The Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm

The most common difficulty with meditating is being distracted in the silence.  You would think that silence would be calming but for many it raises the chaos monster.  The Buddhists call it “monkey mind”.  Wendy, one of the members of our Wednesday evening meditation group at LaSalette Retreat House in Attleboro, recently pointed out the following quote from the Benedictine monk, John Main:

You will find as you go on that you can be saying your mantra at one level while at another level there are thoughts going on below and at another level above, at another on one side, at another on the other side.  Ignore them all.  Say your mantra.  That is the art of meditating: to say your word in the silent eye of the storm (from “Silence and Stillness in Every Season”, May 9).

What a great image about the challenge of meditating: remaining still and focused in the eye of the storm!  Life is often a storm (even a hurricane) of competing forces and influences, all trying to get our attention and allegiance.  John Main’s perennial teaching is to keep repeating the mantra, Ma-ra-na-tha (four syllables), slowly and silently to yourself.  It sounds overly simplistic but it works.  Surely it is more complicated than that?  We say, “That is not very challenging intellectually – any idiot can say one word over and over again!”  It is indeed very simple but incredibly challenging to do.  The task is, in the midst of all our chaos, to pay attention to the divine presence, the Spirit who lives within us and all creation.  No wonder Genesis 1 says that God created from the chaos.  Our task is to be still, to be open to God, letting go of other concerns by repeating the mantra, resting in the eye of the storm.

It would be easy to judge my meditation as a failure, and in one sense (if I am looking for perfect peace without distraction) it always is a failure.  On the other hand, I have learned that the task is not to judge but to rest in a non-judgmental state, and if I experience the peace in the eye of the storm then all the better.  Being kind to oneself, loving oneself, believing in the goodness and love of God, are basic to the spiritual journey.  Being still and open in meditation will reaffirm that God is good and loving, if we do not judge our performance but let judgment go along with all other distractions.  I welcome your comments about your experience.

(For more detailed instruction on how to meditate go to: Meditation)

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Pastor Emeritus John Fisk and Deacon C. J. Kiff

On a personal note, I was honored recently by the First Baptist Church, Attleboro, with the title Pastor Emeritus and a celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry.  I have been blessed beyond measure through my teachers and mentors and through the people I have served in ministry.   It is a very challenging vocation requiring spiritual stamina beyond my strength.  People tell me that I was very helpful to them at critical points, but I am sure it was God who was doing the helping and I sometimes had the good sense to get out of the way!   First Baptist, Attleboro continues on the road with Jesus with an open mind and a welcoming heart.  Praise God for them and their Pastor Cheryl Harris!

About John Fisk

I am a retired pastor, who served churches in New England for 33 years. I emigrated to the USA from England in 1974 and completed two graduate degrees in theology and pastoral practice at Andover-NewtonTheological School. In retirement I am focused on the teaching of Christian meditation, providing spiritual guidance, leading retreats and occasional preaching. I am particularly interested in contemplation, the mystical path and social justice.
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4 Responses to The Eye of the Storm

  1. Bill Hamilton says:

    Hi John…Congratulations on your status as Pastor Emeritus! It is well deserved although it’s not as if they give that honor to “young” pastors!! On a meditative note, in reading Martin Laird’s A SUNLIT ABSENCE, [especially chapter 3, ppgs. 49-55 ], there is more a sense of embracing the distractions around you rather than ignoring them. Remember the story of the man who passed by an very ugly house on his way to and from work. It got to the point where he couldn’t stand it any more, so he bought the house…and never saw it again!. From my perspective to “ignore” carries with it a need to exert some strength/force to keep the distractions at bay. To “embrace” is to surround distractions, maybe even use them, as a dynamic of our meditation. I say tomato, you say tomahto! actually, you DO say tomahto!!

    • John Fisk says:

      Bill, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that exerting some strength or force to keep distractions at bay is not the way to go. John Main stresses that the focus on the mantra is “gentle” and distractions are noticed without being engaged. Important issues do surface during meditation – not every distraction is a nuisance. We should make a note of these in a journal afterward and attend to them later.
      The President’s announcement on the Paris Climate Agreement was a major distraction yesterday and meditation required a lot of returning gently to the mantra but it helped detach me from some of my anger. I noted in my journal to take action later, although I am still undecided what to do.

  2. Owen Knight says:

    Hello John, I recently attended a silent retreat.  While it was relaxing and I could contemplate the real Owen and the false Owen, having the mantra to repeat between my looking inward was a real help in opening myself to the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Owen Knight

    • John Fisk says:

      Great to hear from you, Owen. It was always good to be with you during our time of service with TABCOM. I am glad that you find this meditation method helpful. It takes a lot of practice and patience, but patience is certainly something I need to learn.

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