A Clarification on CM Exercises 1.1-1.5
Since the publication of Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft, I have occasionally received feedback that indicates a misunderstanding of intention for the exercises on mindful and prayerful behavior. Apparently, some people are under the impression that I think every Masonic activity should be engaged as a highly structured and internally focused exercise such as prescribed in these five. Let me be very clear that this is not the case.
At the beginning of each of these exercises, the instructions state, “At the next Masonic function you attend….” The word next was intended to limit each exercise to a one-time experience. Then, at the end of 1.5, this suggestion is offered: “Furthermore, you are advised to continue practicing mindful and prayerful behavior at all times, but especially when engaged in Masonic activities.” That statement is about making mindful and prayerful behavior more of an ongoing way of life, including Masonry, not about making everything a structured exercise.
Perhaps the most misleading comment in these exercises is this: “Avoid superfluous and idle talk, but be courteous and considerate, as every Mason should on all occasions.” I admit this is poorly worded, and I will change it if I ever publish another edition of Contemplative Masonry. The last clause is meant to re-emphasize the importance of being courteous and considerate, not avoiding superfluous and idle talk. Each of us certainly has different notions about what constitutes superfluous and idle talk, and there is some social value in even the most meaningless verbal interactions between people. At the very least, such things communicate an awareness and acknowledgement of each other’s presence, and that’s good.
For brothers misunderstanding my intentions, I apologize for contributing to any confusion. I can understand feelings of concern that I was advocating an approach to Masonic experience that would cut out the warm and spontaneous experiences of brotherhood. Anyone who has attended Masonic functions with me knows how much I truly value the fraternal aspect of our tradition, everything from lighthearted banter to deep personal connections to profound philosophizing. The last thing I would want is for my work to be misunderstood as a call to do away with any of that. Indeed, my experience has been that practicing mindful presence has significantly enhanced my attentiveness, empathy, and enjoyment in genuinely connecting with my brothers. I wish that for you, too.