By Dhiraja McBride
Saint Teresa of Avila lived in the Sixteenth Century – from 1515 to 1582. She lived, not surprisingly, in Avila in Spain. She wrote extensively on the spiritual life and prayer and meditation. In her book The Interior Castle she writes:
I think I read somewhere that the soul is then like a tortoise or sea-urchin, which retreats into itself. Those who said this no doubt understood what they were talking about.
Kina they are called in this far-distant archipelago.
Scramble around the rocks on a clean Pacific seashore (we were at Red Rocks: the wild shore, the rugged land, out to sea – whales breaching in Cook Strait) and gaze into the other world beneath the surface of the water. You can eat any of the seaweed growing there (I tried it at Red Rocks, quite tasty); you can delight in the alien beauty of anemones and shellfish and tiny fish all living their distant, subaqueous lives in the ever-changing waters.
And there – the kina, as spiky as any jolly hedgehog in your garden; round and spiked with a hundred spiky spikes.
Sit down and take a look.
Sit down and take a look at your everyday mind.
Thoughts: the plight of the elephants, Christmas gifts, your cousin’s divorce, politics, media, Facebook statuses, likes, dislikes, lunch, dinner, whether your colleague is pulling his weight, whether you should be concerned if you colleague is pulling his weight, your sore left ankle, getting the bumper on the car fixed, the notion of insurance, whether you should move to Melbourne, whether you can control your thoughts, cancer, death, inadequacy … around and around the mind – jab, jab, jab with those little kina spikes.
The definition of meditation that has always struck me as the most apt, and the most encouraging, is the one that Sri Chinmoy gives in his book ‘Philosopher-thinkers’
“Meditation is silence, energising and fulfilling.”
The relief of it! The sea urchin withdrawn into itself. No more the spiny turmoil of the mind. Silence.
Sixteenth Century or Twenty-first Century; Avila or Lyall Bay – the sea urchin can retreat into itself; one can always step away into silence.