“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.” –Arthur Zajonc
Krista Tippett, author, producer, and host of the Public Radio show, “Speaking of Faith” writes, “Focused Attention, Open Awareness” – I’m not sure I’d seen the words “physicist” and “contemplative” in the same sentence many times, much less found them together as descriptors of the same person, before I met Arthur Zajonc.”
The opening words in Tippett’s e-mail announcement for the June 24, 2010 show, “Holding Life Consciously” grabbed me. I had not yet listened to the show or podcast on my iPod, but immediately threads of subtle language began to weave in me: Focus. Attention. Open Awareness. Alert. Alive. Stillness.
Gift yourself. Take a minute to read the quotes in this blog post. Or, read the full description I read in the e-mail announcement, and listen to the June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously”
As you read, notice and ask yourself:
What opens in me as I listen to this conversation?
Is my inner knowing affirmed with any insight?
Does a phrase or turn of words evoke an inner smile and affirmation within me?
From June 24, 2010 Speaking of Faith show, “Holding Life Consciously:
“Zajonc’s own life experience has been recently reshaped by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He has seen the progression of this illness in other members of his family, and so has some understanding of what is ahead. This is at one and the same time a source of grief and a continuation of the adventure Arthur Zajonc has long been on — to explore what holding life consciously means, now with a progressively debilitating condition. He tells me: “There are two main types of meditation and both of them are part of my life, which one is a concentration and the other is what I call open awareness. It’s a very open presence.” In the concentration phase, tremors actually worsened.
You have a line of poetry or from scripture or an image and you bring your full undivided single-pointed attention to that content. But as we’re straining mentally to do that, the hand begins to tremor more. And then when you release the image and become very still and quiet and open yourself wide, the hand slowly calms to the point where indeed your whole body feels at ease and the tremor disappears. Interesting…
I can see that the mind and the body are so delicately attuned to one another that these practices affect the Parkinson’s state itself. … So here’s the question I pose to myself.
“Is it possible to be alive, active in the world, and yet have such calm, such kind of inner openness and presence that one can lead a life, at least in part, that is an expression of that quality of meditative quiescence that’s on the one hand quite alert and on the other hand, completely at ease, completely at rest.”
This post first appeared June 28, 2010, in my Spiritual Directors International blog post. http://www.sdiworld.org.
What do you think? Is it possible to hold life consciously? What spiritual practices help you cultivate an alive, active, calm?