Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reality and unreality

Years ago, when I was living in Ireland, I listened to a tape of a talk by Fr. John Main on meditation. I had read about him briefly before but the talk itself let me know that this was a true master:

The longer you meditate, the longer you persevere through the difficulties and the false starts, then the clearer it becomes to you that you have to continue if you are going to lead your life in a meaningful and profound way…

What is the difference between reality and unreality? I think one way we can understand it is to see unreality as the product of desire. One thing we learn in meditation is to abandon desire, and we learn it because we know that our invitation is to live wholly in the present moment. Reality demands stillness and silence. And that is the commitment that we make in meditating. As everyone can find from their own experience, we learn in the stillness and silence to accept ourselves as we are. This sound very strange to modern ears, above all to modern Christians who have been brought up to practice so much anxious striving: "Shouldn't I be ambitious? What if I'm a bad person, shouldn't I desire to be better?"

The real tragedy of our time is that we are so filled with desire, for happiness, for success, for wealth, for power, whatever it may be, that we are always imagining ourselves as we might be. So rarely do we come to know ourselves as we are and to accept our present position. But the traditional wisdom tells us: know that you are and that you are as you are…This is the stability that we all need, not the striving and movement of desire but the stability and the stillness of spiritual rootedness.



  1. I am also thinking about desiring that OTHERS be a certain way as well and was reminded of something I read by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennet, a Soto Zen Master, who wrote in ROAR OF THE TIGRESS,

    "There is a difference between knowing the ideal and being attached to idealism...ideals are great as descriptions of how we want things to be; when they are used as descriptions of how things 'ought to be', they become idealism, a form of delusion."

    I found this disctinction to be very clarifying for those times when I "expect" others to behave in certain ways and am disappointed when they do not.

    annie c

  2. I really needed to read this today, Ellie. Instead of resorting to prayer with all the chaos at church, I've run away. . . .Thank you for the encouragement that I really needed. You are dear.


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