Wednesday, 1 July 2020


Do you practise meditation?   I, like so many people, live alone.  And particularly now that Tess has gone the house is so quiet for most of the day - there is little or no sound at all.   If it is warm and I have the patio doors open then there is usually the sound of bird song, or a distant tap tapping as somebody makes something or mends something.   But on the whole there is a silence for most of the time - and it is a silence that you can almost hear.   But it is not a meditative silence.

I have no Christian beliefs - I am, if anything, a Humanist.   But if I step into a church or any other place of worship, the silence that greets me there is a different silence from the one I meet when I open the door at home.

Matthew Henry - a 16th century non-conformist minister, said that in meditation  'we converse with ourselves' whereas in  contemplation 'we converse with God'.   I have friends who meditate as a matter of course every day.   It has become part of their daily routine.   I often consciously sit quietly and think - trying to keep my brain  on a single thought line - but I don't find it easy.   I am brilliant at deviating.   And I confess to finding it easier in a spiritual place.   Perhaps that says something about me.

As children this 'state of quietness' was definitely not encouraged; it was seen as 'daydreaming' and tended to result in one's mother saying she would find me something to do.   A child seen to wander about doing nothing in particular was always seen as destined to have a life which would never amount to much.   Just thinking was never encouraged - at least not in my growing up household.

These days episodes of 'Flog it' and such programmes are happily held  inside places of worship such as the large cathedrals. And even small country churches hold events justifying this by saying that in Biblical times churches were used for all sorts of activities.   I wonder, does this destroy the 'different silence' or does it return once all the activity has departed?


jinxxxygirl said...

Holding those sorts of activities in churches kind of reminds me of the mentality now that you no longer have to be quiet in libraries here in the States..Nothing stays the same Pat... and i have found that most people do not think like me. But i think that quiet belongs in a church all the time.. as in libraries... There are many people who cannot handle the quiet. Having the world slow down or stop for a time overwhelms them... I embrace the silence whether at home... church ( where you will not find me) or a library... Hugs! deb

Librarian said...

Much food for thought in your post today, Pat.
Like you, I know people who meditate every day. One of them even spends a fortnight at a "meditation camp" once a year.
I often hold conversations or write letters in my mind, but meditation is different; as far as I understand, it is supposed to let all cnscious thoughts go, not making any effort to think about anything in particular.
Sometimes I find my ability to concentrate or focus is less than what I would like it to be. When possible, I work on this ability by "walking" a certain path in my mind, usually a path I know very well and have walked many times in real life. I try not to get ahead of myself but stick to the path, take in every corner, every waymark, every crossing. It is not always easy; sometimes my mind tends to race ahead to the end of the path (say, from my cottage in Ripon to Fountains Abbey). At other times, my mind simply drifts off the path to other subjects. The latter mostly happens when I am very tired, and it is a good way to drift off to sleep.

Ms. said...

I also live alone, but here in Manhattan three floors up in an apartment I've occupied since 1970. Once, and for many decades, I had various animal companions-one, two or four at a time (several dogs and many cats. Once for a while a resident mourning dove who could not fly and lived happily in a large closet with window for two years)-When the last beloved passed on, I decided to stop. Older and less able both physically and economically, it was the right decision. I am slso not religious in the traditional manner, but spiritual for decades in various traditions including a three year part time permanent residency at an Ashram upstate New York-for years I've been a member of a Buddhist Zendo nearby and meditated there. Since the pandemic we are still meeting on line through Zoom sessions and they are a great comfort to me. Meditation is not about doing or trying to do anything. One simply agrees to sit still and upright for a given period of time (five, ten, twenty minutes or more) and that's all. the idea is only to do nothing. Mind may jump thither and yon, but one simply lets it be and doesn't attach or labor any of the zillion thoughts that may arrive. It is simple, but a difficult practice. The trick is to do it regularly and preferably at the same time each day. One can agree to do it once thrice or daily. Over time the benefit accumulates. Each time is the first time and it is important to have no expectations or preconceived ideas. There is no goal.

I love Pema Chodrun and Tich Nhat Han, the Dalai Lama and Joseph Goldstein-Authors you may enjoy (google them if you wish)-I can tell you that medical science has proved the benefits of meditation.

Sending love

A Smaller Life said...

I have been trying to practise meditating recently to calm myself, and downloaded the Deliciously Ella App as soon as it became available for Android phones. I am quite good on the whole at short, 5 minute meditations, but when I'm told to let the sounds around me wash over me, I can't help but thinking every now and then ' I wish that bloody cockerel would shut up' ... so I'm not really in the zone yet :-)

Rachel Phillips said...

I didn't know what to expect when I saw the heading. Anyway, I don't do it.

Terra said...

My church is not a quiet church, our services are loud and happy. Well, they will be again soon, right now we are live streaming Sunday worship here in California. I have little interest in meditation and instead I pray, pray and pray again and I love chatting with God. I have visited many ancient cathedrals (and mosques too) and there is much to be said for the feeling of stillness and awe I find in them.

JayCee said...

I am no good at meditation. I cannot discipline my mind to stay still for long enough, it just keeps wandering off in all directions.

Derek Faulkner said...

I don't meditate, I might contemplate but I don't meditate.

Sue in Suffolk said...

Meditation always seems to me to be sitting around doing nothing and I'm no good at that!

justjill said...

I used to sit in Lichfield Cathedral. Which wasnt exactly quiet. But I felt at peace. I am not religious. I get the same feeling of peace leaning on the railings at the Prom.

Heather said...

I sometimes long for silence. Our traffic has recently be rerouted up and down the road outside the flats where I live, and it is sometimes very noisy. I practiced mindfulness for a time which helps with anxiety. I have to sit quietly with closed eyes and concentrate on my breathing and blanking out any other thoughts. Sounds easy but actually quite hard when you have a butterfly brain like mine.
I was brought up in the Church of England but no longer attend. However, I can remember thinking that it wasn't quite right when churches began to open their doors to all kinds of non-religious events. When I visit a church or cathedral I do feel a sense of peace that seems to emanate from their walls.

Tom Stephenson said...

I like the idea of mesitating.

Red said...

I like silence. I'm not sure why. I don't meditate but I day dream and I think that's what you were referring to in a part of your post when adults forced their kids to be busy.

thelma said...

No I don't meditate, my mind is always active, a butterfly mind, but would dearly love to achieve that peace meditation brings.

Bovey Belle said...

Ah Thelma, I have a butterfly mind too (dad always said that of me, in exasperation!)

Pat, we all as a family used to go to a Yoga class down at the school, and the lady taking it had been to India a lot and she was SO good at the Meditation we did at the end (tbh, that is what I went for!) She would get us to envisage a white light which we drew down into ourselves and sent through every part of our body - done properly, you could literally feel it! It was meant to drive out negativity and heal the body and was amazing.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I too have a butterfly mind. I have a tiny enamel brooch of a butterfly which my first husband bought for me many years ago because of it! I think that is why I find meditating difficult - I just can't stop my mind jumping from subject to subject. It is also probably the reason why I often sleep badly.

Thanks for your views and ideas. Interesting what Bovey Belle has to say.

Rachel Phillips said...

There's butterfly minds and then there's overthinking and worrying. I think the latter two are what will keep you awake at night.

Poppy Q said...

I have been reading a book about meditation what I take from it is that by learning to relax and meditate you can then take that skill and apply it at a time when you are feeling frazzled and relax your mind.

I love a quiet church, a place to sit and ponder and you have so many beautiful ones in the UK. I have been lucky to have sat in St Paul's, Westminster Abbey and York Minster. I am not religious, but you can feel the history.

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Ruth said...

The fact that churches are used for such things shows how far people have lowered their respect for the reasons the churches were built. It's good to read up on church history from the beginning of our calendar, and then the stories behind the beautiful cathedrals of the world. The peaceful quiet in churches is there for reasons fewer and fewer are able to comprehend, it seems. To me it's very sad. I can't imagine that after the activities are over, people can just go back to something holy. They couldn't have been thinking holy things to begin with! At least the beautiful buildings are being cared for and preserved.

I also have a butterfly mind. More and more in quiet moments I begin to remember things I haven't thought about in years and years. I'm living in the past!! I find it peaceful to call up those memories, which may not have been so beautiful then as they are now from the passage of time. I think I remember every single thing about the apartment I grew up in, the wallpaper, linoleum, where everything was kept neat as a pin by my dear mother. I miss her so much, even though personality-wise we were like oil and water!



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Dawn rose said...

I do like the quietness of a church its more a stillness i find.

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