The second of the monthly Bonnevaux Health Seminars led by Dr Barry White took place online on Tuesday. It has attracted a large following because of his deep, integral understanding of what health means and, no doubt, people’s anxiety and curiosity about their physical and mental well-being during this pandemic. He places meditation at the centre of his model of health which affords it a unifying role for the different aspects he will talk about in later talks such as sleep, exercise, diet and pain.
Barry’s thought on this theme has been evolving for years and we are receiving the benefits of it now. Some people’s thinking on a subject jumps from branch to branch while staying at the same level. His goes consistently deeper and shows the root system that supports the whole tree of knowledge. I was struck this time especially by his insight based on John Main’s view that to transcend our limitations we have first to accept them. Barry applied this to our personal health. Sometimes we must just accept our infirmities of body, mind or character, even our mortality. Yet mysteriously this acceptance reveals new sources and ways of healing and with it also comes unique personal insight into the meaning of suffering.
We learn these things best by experience which allows us to interiorise the knowledge it brings so that we can’t ever forget it. Not only dramatic events do this but also small annoying things ,such as kept happening to my internet connection whenever I spoke. Until then, the wifi seemed to hold up; but whenever I spoke the ominous warning flashed on the screen ‘Interconnection connection is unstable’ like a message that had escaped from the dark hole at the centre of the Cloud. Each time I hoped for the best but inevitably the connection dropped, my words evaporated into the ether and I had to wait to see if and when the connection would restart,which it did. I wasn’t so unstable interiorly as to throw my laptop on the ground but after the tenth interruption the fourth of the fruits of the spirit (patience) was hard to find. By then I realised that there was nothing to do except to accept the limitations imposed, whoever, if anyone, was responsible. I soon understood I had to choose between audio and video and rightly chose to be heard rather than to be seen. The struggle with frustration and impatience was for the time being, over.
Once a young person told me he had been unsuccessfully seeking his ‘personal why’ for so long but that meditation was teaching him to live with his failures to find it. He felt sure he would find it one day but not in the way he had been imagining.
We would waste Lent if we treated it just as a way to try harder, increase our will power and succeed better in getting to our personal whys. A contemplative Lent requires – as does the understanding of health we are exploring in the seminars – a central and regular contemplative practice. It renders us teachable. We learn that to fight our limitations with the ego only intensifies the ego. To accept them with a true love of self converts them into a bridge beyond the ego, into a friend beyond future misunderstanding.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021