Category Archives: Christian Meditation

The Pebble and the Pond

Each time we meditate it is like we are taking a pebble and gently tossing it into a pond. The pebble is our mantra. The pond is our mind.

After the pebble has been tossed, it falls gently through the surface levels of the pond. Light at the surface enables us to see the pebble as it falls.

Light at the surface of the pond is like the light of our senses at the surface of our mind. This light enables us to see, that is, to perceive, to imagine, to think, to be aware of emotion. With this light we sense both the world around us and the movements within us in response to this world.

This surface level of the mind is where our ego-consciousness resides. As the mantra falls gently through this surface area, our ego-consciousness is engaged, perhaps even disturbed – much like the water at the surface of the pond is disturbed in response to the pebble.

At this point in time, because of this disturbance, we give our attention to the mantra. Our one and only task during meditation is to grow in faithful attention to the mantra, to gently focus and re-focus the energy of attention on the mantra – the pebble as it falls. This exercise in attention to the mantra re-trains our attention away from ego-consciousness, away from ego-centricity and into the consciousness of Christ. The heart of this Christ consciousness is deep within our mind, in the pond’s depths.

As the pebble moves through the water of the pond it sinks into deeper water. It also sinks into water becoming darker. The light at the surface cannot penetrate into the ponds depths.

So it is with the mind. As the mantra sinks into the depths of our mind it draws our attention away from the light of surface sense and into the depths of a mind becoming dark. We leave the light of our surface senses behind. We leave ego-consciousness behind. Our minds, like a pond at these deeper levels, can then be experienced as still, dark, and silent.

If we continue to be aware of our surface senses settling and stilling, then attention is still, in some way, at the surface of the mind. This is normal. Perhaps, at this moment, it may be hard to let go of a curiosity that may be noticing that ‘something is happening.’ At times like this the ongoing invitation is always to give our attention to the mantra.

Perhaps ego-consciousness at the surface of the mind will resist, using whatever surface sense it can, no matter how well intentioned the use of our senses may be. We are not conditioned to live with awareness at our mysterious depths. To identify with the surface of our minds is perceived as somehow safer, as less threatening. However, with Christian meditation, our sense of awareness is being transformed. Less and less do we identify our humanity with ego-consciousness. More and more we come to identify our humanity with Christ at our depths. Awareness moves deeper.

There is nothing to fear. Attention growing in the mind’s depths will reveal to our minds, through experience, a God within who is Love uncreated. This God wishes to free our minds and hearts so that we may express, more and more, the unique being in love that we already are. Grace – the gift of God’s life already active in us – uses our fidelity to the mantra to help transform our minds and lives into instruments of love. To be growing in Love, its experience and expression, is the purpose of our lives.

Continue to gently sound the mantra. Gentleness is important. This gentleness will give the grace already active with the mantra space enough to draw your attention into the still and silent depths. If we find ourselves forcing our attention onto the mantra too much, this energy of force may be more from the ego. Gentleness helps the mantra to fall because gentleness is a hallmark of God. It is a gift of the Spirit drawing the mantra and our attention deeper.

During meditation divine Love is always working in us wherever our attention may be, and however we may be experiencing the mantra. We can unconsciously experience it at our depths, or it can be gently, quietly and faithfully working away at the conscious surface, or somewhere in-between. Nothing is wasted. Remain faithful to your practice. The fruits of the Spirit are growing in ways that are hidden. In time the fruits will be seen and experienced.

As the mantra continues to sink into the depths of our mind, like the pebble in the pond, drawing our attention into the still and silent depths, we will come to experience not a saying or sounding of the mantra ourselves, but instead we will come to listen to it. The mantra will become the silent voice, not only of our being, but of Christ within us. The mantra will not be heard in the surface sense. It will be experienced as a kind of echo of silence, more an inner movement of the life of God within us. The surface light of our senses will no longer surround it.

Christian Meditation and the Way of Being a Disciple of Jesus

‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to them ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all thet law and the prophets.’ (Matthew22:26-40)

My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love. (1John4:7-9).

In these scriptures we have some of the core teaching of Christian spirituality: only God is God and you will experience this God as love when growing in this same love for God, others, and yourself. Growing in this love is the purpose of living.

In our efforts to love with all our heart, soul, and mind we discover that life has real purpose and meaning when we are loving with a God of love. Not somehow separate from God, but actually in union with this divine love-life within all.

God wants our heart, our mind, all our soul growing in harmony with, and being an expression of, God’s profound and whole love-life. Once we have experienced this love, nothing else will do. Happiness happens when we are in love with and expressing the only Being that can truly love us in the way we are made for: God.

Christian meditation, through the consistent and faithful giving of attention to a mantra, gently brings our minds (our psyche) to a simple and still silence. In this silence the mind and heart can unite with and in Christ and we come to experience, in some way, the love-life of God. This experience centers our whole humanity in God, heals us, and enlivens us to love.

No one and nothing else can be God for us. This is often a painful thing to learn. Attaching to people, things, roles as if they were God for us – this can happen because we have somehow forgotten that only divine Love can be our inner all. Often, in instances of attachment to these, suffering can be our painful teacher. Finite expressions of love cannot be the infinite source of love that our hearts long for.

Christian meditation has the effect of ‘weening’ us off the attachments in our lives that can cause unnecessary suffering. It is a highly practical and transformative practice. As we focus on the mantra Christ blooms in our consciousness and, without thinking, we experience God as our growing all. This state of union, for the Christian, is a spiritual normality that we are invited to grow into over the course of our lives.

During this course of a Christian and human life our God who is Love keeps on inviting us into a deepening of our relationship with God in Christ. God keeps up the invitation for us to find the home of our mind’s awareness in divine Love. As this happens our psyche has the opportunity to rest and heal in the divine Love that Christ gives to our often troubled and over-worked inner landscape.

As this happens attachment to the finite begins to lessen. With our attention turning more and more to Love, we find our hearts softening back into a longing for God, a longing that perhaps we have not felt since the time of our childhood. God simply wants to love us back into a freedom of soul and spirit. When we are on this journey home fear loosens and fades and we experience life as an invitation to a loving and playful expression of being.

A commitment to Christian meditation will, like all contemplative practice, deepen our hearts, minds, and lives in divine Love. As this happens we come to experience the inner expansive liberty of being loved by God into an expression of our own unique being. we come to deeply understand that fear is not God.

This commitment to Christian meditation, over time, graces us with growing patience, humility, and compassion. As we go with God into an inner world that can be so full of self-conscious preoccupation and distraction, the practice of giving attention to the mantra gently loosens the hold that ego has over our awareness. It is during those times when distractions seem to hold our attention away from the mantra that patience, humility, and compassion can grow. The growth of these fruits often happens in secret, without our conscious knowledge. These fruits can then be offered to others. This offering helps others to see and nurture  this growing fruit within themselves.

What is invited from us is a continual and faithful yes to God, a growing in the graced letting go into God, so that this God can love and heal our attention home into Christ and our true mysterious Self. God invites our yes respecting our freedom and never forcing. Divine Love is completely non-violent.

If our attention is somehow lost in the ‘stickiness’ and woundedness of our minds, then this yes from us will often require great courage, faith, and hope. At other times, when our attention is more grounded in our God-given and unique being, then this yes can be as natural as breathing.

Christian meditation grounds our attention in our unique being. The mantra is a graced word, a sacred word, through which our loving God gently shifts the focus of our attention from a finite, limited psyche and into the ‘no-place’ of our true home in God. This is done as we depth in the silence, stillness and simplicity that Christian meditation brings to our lives.

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What is Christian Meditation?

What is Christian meditation? Why do we meditate? How do we meditate?

The practice of meditation has an important place in many of the world’s spiritual traditions. Generally speaking the practice of meditation is about the focusing, the disciplining of our minds attention. Here the word mind is not just about the brain. Mind, in the meditative context, is a more inclusive term. It includes thought, and also emotion, imagination, all the senses. The mind in meditation also includes our body – our sense of it, how we live in and with it. From the Christian perspective, mind in meditation is an incarnational experience, a whole body experience, not just a cranial one.

Our minds tend towards stimulation. And in today’s world there is a lot of stimulus out there for us. Each day, in our work, our relationships, our recreation, indeed in the general living of an active life, there is much that requires our attention and much that can take our attention. This world of stimulus and activity can leave us over stimulated and can easily distract our attention away from other aspects of a human and spiritual life, aspects that may not be as obvious or as immediately demanding.

A commitment to the practice of meditation can still the mind, allowing it to come to a point of more or less rest. This is very important for the health of the human mind and the human body. The bodies systems can rest. Blood pressure lowers. We come to experience a natural stillness that perhaps we had forgotten about and in fact needed. And it is in this stillness that the Christian Meditator comes to experience, in the heart of their own unique human identity, something of the presence and action of God.

To facilitate this coming to stillness in mind and body that is so necessary in the experience of meditation, the mind needs a focus. The diffuseness of attention that our culture encourages through its constant stimulation needs to be met and countered. How is this done?

Firstly, all approaches to meditation ask that the body be still and positioned in such a way as to keep both body and mind relaxed and alert. Zen Buddhism advocates the lotus position, for example. Christian meditation simply asks that the meditator be positioned so that the back remains straight. This can be done seated, cross-legged on a prayer mat, or from a supported kneeling position. If the meditator is seated, it is recommended that their feet be flat on the floor. It is important that, during the time of meditation, there is a commitment to maintaining a stillness of body. It is recommended that the meditator close their eyes.

Secondly, an inner focusing technique is employed. Some spiritual traditions ask that the meditator focus on their breathing, while breathing from their stomach. Other traditions ask that the meditator use a prayer word or mantra. The Christian meditator employs a mantra. This is a single word repeated interiorly. Ideally, the home of the mantra as it is recited is in the chest or lower abdomen. Over time the Christian meditator ceases to say the mantra, instead coming to listen to it as it sounds with their breathing and from the heart. The word that we, as Christian meditators, are recommended to use is the single Aramaic word maranatha. This word has deep Christian scriptural roots and is of the language that Jesus spoke. In English it means ‘come Lord’. We separate the word into its four syllables and sound it gently and consistently for the entire length of our meditation: ma-ra-na-tha. It is God’s word of transforming grace for us.

The word was suggested for the Christian meditator by the Benedictine monk John Main. It is in Aramaic so as not to be a source of distraction for the mind coming to stillness. John re-discovered for us this way of Christian meditation within the monastic tradition, a way that had been largely forgotten. He embraced its practice and enthusiastically championed its use and relevance for all Christians. Its roots go back deep into Christian history, as far back as the third century to the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Today, Christian meditators can be found throughout the world, members of a movement called the World Community for Christian Meditation.

So all that the Christian meditator needs to do in order to meditate is to practice the stilling of the body through sustained position, and the stilling of the mind through the use of a mantra. It is recommended that the Christian meditator meditate morning and evening each day for a minimum of 20 minutes. 30 minutes is best.

In these two aspects of practice we see the simplicity of meditation. Simplicity is important because our minds, if left to themselves, can complicate matters. The simplicity of meditation can highlight just how distracted our minds can be. Time and time again, during the practice of meditation, our minds can wander from the mantra. That is why, to experience the fruits of Christian meditation, we must remain committed, listening to the sounding of our mantra for the whole of our meditation period, gently returning our attention to the mantra time and time again. As we do this, growing in gentle fidelity to our morning and evening practice, seeds of patience and compassion grow into good fruit and perseverance flowers. Stillness takes subtle root in our psyches.

What else can happen as we grow in the stillness that meditation provides? We may begin to notice that the outer distractions and stimulus that once caught our attention now begin to lose their appeal. Perhaps the TV starts to become annoying. Gossip magazines lose their luster. The car radio is turned off. We start to want to be still. We begin to intuit the importance of stillness for us. And as we grow in the experience of this stillness, we begin to notice the silence that lives in the stillness. This is certainly what has happened to me.

As time has gone on, and as my meditation practice has deepened I have discovered that silence is not to be feared. Silence is the natural home of my spirit. Meditation is a way into the experience of silence. And silence is the language of God. Silence is the texture of Divine Love. There is such a deep well of silence in each of us. In the stillness of meditation we can swim in this well. And sometimes, in such times of divine embrace, we can experience the gifts of an inner peace and joy – gifts that come from the life of Christ within us.

My experience of meditation has also taught me that in meditation we are always starting again. A lot of the time I am distracted by the compulsion of my mind towards over- thinking. I have come to realise that in the times when I am still enough to enter the silence, it is in those times that God acts within me to make it so.

In Christian meditation progress is not linear. If there is any progress at all, then it is one of faithfulness, faithfulness to what Christ is doing. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, or even that the mind seems worse and the heart is far away. It is during these times that humility has a chance to grow in us as we experience our own inner poverty. At these times too perseverance can take root.

Christian spirituality teaches us that as we grow in allowing God into our hearts, minds, and lives, so too we grow in being loving and loveable people. It is often in the experience of our own human weakness and limitation that we discover, over time, a divine invitation to let go a little more and allow the life of God to love us a little more. This has been my experience in the practice of Christian meditation. I need God if I am to meditate. And as I meditate, as I somehow allow, God acts ever more deeply in the hidden places of my psyche. As this happens healing happens, transformation and integration occurs, and I grow in the freedom of Christ. I experience the life of Jesus within me and his friendship.

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