Concentration Is Consecration

by Mark Chmiel

Sri Eknath Easwaran distinguishes two kinds of spiritual reading: that of instruction and that of inspiration.  Simone Weil’s book, Waiting for God, is an example of the latter, as  it is fecund with material for examining one’s life and path. Reading her brought to mind  the  Buddhists Thich  Nhat Hanh and Chan Khong, Hindu Sri Anandamayi Ma,  and  Catholics Dom Pedro Casaldáliga and José María Vigil who espoused “political holiness.” Her essay “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God” is superb.

I offer a short selection  in what follows…

Method of investigation— as soon as one has arrived at any position, try to find in what sense the contrary is true.

Except for those whose whole soul is inhabited by Christ, everybody despises the afflicted to some extent, although practically no one is conscious of it.  

I love the saints through their writings and what is told of their lives … I love the six or seven Catholics of genuine spirituality whom chance has led me to meet in the course of my life. I love the Catholic liturgy, hymns, architecture, rites and ceremonies.

I fell in love with Saint Francis of Assisi as soon as I came to know about him.

For nothing among humans has such power to keep our gaze fixed ever more intensely upon God, than friendship for the friends of God.

… every time I think of the crucifixion of Christ I commit the sin of envy.

It is not my business to think about myself. My business is to think about God. It is for God to think about me.

I cannot go against the light of conscience.

[I]t is perhaps even more useful to contemplate our stupidity than our sin.

Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.

The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: “What are you going through?”  It is a recognition that the sufferer exists, not only as a unit in a collection, or a specimen from the social category labeled “unfortunate,” but as a man, exactly like us, who was one day stamped with a special mark by affliction. For this reason it is enough, but it is indispensable, to know how to look at him in  certain way.

… the point where I have been since my birth, at the intersection of Christianity and everything that is not Christianity. 

The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running. 

Everybody knows that really intimate conversation is only possible between two or three.

[O]ne does not believe or disbelieve; one knows or does not know.

[W]e must de-create our egos, offer up everything we have ever meant by “I,” so that the Divine Love may pass unimpeded through the space we once occupied….

Often, at the culminating point of a violent headache, I make myself say [George Herbert’s Love] over, concentrating all my attention upon it and clinging with all my soul to the tenderness it enshrines. I used to think I was merely reciting it as a beautiful poem, but without my knowing it the recitation had the virtue of a prayer. It was during one of these recitations that, as I told you, Christ himself came down and took possession of me. 

A week afterward I began the vine harvest. I recited the Our Father in Greek every day before work and I repeated it very often in the vineyard.

We live in a  world of unreality and dreams. To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light and hear the true silence. A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions.

I suddenly had to everlasting conviction that any human being, even though practically devoid of natural faculties, can penetrate to the kingdom of truth reserved for genius, if only he longs for truth and perpetually concentrates all his attention upon its attainment.  … the same conviction led me to persevere for ten years in an effort of concentrated attention that was practically unsupported by any hope of results. 

The development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost  the sole interest of studies. … All tasks that really call upon the power of attention are interesting for the same reason and to an almost equal degree. … [Students] should learn to like all these subjects, because all of them develop that faculty of attention which, directed toward God, is the very substance of prayer.  

Even if our efforts of attentions seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul. Every effort adds a little gold to a treasure no power on earth can take away.

Twenty minutes of concentrated, united attention is infinitely better than three hours of the kind of frowning application that leads us to say with a sense of duty done: “I have worked well.” 

[E]very time that we really concentrate our attention, we destroy the evil in ourselves. If we concentrate with this intention, a quarter of an hour of attention is better than a great many good works.  

It is at those moments when we are, as we say, in a bad mood, when we feel incapable of the elevation of soul that befits holy things, it is then that it is most effectual to turn our eyes toward perfect purity. For it is then that evil, or other mediocrity, comes to the surface of the soul and is in the best position for being burned by contact with fire.  

Today it is not nearly enough to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the preset moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.

I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me.

The title above is a statement by Sri Easwaran.

 

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