When the first bell sounded, I reached for the mug of Starbucks coffee chilling on the window sill, prepared the night before to fortify me against the cold and darkness of Massachusetts in February, but also the piercing sadness that can come with solitude.   The coffee tasted bitter.  My mind hunted for something important to think about, a shard to keep me from sinking into nothingness, which is what the teachers of this silent meditation retreat seemed to want to happen to us all when they told us not to pay attention to our thoughts and “just breathe.”

In my little cell of a room, I felt like Edmund, the innocent man falsely imprisoned on an island in The Count of Monte Cristo.   “These fragments I have shored against my ruins”—this line from T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” repeated in a hollow way, along with the recognition that I didn’t actually read the lines in that great poem but in another  book that I happened to leaf through one day.  It was painfully clear there was nothing essential to think about and possibly nothing substantial to me, except this persistent grasping. There was a vow of silence, an intention to withdraw from the world of striving for a week, to receive what is given instead of insisting on what I want.  And there was this counterforce that vowed to defy it.

Several times a year, I go on silent meditation retreats to remember.  Smirti in Sanskrit, sati in Pali, and drenpa in Tibetan.   All these words for mindfulness literally mean to remember.   Christians speak of the “recollected heart.”   They all point towards that state of “re-membering” or “re-collecting” — gathering together  the usually distant parts of ourselves, letting the head, heart, and body all touch.   I go on retreat to remember there is more to life than I think.   As strange as it may sound, what is remembered is what it is like to be a child.

To be continued….

2 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Tracy,

    In the Book of Common Prayer, you will find these words of remembrance and commitment at the moment of Epiclesis, that Sacramental Christians have prayed in one form or another for centuries. The words point us to a truth, the truth that transform. All such words are fingers pointing towards the moon, a Buddhist would say, pointing towards the Divine Mystery and a Radical Openness to all creation.

    And it is this mystery that we must become open to, in Christian terms it is a process of Theosis and Sanctification, even Enlightenment that is grounded in love and compassion, forgiveness especially, but also thanksgiving and praise, joyfulness. You can certainly find it in a sacramental practice of meditation across many faiths.

    “We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
    this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death,
    resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

    Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the
    Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new
    and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully
    receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy,
    and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints
    into the joy of your eternal kingdom.”

    The practice of such rituals and sacraments opens us up spaces within us, an emptiness, for the Divine Mystery to come, to dwell within.

    This space, this emptiness, can be seen as the pure and infinite potential of all eternity, out of which all reality arises in a universe of infinite possibilities, or even of a given intimate moment within eternity, now in this present moment, in these words, even in the spaces between each word.

    It is certainly a moment of letting go, a moment of utter trust, a moment when we open up and empty our selves so that we may come to understand the infinite potential that is there, and what may arise from the potential of our own mindfulness and compassion, a oneness with creation and one another. Dependent Arising – Śūnyatā – Nirvana – The Reign of God Within.

    “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21).”

    Jesus points us towards another realization of God’s oneness and reign in these verses from Luke 17: 20-21: And when the Pharisees had demanded of Him when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, “The Kingdom of God cometh not with outward show. Neither shall they say, `Lo, it is here!’ or `Lo, it is there!’ For behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”


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