• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Sunday, 13 July 2014 17:11

Channelling stillness and simplicity

Rate this item
(2 votes)

Anne and Sr Carmel Moore rsjMichael O’Connor writes about the Living Waters Christian Meditation Centre, founded by Sister Carmel Moore of the Sisters of Saint Joseph Lochinvar as the home of the universal meditation community in Newcastle, where one can learn to find stillness and simplicity in a world of chaos and complexity.

‘I wonder if they will be channelling John Main and Laurence Freeman?’

This was my crazy thought as I drove to the Living Waters Christian Meditation Centre at The Junction to interview Carmel Moore and Anne Cuskelly. Anne has succeeded Carmel as Co-ordinator of the centre.

Before introducing Carmel and Anne, I should perhaps introduce John and Laurence.

John Main (1926 – 1982) learned meditation while serving with the British Colonial Service in East Asia. He went on to lecture in International Law at Trinity College, Dublin. He then became a Benedictine monk.

During monastic training he sought assistance with the meditation practice he had adopted, only to be told, “That’s not our way of praying.” He toed the line.

Meditation returned as a force that could not be ignored when John discovered that it was, in reality, a largely forgotten practice traced back to the Desert Fathers of the early Christian centuries.

Laurence Freeman is also a Benedictine monk and successor to John Main in reviving the practice of meditation. He fosters it across the globe through the ecumenical World Community for Christian Meditation.

Surprisingly, I did experience a little sensation of channelling.

Carmel has three decades of teaching experience, including long years as principal. She had moved on to pastoral work in hospitals with the challenge of engaging with people in traumatic and harrowing situations. “I knew I was made for something else,” she says. This had been John Main’s experience – full immersion and success in a variety of fields (including headmaster), but always a sense of being drawn to something more.

Carmel established Living Waters as Newcastle’s cell of the universal meditation community. She has facilitated meditation and taught courses for eighteen years, seeing growth in the numbers of those drawn to stillness and simplicity in a world of chaos and complexities. For many of those years, meditation was Carmel’s needed stillness while carrying other demanding responsibilities within her congregation as a Sister of Saint Joseph Lochinvar.

John Main’s untimely death dropped the mantle of responsibility for his ministry on Laurence Freeman. Carmel was seeking a less dramatic succession. The death of one possible candidate and the departure of another to a hermitage on the west coast of Ireland perhaps made Carmel a little concerned about her succession planning.

Anne has been what Carmel was hoping and praying for. You can tell Carmel is delighted. Surprisingly though, it seems that Carmel was not so well acquainted with Anne prior to popping the question, ‘Will you take over the role of Co-ordinator?’

Anne had encountered Carmel many years ago when she heard her speak to a Charlestown Ladies Group which benefited cancer sufferers. Following some health problems, she attended a meditation course, and stayed on for the intervening eleven years. Surprisingly, she made no obvious impression on Carmel. Anne attended, as many do, to learn and to practise meditation without engaging in much social interaction. Attendees typically come, meditate, and go. No conversation over a cup of tea.

What, then, moved Carmel to approach Anne? “I didn’t know a lot about her. I don’t know why I said to Anne, ‘Would you run the Centre?’ She immediately said ‘yes.’”

“Did I?” queries Anne. “Didn’t I say something like I will think about it?” “You were so definite,” assures Carmel. “You wanted to do it. I found out later about all your qualities.”

Then to me, “I was very sure when I asked her. She is the right person. I can say it from my heart.”

That heart has committed to promoting the practice of meditation for so long, it’s now understandably keen to relax a bit. “My aim is to do less and less. It’s not working out this month!” thanks to the various activities Carmel continues to facilitate.

Relaxing – apart from meditation and the essential weekly golf – does not characterise Anne’s life as co-ordinator. The role is voluntary, not quite full-time (“I didn’t know it would take so much time”), but one in which Anne thrives. “My passion is meditation,” says Anne, but she is passionate too in promoting the practice. She’s preparing to engage eight new learners in an upcoming ‘Essential Teaching Weekend’ and a day seminar for teachers at St Paul’s Primary School, Gateshead, is planned. “Wow. I didn’t know about that. Great!” beams Carmel. “Just sitting here hearing Anne is very gratifying.”

According to Carmel there is “a whole constellation of gifts” needed for the role, and this constellation she sees in Anne. Carmel is concerned that the state co-ordinating body has observed Anne’s skills and could attempt to lure her away. She is pleased there are current family obstacles to such a move. “What’s to happen next will come to you at the right moment.”

What does Anne look for from Carmel? “A mentor. Carmel has lots of good ideas. For example she knows where to focus. As long as I know she’s always there for testing ideas, I will be fine.” In response to Carmel’s expressed confidence in her talents and qualities Anne says, “I hope I can live up to it.” Carmel has no doubts.

What are these ladies promoting? Not themselves, obviously. People come for lots of reasons, with needs, searching. Carmel and Anne share the conviction that we seek the fullness of life within, in stillness and simplicity. That fullness is found, they offer, in a relationship with Jesus facilitated by the practice of meditation.

They will quote John Main: “The all important aim in Christian meditation is to allow God's mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are…” Anne comments that people always observe that she is smiling and joyful. She is determined to share the source of her joy.

What is it they offer in practice? Simplicity itself, but simplicity that demands commitment and perseverance – no expectation of instant gratification.

Meditation, morning and evening between twenty and thirty minutes, is recommended. Sit still, upright, relaxed but alert - eyes gently closed, breathing calmly and regularly. Interiorly repeat a single-word mantra. The sacred word MA-RA-NA-THA (‘Come Lord’) is recommended. It is repeated gently in equal syllables. Thoughts and images – spiritual or otherwise – are left behind as attention is focused solely on the simple repetition.

Laurence Freeman tells of a long-term practitioner of meditation on the verge of giving up. Nothing was happening! A short time later he experienced trauma in his life. Uncharacteristically he faced it and dealt with it calmly and peacefully. Something had happened!

Meditation is a simple practice which enriches, and is enriched by, other forms of prayer and spiritual activity. Carmel’s and Anne’s rich lives endorse it. Carmel’s dedication has assisted meditation to take root and flower in our region. Anne’s devotion and skill fosters growth of this ancient blessing now and in time to come. Carmel smiles happily. Anne smiles too.

To learn more of what is offered at Living Waters Meditation Centre, Kenrick Street, The Junction, please P 0407 436 808 or E This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article was first published in the July 2014 edition of Aurora, the publication of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland Newcastle.

Like Aurora magazine on Facebook.