This week I moved from Canberra, Australia to London, England to spend a year at Meditatio House. Meditatio House is a community house of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). It is a contemplative house which has at its heart three times of meditation per day, as well as a living out of the Rule of Saint Benedict. It is contemplative in that its focus is a fostering of the personal and communal experience of God. The Rule of Benedict provides the guide and structure for this. The goal is nothing less than a human transformation (wrought by God) into an ever deepening expression of love, both personal and communal.
Meditatio House is part of a broader outreach of the WCCM called Meditatio. Meditatio is the name given to the WCCM’s attempt to enter into a dialogue with secular consciousness and the broader contemporary world. The premise of this outreach is not to proselytize. The premise is that all of life holds within it seeds of transformative love – seeds which the practice of meditation and Christian meditation can help foster into growth. The WCCM has organised Meditatio events during the past few years which have been a forum for dialogue with areas such as mental health, education, and business.
Meditatio House is the communal expression of the Meditatio outreach. The live-in community includes oblates and novice oblates of the WCCM. Oblates are Christian meditators who have felt drawn to the spirit of the Rule of Benedict, sensing that the Rule can assist them in their Christian life. Oblates are non-cloistered monastics, that is monastics who are not monks. Oblates have families and careers. Our invitation is to be a kind of contemplative yeast within the broader culture of busyness and distraction. This is an invitation given to all Christian meditators, indeed to all people who value a life of self-expression rather than one with an over focus on ego-doing.
My first week at Meditatio House has been a gentle one. Coming to England from Australia involves the experience of jetlag. I have had to recover and rest. And I picked up a cold. I came from a Canberra winter (-2, -3C overnight) into an English summer of 25C. As well as this, I arrived just in time to experience the longest summer day. This meant that the sun did not set until 11pm! I am only now beginning to experience today as if it were today and not tomorrow.
One of the things which drew me to Meditatio House was the three times daily meditation (7am, 12noon, and 6.30pm). It has been such a delight to experience not just this but also the effects that this communal commitment to regular meditation has on the atmosphere and focus of the house. There is peace here and a compassionate context in which attention can turn more easily to the divine life ready and waiting to support creative and loving expression.
Already I am sensing that my meditation, done with this community, is deepening. One of the challenges with mantra based meditation is to allow our attention to embrace the mantra, to experience the mantra as a graced word which gently draws attention away from self awareness and into the silent depth within. It is in this depth where our humanity and the love life of God are lost in each other. It is the experience of this depth that makes us more loving and stable people. Bit by bit the power we give to fear and anxiety fades and soon we cannot help but conscious-lessly love – that is love with no real thought for ourselves and our own agenda.
This embracing of the mantra involves a reciprocal letting go of our own ego-based self reflecting and self awareness. This is why a regular practice of meditation is so important. It is nothing less than the regular practice of letting go. This letting go is in itself a graced internal action. The meditator cannot do it without God. Attention to the mantra allows grace to gently ease our ‘fingers from the grip’ of ego, that is, to gently disengage attention from a lifetime of over-focus on surface consciousness (egocentricity) with its thoughts, imaginings, hopes and fears, and into the silent love-life of God within us and all life. As this happens we simply forget ourselves and learn that there is no fear in this forgetting.
With regular practice in meditation we come to know that being human is all about the expression of this silent love-life. Participation in this love-life, where ever we find it, is what gives life meaning and ultimate purpose. We still allow fear to journey with us, of course (being the humans that we are) however, over time, the grip of this fear lessens as well, and fades.
Meditatio House is a place to practice this participation in love. May it be a place where I experience a new deepening of self-forgetfulness, both within my meditation practice and within the way I live relationship. A new maturity awaits, as it always does.