WAYS OF ATTENDING: pilgrimage & meditation


lit candle image

Meditation, some would say, is the way to wisdom.  Or, as Fr Richard Rohr recently put it in a Lenten Daily Meditation, in wanting ‘to grow towards love, union, salvation, or enlightenment (I use the words almost interchangeably)’ we hope to move ‘from naïveté to wisdom’ (https://cac.org/from-naivete-to-wisdom-2019-03-24/).  John Main, one of the pioneers of a renewed focus on Christian meditation in the twentieth century, compared the ‘path of meditation’ to a pilgrimage, something not unknown to us in our deanery:

Realistic, human wholeness is the cumulative experience of staying on our pilgrimage.  Gradually the separate compartments of our life coalesce. The room dividers are taken down and we find that our heart is not a person made up of a thousand individual cells but a great chamber filled with the light of God whose walls are constantly being pushed back. 

Some years ago Fellow of All Souls and the Royal College of Psychiatrists Iain McGilchrist wrote a masterful tome entitled The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (2009).  Many of us heard or read about it, some even dipped into the later chapters, or heard him speak in Oxford:  his argument about our over-used left brain hemisphere (which is necessary for survival) and our under-used right brain (which is better at understanding the world) seemed both to be well supported by his research and also to make perfect sense.

The good news for those who found that book dense and scientific is that McGilchrist has now published a very slim volume (30 pages, Routledge, 2019) which rehearses the main argument in straightforward terms: it is not what each hemisphere does, but how it does it, that matters – in particular, how we pay attention and what we attend to.  Rather like John Main’s pilgrimage, you may say.

ways of attendingIts title, Ways of Attending, is not without resonance for those of us who have a tendency to do too much, think too much, even talk toomuch.  Whether through mindfulness or other forms of meditation, spiritual or secular, many today are seeking ways to switch off or at least turn down that left brain and maybe experience reality in a deeper way;  to ‘do’ less and ‘be’ more;  to be open to ‘knowing’ in a more fundamental way.  Meditation is indeed a ‘way of attending’. 

It is what we try and do every month (would that we could make it every day!) at Ascott church with the added benefit of mutual support in meditating together.  From this month there will be not one but two opportunities to do this and maybe one day soon we could extend it to one a week.  For now, the two Mid-Month Meditations (MMM) are:

  • From 6pm to 6.30pm on the 2nd Tuesday of the month
  • From 12 noon to 12.30pm on the 3rd Tuesday of the month 

You can, of course, come and go as you please and use the time of silence in whatever way you wish. 

DJMS 2 iv 19

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