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Imitation as a form of Samadhi

     In preparation for my trip to Assisi I started reading a book about St. Clare*.  (I know most people think of St. Francis when going to Assisi, but St. Clare calls to me more.) Like St. Francis she came from a wealthy family. In Italian her name is "Chiara" meaning clear or bright one.  From a very young age she was a devout seeker of universal love eventually ran away from home to join Francis and his brothers who liveded outside the walls of Assisi.  Being a woman she was not allowed the freedoms that the men had. Eventually she moved into a modest convent of San Domiano just below the city walls of Assisi.  Here she did her devotions and contemplated day in and out on the crucifixion of Christ.

    Agnes of Prague was destined to become queen, but instead renounced her nobility and sought guidance from Clare as she was about to enter the monastery in Prague.  It is through the four letters of correspondence to Agnes  that we gain insight into the devout life of Clare. Clare's path to universal love was through Jesus Christ. Clare was known by the other sisters as being humble, charitable, and forgiving.  Clare's constant  contemplation on Jesus Christ on the cross transformed her.  When Agnes asked for direction to living a life of love Clare broke the process down in four steps: gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, and imitate Him. 

    When I came across Clare's four steps I was struck with the similarity this had with the last three steps of Ashtanga yoga - dharana(single focus), dhyana (sustained concentration), and samadhi( total absorption into the object of focus). In yoga there is no set object of focus, but for the intention of attaining higher states of conscious it is recommended to chose that object which already embodies that higher state.  Clare's object of focus was Christ on the cross. This constant focus, consideration, contemplation, and imitation(absorption) of the Christ who loved and forgave on the cross transformed Clare's being. Her commitment, and consistent practice elevated her experience of life even in her later years of sickness. She was a light for others in their suffering.

    Consider this, what are you focused on day in and day out? The focus could be through social media, the news, family, friends, money, or your pet. Do you focus on the faults of others or the good? Are you focused on fear or love? Are you focused on objects that represent alienation and violence, or community and belonging? How do you consider, contemplate, and imitate that object of focus?  Do you become defensive or paranoid towards others, or do you display compassion and welcome others through our shared humanity? Most importantly, is your object of focus that of which you wish to become?

*Delio, Ilia, Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love,Franciscan Media, Cincinnati, OH, 2007.



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