Within my contemplative practice, I use a process called ‘celebrations’.
It is not a meditation as I use that term, because it includes discursive thinking and reflection.
It is not prayer: no being or presence or energy is addressed or born in mind as an auditor.
It is not lectio: it is based on a text I wrote myself, which I revise in the light of continuing inquiry and experience.
It is not simple ‘affirmation’ – because it works with an edge and can bring up ‘negative’ feelings and experiences of alienation, as well as being pleasurable and affirming.
The sequence, which can take variable amounts of time to work through, goes like this:
Celebrating body and senses.
Celebrating life energy.
Celebrating feelings, thoughts and images.
Celebrating the space inside the breath, and the healing in that space.
Celebrating the song in the heart in the song of the world:
Living presence, in a field of living presence,
Always enough; always at home.
I don’t say ‘I celebrate my …’. In this practice I use the gerund ‘celebrating’ and leave out ‘my’ so as to keep the focus processual and thereby avoid turning it in to a ‘who am I?’ practice. Such practices are widely available and are designed to disidentify practitioners from the body, senses, life energy, feelings, thoughts, images, ‘I-ness’ (or ego), finally to rest in an observer position, which, despite the residual dualism in the whole notion of observation, is often seen as the threshold of an enlightenment or theosis. In this practice I want to stay immersed in the process, and leave the ‘I’ question out.
I owe ‘celebrating’ to my background in humanistic psychology and co-counselling in particular. In a therapeutic context a phrase like ‘celebrating body’ could easily provide an ample agenda for a weekend workshop, given the level of negative body image and negative body experience that people find themselves dealing with – but also given the joy and liberation that come with healing. For the invitation to ‘celebrate’ paradoxically evokes distress, where the way of ‘celebration’ at best seems artificial and a worst a cruel mockery. The work is to stay with the notion of celebration, to give the distress its due and then let it go, and find a place where there is something authentically to celebrate. In the therapeutic context, a number of methods may be used to assist this process. In the contemplative context, aware contemplation itself can have a transmuting effect. When I turn my attention to my body and run through what’s going on throughout my body and five senses, I generally find myself noticing the strains, anxieties and discomforts of the moment and then moving to a celebration of embodiment itself, the sheer gift of being in this world, in this way, at this time and with this experience. The same is true of life energy, feelings, thoughts and images.
At the fourth line, ‘Celebrating the space inside the breath, and the healing in that space’ I find a change in feeling tone, since the practice tends to become naturally celebratory – though this is not always the case, since I may feel cut off from the power of contemplative practice itself. For this is an affirmation of meditative states in their therapeutic aspect, and I tend to drop in to a fully meditative state during this phase, letting go for a while of the words and celebration, indeed of the exercise itself for a period.
At the fifth line, I move to my sense of the Oran Mor (the song in the heart in the song of the world), which celebrates my sense of the numinous, of my connection to or involvement in Mystery. The last two lines introduce no new celebration. They are an elaboration of ‘celebrating the song in the heart in the song of the world’. I said in a recent post that I experienced the Goddess dissolving into the Oran Mor. In this practice I may likewise almost experience the ‘song in the heart’ dissolve into ‘the song of the world’. I can certainly visualise and intuit this. Terms like ‘song in the heart’, Goddess, Oran Mor, become porous and hard to distinguish. Yet here too, in this section of the practice, I can also experience dis-connection and alienation. If I find myself needing to accept this as my actual state, then the celebration is of the words themselves and the recognition that I wrote them myself, with integrity, at an earlier time: it is me who is reminding myself of what becomes available in a state of openness and celebration.