The Prayer of the Heart
To deliver oneself up,
to hand oneself over,
entrust oneself completely to the silence
of a wide landscape of woods and hills,
or sea and desert; to sit still while
the sun comes up over the land
and fills its silences with light.
...few are willing to belong completely
to such silence, to let it soak into their bones,
to breathe nothing but silence, to feed
on silence, and to turn the very substance
of their lifeinto a living and vigilant silence.
~ Thomas Merton (from Thoughts in Solitude)
They call it “doomscrolling.” It is a newly coined term from our present time of pandemic and political upheaval. The word describes scrolling through the posts on social media looking for updates about disaster, injustice, or cruelty. It is usually done compulsively, mindlessly, and can easily become addictive. Many people are addicted.
We are living in times which can torment, sadden, amaze, and leave us exhausted, frustrated, and withdrawn. We may see ways through, hope for different outcomes, and pray ceaselessly, but we are still in this here and now with these burdens to bear. The fact that we bear them so unevenly and sometimes unjustly feels crushingly unbearable sometimes, or all the time.
We try to be positive. It isn’t as easy as before, everything seems larger, more complicated, there is so much disharmony and discord seething online and in our cities. And sometimes in our families. We may come to the realization that we are not going to think our way out of all of this. While great ideas are needed, we individuals living our lives need to take a different approach. We need to see differently.
“So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.”
~ John O'Donohue
I can’t use rational arguments and data to heal with is going on within me these days, any more than I can change the mind of someone ranting on Facebook by using data and rational arguments as to why they are misreading a situation. Fear and a sense of being left behind can make us true believers in things which seem to offer certainty, even when those things are false and harmful.
The term “acquiescence of the heart” is something I read in a novel by P.D. James about murders in a seminary. It describes a moment when the detective is attending an evening service and he lets all of his thinking and knowing fall away for a time. He acquiesces to his heart and it provides a balm in that moment and leads to a transformation.
Just thinking, using the intellect, or feeling, using our limbic system (emotions) will not provide us with what we need in these unprecedented times. We need the deeper wisdom of the heart, the intuitive soul-driven knowing which, when we open to it, floods our system with what we need when we need it. It is a deep wisdom which knits our intellect and emotions together so that we can take a different approach.
"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Your world seems less solid, more roomy and spacious. The burden lightens."
~ Pema Chödrön
This acquiescence of the heart is a surrender. We surrender to the deeper self at the expense of continuing to feed our fear-based ego’s need to be fully informed of all that is going wrong – the same ego that leads us to “rubberneck” when there is a car wreck. Doomscrolling, like other addictive patterns, gives us a jolt of energy from time to time, but it cannot heal. Until we can look at news, information, and internet memes through different, more empowered eyes, we should look away.
The good news is that underneath all of these conditions and appearances and facts lies the “Infinite in smiling repose.” The Universe and its divinity are undisturbed. We are disturbed, but we always have access to that deeper knowing if we will but go into solitude and do our spiritual practices with a quiet demeanor and a clear intention.
We can, in fact we must, deepen our practice so as to be fortified during these times and in the future. We are in a time of rapid change with complex challenges and our response must come from a higher level of consciousness if we are to give our gifts to sustainable human communities and societies.
Let us acquiesce to our hearts.
“When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the ‘newness,’ the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance.”
~ Thomas Merton
NOTE: Jim will be offering a course in Metaphysical Psychology beginning in September and running until June 2021. If you would like more information, email Jim at DrJim-Lockard@att.net
ARTWORK "HEART": Steve Fields