A modern antagonist to the spiritual and human life is multi-tasking. Doing more than one thing at a time can disperse attention and remove perception from the present moment. Multi-tasking is the antithesis of meditation. Meditation is the practice of attention on the one thing – the mantra. This practice trains us in the art of living life generally with attention on the one thing. This is a part of simplicity, of simple living. The mantra can focus our attention on the Divine and on simple being. Multi-tasking is all about attention dispersed across doing.
Benedict does not want us multi-tasking the oratory.
The oratory should be just what its name implies and nothing else should be done or stored there.
It is a space for prayer, nothing more. This seems obvious and right. We need a physical space of focus that can help us encounter the God who is everywhere. In this dedicated space we learn to recognise the experience of this everywhere God. We then take this experience into the spaces and places outside the oratory and so come to recognise the presence of God outside the oratory. Life then can become a prayer.
If the oratory, the meditation room, or our prayer spaces generally, have things in them that obscure the purpose of that space, clutter it and distract our attention away from the work of prayer, then the space works against the giving of attention wholly to the presence of God in prayer. External uses of energy can subtlety complicate the work of internally focusing energy during meditation. We need all the help we can get if our minds are to become radically simple.
Meditation develops this simplicity of being uncluttered, both internally and externally. In time we may find ourselves de-cluttering and simplifying the physical of our lives to reflect the developing experience of freedom, space, and simplicity happening within us. We find ourselves becoming delightfully congruent, harmonious, integrating.
Let all go out with the deepest silence.
Learning to live with and in silence is simply another aspect of a life de-cluttering. Using fewer words is the same as throwing out those boxes gathering dust under the bed, or that pile of magazines in the living room. As our internal lives de-clutter words are used less.
Speaking in the oratory and not leaving with silence betrays a mind still too caught (for some reason) in the stuff that we use to cover silence and the invitation to simplicity. At Meditatio House the meditation room must be the place where we soak in silence, catch it, be in it – then we can take silence with us. It is the heart of the house that promotes the cause of the heart: stillness in silence so that we can rest in divine Love and be transformed by it.
Where is the oratory today in the lives of meditators generally? Do we have a space ‘set aside’ in the home? This simple space set aside can be a reminder of the silent space within us. This is particularly important as we live each day in a world where physical space is used for competition and complication. If there is a physical space set aside it can mean that the meditator has an established practice and that the mantra is becoming rooted in the heart. As this happens we discover our heart as the oratory we take with us ‘into the world’.
Another term used for multi-tasking is ‘time deepening’. This speaks of an illusion. Doing more than one thing at a time does not deepen time. Time is time. The paradox, however, of focusing attention on one thing at a time is that we have the chance to experience the eternal that is mysteriously and somehow ‘in time’. As we attend to activity as a contemplative practice, giving attention to the one thing at a time, we can experience divinity as the eternal in time. In this deeper part of reality time deepens into timelessness.
Benedict wants the oratory to be a timeless, eternal place.