Friday 20 May 2016

Reflecting on meditating

I am just back from a pilgrimage in France: walking from Notre Dame de Paris to Notre Dame de Chartres (some 70 miles) over Pentecost weekend. There is much I could say about this: the beauty of these great Gothic cathedrals is worth several essays; the beauty of the Latin liturgies and accompanying plainchant is worth several more; and the walk in between, 26 miles or so on each of the first two days, and the remainder on the third, offers material for several more.

But the aspect I want to focus on is the link between meditating and the professional work I do; and not least the Thinking Environment approach I have been going on about recently.

I have blogged about meditation before (here in relation to Emotional Intelligence, and here as a sort of progress report on my own practice - and that post contains links to earlier ones on the same topic). But I think it is worth returning to the subject, not least as I find that I keep returning to it in my own thinking. And you can imagine that on the paths between Paris and Chartres there was plenty of time for reflection and meditation.

And one of the things that struck me was this: that in order to do what Nancy Kline advocates (and I have blogged about this previously, on several occasions) one must foster a particular approach to attention, that is at the heart of her approach. 

On the one hand, you must attend fully, generously and with complete commitment to the other person. The quality of your attention is truly generative of the other person's thinking. And at the same time, you must attend to sustaining the other features of the thinking environment: ease, equality and so on. And you also have to attend to the process: where is the thinker up to, and what is your most helpful response once she reaches the end of her current wave of thinking? And to do all of that requires the ability not to pay attention to yourself and your thoughts, feelings and responses in the interim.

It seems to me that meditating develops precisely the qualities necessary to accomplish all of that. The capacity to let go of all the noise in our own heads is one of the first that is developed with a regular practice of meditation. Following that, we acquire the discipline to direct our attention to where we want to direct it. We also develop a profound ease with silence; and in my experience, discomfort with silence is one of the most frequent reasons that people find true listening so difficult. And if our meditation is based on a religious practice, the notion of giving time to God, then we also develop the necessary generosity with our time that supports this type of approach, and quickly learn how time 'given' in this way is in fact time that nourishes us, and is repaid many times over.

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