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The sparkling of truth devoid of I is the greatest austerity
News of the peace talks in Turkey between Russians and Ukrainians are top of the news. A welcome glimmer of hope. Any ray of hope helps to prevent cynicism and hardening of the heart. Yet it is a relief to hear that the Ukrainians are not grasping at false straws. We will judge Putin, they say, who said he had no intention of invading Ukraine until the day he did, on the actions of his invading forces not on his words.
When the mind succumbs to its shadow forces - despair, rage, jealousy, pride, lust to name a few – it can no longer be trusted to make good judgements. Inevitably, decisions we make in such states of mind make matters worse. Matters are already worse when we cannot identify and name the dark forces occupying us. How do you negotiate with someone with no critical self-awareness? It is the dearth of trust and without trust human relationships dissolve.
In our slow emergence from the Covid era we are waking up to the changes it has made. Not only to work-patterns and ways of communicating but to general mental health, not least among children. We have medicalised mental health, as we have done with most aspects of health, often reducing it to a problem that medication can solve. A student once told me that she went to her doctor to explain how depressed she felt after the death of her grandmother to whom she was very close and the infidelity of her boyfriend in whom she had put her trust. Before she had finished talking he had written her a prescription and told her to come back in a month.
As humans we are compound entities governed by physical, mental and spiritual laws. If we leave any one of these interwoven dimensions out of the equation it becomes unbalanced in all dimensions.
Some years ago the Vatican, in a particularly unhealthy phase, expressed its disapproval of having women spiritual directors in seminaries for priests. A sister I knew, who was a much loved and respected spiritual guide in a large seminary, told me they were told to prepare for an inspection from Rome. When the bishop-examiner arrived the seminary staff assembled to greet him. He entered affably and went round shaking hands with everyone, except the women.
How do you negotiate with the fanatical, the dishonest, the untrustworthy, the mentally-ill? By not pretending things are normal when they’re not. By speaking truthfully, as the Ukrainians are doing in their negotiations today. As Jesus did during his trials.
By understanding the saying of Ramana above. Truth sparkles when the shadowy forces of the ego are put away. Then in a simple, transparent space with no dark corners for shadows to hide, a great and corrective austerity reveals itself.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022
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