Benedict's Dharma 2
2 - Wednesday - April 30, 2003
Sister Mary (Meg) Margaret
SR. MEG: My
part this morning in a minor presentation is to return to the idea
of our diads, and to put your mind at ease as to what you would be
doing if you did a diad or a triad. It's a follow-up to Rev. Kusala's
presentation on forgiveness, because a diad is this tradition is a
manifestation of thoughts before they become actions; it's to get
at the root of what rises from underneath. If you can start noticing
it, you can redirect those thoughts and feelings before they come
out in afflictions.
In the desert tradition, the amahs and abbas, were very surprised,
at least as the story goes, when they left all things -- their possessions,
their status, their families, their relationships -- and yet those
things followed them into the desert. In their hearts, they had even
Notice how Rev. Kusala said, "I don't have a lot of things, but
I'm really attached to the ones I have."
You can leave the river and dive underneath and go to the desert,
go to the cell, but it all comes with you in your heart. The desert
fathers and mothers battled with those afflictions, and overcame them
through God's grace, and learned to pray without ceasing. They had
different kinds of ascetical practices to reduced their afflictions.
After they reduced the afflictions, keen insight, purity of heart,
equanimity arose. God's presence was abiding in their hearts. Vistors
would notice this glow, this beauty, this transparency, of an illumined
person. That's why they were so attractive.
When a disciple would go to the desert fathers and say, "Give
me a word that I may live. I, too, would like to know what you've
done." Then they would give him a word. They could see into the
disciple's hearts, see what their affliction was.
Notice the practice there. The disciple practiced humility, asking
for a word, asking, "What can I do?" The practice really
turns into a disposition more than a practice, but the disciple wanting
a home base, would go towards humility.
way of the teacher is the way of discernment.___
before our Creator God in total openness with my mind and my heart
to receive God's word and to live and imitate Christ. Our disposition,
our way is a way of humility. But the way of the teacher is the way
of discernment, and he or she would discern how the disciple is to
We can learn ways of discernment; but the reason we can't discern
and need a teacher, is because what comes up is afflicted. We can't
trust our thoughts. We can't trust our heart's desire. It's contaminated.
We also have the effects of original sin.
Augustine would tell us that we have a propensity towards evil. We
are created good, but we still have a propensity towards evil. We
like evil in a way. It feels good, to do bad.
We also have ignorance. We don't know what good is, because our minds
We also have a weak will. Even if we know what good is, even if we
want to turn away from evil, we can't sustain it. We need more strength
and lots of grace.
Those three dynamics keep us humble, because we know we are not free.
It is through God's grace we can do all things, in him we have strength.
Our charge is humility. The teacher's charge is to teach us the way,
and the way is through humility. The reason why we lay our thoughts
on a wise elder is because he or she can see our thoughts.
Are we deluding ourselves? Are we in ignorance? Are we really just,
trying to get what we want? Even if we are living a very virtuous
life, are we doing all the right things for the wrong reasons? Are
we full of vainglory, full of pride, carnal pride? Spiritual pride?
That's the teaching I put together in, "Thoughts Matter",
it's all about afflicted thoughts.
Thoughts rise from underneath, they rise gently at first. But, if
you give thoughts more energy, more desire, they fan into emotions,
and emotions fan into passions.
Passions are still passive. We have to give consent in order to act.
That's the reason why a lot of our tradition is about this idea of
way to start discerning for ourselves, is to see these thoughts rising.___
way before we consent, we've got these thoughts rising. The way to
start discerning for ourselves, is to see these thoughts rising. Thought
is a technical term, which means any rising on the screen of consciousness.
It could be a feeling. It could be an emotion. It could be a physical
impetus. It's an electronic surge. But the traditional word is "thought,"
sometimes translated as "fault," it just rises.
Now, if you had a wise elder, like I have in Jane, she will ask me,
"Meg, dear, what is on your heart?"
Well, if I can get to the earliest inclination of my thoughts, a rising
affliction and just lay it out, it will dissipate. A thought can be
unthunk, it will just go away.
It can also goe in a circular way and gain a thickness, if I keep
it inside and start churning it with a lot of commentary. Laying it
out ever so simply and gently to a wise elder, allows the elder to
give me words; sometimes that's enough. We don't have enough wise
elders in our culture today, but we need to bring these thoughts up,
and lay them out to someone.
This is the earliest form. It's called exagoreusis. It's a Greek word,
it follows the Greek word for thought. Thoughts mean little thoughts
that have these tails on them, so they can hook into the next thought.
This goes way back to Plato and the neoplatonic philosophers. But
Origen, the teacher of Evagrius who taught Cassian, was fascinated
with the idea of thoughts, and so was John Climacus.
Benedict in his Rule says, cast your thoughts against the rock who
is Christ, or manifest your thoughts to the abbot or a wise elder.
this tradition dropped out by the seventh century, because the abbots
became administrators, and the tradition of confession took over,
just manifesting sin, instead of redirecting it.
If I were in a line for groceries, I'd practice watching thoughts
rise. I know there are practices like this, where you lay aside thoughts
of greed, or impatient self. You watch your thoughts. You simply become
aware of thoughts.
is the essence of vigils, to be aware of your thoughts.___
is the essence of vigils, to be aware of your thoughts. As the morning
sun rises, you let your thoughts rise, and observe them. In the Christian
tradition, we redirect them back to our heart's desire, who is Christ
our Lord, either through the Jesus prayer or as John Cassian would
pray, "Oh, God, come to my assistance. Oh, Lord, make haste to
This not an accidental beginning of each office because we have done
that in our hearts all day long, even before we get to office. Then
when we say, Deus in adiutorium meum -- God, come to my assistance,
in English -- we are back to, our thoughts. We lay them all up in
That's a short catechesis on thoughts, and how we manifest our thoughts.
In practice, I don't know of anyone doing it today. I'm trying to
recover it, because I think it's beneficial. For a group like us,
I would recommend we would find a diad partner or triad partners,
and the question would be, "Well, what is your heart's desire?"
And just lay it out. If an affliction rises, such as, pain or suffering
-- I can't listen because, I'm hurting because my mother's sick --
or something, just lay the thought out. It's received, and it goes
away because the intention is to return to the presence of God in
our midst. And then the next person would lay out their thoughts.
This takes no more than five or ten minutes. It's very brief. I would
say do it sometime during the day. In the earliest tradition, they
did it two or three times a week.
John Climacus talked about watching a monk in a certain tradition,
I think it was upper Egypt, who had these little square books attached
to his waistband, and would put his thoughts in them. It was the beginning
of journal writing, a laying out of thoughts. As you lay them out,
you let them go.
If we had more time, we could get into the anatomy of thought. It's
Any questions about this? It's spontaneous. It's what's in your heart,
and you just lay them out.
BC: As I was listening
to you yesterday, journaling is what came to my mind, I became aware
that I'm not even honest with my journal at times. I seem to be screening
what I put into my journal. And so I wondered what you would think
about the idea of making your journal your partner.
SR. MEG: It would be
excellent as long as it doesn't return to the self. In other words,
the whole point would be to lay the self out, you would have to have
a nonpublished audience in mind.
LH: Isn't this the essence
of spiritual direction?
SR. MEG: This is the
origin of spiritual direction. This is the beginning.
is a marvelous book on this. It's by Irenee Hausherr, and the reference
would be one of those Cistercian studies. It's called, Spiritual Direction
in the East, it's a huge book. It's hard to get, but tells the history
of how this came into being and why it evaporated.
MC: Wouldn't you agree
that this is one of the benefits of meditation; that you are just
present and let thoughts rise and go, even watch them as they go,
but don't deal with them?
SR. MEG: This is a benefit
of meditation, you can see why it goes hand in hand, just to observe.
That through awareness, self awareness dissipates. That's the freedom.
comes when you're just aware and you're not compulsed.___
comes when you're just aware and you're not compulsed.
MML: Are there ever
any thoughts you want to hold onto. Or is it always true to let them
When is a thought needing to be worked with? There was a little group
of us at breakfast yesterday, and we talked about the difference between
therapy and spirituality.
The answer is, you can work with it as long as the person you are
working with has the same mind as you do, returning to your heart's
desire and moving you beyond ego and self, we would say to God. Self
growth in therapy isn't enough.
You can see that we have many topics here, but that's a nice long
one. In general it's very clear that this manifestation of thoughts
is not analysis. It really just laying them out. At its earliest,
the word in -- I think it's Greek. Is nepsis. You are just watching
thoughts come up.
You want to slow your brain and mind, to notice the thoughts origin.
Analysis is too far down the road. The training is early detection,
turns out to be preventative.
RJH: Do you know the
book, "The Way of the Artist?"
SR. MEG: "The Way
of the Artist," I have heard of it. I've not read it.
RJH: She talks in there
about the morning pages for the artist. To block all the negative
messages that you can't do this, that sort of thing. She says to write
three pages every day, just write it without raising the pen. Would
that be the manifestation of thoughts?
SR. MEG: Yes, that would
be. But, there would need to be an intention to return to your heart's
In order to be in the stream of this tradition, the focus in on the
spirit, light, and humility rather than -- you can see it's very delicate
-- rather than me becoming a good artist and creative. The intention
would matter. The intention also frees you, if you don't have a goal,
you don't have an outcome, that makes it a purer act. If you practice
is focused on an outcome, then your practice is the outcome. It's
This would fall on the Spirit, the will of God. If God wants a book
to come out of it, great. But you, would not intentionally write a
book in this practice.
Thank you very much.