There are many ways to begin to be aware and present.
As this clip will show, sometimes in all our lives we become very aware and need to be very aware for there are consequences, sometime immediate – sometimes down the road.
The Vipassanna Retreat last summer was quite a fascinating event and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to take a deep road into the darkness of their inner selves. It truly was very much like the description in Mr. Freeman’s book excerpted earlier, where he refers to it as “a journey into the dark unknown of a cave.” I did not imagine ahead of time that there would be dragons coming towards me through the deep unknown. They were not exactly described to me as dragons before I went to the retreat but the material I read did refer to this practice of meditation as being able to free a person of cravings and fears, or aversions as they were later referred to.
I am, and always have been, a little bit of a skeptic.
I thought, “Seriously, you think I can be freed of cravings, freed of fears, freed of feeling averse to things?” At first, I wasn’t all that sure I had any cravings, or fears, or aversions, to be freed from . . . we all tend to delude ourselves don’t we? And then, I wasn’t so sure that meditation was going to be able to help. But I was willing to give it a try. If nothing else, I could learn more about the daily practice of meditation and, who knows, I thought, maybe it could work. Maybe there is something I can really gain. So I became determined to give it a try, plus, once I had said I was going to this retreat in front of a number of you, I really felt I had to do it. I went. There was something in their story that sounded genuine. After all, it is a style of meditation that traces a direct line to the Buddha himself.
I have told some of you about this and I talked a little about it in the adult forum, so forgive me if it is a re-run but the meditation experience was both powerful and painful. After two days, I felt like I wanted to go home. The pain was awful. By the end of the third day, I was thinking, “Okay, if I leave, who would know? Could I fake it?” By the end of the fourth day, the muscles in my rear were experiencing such deep pain I could not even lie down comfortably. I’d lie on my back – then on my side. Then back to my back and then on my other side. Even though I had been up since 4:30 AM, I could not rest due to the pain. All the while I was thinking … aversions? I am not averse to anything, or anyone, I’m not fearful of encountering anyone . . . yeah, well, who am I trying to kid right!
Meanwhile my butt hurt.
Finally, well into the fifth day of meditating for eleven hours a day, I recalled an individual from my past that — a person that just thinking about, made me angry deep inside. I confronted the thought, having long forced it from the forefront of my mind and I faced that dragon that had reared its head from deep within the dark cave of my mind. I found that having confronted those thoughts and internally wrestled with them, that I could let go of the anger. That night … the pain in my butt was gone. There were more feelings I dealt with during those ten days, more cravings, more aversions, more dragons to rear their heads and I began to understand just how I might see better, the deep feelings within. There is no “conquering” involved, but there is a pathway to understanding and a way to “see” or observe the feelings and watch them go away.
One of the things that is necessary to do that I forget sometimes, is to put the story we are reading from the bible into some context. What comes before and after the passage helps us to understand what is happening because it is, after all, an unfolding story, a revealing of what is important in the life and death of Jesus, and so we have to look at more than just a paragraph or two to get the context.
The story just before the Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus is the one where the disciples are in a bit of a disagreement and Jesus asks them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” The disciples want to know who is going to get the position of power when Jesus establishes his kingdom. Jesus’ reply, “You don’t know what you are asking.”
Then there is Bartimaeus, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And the blind man’s reply was “Let me see again.” Jesus’ reply to Bart: “Your faith has healed you.”
The next event in the story sequence is Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
So as the story unfolds, Jesus is preparing to enter into Jerusalem for his triumphal entry and Mark reminds us of a couple of things. First, that the disciples don’t understand what’s going on, they are still looking for a grand kingdom to come on earth and want a lofty position of power. And second, it is the humble, blind, beggar, the one pleading for mercy, the one pushed aside by society, the one the text says many tried to “hush” as Jesus comes close; Bart is the one who “gets” what is about to happen and “sees” what Jesus has to offer. It is Bartimaeus who sees the merciful and compassionate one and has his eyes opened.
One had a willingness or an openness to see something different, one was stuck seeing only the traditional ways.
One, the disciples, saw only the same old power structures and the same old ways of doing things; while the other, Blind Bart saw a new opportunity, a new road to inner peace, a new path to understanding the world around him. Did Bart really regain his eye sight? I don’t know. I don’t think it matters. What matters is that he was eager to put his faith in the teachings of a man who offered him mercy and compassion. Then, off to Jerusalem, to the triumphal entry. We know what came next … but they didn’t.
For them, we must realize that the next part of the story was an unknown.
We are all looking at an unknown future.
What kinds of questions are we asking, for ourselves and for our church family?
As we look at family ministries in our church —
As we look at new ways to interact with one another —
As we, as a congregation, envision ways to do ministry and mission in a better way.
As we, as individuals, look at ourselves …
Where do we see separation and hurt, the brokenness and blind spots, those parts of us that are the pains-in-the-butt that we refuse to really admit to having. I am certain that I am not the only one who has elements of their past that bring on a pain I’d just as soon forget.
Where and how do we experience new ways to see old problems?
And . . . when do we begin to accept that we are not going to be able to conquer or defeat or rid ourselves of old traumas? They are part of who we are. What we CAN DO is accept ourselves and accept others and see life in a new way.
Meditation has helped me to focus, to be in the present, to see and know the seeds of distress planted generations ago that influenced the life of the person that caused me so much anger. It helped me understand and see with compassion the dragon out of my past and accept it for what it is. In spite of my skepticism, it helped me see the blind spots and empowers me to live with a new kind of freedom.
I am an impatient and stubborn person some of the time.
You might be better people than I.
You might be able to learn the lesson without experiencing the pain.
Blessings to you on your journeys friends, Amen.