless inventory since 1954,**
yet we go on loving life
and do not accept their death!
…because in this marathon of Hope,
there are always others to relieve us
who carry the strength
to reach the finish line
which lies beyond death.
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvellous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already