Meditating as a bird

Translated by yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru
After Jean-Yves Leloup, “Notes on Hesychasm”

Father Seraphim said one day to the young philosopher: “The stable position, the consequent orientation towards God’s light and profound respiration, naturally rhythmic as the ocean do not form hesychast meditation, yet. You must learn to meditate as a bird now”. And taking his hand, he took him to a small cell where two turtle-doves had built a nest on top. Their gleeful chitter delighted him at first but ended up annoying him. He thought they chose to whisper sweet love whispers exactly when he prepared to sleep.

The young man, baffled, asked the monk about the meaning of all those and for how long the comedy would continue. The mountain, the poppy and the ocean were all right (even though, someone from outside could ask himself about the connection between those and Christianity), but to come to those languishing birds as meditation master, that was much too much!

Father Seraphim explained then patiently that in the “Old Testament” the word that expressed the state of meditation had the root “haga”, which was translated in Greek as melete – meletan and which in Latin was translated as meditari – meditatio. The original term’s root meant “to murmur in whisper”. The same root often expressed the animals’ cry, for instance, lion’s roar (Isaia, 31,4), sparrow’s chitter and dove’s babble (Isaia, 38,14), as well as bears’ snarl.

“As you can see, we do not have bears here, on Mount Athos. This is why I took you to these turtle-doves. Their teaching for you is the same, anyway. You must meditate with your neck, too, using it not only for breathing, but for murmuring in whisper God’s name day and night.

When you are happy, you hum a song without even noticing, or you murmur a couple of meaningless words and finally, that murmur makes vibrate your whole being in a simple and calm joy.

Profound meditation means letting the turtle-dove’s chatter echo in you, means to let the song that appears in your heart rise and overflow in you, as the flower’s scent surrounds you…Meditation also means breathing while singing inside, without external sounds.

Without trying to find the profound meaning, I suggest you keep on repeating, murmuring, humming, making deeply and fully vibrate in you these words that fill with love for God the hearts of the monks on Mount Athos: Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison”. The young man was not very delighted as he had known the meaning of the Greek words for a long time: “Lord, have mercy”.

As he intuited the state very well, Father Seraphim smiled: “Yes, this is one of the meanings of the expression too, but there are others like: “Oh my Lord, I beg you to send Thy Holly Ghost upon me! May Thy divine blessing come over me and everybody! May Thy name be eternally blessed!” and so on. But I have told you it is not the right time to insist on meanings as they will reveal to you, sooner or later, when the time is right. For now it is enough to become sensitive and very attentive to the secret and elevating vibration that these words awake in your heart and body. Then harmonize this vibration with the rhythm of your breathing. When too many thoughts bother you, use this invocation only, breathe as deep as you can, keep your spine straight and still and you will find out the road to Isyhia, the inner profound peace that God gives to those who love Him.”

Soon enough the young man was already familiarized with that expression (”Lord, have mercy”). After a while, he was even able to say it from within his heart, not only his lips.

Then he did not try to mentally understand the meaning of the words and their continuous repetition brought him a profound, ecstatic peace that was completely unknown to him before. He gradually discovered what must have been Apostle Toma’s inner attitude, when he saw Jesus resurrected. It is known he said then: “Kyrie eleison, My Lord and God”.

This simple invocation suddenly deepened him in a state of intense respect towards everything existing but in a state of overwhelming adoration for what was hidden at the root of each existence. Father Seraphim said: “Now, it is good to know you are not very far from meditating like a man. This is why I want to teach you the meditation of Abraham, now”.

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