By Linda Chapman (speaker, Sydney Meditatio 2016)
THE HUMAN VOCATION AS KEEPERS OF THE SPACE means that we are meant to live as part of the whole earth community in a way that secures spaces for both human and other-than-human life to flourish. The Creation story of Genesis is a story of God opening up these spaces for life. All creatures are given habitat. The human being is born into this Garden of life but we are now encroaching on the space of others and are causing serious harm. The practice of meditation however is a way of hope. It is a spiritual practice that opens up the space of cosmic consciousness such that we might recognize our identity as creatures interdependent with all creation and in need of balance.
Meditation enables a way of life that restores harmony and balance; the balance necessary for life, for all to live. Much of our contemporary culture and consciousness is about growing the ‘space’ of the economy. The Genesis narrative however tells us that the oikos, the household of God, from which the word economy is derived, is about the balancing of ecology and economy. When our focus is heavily weighted on economy we become split and unbalanced. We veer in the direction of harm, rather than securing space for life to flourish.
In Genesis, humanity is given the task of ‘cultivating’, tilling, keeping, the garden of Eden. The Creation story is a primal poetic narrative of meaning rather than fact. It is the meaning that matters for us at this stage of our evolutionary journey.
The understanding that the human vocation is to ‘keep the space’ derives from the earliest activity of the Creator in the Genesis story, who opened up the various spaces for particular creatures to enjoy their particular habitats. God opened up the spaces of night and day, of the waters that would teem with living things; the sky with every winged bird according to its kind, and the dry ground; the space where vegetation could come forth. And God saw that all was good and desired an abundance of the various life forms within their spaces. And then the human being, the Adam, was formed from the same elements as the earth, the Adamah. And God saw that it was all very good and on the seventh day rested. Our vocation according to the creation story is to be keepers of the spaces and the whole space of the earth community. And the direction of creation is to come to the wholeness of God’s indwelling, to be a resting place, to rest with God. This is peace. This is shalom.
This peace however is significantly challenged in our current environment by the ecological crises we are now facing. As others have said the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis; a crisis of human identity. We have forgotten who we are. And when we forget who we are we forget how to live. Yet in this age it may be that we are waking up to that consciousness that re-members creation. We are realizing our co-creative vocation perhaps just in time. Our original gifting with the responsibility to be keepers of the space sees the need for us to collaborate with the whole earth community through the vivifying activity of the (w)Holy Spirit.
“The human task” says Rowan Williams, is “to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become. The ‘redemption’ of people and material life in general is not a matter of resigning from the business of labour and of transformation – as if we could – but the search for a form of action that will preserve and nourish an interconnected development of humanity and its environment. In some contexts, this will be the deliberate protection of the environment from harm: in a world where exploitative and aggressive behaviour is commonplace, one of the ‘providential’ tasks of human beings must be to limit damage and to secure space for the natural order to exist unharmed. “
Meditation is a form of action in and of itself and provides the basis for action which is contemplative. Meditation, as contemplative practice, reminds us of who we are and how to live in a way that may preserve the interconnected community of creation. It heals our aggression and exploitative tendencies. The contemplative practice of meditation is an action of deep listening and it bears the fruit of real humility.
The convergent process of human and other-than-human nature, discovering in collaboration what we can become, requires of us deep listening and true humility. The truth of humility is that we are humus; we are earthlings, grounded and embodied beings whose habitat is within the sheltering space of the earth. We do not live on the earth but rather we are part of earth. Humility is the knowledge and experience of who we are and where we fit in the order, or relatedness, of things. The depth of our listening will be according to the extent of our relationship with the other with whom we exist in community. The Australian Aboriginal woman Miriam Rose Ungemerr from the Daly River in the Northern Territory describes such relational listening as Dadirri which she says is like our understanding of contemplation. Dadirri is ‘inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again.’
The original people of Australia know, or knew, their identity as intimately connected with the other–than-human environment. Djambawa Marawili, a Yolgnu man of Arnhem land, says that he sees himself as the ‘tongue of the land.’ The land has everything it needs but it cannot speak’ he says. ‘We exist to paint and sing and dance and express its true identity.’
“When I am in my homeland”, says Marawili “I know that my spiritual reality is here. I can see what is happening in our tribal country, in our land. We have significant ngarra (governance). Living in our country we can see what is happening in the future in a spiritual way.” Here are people who realize in the most profound and authentic sense their vocation as keepers of the space. This culture of his, the oldest living culture on earth, recognises the relationship between the space of country and the spiritual reality of the human being – indeed their very reason for existing, their human vocation. These people know who they are in relation to the ‘country’ (place) they belong to.
The practice of meditation is a path of self knowledge. Through it we understand ourselves as spiritual beings in need of more than material wealth to live fully. As spiritual beings we need space to simply be. In Christian meditation we begin by saying the mantra and eventually we listen to it. Our practice becomes one of listening in the space that the mantra keeps us in. We keep the space of consciousness through our practice and it keeps us, grounded in reality and rooted in the Love that keeps all space. Over time we re-member who we are as our fragmented self becomes integrated in the Self who holds us in being.
The ‘household of God’, the created reality, is one space consisting of a diversity of life. The contemporary over-emphasis on the economy, measured in material wealth, denies the space of the various ecologies that make up the whole earth system. Meditation can be a bridge between economy and ecology. Through the regular practice of meditation our consciousness becomes healed of the split. We come to realize that economy and ecology must exist together in harmony derived as they are from the one Source. Meditation reminds us that our prosperity is to be found in the spiritual capital of knowing who we really are and how we might live in balance for the whole earth community. As we become more conscious so we live out our human vocation as keepers of the space; the space of creation that also keeps us. Ultimately we become that space in which God finds rest as we, more and more, rest in God who sees all creation as ‘very good’.
See more information about the seminar Ecology, Economy and Meditation
All the lectures from the Meditatio Seminar The Best Proof is Experience: Meditation, TechnoScience and Humanity are available online in video format (see below). The Seminar was held in Barcelona, in the end of October 2015.
This seminar focused on what experiential wisdom practices such as meditation can offer to practitioners in science and technology to ensure that human quality shines through scientific research and technological development and that the fruits of science and technology become a true witness of human well-being and of great respect for all life forms and the environment.
Additional events for 2016 include:
April 22-24: WCCM in Sydney will host a Meditatio seminar on “Ecology, Economy and Meditation – Healing Ourselves, Healing the Earth.”
More information: email@example.com
May 11-12: WCCM in Prague will host a Meditatio seminar on “The Secular Age” with Professor Charles Taylor, Fr Laurence Freeman and others.
More information: firstname.lastname@example.org
June: WCCM London will host the Meditatio seminar “Changing the Future: Meditation with Children.”
Also in spring 2016, Fr. Laurence will deliver the Meditatio course on Executive Leadership for MBA students of several universities in Singapore
For more information: email@example.com
By Ernie Christie, WCCM Australia
Putting into the Deep was the title I gave to my five seminars and two retreats given in Ontario Canada in early December 2015. I challenged the many participants of the seminars and retreats to do just that for themselves and for their students in their schools. Go deeper and have high expectations that children and young people like adults are searching for meaning in their lives and CHristian Meditation can be the prayer that provides them with life skills to go deeper within themselves as they aim to cultivate interior silence and stillness which can lead them to a deeper understanding of themselves, others and God. In the silence of meditation we let God do the work of God and children learn to be still and know God.
I began my journey first in Sault Ste. Marie where I met Maria Espoito and her team and over seventy principals, teachers , chaplains and Board personnel and led them in an exploration of CM with children. At this first of my seminars I encountered people already sharing this gift of prayer with their children and a hunger to learn more and embed the practice even deeper into a daily practice in their schools. I left confident that Sister Pat, Maria and their team will work towards expanding this prayer of the heart to their schools.
On my second day I met with many leaders from the Hamilton Diocese Partners, leaders who were committed and progressive in their outlook and who spent much time with in constructive dialogue as they began to put together a strategy to advance the practice of CM to children in their many schools. This was an impressive group of leaders who are intent on doing great things in Ontario.
On my third day I presented a full day seminar to 120 teachers, principals, chaplains , parents and Board leaders who enthusiastically embraced the concept of putting into the deep and I left them confident that they will continue the impressive start they have made and start to expand and deepen the practice even more. I left Paris knowing the diocese of Hamilton and the Burford region will continue to progress stillness, silence and simplicity as a major focus of the prayer life of their children.
My fourth seminar was to over 160 principals, teachers, support staff, chaplains and Board leaders in Burlington at the Mancini Catholic Education Center. This group was the largest group I presented to over the week and they like the other centres were well in to their journey of providing quality opportunities for their children to be contemplative. We explored the many facets of teaching children CM and we explored how best to continue to promote this humble simple but radically transformative form of prayer. I left knowing that this group will become real change agents as they endeavour to depth the practice of CM to children and young people.
In the evening I met and led a group of trustees of the Halton Board in prayer and reflection with a depthing in the understanding of CM. This group were appreciative of a chance to experience CM and they certainly are open to supporting this beautiful form of prayer across their schools.
My final seminar was in Ottawa where I met Janet and Steve from the Ottawa Catholic District Board. I worked with over thirty committed Principals, teachers, chaplains and parents in promoting CM with children. This was a most impressive, and motivated group and they really impressed me as we travelled the contemplative path for a whole day together. I know they will grow CM with children in Ottawa and I look forward to witnessing the growth of CM in schools in this district .
I leave Canada weary in body by refreshed by in the knowledge that in Ontario there is much movement of the spirit and the seed that was planted some years ago has certainly taken root and is spreading into a lush tree which is producing life giving fruit.