Homilies

Monday, September 24th

Beyond the Mind - Fionnuala Smyth

Fionnuala speaks beautifully of the importance of going beyond the mind. She reminds us of the ancient spiritual tradition of dreaming our way forward.

Beyond the mind. Following a spiritual tradition of dreaming our way forward

The1st question might be - Why bother? The answer might be because as Eckhart Tolle says, ‘The thinking mind is a useful and powerful tool, but it is also very limiting when it takes over your life completely, when you don’t realize that it is only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are’. 

For me going beyond my mind takes me to more than I thought possible. Much more. The mind thinks concretely. It can only offer what it can conceive of and while logic, questions and opinions are useful, they have their limitations. So, what if we were to dream first? Without censorship? Of all that could be? Of all we could be? All we could do?

Our 2nd question might be – Who or what is having the dream?

We heard Eckhart Tolle refer to it as ‘the unconditioned consciousness, the Christ within, our Buddha nature’. Some call it our soul, our higher self or the God within. Whatever we call it, it is that part of us that is more than the human mind and knows no limitations. 

In the gospel reading, Joseph was clearly concerned to keep his young family safe We may assume he was sleeping when he received guidance in his dream but we can’t be certain.  He could have been sitting or lying down. Awake or asleep we do know that throughout the Old Testament prophets have always dreamed dreams and seen visions. So have others. King Nebuchadnezzar was one. In Genesis 41 we read of the Pharaoh dreaming of the famine to come. 

So this is not New Age ‘woo-woo’ and nor is it confined to the Judaic-Christian tradition. Native Americans have always undertaken vision quests. We live in a country where our indigenous people have a sacred understanding of dreams and The Dreaming. And in Irish spirituality there has always been the link between dreams, visions and the future. ‘Aislinn’, which means dream, also means vision.

So, let’s get practical. How might this work?

Let’s say that I’m unhappy in my job. Instead of consulting employment websites and agencies, limiting myself to ‘something in my field’, I sit in meditation. I may use a mantra or music to occupy my mind and assist the process. Alternatively, I may go to sleep, asking for a vision.   

Awake or asleep, I find myself in front of a class of young children teaching English. I’m excited. I feel that I want to do this. I remember helping out at my son’s school. Looking back, I see several occasions when I’ve presented information and how much I’ve enjoyed them. I recall how as a child when we played ‘schools’ I was often the teacher (and not necessarily just because I was the bossy one!).

This dream has always been hinting of its presence but I didn’t previously see it. I hadn’t previously connected with it. Now I feel compelled to explore further. You could say that it has been waiting for me to see and claim it.

How can it always have been there?

The well-known Irish blessing, ‘May the road rise to meet you’ is a lovely image for weary walkers. It also has a deeper meaning. Irish spirituality refers to Tír Tairngire - the Land of Promise - the eternal source of all creation. Everything in our world – material or not - first originates from Tír Tairngire. It is a place of infinite possibility, of dreams waiting to be dreamed, of paths waiting to be taken. This is where we go when we open beyond our minds. Existing there our dreams are always seeking us. They rise up before us and reach out for us. To connect with them is to give ourselves a great gift.

What then of the mind?

I’d suggest we leave it aside a bit longer. I know that can provoke anxiety but please bear with me. The role of the mind is to support the realisation of the dream. Like the crow in John O’Donohue’s poem – it gathers twigs but the nest is made of dreams. If allow our mind in too early, especially if we are prone to self-doubt or self-criticism, it will seize our dream and list all possible pitfalls or deficits. Or it will go into overdrive, seeking to control the outcome with endless attention to detail. Either will kill our dreams. They cannot survive in that environment. 

So, let’s claim our dreams totally before we let our minds anywhere near them. Let’s draw them into the fabric of our being. Perhaps we will know we have achieved this when their colours deepen or we become even more excited by them. 

Returning to my earlier example

I continue to dream about teaching English until I see it in colour; until I find myself writing lesson plans and enjoying long school holidays. I don’t worry that I will have to study again or how to finance it. I just keep dreaming.

Two relevant suggestions

Firstly, this is not the time to focus on what we will leave behind or who we may upset. That is mind stuff. We need to put our energy and attention on what we want to gain, not what we fear to lose – otherwise we will struggle to realise our dreams.

The 1st question might be - Why bother? The answer might be because as Eckhart Tolle says, ‘The thinking mind is a useful and powerful tool, but it is also very limiting when it takes over your life completely, when you don’t realize that it is only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are’. 

For me going beyond my mind takes me to more than I thought possible. Much more. The mind thinks concretely. It can only offer what it can conceive of and while logic, questions and opinions are useful, they have their limitations. So, what if we were to dream first? Without censorship? Of all that could be? Of all we could be? All we could do?

Our 2nd question might be – Who or what is having the dream?

We heard Eckhart Tolle refer to it as ‘the unconditioned consciousness, the Christ within, our Buddha nature’. Some call it our soul, our higher self or the God within. Whatever we call it, it is that part of us that is more than the human mind and knows no limitations. 

In the gospel reading, Joseph was clearly concerned to keep his young family safe We may assume he was sleeping when he received guidance in his dream but we can’t be certain.  He could have been sitting or lying down. Awake or asleep we do know that throughout the Old Testament prophets have always dreamed dreams and seen visions. So have others. King Nebuchadnezzar was one. In Genesis 41 we read of the Pharaoh dreaming of the famine to come. 

So this is not New Age ‘woo-woo’ and nor is it confined to the Judaic-Christian tradition. Native Americans have always undertaken vision quests. We live in a country where our indigenous people have a sacred understanding of dreams and The Dreaming. And in Irish spirituality there has always been the link between dreams, visions and the future. ‘Aislinn’, which means dream, also means vision.

So, let’s get practical. How might this work?

Let’s say that I’m unhappy in my job. Instead of consulting employment websites and agencies, limiting myself to ‘something in my field’, I sit in meditation. I may use a mantra or music to occupy my mind and assist the process. Alternatively, I may go to sleep, asking for a vision.   

Awake or asleep, I find myself in front of a class of young children teaching English. I’m excited. I feel that I want to do this. I remember helping out at my son’s school. Looking back, I see several occasions when I’ve presented information and how much I’ve enjoyed them. I recall how as a child when we played ‘schools’ I was often the teacher (and not necessarily just because I was the bossy one!).

This dream has always been hinting of its presence but I didn’t previously see it. I hadn’t previously connected with it. Now I feel compelled to explore further. You could say that it has been waiting for me to see and claim it.

How can it always have been there?

The well-known Irish blessing, ‘May the road rise to meet you’ is a lovely image for weary walkers. It also has a deeper meaning. Irish spirituality refers to Tír Tairngire - the Land of Promise - the eternal source of all creation. Everything in our world – material or not - first originates from Tír Tairngire. It is a place of infinite possibility, of dreams waiting to be dreamed, of paths waiting to be taken. This is where we go when we open beyond our minds. Existing there our dreams are always seeking us. They rise up before us and reach out for us. To connect with them is to give ourselves a great gift.

What then of the mind? 

I’d suggest we leave it aside a bit longer. I know that can provoke anxiety but please bear with me. The role of the mind is to support the realisation of the dream. Like the crow in John O’Donohue’s poem – it gathers twigs but the nest is made of dreams. If allow our mind in too early, especially if we are prone to self-doubt or self-criticism, it will seize our dream and list all possible pitfalls or deficits. Or it will go into overdrive, seeking to control the outcome with endless attention to detail. Either will kill our dreams. They cannot survive in that environment. 

So, let’s claim our dreams totally before we let our minds anywhere near them. Let’s draw them into the fabric of our being. Perhaps we will know we have achieved this when their colours deepen or we become even more excited by them. 

Returning to my earlier example

I continue to dream about teaching English until I see it in colour; until I find myself writing lesson plans and enjoying long school holidays. I don’t worry that I will have to study again or how to finance it. I just keep dreaming.

Two relevant suggestions

Firstly, this is not the time to focus on what we will leave behind or who we may upset. That is mind stuff. We need to put our energy and attention on what we want to gain, not what we fear to lose – otherwise we will struggle to realise our dreams.

Secondly, let’s take care as to when and with whom we share our dreams. W B Yeats said – ‘I have spread my dreams under your feet, tread softly because you tread on my dreams’. Well-meaning or not the words of another can be as destructive or supportive as our own mind.

So, in my situation, when a friend says to me - are you mad? At your age? When you’ve got a good job already? I am not perturbed. I just move the conversation on.

Back to the mind - when does it get a look in? 

When should we mindfully look to what is next? The old Irish stories cast the mind as observer. The next step is chosen because we notice our favourite flowers growing along a particular route. Or we see the sun shining on one road while storms gather over another.

I said that the dream rises to meet us if we go in search of it. So too will the road to its realisation, if we allow it to do so. 

If we are open-minded and observant as to what to do, we might notice a flyer for a talk or a book that looks useful. We might speak with someone we meet by chance who turns out to have relevant information or contacts for us. If we allow it, the dream will guide our thinking.

And finally, we come to the planning. As Joseph would have done, planning his route back to Israel after the first dream; planning his way to Galilee after the second. This is where we get into details and create action plans; we get out our questionnaires and checklists; our graphs and statistics. We think and we talk and hopefully we take action.

But please - the dreaming comes first. I wish you happy dreaming! 

This homily is based on an article previously published in Living Now magazine.

See the link below.

https://livingnow.com.au/more-than-you-thought-possible/