Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seeds and Meditations

"Despair is the absolute self extreme of self-love, reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help, so as to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost."--New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

Merton writes in his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, on various topics meant for self-reflection and meditation. He says we are to read at our individual pace, not to feel compelled to take the author's pace or the author's conclusion. For in each of us there are seeds of contemplation which grow fruits different and unique as we are in Creation. Regarding humility he says that self-love and its result, despair are the opposite of humility. "But if a man is truly humble he cannot despair... because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity... the man lives no longer for himself alone." Looking outward to others he lives in an "other focused" existence partaking in the joys of everyday life.Thus in complete humility selfishness is replaced by self-forgetfulness. Merton writes, "If there were no humility in the world, everybody would long ago have committed suicide."

Self confidence Merton writes is "a precious natural gift, a sign of health. But it is not the same thing as faith. Faith is much deeper, and it must be deeper if we are to subsist when we are weak, when we are sick, when our self confidence is gone, when our self respect is gone. Correspondingly a humble man is "not disturbed by praise." Since he is no longer concerned merely with himself, and since he knows the good (karma, if you like) that in him is for all benefit, he does not refuse praise because it is for the greater good, the greater joy.

About obedience and acceptance, Merton explores the values of both. "We must be convinced that it is very profitable for us to exercise ourselves in obedience, even to commands that are not perfectly rational or prudent. In doing this, we are not blinding ourselves or telling ourselves lies about the case. We simply accept the situation as it is, with all its defects, and obey for the love of God [the Creator]. In order to do so, we  have to make a fully rational and free decision, which in some cases may be quite difficult."

As for beginning in meditation, Merton writes:  "After they have acquired
the discipline of mind that enables one to concentrate on a spiritual subject and get below the surface... acquire the agility and freedom of mind that will help find the light, warmth, ideas and love for God that are everywhere, in where they go and what they do...'
"Learn how to meditate on paper. Drawing and writing are forms of meditation. Learn to contemplate works of art." Pray while in the streets of the city, or in the countryside. Meditate not only with book in hand. When meditation gets "beyond the level of your understanding and your imagination, it is really doing its work... then you must reach out into the fog and darkness with blind faith, filled with hope and love."

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