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Course Outline

Course Outline

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the heavens proclaim God’s handiwork.(Psalm 19:1)

Let us come together to remember how to listen and how to see……

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the heavens proclaim God’s handiwork.(Psalm 19:1)

Let us come together to remember how to listen and how to see……

The challenge to all Christians is to discover anew the truth that God’s love and liberation is for all of Creation, not just for humanity, and to seek new ways of living that restores balance, justice and hope to our endangered planet.

 

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few. Creation is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude… “When we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?” POPE FRANCIS

 

Speaking for the Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said: “Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God. The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the altar of creation, as microcosm and as mediator. Such is the true nature of things;” if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.

While the past decades have seen Christian congregations around the world taking on this challenge, at the beginning of the 1200s St Francis of Assisi provided Christians with an early role model for reconciliation with all creatures. 

We commit ourselves afresh not to flirt with the fallen world and its transient passions, but to love the whole world as God loves it. So we love the world in holy longing for the redemption and renewal of all creation and all cultures in Christ, the ingathering of God’s people from all nations to the ends of the earth, and the ending of all destruction, poverty, and enmity. (Cape Town Commitment 2010) www.lausanne.org/en/documents/ctcommitment.html

 

St Francis 1

 

St Francis 2

 

St Francis 3

 

Our Scriptural Roots…..

Hearken unto this, O Job: Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. (Job 37:14)

But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? (Job 12:7-9)

For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.(Romans 1:20)

 

The Church Fathers and Mothers……

St. Athanasius (297 - 373)
About the "Book of Creation," he says, "the creatures are like letters proclaiming in loud voices to their Divine Master and Creator the harmony and order of things." 
Creation declares its Creator, for creation, as if written in characters and by means of its order and harmony, declares in a loud voice its own Master and Creator.... For this reason, God, by his own Word, gave creation such order as is found therein, so that while He is by nature invisible, men might yet be able to know Him through His works.

Saint John Chrysostom (347 - 407)

Nature is Our Best Teacher. From the creation, 
learn to admire the Lord! And if any of the things which you see exceed your comprehension, and you are not able to find the reason for its existence, then for this reason, glorify the Creator that the wisdom of His works surpasses your own understanding. Indeed the magnitude and beauty of creation, and also the very manner of it, display a God who is the artificer of the universe. He has made the mode of this creation to be our best teacher, compounding all things in a manner that transcends the course of nature.
On the Statutes 12:7


Saint Augustine (354 - 430)
The Book of Nature

Some people, in order to discover God, read books. 
But there is a great book: 
the very appearance of created things. 
Look above you! Look below you! 
Note it. Read it. 
God, whom you want to discover, 
never wrote that book with ink. 
Instead He set before your eyes 
the things that He had made. 
Can you ask for a louder voice than that? 
Why, heaven and earth shout to you: 
"God made me!"

De Civit. Dei, Book XVI

 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 - 1153)

Learning from Creation

Believe one who knows:
You will find something greater
in woods than in books.
Trees and stones will teach you
that which you can never learn from masters.
Letter to Heinrich Murdach, 
quoted in The Letters of Bernard 106:107

 

Meister Eckhart (1260 - 1327)

Sermons in Creatures

Anyone who truly knows creatures may be excused from listening to sermons for every creature is full of God, and is a book.

Every Creature is a Book about God

Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. 
Every creature is full of God and is a book about God. 
Every creature is a word of God. 
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature – even a caterpillar – 
I would never have to prepare a sermon, 
so full of God is every creature. 

Sermons

 

Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873 - 1897)

The Flowers in the Book of Nature

Jesus set before me the ‘book of nature.’ Ladysmith
I understood how all the flowers He created are beautiful, how the splendour of the rose and whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.... 
And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. 
He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets, destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet.

Story of a Soul: Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux,
private translation by the Washington Province 
of Discalced Carmelites, 1975, text on the website. 

 

 

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift"

Albert Einstein

When you meditate, you learn to trust yourself. You become very aware of emotional and physical sensations that signal that you’re not making the best choices for YOU. You become attuned to the inner voice that can come as physical sensations, flashes of insight, urges, words or images, or through the often weird symbolism of dreams. 

How mental images form in the brain

Common examples of mental images include daydreaming and the mental visualization that occurs while reading a book. Another is of the pictures summoned by athletes during training or before a competition, outlining each step they will take to accomplish their goal.[23] When a musician hears a song, he or she can sometimes "see" the song notes in their head, as well as hear them with all their tonal qualities.[24] This is considered different from an after-effect, such as an after-image. Calling up an image in our minds can be a voluntary act, so it can be characterized as being under various degrees of conscious control.

According to psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker,[25] our experiences of the world are represented in our minds as mental images. These mental images can then be associated and compared with others, and can be used to synthesize completely new images. In this view, mental images allow us to form useful theories of how the world works by formulating likely sequences of mental images in our heads without having to directly experience that outcome.

There are several theories as to how mental images are formed in the mind. These include the Dual-Code Theory, the Propositional Theory, and the Functional-Equivalency Hypothesis. The Dual-Code Theory, created by Allan Paivio in 1971, is the theory that we use two separate codes to represent information in our brains: image codes and verbal codes. Image codes are things like thinking of a picture of a dog when you are thinking of a dog, whereas a verbal code would be to think of the word "dog".[26] Another example is the difference between thinking of abstract words such as justice or love and thinking of concrete words like elephant or chair. When abstract words are thought of, it is easier to think of them in terms of verbal codes- finding words that define them or describe them. With concrete words, it is often easier to use image codes and bring up a picture of a human or chair in your mind rather than words associated or descriptive of them.

The Propositional Theory involves storing images in the form of a generic propositional code that stores the meaning of the concept not the image itself. The propositional codes can either be descriptive of the image or symbolic. They are then transferred back into verbal and visual code to form the mental image.[27]

The Functional-Equivalency Hypothesis is that mental images are "internal representations" that work in the same way as the actual perception of physical objects.[28] In other words, the picture of a dog brought to mind when the word dog is read is interpreted in the same way as if the person looking at an actual dog before them.

 

 

 

 

 

Advice for Practicing the Concentration Exercises

Find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. If you wish, you may sit crossed legged on the floor, but most people would find it more comfortable to sit on a chair. Sit with your spine erect.

Take a few calm deep breaths and then relax your body, by directing your attention to it, and relaxing each muscle, from head to toe.

Practice each of the exercises below for about 10 minutes, and after a few weeks of training, lengthen the time to 15 minutes.

Start with the first exercise. Practice it every day, until you are able to do it without any distractions or forgetfulness, and without thinking about anything else, for at least three continuous minutes.

Every time you get distracted, start again, until the 10 or 15 minutes pass away.

You have to be honest with yourself, and proceed to the next one, only after you are convinced that you have practiced it correctly and with full concentration.

There is no timetable, since this could be frustrating. If, for example, I tell you to practice a certain exercise for a specific number of days, two things might happen. You might get disappointed, if you cannot get the desired concentration within the allotted time period. You might also proceed to the next exercise, without practicing correctly the previous one.

Mastering the exercises successfully can take days, weeks, months and sometimes even more.

Put your whole attention into the exercises, and do not think about anything else. Be careful not to fall asleep, daydream or think about other matters. The moment you find yourself thinking about something else, stop the exercise and start again. After you become proficient, lengthen the time, and if possible, include another session in the afternoon.

Do not attempt too much at the beginning, and don't try to perform them all at once. Go slowly, without overdoing them or tensing your brain.

If you find it too difficult, or thoughts distract you and make you think about other matters, don't despair. Everyone encounters difficulties along the way. If you persevere and never give up, in spite of difficulties and disturbances, success will crown your efforts. Remember, even those with powerful concentration had to exercise their minds.

It does not matter if your concentration is weak now. It can be developed and strengthened like any other ability, through training.

In time, you will find out that you can concentrate anywhere, anytime, no matter where you are. You will be able to focus your mind, think and function under the most trying circumstances, while remaining calm, relaxed and collected. The reward is worth the effort a thousand fold.

Now, let's start with the exercises. For the full benefit, it is advisable that you practice each exercise for one additional week, after you are convinced that you are practicing it correctly and with full attention.

 

 

 

Concentration exercises

Exercise 1
Take a book, any book, and count the words in any one paragraph. Then, count them again, to be sure that you have counted them correctly.

After a few times, do so with two paragraphs.

When this becomes easy, count the words of a whole page. Do the counting mentally and only with your eyes, without pointing your finger at each word.

Exercise 2
Count backwards in your mind, from one hundred to one.

Exercise 3
Count in your mind from one hundred to one, skipping each three numbers, that is 100, 97, 94, etc.

Exercise 4
Choose an inspiring word or phrase, or just a simple sound, and repeat it silently in your mind for five minutes. When your mind can concentrate more easily, try to reach ten minutes of uninterrupted concentration.

Exercise 5
Take a fruit, an apple, orange, banana or any other fruit, and hold it in your hands.

Examine the fruit from all its sides, while keeping your whole attention focused on it. Do not let yourself be carried away by irrelevant thoughts that might arise, or thoughts about the grocery where you bought the fruit, how and where it was grown, its nutritive value, etc. Stay calm, ignoring, and showing no interest in these thoughts.

Just look at the fruit, focus your attention on it without thinking about anything else, and examine its shape, smell, taste and the sensation it gives you when you touch it.

Exercise 6
This is the same as exercise number 5, only that this time you visualize the fruit, instead of looking at it.

Start, by looking at the fruit and examining it for about 2 minutes, just as you did in exercise number 5. Then close your eyes, and try to see, smell, taste and touch the fruit in your imagination. Try to see a clear and well defined image. If the image becomes blurred, open your eyes, look at the fruit for a short while, and then close your eyes and continue the exercise.

You may imagine holding the fruit in your hands, as in the previous exercise, or imagine it standing on a table.

Exercise 7
Take a small simple object such as a spoon, a fork, or a glass. Concentrate on one of these objects. Watch the object from all sides without any verbalization, that is, with no words in your mind. Just watch the object without thinking with words about it.

Exercise 8
After becoming proficient with the above exercises, you may try this exercise.

Draw on a piece of paper a small triangle, square or a circle, about three inches in size, and paint it with any colour you wish.

Put the paper with the drawing in front of you, and concentrate your whole attention on the shape you have drawn. For now, only the drawing exists for you, with no unrelated thoughts or distractions.

Keep your attention on the drawing, and avoid thinking about anything else. Be careful not to strain your eyes.

Exercise 9
Start the same as number 8, but after looking at the figure for a moment, close your eyes and visualize the figure with the eyes closed. If you forget how the figure looks like, open your eyes for a few seconds, look at the figure, and then close your eyes and continue with the exercise.

Exercise 10
The same as number 9, but now visualize with your eyes open.

Exercise 11
Try for at least five minutes, to stay without thoughts. Do this exercise, only after you have practiced all the previous ones successfully. If you practiced the preceding exercises correctly, you will be able to impose silence on your thoughts, even if this is at first, just for a short while.