Many years ago I was given a copy of Charles de Foucauld’s ‘Prayer of Abandonment’. The prayer reads:
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, And in all your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my spirit; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, To surrender myself into your hands without reserve, And with boundless confidence, For you are my Father.
This prayer continues to grate on me to this day: Such exclusive language! This is my life, not God’s! Who is this God, anyway? I’m going to be asked to do something that I don’t want to do! Grate as it has, something deeper in me has refused to endorse the idea of relegating the prayer to the rubbish bin. I still have the original copy given to me. It sits like a thorn in the side of that part of my humanity that stubbornly says ‘I know what’s best for me!’ That part is ego and often ego doesn’t know best.
The prayer has become something of a gauge for me. If I struggle with it then I am, to some extent, out of touch with the True God of unconditional love in the heart.
The heart is where our deep intuitive knowing resides. It is the dwelling of our mysterious true Self. At its centre is the still point of divinity in all of us.
To say that I am out of touch with God is another way of saying my attention has strayed from the heart. This is normal, simply a part of the ebb and flow of life.
Many of us are over-trained in an approach to life that gives primacy to rationality at the expense of the heart. Approaching life this way can intensify this out of touch-ness to the point of a lifestyle. Problem solving life cannot replace our intuition. Our essence is not our thoughts. Thinking up a god to believe in will never be the truth of allowing ourselves to experience the reality of Divine Love welling up from deep within us.
It is this God within our hearts, the God of divine love, of wonderful, indescribable tenderness and compassion, the One who cherishes us; it is this God who offers the free service of tenderly and gently revealing to us (again and again and again) our hearts. All we need do to re-find our heart is give attention to this God of and in our hearts. There really is nothing to fear.
And yet ego still fears anyway. This is also normal. Ego can be a chronic controller who fears being controlled; it fears the heart because it means that its version of command-and-control will be exposed as illusory thanks to the experience of heartfelt freedom in love. So too, its ideas of identity and divinity, once exposed to heartfelt experience, can be revealed more as manipulations in the service of egoism.
Sometimes, through thinking too much about God and ‘what God wants,’ I can contribute to ego forming a certain idea of God, a kind of ‘cardboard cut-out god’ within me. For many years I was fooled into believing that this god was God, and still at times I am fooled into a kind of belief in it. It is an ego construct which ego uses as a way to keep attention away from God and my heart. Through this ‘card board cut-out god’ fear is employed as a way of ‘guidance’. We all have these gods and we can all be fooled by them.
This god is not God. It is not the God of our hearts who wants for us the fulfillment of our heart’s deepest longings. To paraphrase St. Augustine the God of our heart is simply asking that we ‘love, and do what we [most deeply] want’. Fear is not love. When True Love is experienced fear evaporates and our ‘cardboard cut-out gods’ fall over.
How do we come back into contact with this God in our hearts? My consciousness still has attachment to this ‘card board cut-out god’ and sometimes I can’t, on my own, get attention off it. I need help.
Attention. What is needed is a practice through which attention can be trained away from our illusory ‘card board gods’. And that is what Christian meditation does. Regular practice is attention growing in the True God of our hearts, the One who wants to show us our hearts so that we may love and be love in the ways we most truly can and already are.
Here at Meditatio House, through the gift of regular meditation, I am experiencing in new ways the profound effects that the simple invitation to ‘say you mantra’ can have. I am experiencing attention focusing on the mantra more and more consistently. And the mantra is guiding attention ever more deeply and securely into my heart. This is what regular practice does.
Each time we meditate the Love within us gently shifts attention a little more from ego’s sphere of influence. Attention grows roots in our hearts. Strong roots. We experience more and more in the everyday of our lives the quiet freedom of attention lost in God, lost in our being, lost and content in love. At these times the ways we want to love in the world can be seen with the eyes of our heart, with that deep intuitive knowing that rationality cannot be. In time ego accepts this intuition and discernment completes. Intuition (heart) and rationality (head) integrate a little more.
When the ‘cardboard cut-out god’ is active within us, focusing attention on the mantra becomes even more important. At these times all we can do is give and re-give attention to the mantra gently and as best we can in each moment. As we do this, over time, we subtly and gently grow in a full yes to God.
Growing in a full yes to God involves meditating without expectations, without questions, without demands. A yes to God is a yes to Love. A yes to Love is a commitment to listen to Love and be responsive to Love. Our full yes becomes our abandonment to God, to Divine Love, to our hearts. It is the same abandonment that de Foucauld describes in his Prayer of Abandonment. Attention on the mantra becomes this Prayer of Abandonment reduced into a single word: Ma-ra-na-tha. Come, Lord.