Baruch Haba B’shem
Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name
Invitation to the Center
Zen Buddhism refers to the monkey mind, a ceaseless yammering cacophony preventing blessed silence, with its whispering invitation, from welcoming me home to the center of my being. See them, hear them, those grinning, tumbling chimpanzee-thoughts? Hooting, invading even night’s black and austere emptiness.
Drinking in the living waters of Holy Week seems to call for quiet in the soul. First, we must distract those lunatic monkeys. Say to them, Hush now. Every religion offers ways to quiet the mind so the spirit can refresh and focus. In the Christian tradition, Centering Prayer provides one means to enter into communion with the Divine. Let’s prepare to absorb the lessons of this day by practicing 20 minutes of Centering Prayer. (If you are not Christian and even if you choose not to explore Holy Week, you can adapt this meditation to your belief system).
Practicing Centering Prayer is a consent to the presence and action of the Divine within you. I think of it as a lost child opening her arms to embrace a beloved parent or as sitting at the Lotus Feet of the Lord. The symbolic possibilities are boundless. Sit comfortably in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the ground. Rest your hands on your lap. Close your eyes. Select a one or two-syllable word symbolizing God, Goddess, the Universe, or some earthly thing that brings peace to your mind. Depending on your beliefs, you might choose, Jesus, Abba — Aramaic for Daddy, Peace, Sakti, Krsna, Buddha, or mountain. Breathing evenly, slowly and silently repeat your word. Allow the word to fill your mind. Feel it begin to resonate throughout your body. Rest with the word. The chimps will get restless; they always do. You may begin to think, for instance, Hmmm, Abba. What a nice word. I think I’ll use it when I talk to my dad. I wonder what Dad’s doing today. I should call him and Mom later. I really don’t talk to them often enough. If only I weren’t so stressed out at school. Etc. Relax. Acknowledge and release the monkey mind. Simply return to the word.* Not an endurance test, if you feel the need to scratch your nose or cough, do that. Sit, returning to your word, for 20 minutes. End the session with a favorite prayer, such as the Our Father. Open your eyes. Welcome to the world.**
For Christians, Holy Week brings into awareness through ancient, yet dynamic and compelling symbols, the Paschal Mystery, Christianity’s way of expressing the belief, illuminated by the Christ event, that God raises new life from suffering and death. Lauded by the throngs as a king, as he entered Jerusalem, Jesus soon faces betrayal lurking behind many masks, human judgment, and death. How he handles his rise to royal status and his fall from human grace brings the experiences of Lent’s previous days to light. Jesus teaches. He exercises the humility of a servant. He submits to the Father’s will. He forgives. He dies. He resurrects. In his detachment from the excesses of human responses, he is liberated from the physical miseries in which he is immersed. With eyes, mind, and spirit on the Father’s will, Jesus is exalted and released. For Christians, the entire sequence of events occur for the liberation of human beings — the blundering sources of Jesus’ trials — from the ravages of oppressive, delusional, and deadly choices and ideas.
In Luke 12:21, keeping his sight on the only prize of any value, Jesus addresses each person’s end of life and warns the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God. This has been the point of abstaining or fulfilling challenging spiritual commitments since Ash Wednesday. To release attachment and to gain insight and to experience, in some small and symbolic way, what matters to God.
So, hail the Christ as king with joy and shout Hosana in the Highest! Bask in his fully human glory. Once we step outside the sacred time of Palm Sunday, we prepare to trudge another, more difficult, darker path of the human spirit. We anticipate the lessons of humility on Holy Thursday, the stark sorrow and humiliation of Good Friday, the empty echo of Holy Saturday, and — finally! — the transcendent joy of Easter, when the light dances in prismatic glory across the faces of every person, who despite or because of, her failings, finds herself bathing and dancing in the Living Waters, welcomed at the table of the Bread of Life.
With the first day of Holy Week , I thought it time to focus and prepare for this sacred time. For any Christian readers — if I have any readers at all — who are not Catholic and who may feel exploring the mysteries into which Catholics and many other Christian churches wade and immerse during this holiest season, I want to assure you. These are shared Christian experiences. For those readers who are not associated with any Christian system, I want to assure you. Some of these are shared spiritual experiences. Those experiences, concepts, and beliefs not shared by other religions or spiritual systems, represent moments transcending rational thought when Mystery, the Divine blessed and graced a small corps of people long ago. Those ancient experiences contain such mystery and authority to persevere the ages and to resonate with and baffle the beleaguered left brains of people of all — or no — religious persuasion who take time to investigate them. All, that is, who dare to inspect, perhaps witness the events and read the sacred texts related to each day of Holy Week as the days build to a crescendo of compassion, sorrow, bewildering darkness, and evanescent light.
I only ask any doubters, do you dare?
There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which … a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation. Herbert Spencer
*A friend thinks about those random thoughts as standing on a boat. All around you, fish — the thoughts — are jumping in the water just outside the boat. Even though the fish are jumping, you don’t have to let them on the boat.
**For more about Centering Prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IKpFHfNdnE