Network of the heart

Sometimes I come across an identity card or name tag floating around on my desk and on looking at it, I remember where it was that I wore it. I always remember that time I went to attend a symposium held in a Cistercian monastery in the U.S. I was living in the little Franciscan “House of Prayer” when the invitation came to the community and I was designated as the one who should go. I looked at the invitation and saw that the main speaker was Fr. Raimundo Pannikar and I was delighted, as I had met him before and was very impressed.
It was,after Vat. Council 2 and during a time when Christianity in the West, was searching and trying to somehow go back to its roots and the roots of the early Christian mystics like the “Fathers of the Dessert”.
I don’t recall all the details as to what means of transportation I took to go there, whether bus, train or what, but on arriving we were shown to our rooms and we registered and on registration, we were give a name tag and mines was Br. Rolph o.f.m. (Franciscan monk).That night I had a dream which I can never forget. It had been some twenty odd years since my father passed away from a massive heart attack and I had never dreamt of him till now. In the dream, we were together in a large room, seemingly a kitchen. There were windows and there was lots of light coming in. My father was standing near a long sort of table which was against the wall below the windows and he had a basket close by in which he was like making and packing things to eat. I was happy to see him and so I called out, “Daddy!” but he looked at me with a smile and putting his finger to his mouth indicated to stay silent and so I did. Finally, his basket was prepared and he opened the door next to the windows and he stepped out. I ran to the door as he stepped out into what seems like a field of light and i yelled, “Daddy, Daddy” but he never answered and I, still calling out to him, awoke.

So, this first morning of the symposium when I go for breakfast, I find myself in line with my tray and utensils and am next to a man and I observe his name tag. It says “Yungian psychologist”.  I can not recall his name but I introduce my self and ask, ‘May I sit with you for breakfast?”  He accepted and sooner after we were seated, I tell him about my dream and ask, “can you tell me what you think about this dream?” He clearly stated that no one but ourselves can really interpret our dreams but we can have clues and so if I wanted, he could give me some clues to work on. He explained that the open door was a sign of an invitation. I can look at the ‘father’ as being my own or it could be “Father” in religion or it could be the aspect of the ‘father’ within. He advised me to work on it.

This dream was too powerful to ignore and so after breakfast I went straight back to my room and I prostrated myself on the floor and I prayed, “Father, I accept your invitation, please guide me” From that day on, for the full seven days of the symposium, every day was, for me, a learning experience. Too many events were happening and I remember asking Fr. Pannikar for a consultation in which he strongly advised me to go to India. He said “it’s in India you will discover your Indian roots”. In future blogs, I will talk about India

I also met Dom Tholens and we had a good talk about the ministry he was doing at that time in Holland. He explained that many youth were not going to mass on Sundays and he wanted to offer a space where they could have an alternative. He was able to have the use of different parish churches in different areas where he held gatherings with young people and offered a space for music, meditation, Tai Chi or some spiritual practice as an alternative to Sunday mass.
I was asking him if he thought I could do something similiar in Montreal and if so, how could I be trained to do it. He asked me to give him three days to pray and to think about it. On the third day I went to see him and he invited me to take a walk outside with him. I still remember the walk with this holy man as we walked in a path between these tall trees. He told me that after serious prayer and consideration that he came to the conclusion that I should go and spend one year with Fr. Bede Griffiths in India. He insisted that I should have a visa for one year.
As we were about to end our talk together, it began to snow. It was one of those beautiful soft tender moments of the snow-flakes falling down softly on us and on Mother earth. I felt so peaceful as I thanked him and it was the last time I ever saw him.

I also made friends with Madame Odette Baumer. She was a good friend of Fr. Henri Le Saux and she told me many stories of his life. She strongly also, advised me to go to India.
We corresponded for several years afterwards and on occasions when she came to Montreal, we met. Last time I saw her, she was on a flight to California for an Inter_Religious Conference where she was delivering a talk on the life of Fr. Henri Le Saux. She was leaving in a few hours but we had time to have lunch and to talk and I said good bye after as she went to her room for a nap.

These people never leave us. Whatever they taught us or shared with us, remain, but most of all what is there, is a feeling, almost a certain warmth of love in our heart. It is the best gift and the assurance that one day we will meet again because we were united in a network….of Divine Love….a network of the heart.
                                 Fr. Raimundo gave a very interesting talk in which he stated
“Blessed Simplicity is the monastic principle par excellence”, Fr. Raimundo Panikkar told the more than 80 participants of the East–West monastic Symposium at Holyoke, Massachusetts, November 19-23, 1980, as he “struggled with all to describe the monk in our modern day.”

The event, sponsored by the AIM North American Board for East–West Dialogue, was experienced as superb by an admixture of monks, nuns, scientists, scholars, professors, contemplatives, psychoanalysts, therapists, artists, masters and disciples, seekers and the sought. “The monk”, Fr. Panikkar contended, “is not the paradigm for the fullness of the humanum but rather the monastic dimension is one constituent which every human being has and must cultivate in one way or another.” The monk is the one who before all else aspires to be whole, one, unified, integrated, centered. This monastic dimension is the primordial religious dimension, previous to all divisions, previous to and different even from the way it is lived by individual monks.

A Symposium participant, impressed with the urgency of the immanent mutation in modernity, asked the question: Where do we begin? Begin by being present was the response still resounding in the hearts of the group during the final 21/2-hour liturgy which featured the singing of bhajans, the arati (Eastern fire blessing) at the doxology and contemplative dancing with the gifts.
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“Others who flanked the rostrum with Fr. Panikkar were Professor Michael von Bruck of East Germany; Sr. Myriam Dardenne, OCSO, Whitethorn, California; Ewert Cousins, Bethlehem, Connecticut; Abbot Cornelius Tholens of Amsterdam; Basil Pennington, OCSO Spencer, Massachusetts; Armand Veilleux, OCSO, Quebec; Paolo Soleri, Arizona and Odette Baumer, Switzerland.
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Monastic communities represented at the Symposium included: Benedictine Grange, Conception, St. Procopius, Assumption, Transfiguration, Osage, St. Mary’s (Wrenthem), Sacred Heart (Yankton), Hampton, Redwoods, St. Benedict’s (Spencer, Massachusetts), Mistassini (Quebec). Fr. Felix, a priest from Bombay, assisted with the liturgies during the five days, as did Sr. Marie Therese Archenbault, OSF, Sioux Indian from Denver, focusing the indigenous contemplative presence for the group. Kalpana Das, Hindu from the Monchanin Crosscultural Centre in Quebec, was also present.

Workshops and meditation sessions of various forms were offered to the participants during the Symposium supplying a fruitful cross fertilization of the new monastic synthesis being offered by Fr. Panikkar and others. A public communication issued from the Symposium stated that a network of the heart in common concern for the contemplative dimension in everyone has been forming, which itself has to be the common ground for every effort to build a world of well-being and mutual support. These insights constituted a challenge for all to join hands across walls and barriers of exploitation and destruction, in mutual understanding and respect.

The Symposium urged Churches and institutions to stress what is common among them and respect their differences. All divisions between action and contemplation must disappear, all polarization between East and West, right and left, must be overcome. The urgency of a common effort to avert the threat of disaster was recognized, as well as our individual responsibility to be well informed, to “think globally and act locally” now.” (This is a report of a conference called “Mysticism of Integration” held at Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts from November 19-23, 1980, and featuring the thought of Raimundo Panikkar.)

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part 2, Mentors…teachers

One of the most remarkable man I have ever met, was an Anglican priest by the name of Rev Murray Rogers. I read about him and heard about him several times by both Fr. Bede Griffiths and also Mrs. Odette Baumer.  This man was a great friend and companion of Fr. Henri Le Saux of whom I mentioned in my blog yesterday.
I had the grace of meeting him some 14 years ago when I lived in a Franciscan Fraternity and he came to visit. He came, he said “because Mrs. Baumer sent him.  I was rather humbled to think that this great man, this saint, travelled all over the city to come and visit me. This morning I was looking him up on the search engine on the net and I discovered an interview where he talks about Swami Abshaiktananda, (the Catholic priest I spoke about yesterday). It is an interview that lasts for about 1 hour and is of great wealth to have listened to.

Rev. Murray lived some years of his life in Ontario, Canada, where he was in a little community close to the Native peoples. I remember when his wife wrote to me explaining that they were going back to England because “Murray has been diagnosed with prostate cancer” and they were very poor and in as much as England was their home, they counted on having some Government Health Assistance there.
After arrival in England, I got maybe two letters from them before Murray passed away. I read it also in the Telegraph Newspaper..
The Reverend Murray Rogers, who has died aged 89, was an Anglican priest of infectious holiness who devoted almost 60 years to the encouragement of dialogue and co-operation between the adherents of the world’s main religious faiths.
I was seeking more about Murray and also found this:

“My Guru,Neem Karoli Baba, was once asked by a devotee how to find God. Baba said, “Feed people; serve the poor.” The devotee then asked, “But who is poor, Maharaj-ji?” and my Guru responded, “Everyone is poor before Christ.”
I have been focusing around that one statement, “Everyone is poor before Christ,” in all my solo retreats for many years now. Experiencing our essential spiritual poverty is a crucial element of the proper humility needed for spiritually based social action.
and he adds:
One Christian elder of mine, Father Murray Rogers, once agreed that true Christians “teach and witness through their brokenness, not their wholeness.”
The modern Western culture, even the most spiritual edge of it, is so thoroughly consumed with wholeness and healing and feeling positive and well-balanced, that I think sometimes it is very hard for God’s power to come through such a full-to-the-brim vessel.
My Guru also once said, “If you don’t empty it, how can I fill it?” It’s useful to empty. And being empty is hard. Feeling broken, useless, poor does not go over well in our culture. Father Murray, who has spent most of his life in the East, said on one of his first trips to America, “Bo, I wonder whether Americans are psychologically healthy enough for the spiritual journey. They seem to need so much reassurance that they are okay. How can they go through the dry periods, how can they experience their wretchedness that way?”
So partly I go into retreat in order to experience my brokenness and wretchedness at regular intervals. And it inevitably deepens and expands my compassion for all beings.”
http://www.ascentmagazine.com/articles.aspx?articleID=69&issueID=16

So I see how this man has been a teacher for so many. They pass through this life and rub shoulders with us, without our even suspecting what a privilege to have known them…so simple, so unpretentious but so holy! I felt some sadness while watching the video on his interview this morning, as I wished that I could have spent more time with him but I consoled myself in the hope that we shall meet again, in the Land of the living.

Now let us read some words which he delivered in a gathering of the World Council of Churches as an invited speaker in 1987:
“Out of the years nearly now forty-two, that I have been fortunate to live in Asia, nine were spent in the old city of Jerusalem. That was long enough to teach me that my earlier accepted belief about “chosen people” were false, untenable in the Light of Christ. If, as I firmly believe, God so loved the world….” (St John 3  16),then the idea that some of His children, the Jews and the Christians, were ‘first class’, while others were second or third class, was strictly speaking, non-sense, understandable only as a mental and psychological trick to lend support to Jewish and Christian self-identity, but incompatible with the mind of Christ, as St, Peter discovered to his surprise, “God has no favorites” (Acts 10:34)

That experience in the Holy City of Jews, Christians and Muslims came after many years in the largely Hindu environment in India and has been followed by seven years further East once again on the borders of China, where the Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist winds blow, however imperceptible at times their outward show may be.

Extraordinarily blessed with friends from these “other” spiritual paths, I have grown to know that there are no “other faiths” except in the most external and sociological terms. Being allowed myself, by God’s grace to rejoice in and live “by faith”, by trust in God as He is made real to me day by day through Christ in the Gospel and in the Eucharist, I discover as brother, as sister, any person living “by faith”, whether a follower of the Sanatana Dharma, of Islam, or of Buddhist, Jewish, or Taoist way.

Far from this “thing”, faith, being the reality that divides and separates- as it tends to do for the so-called monotheistic families. It is precisely this existential trust in a Reality beyond/ within oneself, by whatever name that Reality may be known that gives us to one another as human beings belonging, as we do, to each other in the most basic way.

Thanks to what the Spirit has managed, slowly, to teach me over the decades, chiefly through shared faith experiences with friends of other spiritual paths, the eyes with which I look at them have now a different look: the astigmatic vision that I inherited as a Christian as a result of which I affirm he “finality of Christ” and its concomitant, i,e, that we Christians are the norm, the chosen, the complete, over against the partial, the “on-the-way”, yet to be fulfilled “others” is now at last rectified.

We are all “on the way”, we are all “people of God” I am now convinced, (as i have written elsewhere), that the fundamental message of any of our religions, including my own, lies deeper and beyond the framework in which that message may have been given to the world. The Lord Jesus was not a Christian!. True his message, his work of salvation, was lived out and revealed in a Jewish setting, but it was too strong a message to be confined within that spiritual and cultural packaging.”

The Rev. Murray ends his talk with these words, “May the word of Teihard de Chardin, a word pointing to adoration, express our gratitude for being allowed a small part in this mystery of Life:

“Like a vast tide the Being will have dominated the trembling of all beings. the extraordinary adventure of the World will have ended in the bosom of a tranquil ocean, of which, however, each drop will still be conscious of being itself.”
Om-May peace and peace be everywhere!
(Rev Murray Rogers residing in One Bamboo Hermitage, Shantin, Hong Kong)

Teachers and mentors

*

Father Henri le Saux

(Abhishiktananda)

It was during those 10 years after my return from that first visit to India that I came across the writings of Fr. Henri Le Saux.

There were no members of the Daharma Society in the Province of Quebec that I knew of and so I could not follow the teachings except through sporadic letters from time to time, from Toronto. I felt drawn to Eastern spirituality as I felt that somehow it suited me better.

I was searching to see if there were other monks like me with the same interests, and then I came across his writings!

Quotes from Henri le Saux:
– CONTEMPLATION is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source….‎
Appears in 20 books from 1972-2008

“One of the best reasons for hope in the crisis through which at present the world is passing is certainly the growing interest shown by Western people in the East. Western man has in fact much to learn from the spiritual and cultural world of the East, which has evolved in ways very different from his own. Perhaps too it is only there that he will discover that inwardness which he so patently lacks and will recover that identity which seems to have escaped him – but this time an identity which will reveal to him the very depth of his own being.” Abhishiktananada, Preface, Guru and Disciple.

Henri Le Saux was born in 1910, in Brittany, France. In 1929 he decided to become a monk and entered the Benedictine Monastery of St. Anne de Kergonan. He was ordained in 1935.
His attraction to India and her spiritual riches started as early as 1934. He came in contact with Fr. Jules Monchanin, who was then working as a village priest in Tamil Nadu, and who was longing for a contemplative life in the way of Indian asceticism or sannyasa. Fr. Le Saux was finally given permission by his abbot to go to India in 1948.
A profoundly decisive event in his life was his meeting with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Swami Abhishiktananda spent several weeks and months in the caves of Arunachala between 1950 and 1955 in deep meditation. He then made several pilgrimages to the Himalayas, to which he was strongly attracted. In 1971 a French seminarian, Marc Chaduc, came to meet him after a long correspondence, and Abhishiktananda found in him a disciple.
In 1973 Abhishiktananda suffered a heart attack on the road in Rishikesh, which he survived for only six months. He described this experience as a great “spiritual adventure,” a “state beyond life and death,” an “awakening.” Fr. Le Saux had come to experience Christ within the context of Advaita, the Vedanta of non-duality, and, after overcoming the tensions brought about in him by the differences between the two traditions, he found an inner integration.

I believe that if father Henri Le Saux had not left his monastery in Bretagne and gone to India, if he had not rubbed elbows with Hindu contemplatives, had not gone to visit the Saints like Ramana Maharshi, and others, if he had not accepted Gyananda Giri as his Guru and lived in solitude in caves in the Himalayas, he would not have been the pioneer that we know today and he would not have died the extraordinary way he did, as explained to me personally by the priest who stood by his bedside at his moment of passing.  (summer of 1981 in South India) He said to me “Rolph, I wish that all the priests I know could die like this man!”

For me, the moment of our death is the most important moment of our life. I know, because in the year 1990, I stood at the door of death, lying helpless in a hospital bed after a heart attack. Yet as the pain took over, I remember saying, “if this is death, I surrender” and offered my life to God and then the pain  left and everything became beautiful beyond words. To this day I still believe the experience of death, (difference than the experience of pain) can be beautiful, although the contrary can be said for birth. I no longer fear death, but I still have to conquer my fear of pain.
Henri Le Saux never came to Montreal but we were able to meet some of his close friends and collaborators, Fr.Raimundo Pannikar, Mdme. Odette Baumer and later in India, Fr. Bede Griffiths and many others.

These men and women were pioneers in the field of dialogue and understanding between beings of many religions, and they contributed much to some of the historic events which followed. Their dialogue was not one of dry intellectual theological discussions but rather through the experience of meditation and silence. I thank God for having allowed me the grace of meeting some of them.
One of my first encounters in Montreal, was with Dom Tholens who surprised me by his knowledge of the ancient writings of the Vedas and I asked him if he considered them as sacred as the Bible and he explained that if I wanted a better understanding of the Bible, I should read the Vedas. Here is a quote of his: ”There is a humble interior conscience that invites all humankind to “Dream, Think, Believe and Pray,” a conscience that leads to the meeting of people of different cultures and religions, beyond any frontier—a humankind that prays round the altar of an unknown God, in whom we live and move and have our being.

The prayer of humankind is no longer a supplication addressed to a distant God, but rather the start of the ascent of all humankind to an increasingly higher consciousness that leads towards sharing in evolution and in final transformation. To understand one another, to forgive, value, help, enlighten, promise a happiness that will surpass all imagination: Peace—a Universal Peace in God.

Henri Le Saux (Swami Abhishiktananda) was the author of many books including Saccidananda: A Christian Experience of Advaita, The Secret of Arunachala, and The Further Shore. A collection of several of his essays appeared posthumously as The Eyes of Light.
A unique biography of his life, A Christian Pilgrim in India: The Spiritual Journey of Swami Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) was written by Harry Oldmeadow . Other World Wisdom books containing contributions from Swami Abhishiktananda are:

Those whose interests are the same today, can find easy access to a wealth of information in an article “The Revival of Contemplative Meditation in Christianity” here: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Christian_contemplative_meditation.html

And the following video, if you are interested in dialogue, is strongly recommended!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHLYxcb1I00&feature=player_embedded

A Great Student

As I look back over the years and the many people who I had the grace to introduce to meditation, there are so many, and some of which I learnt so much. Among them is a woman who means the world to me. I am speaking of my own mother and I did already mention her practicing in another earlier post about her, but this story has a particular aspect to it which I did not previously talk about. I am taking the time to speak about this, simply because it may be able to be of help to others.My mother was seventy_ five years of age when I taught her meditation. She suffered from an illness which she inherited from her mother. There was very little known about this illness at the time. In her late fifties after my father passed away suddenly from a heart-attack, the illness began to appear more visibly in mom. Some thought it was due to arthritis and some thought it was Parkinson’s disease but little did we know how severe it really was. The name of the Illness is Huntington’s disease which is a disorder which can be inherited from one parent and passed down in the family. The nerve cells in certain parts of the brain literally ‘waste away’, or degenerate. there may be, in some cases, behavioural problems. More of the details of this illness can be seen on the web, for those particularly interested. (see footnote)

After the death of my father, my mother came to visit. I was shocked at how painfully she walked. No one seemed to know what her illness really was. She said to me, “Son, you know that since your dad passed away, I have not been sleeping. I have not been sleeping well over two years and so this doctor is treating me.” I was disturbed at the quantity of pills she had to take. I remember taking note of what was written on the bottle and showing it to a friend psychiatrist. By the time he got back to me,my mom’s holiday here was over and she was back home. This doctor said to me “How on earth could any doctor prescribe such a drug for a human being! Its like giving her ‘horse tranquilizers’!  I was shocked. This medication was no help, on the contrary, it must have dome added damage to her poor brains! Up to this day, I have no faith, sorry to say, in doctors prescriptions!

There was a Prioress of a community of nuns who was a woman who grew up in my neighbourhood and she found out of my being a teacher and in those days, there was no internet but news got around of the good effects that meditation had on people and also the benefits to help people on a spiritual path, so after some correspondence I was invited to go to the island and teach the nuns, and I accepted. I was a young teacher then and full of fervour and I obtained permission from my Order and was able to fly down to Trinidad. It was at the same time, a wonderful occasion for me to be with my mom and the family.

One of my sisters was involved with the TV media and I was invited on a talk show where I was asked all about meditation and it effects. I must have made an impression because when I came back to the house my mom said “Son, that was a great interview and you were so convincing, I want to learn!”
We arranged to go over to the little paradise of an island at the time, called Tobago and rented a cottage near the beach. Some members of the family came with us. This was an ideal place to teach mom.She would be away from all the hustle and noise of the city and at the same time it would be a lovely holiday for us together.

I will never forget the day when I sat with mom in a little room and with the sea breeze and the sounds of the waves and the tropical birds and there she received her mantra and instructions and we meditated. She had difficulty, in those days, to sit still. Her frail body swayed from side to side and her head was unable to be quiet. We spent a good twenty minutes in silence and I noticed she settled down and the movements stopped. After the twenty minutes when I asked her to slowly take a few minutes and come out of meditation, she was smiling and she very excitedly told me that she loved it because it was so soothing.

There was a beach just beside the cottage and later that morning we took her down to the sea. There had to be two of us, one on either side, otherwise she would surely drown. She was like a child and told me that she felt so good after meditation that she sure it was good for her. ‘Maybe it will add years to my life” she said. she was right!  I went back ten years later when she was eighty five and in a nursing home and as I mentioned before, as soon as she saw me, she asked if we could meditate.

From what my sisters tell me, as they went to see her regularly till she died, my Mother never suffered from dimentia. She never had tantrums nor screams at night. she never complained. The nurses loved her and said that when she died, ‘her life went out like a candle’. She died at the age of 87, two years after my last visit.

From all these reports, one is baffled at how is this possible with someone who suffered from Huntington’s disease. I have read a lot about this illness. I have been myself, to the research dept. of the University where they study hereditary-transmitted diseases and I have given blood samples and been examined myself as a precautionary means. Luckily according to my genetic count, I do not have it, thank God but it gave me a chance to examine further my own mother;s illness and it is a bit of a mystery. a mystery how she was so above it.

I have been getting often, the strong feeling that my mother loved meditation so much that she practiced it regularly and this is what was her main source of comfort and survival.
Among the reading I did on the internet concerning this illness, I have come across an article which suggests that my feeling was right! See the article below.

One morning after prayers, in our little chapel, I stayed to meditate. It was about ten minutes later I was called to the phone. It was from my home and my sister announced the news that mom had passed. I thanked God for relieving her of her sufferings. Three days later I had dream which awoke me. In my dream, mom had come to visit. She stood near my bed and she looked so lovely. I never saw her so lovely. I called out and told her how lovely she looked. she smiled and said, “Son, I have come to say good-bye and now I must go to see Jacqueline” (my sister near Montreal) “Dont go there, mom, she will be afraid”.  “I have to go now” she said “I only have three days to visit”  and with that she left. I awoke.
That day at noon, I phoned home and my sister said, “its so appropriate that you phoned. We just came back from the funeral!” (see foot note and link to see mom’s favorite hymn)

Meditation and HD

June 26th, 2010 Posted in Lifestyle and HD

The practice of meditation is often viewed by Westerners as merely a form of relaxation. Many people assume that the benefits of meditation are limited to stress relief and decreased blood pressure. Brain research, however, is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have believed for centuries: that mental discipline and meditative practice can physically change brain functioning and preserve and enhance numerous cognitive functions. Because it is often associated with transformed states, meditation has traditionally been understood in transcendent terms – as something outside the world of physical measurement and objective evaluation. But over the past few years, through the use of advanced new technologies, scientists have been able to come up with biological explanations for meditative phenomena. The results of several innovative studies reveal that the human brain has the ability to adapt and change in ways that were previously unimaginable. For a person with a neurodegenerative disease such as HD, these results suggest that it may be possible, by engaging in some sort of meditative practice or mental discipline, to maintain motor control andcognition and possibly delay the onset of many neurological symptoms. The following chapter examines the practice of meditation and its effects on the circuitry of the brain, as well as how this practice may potentially benefit someone with HD.

Seeing ……..stillness

I am always in joyful admiration when participating at Teacher Training graduation and the days that follow. In the Yoga schools where I was present, it was always a joy to see, on the night when the students were called up one after another to receive their diplomas. They had worked and studied so hard, especially in the last few days and now their names were called and after the diplomas were given they came down to join the others. There is always an excitement in the air. there is always so much energy. In a day or so, they would all be gone back to their homes with a knowledge so fresh in their minds but which they would have to share as soon as they are able.

It reminds me of when I returned to my home, my “house of prayer” from where I left six months ago, to take this course. Coming back to my home _base this time was different, for I felt I was holding something in me which was ‘burning’ unless I could share it. Being in a school where every day we studied scriptures and listened to convincing talks about the benefits for health, for well being, for peace in the nation, and the sublime experiences of some students whom we called “bliss nannies” all this was over.
Now, we are in the reality of the world and our duty is to contribute by helping to fix it by spreading the message and initiating and encouraging others on the path of meditation and so, we wait until students begin to show up.

It did not take long and am so surprised as my first student, a University professor willing to sit and listen and be guided into silence,then the joy of seeing the delight in his face at the end.
In the days, weeks that follow there are more and more who come. A French poet once wrote that “there is nothing as beautiful as seeing the face of a child in prayer” and I think there is nothing as beautiful as seeing the face of someone in deep meditation. I believe it is the most beautiful ‘work’ that one can ever do. To be able to say, to someone who is ready, “now, we will sit comfortably, close the eyes…..” and gradually lead them into the steps where with the blessings of grace, they can enter into the sanctuary of their hearts.
“The Lord of Love, omnipresent, dwelling
In the heart of every living creature,
All mercy, turns every face to himself.

He is the supreme Lord, who through his grace
Moves us to seek him in our own hearts.
He is the light that shines forever.

He is the inner Self of all,
Hidden like a little flame in the heart.
Only by the stilled mind can he be known.”
(A selection from the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, tr. By E. Easwaran, Tomales,
CA, Nilgiri Press, 1987, p. 223.)

They come to meditate and are of all ages and I am given the honor of sitting with one sister in her ninetieth year. It is a time when people are searching and T M has become popular among the youth and has spread in more than one level of society. We are in the early seventies and in the province of Quebec where we live, there is a whole new society being formed. it is somewhat like the caterpillar shreading its skin in the process of becoming a butterfly or is it like the clam slowly opening to close again. Many people of all ages are flocking to the centers to begin meditation and the centers are looking for teachers to come and give talks.

I was then, a member of a religious order in the Catholic Church and so I was good material for advertising and I was offered to come and speak at many centers. I was even offered to be taken on a tour all over the country speaking in so many cities, but I refused. I still had a community life to lead.The career of public speaking begins and as I told an audience or two, “I am not a lecturer but rather a good story teller” and it works. I discovered that even adults love stories and the visual world is not yet developed as it is today and so the audiences not only come to the talks but they sign up to learn how to sit and meditate and this is a joy. Among my best experiences was the time I gave a lecture in a small town in Ontario and more than half the audience signed up and came next day for initiation.

There were about twenty people and each one came one at a time to be taught. It was a gentleman who allowed me the use of his home and he was in the living room down-stairs receiving them. There were two rooms upstairs, where I would receive someone in one room and instruct and lead them into meditation and would softly leave them in the room while, in the other room another student will be waiting.
I started early in the morning, not stopping to eat, and went on until it became night.

The next evening they were all back, this time as a group where they could ask questions,and I gave the second instruction and we meditated together. I could not believe my eyes as we sat, as they all had eyes closed, so peacefully, so beautiful. People who were mostly strangers to one another. people from different walks of life, sitting under the same roof in sacred silence! What a blessing!. In the weeks to come, what a joy to receive phone calls…”my husband has become so calm, he is not swearing as much”. “I am so happy I slept this week-end without pills.” “My allergies have stopped”. Once in a while there have been extraordinary stories that I have been told, too many to mention but in all, my best knowledge of the blessings of regular meditation comes from the mouths of students!

I was asked on several occasions, how come a member of a Catholic community could teach something which originates from Hinduism. It was not too long after the Council of Vatican 2 and I had the response
which I will place for you to see in another post.

I end this with a quote from Father John Main

“Every time we sit down to meditate we enter this axis of death and resurrection. We do so because in our meditation we go beyond our own life and all the limitations of our own life into the mystery of God. We discover, each of us from our own experience, that the mystery of God is the mystery of love, infinite love-love that casts out all fear.

This is our resurrection, our rising to the full liberty that dawns on us once our own life and death and resurrection are in focus.

Meditation is the great way of focusing our life on the eternal reality that is God, the eternal reality that is to be found in our own hearts.

The discipline of saying the mantra, the discipline of the daily return morning and evening to meditation has this one supreme aim-to focus us totally on Christ with an acuity of vision that sees ourselves and all reality as it is.

Listen to St Paul: “No one of us lives, and equally no one of us dies, for himself alone. If we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. Whether we live or die, therefore, we belong to the Lord. That is why Christ died and came to life again. . . .”
John Main OSB, “Death and Resurrection,” MOMENT OF CHRIST
(New York: Continuum, 1998), pp. 69-70…..

So many…..

These are some simple thoughts after teaching for over 30 years and listening to students express their problems and their ‘successes’.

As a student myself, after sitting, for over 35 years and listening to my own problems and looking at my own successes……these are a few thoughts.

I am still a student and will be till I die and the day I forget that I am a student, I cease to be a teacher.

In reality, I am not a teacher of meditation, for no one can teach us how to meditate.

Someone can teach us how to sit, how to prepare to quieten the mind, but when meditation occurs, it occurs on its own!

Thus I say, every time I experience meditation, I experience grace.

It is a gift. Just like sleep is a gift.

Someone can tell us how to prepare for sleep but no one can teach us to sleep.

I lie down, turn off the light, make myself comfortable etc and when sleep comes, it comes as a gift and this is grace!

When I speak about meditation, I am speaking about an experience.

When someone else speaks about it, they can say what they want. Its their business.

This is my business writing this, and so I am free and can say what I want.

There are things about meditation I learnt that I will never forget, and I will never forget with gratitude, those who taught me.

We live in a world partially dominated by science and science tells us that as far as they can probe the human brain (in neurology) the little they realise they know , and still have much to learn.

I attended a lecture given in 1973 by Dr.J.P. Banquet a famous neurologist from Paris and he was doing research on students as they sat in meditation. (see note *)
It was he who showed me that we can experience several measurable states of the conscious mind.
1) waking, 2) sleeping, 3) dreaming, 4) meditation, and 5) hypnosis is yet another and different.

He had taken EEG measurements and showed us the difference in each state.

I believe, If the awake, sleep, dream and meditative states are normal, they do not require being taught.

We can only be taught how to encourage, make favorable, the experience of these states of mind.

When I sat with Maharishi at my graduation, I sat alone with him. There was no ‘organization”present.

And so what transpired between us as far as instructions as to my teaching, are simply between himself and I.

The questions I posed and the answers he gave are with me, and those, I have followed as a teacher.

After teaching for seven years under the organization, I decided to leave and since then, I do not teach what is called “Transcendental Meditation” and I have nothing negative to say about them.

My mother always said “do not dam the bridge after you have crossed it!”

If someone asks me to ‘teach them T M’, I respond that I don’t.
I have enough knowledge and experience though, to teach and guide the person as how to sit and what to do if you want to have the experience of meditation.

Although it is important to learn from a teacher, your regular practice is your best guide.

I never tell people to ‘repeat the mantra’

I much rather say, “think the mantra, without effort, like any other thought’

The teacher’s role is to listen, to encourage the student to be faithful to the practice and to be a reminder.

At times, he corrects, and reminds the student what he taught in the first place.

As students, we keep forgetting, especially about effort, and the teacher constantly reminds us.

Its like brushing the teeth, the dentist reminds us to brush regularly to avoid cavities.

If someone asks me why do I sit for meditation, I may answer,

I sit to meditate regularly to avoid stress, to be centered, maybe, but most of all,

To remember the Presence of God within.

To take the time to open myself to the gift of His Grace.

• Dr. Bernard Glueck, director of research at the Hartford Institute of Living, conducted extensive tests on large numbers of meditators, andfound that the EEG patterns of successful meditators showed an increased synchrony between the left and right hemispheres; that is, both sides functioned together, in harmony.
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(*)• Neurologist J. P. Banquet also did EEG studies of meditators, and provided push buttons so that the subjects could signal when they were entering different levels or stages of meditation. Banquet noticed that when meditators signaled they were in “deep meditation” or “pure awareness,” their brain waves had become in phase, and synchronized in both hemispheres of the brain, a condition Banquet called hyper-synchrony.
He concluded that this harmony of hemispheres is the single most outstanding EEG characteristic of “deep” states of consciousness