Meditations & Contemplations

Carol Plummer
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 08/12/2012

Meditations & Contemplations from Service on Aug 12 2012

A Time to Be Silent by David O. Rankin
There must be a time when we cease speaking
To be fully present with ourselves
There must be a time when we exclude clamor
By listening to nothing whatsoever.
There must be a time when we forgo our plans
As if we had no plans at all.
There must be a time when we abandon conceits
And tap into a deeper wisdom.
There must be a time when we stop striving
And find the peace within

from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

How is one helped by the image of the pebble? Sit down....back straight, the half smile on your face. Breathe slowly and deeply, following each breath, becoming one with the breath. Then let go of everything. Imagine yourself as a pebble which has been thrown into a river. The pebble sinks through the water effortlessly. Detached from everything, it falls by the shortest distance possible, finally reaching the bottom, the point of perfect rest. You are like a pebble which has let itself fall into the river, letting go of everything. At the center of your being is your breath. You don’t need to know the length of time it takes before reaching the point of complete rest on the bed of fine sand beneath the water. When you feel yourself resting like a pebble which has reached the riverbed, that is the point when you begin to find your own rest. You are no longer pushed or pulled by anything.

If you cannot find joy and peace in these very moments of sitting, then the future itself will only flow by as a river flows by. You will not be able to hold it back. You will be incapable of living in the future when it has become the present. Joy and peace are the joy and peace possible in this very hour of sitting. If you cannot find it here, you won’t find it anywhere. Don’t chase after your thoughts as a shadow follows its object. Don’t run after your thoughts.
Find joy and peace in this very moment.

Homily – Contemplation & Meditation

Our service today is called Summer Contemplation. Consider it an invitation to slow down, relax and enjoy some Meditations. Before I start I just had a few comments on Contemplation & Meditation.
The online free dictionary defines contemplation as Thoughtful observation or study or
Meditation on spiritual matters, especially as a form of devotion. This what we are focusing on today.
Wikkipedia says Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation A very elegant definition by Caroline McLaughlin is, “Meditation is a journey deeper into your true self, your true home. …Meditation is bringing your attention inward, and allowing your mind to settle into stillness. It is withdrawing your attention from the periphery of your consciousness into the center.”
It is this stillness that Thich Nhat Hahn talks about in our reading. The peace of sitting on the bottom of the stream feeling no push or pull…just quiet and restful. I believe if we all found our inner peace or stillness we would be healthier, less stressed and just possibly be able to achieve world peace.
As you know I research my topics and I found it interesting how much information I found on Contemplation and Meditation and the variety of philosophies.
Now, The Buddhas talk about the three Prajnas which are the path to enlightenment. They are Hearing/Listening followed by Contemplation and ending in Meditation. Judy Lief is a senior teacher (acharya) of Shambhala Buddhism says, The first prajna, hearing, is based on being open to new information, gathering knowledge, and really trying to listen. Although it is called hearing, in addition to listening with one's ears, it also includes reading and observing through all our senses. The second prajna, contemplating. Once we've heard or read or experienced something, contemplation means really chewing it over. We continually question what we have heard, looking at it from different angles, taking time to explore it. The third prajna is called meditating. This is the point where you have studied something so thoroughly, looked into it so completely, that it's not separate from you anymore. It is part of who you are, down to your very bones and marrow.”
In Christianity there is a long history of contemplative prayer, contemplative meditation and silent meditation…think about the cloisters of monasteries.
Robert A. Jonas, of the Empty Bell a Christian Contemplative sanctuary says, Throughout the history of Christian prayer, there are no firm definitions to distinguish the terms, “prayer”, “meditation” and “contemplation.” Still, we can often think of prayer as vocal prayer, uttered silently or out loud, alone or with others. In prayer we often speak and listen to words of address--talking with and listening to God. Meditation has often been used to indicate a kind of heartfelt reflection whereby we turn over in our minds the words of Scripture, an experience of liturgy or the memory of a meaningful interaction or prayer. Meditation requires the work of focusing our minds and ruminating on something in God’s presence. Contemplation is most often used to describe a later developmental stage of prayer and meditation whereby the seeker’s mind and heart have become calm and open to a deep listening. In contemplation one has stopped “doing” anything and is simply present to God, and God is present to that person. In contemplation, one no longer thinks, meditates, reflects or speaks, but is “all ears” in an ambience of love, a simple “being with” the God of Love.
I think it is interesting how in the Buddhist tradition contemplation means really focusing on something and chewing it over. In the Christian tradition this is called meditation. And what is Contemplation in the Christian tradition sounds like Meditation in the Buddhist philosophy.
Another Metaphysical teacher
James Claire Lewis says, There is a big difference between comtemplation & meditation, but often people get the two confused. I want to clarify that here. In contemplation, one takes an object or principle, and one focuses upon it. Your concentration becomes immersed in the object of contemplation, until you become one with it. Images & trains of ideas & thoughts concerning what you are contemplating, come to your mind, revealing its true nature. Contemplation is a great tool for discovering truth. Mathematicians & theoretical physicists regularly employ contemplation in their researches with great success.
Meditation is very different. In meditation one relaxes the mind. There is no object in meditation. That would be contemplation. Thoughts, images & other sensations may enter your mind, but you will pay no attention to them. The point in meditation is to gain control of your mind, by ignoring all the whirling gears that fly around within it. …The mind likes to be in control, so when you try to meditate, the mind will conjure up all manner of mental phenomena to distract you. BUT, if you can learn to merely sit, when you sit; to control your mind in stillness, rather than allowing the mind to lead you around & around, you will discover that the mind can become a most obedient & efficient tool.
I found it interesting in the different teachers that meditation and contemplation were not always in the same order or have the same meanings. But it doesn’t matter…
To me, the purpose of meditation and contemplation is calming the mind and body and connect with the spirit allowing us to be more open and gain the benefits of these practices.
Let’s contemplate for a minute what the potential benefits of meditation and contemplation are. Here are some possibilities for your consideration…
Leave us feeing more calm, relaxed and accepting?
Enable us to be more aware of who we are?
Become more aware of the assumptions we’ve made about the world and ourselves?
Result in a fuller more aware journey to our center?
Realize that we are more than any apparent or passing limitation?
Enable us to feel more connection with ourselves and the interdependent web?
I don’t know if you will get any or all of these possible benefits but ask you to be open to the possibilities and the experience.
My intention is to invite a slowing down, a relaxation, an opportunity to be the pebble in the river, to calm our body and mind enabling a connection to that still core of ourselves where our inner peace is. The approach is a series of readings, poetry, meditations guided visualization and a opportunity to contemplate.

I invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy
If not for You by Rev Bob Luckin spiritual co-leader of Redding California Center for Spiritual Living
If not for you, there would be a place of emptiness in the heart of God. If not for you, all the good that you have done would still need doing. If not for you, the spark of your ideas would not have ignited a fire in others. If not for you, the key role that you have played in life's drama would remain unfilled. If not for you, at least one person would not have awakened to his or her dreams. If not for you, your triumphs could not be examples to inspire others. If not for you, someone who needed love would not have received it. If not for you, a life would have been shortened or never existed.
If not for you, the song of life would have missed a beat. If not for you, your gifts would remain ungiven. If not for you, another might have suffered in your place. If not for you, someone would have no path to follow. If not for you, there would be one less smile, one less laugh, and one less hug. If not for you, there would be less mystery. If not for you, an animal might be homeless and a garden left unplanted. If not for you, something would be missing.
You have always made a difference. Who you are is important every day. You are the face, the heart, and the soul of God.

When my mind is still and alone by Paul H. Beattie (from the UUA Worship Materials)
When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart, I remember many things too easily forgotten: the purity of early love; the maturity of unselfish love that seeks nothing but another's good; the idealism that has persisted through all the tempest of life.
When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart, I find a quiet assurance, an inner peace, in the core of my being. It can face the doubt, the loneliness, the anxiety -- it can accept these harsh realities and can even grow because of these challenges to my essential being.
When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart, I can sense my basic humanity, and then I know that all men and women are my brothers and sisters. Nothing but my own fear and distrust can separate me from the love of friends. If I can trust others, accept them, enjoy them, then my life shall surely be richer and more full. If I can accept others, this will help them to be more truly themselves and they will be more able to accept me.
When my mind is still and alone with the beating of my heart, I know how much life has given me: the history of the race, friends and family, the opportunity to work, the chance to build myself. Then wells within me the urge to live more abundantly, with greater trust and joy, with more profound seriousness and earnest striving, and yet more calmly at the heart of life.

Guided Meditation by Stephen W. Dick
There is rarely enough silence in our services.
Perhaps we are too busy for silence.
Perhaps we are afraid of what we might discover.
Today we will give silence its place.
Today our meditation will include several minutes of silence, a luxury in this far from silent world.
Let us pause to listen to the unheard world . . .
Relax into a comfortable position . . .
Breathe in and out very slowly . . .
Quiet yourself and listen to the rhythm of your breath, your heart . . .
Listen to the silence . . .
You will think something . . .
let it pass into you and through you . . .
You will feel something . . .
let it pass into you and through you . . .
Spend some time in the unheard world . . .
(Several minutes of silence)
We begin to return now to the world we usually hear . . .
As you do, try to bring something of that unheard world with you . . .
And, remember to give yourself permission to return to the unheard world. Amen.

This Meditation by Nathan Walker is called
A Survival Meditation
Do gong or mindfulness bell.
breathing in
i am aware of my pain.
breathing out
i am aware that i am not my pain.
breathing in
i am aware of my past.
breathing out
i am aware that i am not my past.
breathing in
i am aware of my anger.
breathing out
i am aware that i am not my anger.
breathing in
i am aware of my despair.
breathing out
i am aware that i am not my despair.
breathing in
i am aware of peace.
breathing out
i am aware that i am worthy of peace.
breathing in
i am aware of love.
breathing out
i am aware that i am worthy of love.
breathing in
i am aware of joy.
breathing out
i am aware that i am an agent of joy.
breathing in
i am aware of hope.
breathing out
i am aware that i am an agent of hope.
breathing in
i am aware.
Do gong or mindfulness bell.

This meditation is called Singing in the Night By David Rankin
I love to pray, to go deep down into the silence:
To strip myself of all pride, selfishness, and
coldness of heart;
To peel off thought after thought, passion after
passion, till I reach the genuine depths of all;
To remember how short a time ago I was nothing,
and in how short a time again I will not be here;
To dwell on all joys, all ecstasies, all tender
Relations that give my life zest and meaning;
To peek through a mystic window and look upon
the fabric of life – how still it breathes, how
solemn its march, how profound its perspective;
And to think how little I know, how very little,
Except the calm, calm of the silence, and the
Singing, singing in the night.
Prayer is the soul’s intimacy with God, the ultimate kiss.
Source: Singing in the Night: Collected Meditations, Vol. 5 edited by Mary Benard (Skinner House, 2004)

Our final meditation is a Guided Meditation called the Forest Peace Meditation
Get comfortable…close your eyes…and take a few deep breathes
As you breathe in imagine that the air is reaching every part of your body all the way down to your toes…
As you exhale relax your body…Inhale…exhale…With each exhale relax even more…
Relax the muscles of your face…Relax your shoulders…
Let the feeling of relaxation flow down your arms and hands all the way to your fingers
… Relax your chest and stomach
Relax your legs…and your feet and toes
Let any tension in your body flow out through your feet…
Now, visualize yourself in a meadow…It is a beautiful day.. the temperature is perfect
The meadow contains gorgeous flowers in all your favorite colors ….
Enjoy the sunshine and feel the light breeze as you walk through the meadow
At the edge of the meadow you see a forest
…and as you approach the forest you see a path…
It is inviting you to enter the forest…you enter the forest….the forest is quiet and calming…
You follow the path as it winds its way through the forest…It is so peaceful…
The trees are beautiful …green and lush…
The sunlight floats through the tree limbs… dappling across the ground…
There is the soft hum of insects and the happy chirping of birds…so soothing
As you continue on the path you hear the soft babbling of a stream…
Following the sound you find the most beautiful stream flowing down the hillside…
The water sparkles and dances flowing down and around rocks creating a small waterfall…
There are moss covered rocks along the stream. What a perfect spot to sit and rest…
You sit..look around appreciating this moment in the forest by stream
its beauty, the peace, the calm and the quiet… let the peace flow into you..
feel the quiet.. the calm and the peace…
you are peace…let’s just be peace for a few minutes in silence… (Pause)
It is now time to leave the forest…know that you can always access this place and feeling any time..
As you leave the stream follow the path out of the forest…
Walk into the meadow… As you look around the meadow become aware of your body…
Aware of your breathe…..Bring your attention and awareness back into the yurt..
When you are ready open your eyes..look around continuing to feel at peace.

May There Be Peace Within

May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be...
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you...
May you be content knowing you are a child of God...
Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you...
Author Unknown

The meditation is by Samuel A Trumbore
I invite you now into a time of
gratitude, reflection, renewal and hope.
What an unearned blessing
To delight in the calming blue of these walls;
to hear the robin’s song again at daybreak;
to feel the warmth in this room and
to enjoy the promise of summer almost upon us.
Each moment of wakefulness has so many gifts
that offer energy and delight.
Yet, too often they seem unavailable
as the weight of our troubles press down on us.
The threats to our well being, real or exaggerated,
feel like mosquitoes in the night looking for a place
to land.
Minds become captive to rising flood waters
forceful, murky, threatening and ominous.
Even in moments of great danger,
the direction of attention is a choice.
Fear can dominate the mind
binding it like a straitjacket.
Or love can unbind it and open it
to resource and opportunity.
The soil of the mind can be watered with kindness.
The thorns can be removed one by one
to allow another close enough
to appreciate the buds ready to flower.
Great possibilities await us
even if all we can see is the cliff before us.
The grandeur of life, of which we are a part,
scatters rainbows in every direction,
even as the deluge approaches.
Holding reality and possibility together
Is the holy hope filled work of humanity
If … we choose it, again and again, in love.