The simple philosophy behind the Sounding Bowls is one of Presence.
If one is truly Present to what goes on the world blossoms under one’s hand and eye.
By practicing Presence to the wood and the moment of this cut, Awareness of the meaningful flow of this curve, Mindfulness of the purpose behind Sounding Bowls and in front of this particular one (what/who it is being made for) we can watch how the purposeful nature of existence flowers into a potential that is held in the form and the substance of the instrumental/sculptures we make.
Behind and beyond this there is a philosophy of the nature of existence that seeks to go further, look deeper than modern science has yet travelled. While physics has now got to the point of realising that there is no-thing there, that subatomic particles are more like waves yet are not truly waves either and that identifying the nature of the structure of substance is like watching minute events unfold only to disappear again, not traceable in location unless unknown in size, not traceable in mass/energy/effect unless unplaceable in space but it has not answered the ages old question of how we perceive solid matter when both it and our bodies are known to be more space than particle and even the particles turn out to be events.
Against this background other meaningful questions remain: Why does music move us so powerfully? Where do we go when we sleep, or die? What is the nature of Love?… Only turning to a spiritual world view begins to address these questions yet most spiritual world views fall down on explaining why matter behaves as it does. Within a spiritual world view is the assumption that the human being, indeed consciousness in all forms, is based outside of the time-space continuum and manifests within in with deliberate purpose. The nature of that purpose and how we may most fruitfully regulate ourselves within remain the important ingredients that distinguish one spiritual philosophy from another.
It has been my own path to pursue these questions. Having been brought up in a family inspired by Rudolf Steiner and practicing bio-dynamic/organic farming, Waldorf education and other life-ways inspired from a spiritual world view I have sought out and studied a variety of world views from Rosicrucian to Shamanic, from Buddhist to Scientology, from non-dual through dualist to troilist and returned again and again to Rudolf Steiner’s deep and loving philosophy whose complex nature covers cosmology, the nature of perception and matter, Ways of enlightenment and ways of serving the essential nature of being human in others as in oneself. During this path I have been through the predictable tunnel of darkness and been re-born or awakened on the other side to a whole new level of service, a whole new level of learning that is, as it was on the one side, ongoing. The only difference now is that the learning happens more easily with slightly less resistance from the personality.
It is from this background that each article in this esoteric section is written and you will find this header in italics on each esoteric article.
An art of Meditation
Silence is the essence of meditation.
Deep within every human soul is silence, like deep sleep, like a deep ocean. Yet within this silence live things that create the human being, body and soul. Meditation, like sleep, but in a different way, strengthens the health of mind, body and spirit as well as empowering one’s life towards one’s deepest aims.
There are four stages of meditation that flow one into another creating a whole. The first is to come to the calm centre that touches the deep silence within. This is in itself an important step in our hectic world. Simply to sit there and notice, to notice what is passing through this moment, both in external stimuli and in internal processes. To allow the thoughts and feelings of the moment to pass by like traffic or like birdsong is hugely important, adding an ability to cope with life from deep inside us. This improves our creativity and social abilities immensely.
The second is an active building of the meditation through word image or sound. This can be added into the first stage after this quiet space is established. The effect of this stage is to add direction and purpose to our lives or to connect the direction we have with our deepest creativity, with our ‘life’s mission.’ Working at deep and powerful mantras adds power to your presence in the world, helps you to refine your deepest wishes and to achieve things that make a real contribution to the progress of humanity on whatever level. This might sound grandiose but remember that the world is built by all of us. Processes in place in the world may seem too large to change but in fact one person who is grounded in their own truth can have huge and lasting effects on how the world is. Mantric meditation helps to find and refine our truth and our grounding in it.
The third is holding the space that this act creates. When we rest quietly in the new space that focussing on the mantra creates, we marinate our soul in the deepest intentions of our individual spirit. Somewhat like the first stage, but now focussing on how our inner-space has developed through working the mantra, this stage adds calm to our intentions and creative urges.
The last is to return from that space back to the ordinary awareness that supports our life as healthy part of our daily context. This is as important as the other parts. If we are to function as quick minded, Present individuals we need to close the doors of the temple of meditation gently and firmly.
Each part is equally important. Two to five minutes for each part is a healthy period until you become very familiar with it.
To begin a meditation it is helpful to find a space where one will not be observed or interrupted. A way of sitting or standing that does not lead to aches is also helpful. Many people find that an upright spine assists the deepening of consciousness without slipping into dream states.
Once you are comfortable begin the letting go of daily awareness by admitting that all the tasks and worries of your life are beyond your power to do anything about at his very moment, in these next few minutes you cannot change anything by thinking about it. You may assure yourself (the self is always hungry for re-assurance) that after these few minutes you will resume normal awareness and those things that need thinking about will get some attention; but for now put them down and let them all go.
In one sense you are now in a similar position to a teacher with a class: some teachers can get their charges to be quiet by holding themselves still and saying “shush now children” others end up yelling “QUIET!!!” and speaking sharply to those how do not manage this. One’s own inner voices are the children and I have tried both ways. A really good teacher can make a subject so interesting that children will be quiet in their attentiveness, but even these need, occasionally to turn to one child or another and just raise an eyebrow or a finger to remind them that silence is part of the lesson. On days when they really can’t manage to be quiet I have taken to telling them a story (that is to say replacing the attempts at meditation with some spiritual reading, or even letting them out to play). Be gentle, forgiving, always remember that Love is better than force. On good days the ‘class’ becomes all silence, all attention and a feeling of rapt absorption fills the space.
A technique that I have found helpful to go deeper into the silence is by noticing first outer sensations that reach you: sound, smells, light through the eyelids. Having acknowledged each of these and let them go focus on inner senses, the touch of the chair or anything that speaks to the body from within. Notice the voice of the muscles. Begin at the crown of your head, is there any tension in your scalp? Relax these fine muscles as well as you can. Come down over the brow and face, around your eyes, nose, mouth jaw, and so on seeking habitual or unconscious tensions and releasing them. Go down through your neck and shoulders, and right down every bit of the body, slowly seeking and releasing tensions. This can be a source of interest that allows the ‘children’ to pay attention rather than chatter. Regular periods of a gentle refusal to respond to its chatter allows it to come to rest. Do not expect immediate success with this but do persevere, it does work.
By the time your muscle awareness program reaches your feet your mind and body are likely to be as still as today will allow. Into this stillness introduce the meditation. There are some words below as introductory examples but the same technique can be used around images, mandalas, sounds or repeated questions like koans or “who is aware of this moment” or “who is asking this question”. In each case the words may be repeated inwardly whilst your imagination builds pictures from them. It may take several days of once or twice daily to become familiar enough with the words that you can hold the silence around them as well as remember them. Until then have them written large and clear on a paper with no other words on it close enough that you can refer to it with a simple glance. If you are using a sound pluck the string, ring the bell or whatever as required with longer spaces between until your focus on that sound and the places it takes you remains alive.
Allow your whole awareness now to grow within the words/sounds/images so that you walk in this space as you would in a cathedral or other beautiful and sacred space. This or that line or word may draw your attention repeatedly like a particular arch or window in such a cathedral would. You may feel the meanings of the words or the harmonies within the sounds/colours within the images echo around you like music coming from an unseen choir; rhythms, repeated sounds, meanings stretched between words and lines form the beauty of such a space like the beauty of a cathedral hangs between the elements of the architecture. Wonder at the depth of beauty and meaning held within. Time by time you may become more familiar with ~ and find new meanings hidden in the words/spaces within the sounds as you might learn more about a piece of music you hear again and again or become familiar with a favourite place.
This is your space, live within it.
Slowly the words/sounds fade away while the space you built and found in them remain, this sacred space so full of beauty and hidden depths is still around you. Listen quietly to this space. Allow your soul to soak up all of it, to feel into the shadows and lights, the colours and sounds, maybe even the smell of the space. It is possible at this stage that you feel something arise here that you had not expected, even though you built this space with the meanings in the words of the meditation it could be that you become aware of a gentle presence arising within you or within the space. Many times gifts from Creator aspects of the world are given in this time of quiet following the active element of a meditation. Yet these gifts may be deep in the unconscious. Emphasise the silence. It is the silence in this great space of beauty that really allows the new to form, that feeds and transforms you.
Allow yourself now to come out of this deep space: pay attention to your breath, perhaps even your heartbeat in the silence. Think again of your muscles and watch the coursing of awareness returning to your limbs. Move this muscle or that, perhaps from your feet and then your hands up the limbs and up through the body into your neck and head, then maybe down again into your centre. The presence of this body with it’s pains, with the joys that it enables for you through the senses, sound from outside, the scent in the room, light coming through your eyelids. Some people like to pat their legs and arms from the feet and hands in towards the heart to encourage the return of inflowing awareness that serves our being present in everyday reality, present to and for the people around us, present to the world of the senses. The senses whose richness is the joy that can compensate for many of the sorrows of life.
If you find that you are sitting there miles away in a dream of thoughts, having lost and left the meditation a while back, as I often have, do not attack yourself for it. Allow that learning is a gentle process and that some days are better than others. Then choose either to return to the theme of the meditation and re-enter the process or simply go through the coming back procedure, even if you think you are back, and try again next time.
Steady and full return from a meditation is as important a part as any other. Leaving a meditation without proper return to every day consciousness is a soul equivalent to going out in the weather with no clothes on – Exposure robs one of the warmth one needs to maintain health.
Here are some word-image meditations that lead to the Core and strengthen our Presence. You might also choose a piece of great art work, simple is good, icons are traditional but more modern works lead into more personal spaces, or words from the Gospel of St John such as the prologue of 5 or 17 verses.
Psalm 46 v 10
I gaze into the darkness
In it there arises light,
Who is this light in the darkness?
It is I myself in my reality
This reality of the I
Doesn’t enter into my Earthly life
I am but a picture of it.
But I shall find it again
When with goodwill for the spirit
I pass through the gate of death.
Quiet I bear within me
I bear within myself
Forces to make me strong
Now will I be imbued
With their glowing warmth
Now will I fill myself
With my own will’s resolve
And I will feel the quiet
Pouring through all my being
When by my steadfast striving I become strong
To find within myself
The source of strength
The strength of inner quiet.
The Wishes of the Soul
The wishes of the soul are springing
The deeds of the will are thriving
The fruits of life are maturing
I feel my fate, my fate finds me
I feel my star, my star finds me
I feel my goals in life,
My goals are finding me
My soul and the great World are one
Life grows more radiant about me
Life grows harder for me
More abundant within me.
There are also longer image-building meditations of famous power and depth such as the Rose-Cross meditation or very simple sounds of ancient intensity such as the Öm or Aum sound that leads us steadily from outer awareness into our centre of peace, the well from which all being flows.
Come and join our retreat “The Sunrise of the Heart,” at Hawkwood College, January 6 – 10 2017 where we will be playing with these insights and ways of balance amongst others. The workshop is conducted by Tobias Kaye, (Sounding Bowls) and Wilhelmina Swindell (Phonetic therapies) January 6 -10, 2017. Contact Hawkwood: 01453 759034.