An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, "Dearest Friends," WCCM International Newsletter, December 2000.
The holiness of minute particulars, as Blake called it, is the sacredness of all incarnation: when words take flesh, faith becomes active in love and promises made are kept.
Stillness, which is the condition of paying attention, reveals the infinite depths of the small. It is more direct, because it is more humble, to enter the realm of the infinite through the depths in small things than by always imagining something bigger and bigger.
Attention is the essence of contemplation. We are all aware - or should be - how weak and unfaithful our attention span can be. This is why we need a daily practice of meditation, embodied in the routines of our private lives. It is not by thinking about it or even by willing it that we grow in attentiveness but through practice. John Main's emphasis on the importance
of a simple daily discipline of meditation for modern people has never seemed wiser or more necessary. Attention purifies our hearts and changes the world. We can see this because our own personal afflictions are blessedly relieved if someone genuinely gives us their attention when we need it most. Compassion is the first fruit of attention. It is the life that flows from the death of selfishness.
In his hidden years in Nazareth, under the loving attention of his parents, Jesus "grew big and strong" - the only physical description the gospels give of him. If we too are to grow in the spirit it will be by the strengthening our capacity for attention. The mantra itself embodies this practice as an act of fidelity and love performed at the deepest center of our being where we are capable of attention - the deepest place, that is, from which we can pray. There is no peace to be found in this life except by continuously deepening this point of awareness. Attention is prayer. It
expresses itself both in the hidden levels of unknowing where the seed of the kingdom germinates "without our knowing how", but also in the decisions and problem-solving of daily life. Then silence, stillness and simplicity become real elements of how we live each day enlivened in hope and compassion by the life of Christ.
Like all life and evolution of life, incarnation is about balance. The spirit is the cutting edge of life. It is the blade that cuts through the knots of ignorance and fear and that is sharpened by the honing work of attention. Listening to the mantra with attention gradually reduces the
frequency and volume of our disruptive thoughts and impulses. It resharpens what the ego blunts. We come to say the mantra, to sound it and to listen to it with finer, more subtle and more whole-hearted attention. It aligns us on that frequency of the Holy Spirit that runs through every instant of time and every cell of life. In its silence and stillness is our strength.
After Meditation, from St Philotheos of Sinai, “Texts on Watchfulness,” in THE PHILOKALIA, VOL III (London: Faber and Faber, 1984, p. 26.
Let us go forward with the heart completely attentive and the soul fully conscious. For if attentiveness and prayer are daily joined together, they become like Elijah’s fire-bearing chariot, raising us to heaven. What do I mean? A spiritual heaven, with sun, moon, and stars, is formed in the blessed heart of one who has reached a state of watchfulness, or who strives to attain it; for such a heart. . . is enabled to contain within itself the uncontainable God.