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There are three springs at Bonnevaux. I like to walk between them and show them to people. For me, they have come to symbolise the three levels of consciousness that we open and connect on the path into light.
The first spring is close to the entrance, at the top of the gentle valley in the centre of which the old monastery seems to float lightly. This spring is like the surface level of the mind with its daily traffic of people, deliveries and the comings and goings of the life of the community and guests. When we start to meditate we interpret this mental traffic as distraction and feel defeated by it in our humble attempt to say the mantra. How intense or agitated this level may be varies with external circumstances. It depends too on how much input and stimulation we expose ourselves to before becoming too distracted. If we don’t take fright or become discouraged, we will see over time the level of noise reduce and of order strengthen. The mind is difficult to tame and concentration is elusive but regular practice develops the equanimity necessary for going deeper. At this level we don’t need to try to achieve perfect silence. The to and fro of thoughts, hopes and fears and fantasy are natural and necessary for life in the world. It is enough that they reduce and do not block us from going to the next spring.
In Bonnevaux it is in the sunken garden near the river, where the medieval church used to be. In the mind it is like the hard disc of consciousness storing memories of all that we have gone through. A few months ago, this spring appeared to have dried up which saddened me as it is a symbol of where memory is stored in the dream world but also in our bodies. Here the quality of distraction is different. But the journey of attention the mantra is leading us into is the same. The flow of consciousness here feels slower. But there is nothing that is hidden that will not be brough to light.  Perseverance brings the healing with which sacred wells were associated in the past and which is the thing we now need most and ask for least. A vein of pure creativity runs through the mind at this level, the lower garden, which delightfully reminds us of how consciousness can recall the forgotten and perceive the familiar in surprising new ways. If we learn to let go of the insights and solutions to problems that break the surface we will make the next step more smoothly. We can learn to park them and pick them up at a pre-arranged place later. We are not repressing or ignoring the Spirit, as people sometimes fear, but we simply don’t tarry on the path of the mantra we are treading.
In my feeling the third spring at the far end of Bonnevaux is the most powerful. When I stand there, I feel the presence of many previous dwellers back through time but held in a constant peaceful presentness. It is like the beginning of creation. Protected by a small, rounded wall built, who knows when, a little visible bubbling breaks the surface. Small but continuous, a little river flows from it gaining strength as it goes.
Different and distant from each other, these three springs are active simultaneously. Down at the lowest, at the sunken spring of memory, the one at the entrance with the daily comings and goings is still working. In the journey of consciousness all levels are open at the same time. Nothing shuts down but the influence of the deepest one, the spring of light, is felt on the other two bringing connection, unity and peace.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2023
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