Tag Archives: contemplative prayer

The Shed: Poised for Adventure

After a couple of weeks in Sydney and Bathurst (my hometown), I have spent the last week in Canberra catching up with some friends. It is winter here in Australia and Canberra has been cold, getting down to -3C overnight. Some of the days though have a bright and crisp air to them. It’s been lovely to walk in the Australian winter light while frost crunches underfoot.

Someone asked me the other day ‘where are you living now?’ This got me thinking. I said ‘I don’t know.’ I’m as settled as I ever have been within myself and yet all ‘my stuff’ is still packed in boxes and stored away. I am free to roam around with a suite case (albeit it a heavy one).

So, where do I roam next?

For the next three months I’ll be on the South Coast of New South Wales (on the eastern coast of Australia) living in a shed and doing some writing. At this point I’m looking forward to it, to having a space to focus (assuming that I don’t distract myself too much).

Within myself I sense that this time is also about something else: a time to deepen in indifference.

Indifference? What does that mean? Does it mean not caring about anything or anyone; giving up on the world to live in some kind of ‘holy isolation’? No. Far from it. This meaning of indifference, for me, has the smell of fear about it – a justification for turning from others and the ‘randomness’ of life.

There is another, truer, meaning. It is a meaning that I first came across many years ago when I read the book God of Surprises by Gerard W. Hughes. In this book Hughes told the story of a black Labrador named Beuno. Beuno was easily distracted and very curious. He would wander off and come back with all sorts of things. It seemed that he would happily follow his desires for anything and everything: until he was presented with a bone. At that point all other desires fell away. All he wanted was that bone. Beuno would sit and wait, slobbering, with eyes only for that bone. At that moment he was indifferent to all else. He had a single focus: that bone.

Hughes was a Jesuit. Being so, he also used the Spiritual Exercises to help unpack a healthy spiritual and human approach to indifference:

….we must be so poised (detached/indifferent/balanced) that we do not cling to any created thing as though it were our ultimate good, but remain open to the possibility that love may demand of us poverty rather than riches, sickness rather than health, dishonour rather than honour, a short life rather than a long one, because God alone is our security, refuge and strength. We can be so detached from any created thing only if we have a stronger attachment; therefore our one dominating desire and fundamental choice must be to live in love in his presence.” (Principle and Foundation, The Spiritual Exercises, as translated/summarised by Gerard W. Hughes in God of Surprises, 63)

Indifference is about living in the ‘wavelength’ of Love. It is about living enough in this wavelength and committing to it so that we still choose from there no matter what else may be happening in life.

Indifference is about knowing what is most important in life, from moment to moment. There is a mindful non-attachment towards what could get in the way, in each moment, of a loving response. And there is poise: a balanced readiness to respond in each moment to love’s invitation to be involved in the living of life as love.

All this, of course, is the ideal. What matters is that we walk on, persevering into compassion as indifference is cultivated in us. Life has its own way of showing us what is important.

We are, however, made for attachment. What is important is what we attach to. The Spiritual Exercises, as quoted above, give us an answer as to what to do with attachment: our “stronger attachment” can be to God – to divine, uncreated Love. This is what Beuno shows us. His attachment to ‘that bone’ was stronger than anything else. Our attachment to God, that life of freeing love, can be the strongest thing in our lives – an attachment that shapes the way we live life and relationship. No matter what kind of life we are living we become more loving because love is the most important thing. For us, God is the bone.

As we meditate we grow in our attachment to God, to Divine Love. Attention generates attachment and so we attend to the mantra as it draws the whole of us into the silent life of God; until the mantra is forgotten and attachment to God is full. All else is put aside: images, ideas, thoughts, emotions. Not repressed, just not attended to as we meditate. We are left to soak in the Mystery that Love is. As we soak, we are changed.

As we meditate we practice non-attachment to that which is not the Mystery of Love. We turn from what ego would prefer: stronger attachments to that person, that lifestyle, that idea, that thing.

‘Love is dangerous’ says ego, ‘love will change your life in ways you cannot control.’ Well, yes it will. That’s life. Divine Love, as we attend to it, shows us to ourselves, helps us uncover the deepest longings of our hearts, and guides us in life to the ways that this longing can be fulfilled. This is what attachment to God does. Possibilities increase and life becomes an adventure in love.

 

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The Bus to Canberra


Meditatio House: Stability, Growth, and Change

As some of you may already know, Meditatio House has moved. We have moved from Hamilton Road, Ealing (West London) to Cloudesley Square, Islington (Central London) – Zone 3 to Zone 1 for people familiar with the London Tube zones.

Suburban life is now somewhat more cosmopolitan. Down the road is the well-known Chapel Market (one of London’s famous street markets), and all the cafés and trend that is Upper Street, Islington. Angel Tube Station is not far away.

The first room set up at Cloudesley Square was the meditation room. It is somewhat smaller than the one at Ealing. It was important that this room be up and running as soon as possible. The prayer life of the community and our meditation together is central. The meditation room is the heart of the house. As we unpacked the rest of the house meditating together in the meditation room helped to maintain a sense of stability.

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We all need some kind of stability. As our world becomes increasingly mobile and fast changing, for many of us we can no longer rely on our physical circumstance to provide enough stability. I think of my own life here as an example of this: here I am on the other side of the world from Australia (the country of my birth). And in Australia I don’t really have a ‘place’ of my own. I have a hometown, but not a physical home.

For many, stability of environment helps them with the human experience of growth and change. A lack of external stability can make the inner experience of growth and change difficult.

It is said that the internal of the spiritual life is about pitching tents rather than building houses. Growing in the divine life within us means growth and change becomes not only necessary, but expected and eventually welcomed. It is this growth and change that helps to integrate our self-consciousness with its forgotten roots: God and the mystery of our deepest self. To build a house is to settle down within us at one ‘place’ on this journey back into Love. At some point we may decide that we have had enough of change and just want to stay in the one spot, the one place of growth that we have come to.

Pitching a tent is about settling with the knowledge that, at some point, we will be on the move again. Eventually, the God of love and change will entice us to move on, deeper into forgetting ourselves and being re-membered into love. The extent to which we are responsive to this enticement is the extent to which we have embraced inner tent living.

This reality of inner growth and change can make external stability more important. A marriage, a family, a community, a monastery – all of these have been attempts to make the external stable and supple enough to be a support for growth and change. But what can we do if the external is in flux, no longer providing enough support? Alternatively, what can we do if the external has become too rigid, too fixed in its patterns and ways and no longer at the service of growth?

If we somehow lose touch with the divine life in and around us (the initiator of growth) and our attention is too much on our self-consciousness (without a contemplative balance), the danger is that we will become too fixed, rigid, within ourselves as we over-identify with self-consciousness. As this happens, in time, our living environments can begin to reflect this inner fixedness and become, instead, a distraction away from change and growth. A too stiff personality becomes the foundation of living rather than our being in God.

Alternatively, if our external environment is too unstable the danger is that we can become (again) too fixed, hard within ourselves in response to this instability.

Meditation can help. Practicing it is a commitment to tent living. And when a couple, a family, a community practices meditation together it ensures that the external – the physical and relational circumstances of our lives – are to some degree a reflection of our tent living, supple enough to embrace growth and change.

The moving of the Meditatio House community to Cloudesley Square is a reflection of the change that can happen due to the uncertainty of life. It is also an acceptance of the invitation to have the external of life supple enough to nurture our growth together into the Divine Life.

The commitment to meditation, and to meditating together, gives us a stable practice amid internal and external change.

The paradox is that meditation, as a contemplative practice, not only encourages in us growth and change, it also deepens us in the experience of an ultimate stability in God. As we pitch and re-pitch our tents, we carry the home that is the cell of our heart everywhere we go. Home is where the heart is. The heart is the home of divinity and our true selves. Everywhere we go our heart goes too.

Cloudesley Square:


Meditatio House: Sorting Out the Rubbish

To be fit for the great task of life, we must learn to be faithful in humble tasks. (John Main)

The sixth step of humility is that we are content with the lowest [position] and most menial treatment, and regard ourselves as a poor and worthless worker in whatever task we are given… (The Rule of St. Benedict)

At Meditatio House we share around the chores, those things that need to be done to maintain a household. We share in the cooking, the cleaning, and yard tasks, anything that needs doing. This is thoroughly in keeping with the ordinary practice of living, and consistent with the Rule of Benedict. We use the Rule as a guide for our communal commitment and experience.

The Rule of Benedict is a wisdom text for the Christian spiritual life. The Rule is a guide to the integration of communal and personal living so that both serve a human life growing in love and the experience of this love as divine. It is a practical document that sees growing into love as an applied, ordinary, self-forgetting, and relational happening (1).

The three basic dynamics of the Rule are prayer, reading, and work. Prayer is central and has a communal foundation; reading is food for the intellect and heart; and work (anything from writing to lawn mowing) asks for a focus that is less on self and more on the needs of the community at hand. These three dynamics are, of course, interchangeable: prayer is also a work and work, when done with present moment attention, is prayer; reading can also be a work of attention, and a prayer (Lectio Divina). And so on.

One task we take turns at doing is dealing with the rubbish and food scraps. There are three bins in our kitchen: one for plastics, one for paper, and one for non-recyclable rubbish. There is also a couple of ‘bucket bins’ near the sink that receive compostable scraps and non-compostable scraps. Once a week everything gets sorted into separate containers which then get put out onto the street for collection. There is even a street container for non-recyclable scraps (other scraps are put in the compost out the back). This scrap container can be particularly messy and smelly.

Of all the household tasks we do, maintaining the rubbish and preparing it for collection would have to be the most menial.

The Rule sees this sorting of the household rubbish as part of our growth in self-knowledge and humility.

It is a task that has the potential to help create in someone a deeper appreciation of their own humanity. All a person need do is be faithful to the task and gently attentive to their responses and reactions whilst doing it. As we work with our bodies we can become aware of what God is doing with our soul.

Our lives, like scraps and rubbish, can be rather commonplace and somewhat messy. The conscious mind (or ego) can tend to avoid (largely via repression) the ‘mess’ of us and be inclined to reject the reality that we are just another ordinary, everyday, commonplace person.

Yet contemplative prayer and community can help us to see that the ordinary and everyday is where we experience our deep, mysterious and divinely given uniqueness. It is a uniqueness that the ego does not create, although the ego does try to cover it up with its own version of uniqueness (a version that generally wants to avoid the mess and rubbish).

The discovery of our unique selves can involve facing, experiencing, and accepting our own psychological mess. This process engenders humility. Ego shuns humility because it would mean this repressed mess is becoming conscious and being integrated (faced, experienced, and accepted). Meditation and community living assist this integration via their focus on keeping us attentive to God and our deep selves in an other-centred context.

Psychological integration that happens in other-centred environments (one such as a prayerful community) means the slow death of egocentricity. This can be quite a challenge for us.

Egocentricity is that pattern of life where a person has been fooled into the belief that ego is the centre of consciousness and must remain as such if the person is to survive and thrive. The hidden assumption is that all of life’s happenings must first pass through the prism of the conscious mind. For this to even have a chance of happening ego must exert lots of energy to maintain the illusion that it is the centre of our universe. We are all, to some extent, egocentric.

When our inner mess starts to leak into our conscious mind (as it does) this is a threat to ego’s command and control illusion. So it pushes back with repression and more attempts at control. This can last only so long. As our mess seeps in, ego’s control falters. As egocentricity is threatened this gives opportunity for a growth in humility. This is why egocentricity sees humility as weakness: humility is about the de-centring of ego. And as humility grows, it lays the ground for a healthy maturing into other-centredness and God.

Without humility there can be no authentic transformation in God and no discovery of our true selves in God. A lack of humility is a sign that we are still too caught up in the operations of egocentricity.

The root of the word ‘humility’ is the Latin word humus, which means soil or earth. In other words, to be down to earth, being realistic, honest and truthful, to avoid the temptation to act as if we are the divine centre of the universe (2).

Food scraps, though messy and smelly, are tomorrow’s rich humus.

Doing menial and messy everyday tasks can run counter to ego’s attempts at avoiding the mess of life, its own de-centring, and humility. Continuing in these menial and messy tasks, then, is important if we are to continue away from egocentricity and into the heart of God.

Sorting the rubbish is a down to earth practice. It can encourage in us a developing self-honesty. In this way it is not unlike meditation. Meditation is about engaging in the daily, down to earth practice of experiencing and embracing the truth of life; doing so faithfully with diminishing expectation. This can sound like a waste of time to an ego that wants enlightenment yesterday and on its terms.

(1) The community at Meditatio House produce a blog called The Rule of Benedict: Reflections From Christian Meditators. Have a look.

(2) Peter Ng, ‘The Contemplative Executive’, in John Main: The Expanding Vision (29).


Meditatio House: A Hat in the Wind

I once heard God described as a bit like a hat in the wind. Some of us may have chased a hat in the wind. It can fly from our heads, land in front of us and fly off again – just as we were about to grab a hold of it. We can end up playing a game of slow frustration with the wind as we chase our hat down the street.

Perhaps it might be better to say that our ideas of God are a bit like that hat in the wind. The wind is in fact like God, moving our ideas and assumptions on ahead of us before they have a chance to solidify into ‘fact’. There is always the tendency in us towards identifying and objectifying God through our ideas and assumptions about God. God is not an object. It is best to experience God like we experience the wind: swirling with a mind of its own, uncontrolled by us, here then gone then mysteriously here again.

The Christian experience, of course, says that this mind of God (whatever mind might mean) could be described as Agape, Love. And so we risk a word. Love does what it is. It can do nothing else. Prayer is about learning to recognise the movement of this Love as it blows in us and our lives – and to go with it. What a wonderful adventure this is!

Many mystics and contemplatives of the Christian tradition have experienced grace – another word describing the gift of God’s love-life fully given to all Creation – as kind of wind like. It can blow within us and our relating with caresses of love, holding and supporting us in the moment as we allow, and then the wind can die down, disappear just as mysteriously as it came.

The Desert Father Macarius The Egyptian (300-390 AD)*, in one of his homilies, describes the movement of grace as such:

There are moments when grace kindles up and comforts and refreshes more fully; there are moments when it retreats and clouds over, according as grace itself manages for the man’s [sic] advantage (Homily VIII, 79).

In another homily Macarius describes the working of grace in the human soul:

The spiritual influence of God’s grace within the soul works with great patience, wisdom, and mysterious management of the mind, while the man [sic] for long times and seasons contends in much endurance… Homily IX, 81).

The action of grace in our lives moves and ebbs, flows and retreats in ways that reveal a great tenderness, patience, and wisdom that is always there with us as we live the seasons of our lives.

Recently at Meditatio House we held our weekly teaching night. If Laurence is not with us we often play a recording of Laurence or John Main as the meditation teaching for the evening. It was my turn to plan and run the evening. Earlier in the day I had played for myself and picked a recording from John Main to use on the night. However, a couple of minutes before we were to start, I discovered that the iPod’s battery had failed.

It had been a particularly hard day. I was psychologically and physically drained. I had made some basic notes about the talk which I was to give as a way of introduction. I realised then that I might have to speak from these notes about the talk myself.

As I sat there in that moment of realisation, attending to the mantra as best as I could, a movement of grace began in me. It arrived gently in my gut, soothing a tightness that had been there all day. As this was going on my mind fell into quietness of a kind that I did not create. In that moment grace moved like a gentle breeze, calming and loving me for the task at hand.

Afterwards there was a quiet and simple drawing back of this grace. The wind had died down. It was time to pick up the hat and to walk on, renewed, in gratitude and humility.

* Macarius The Egyptian was also known as Macarius of Scete, or Macarius The Great. He was, in the words of Oliver Clement, “a disciple of Anthony and teacher of Evagrius” and “the organiser of the monastic life at Scete.” (The Roots of Christian Mysticism, 357. See the blog post ‘Meditatio House: The WCCM and the Skete’ for more information about the Scete, or Skete.


Meditatio House: From Distraction to Nothing

Martin Laird, in his book Into the Silent Land, has this to say about the contemplative approach to distractions during prayer:

If we cannot weather these distractions in stillness, they will give the impression that the doorway into the silent land is closed. But if we are simply still before them and do not try to push them away or let ourselves be carried away by them, they help deepen our contemplative practice. They initiate us into a certain education by ordeal. (92).

Distractions are needed. It is the way we are with them that matters. The practice of attention on a prayer word/phrase or mantra means less and less attention on distractions. Less attention on distractions means less energy given to distractions. Stillness is then nurtured within us. As we persevere, the way distractions are experienced changes.

Laird describes three doorways into silence that we pass through as we meditate. Each door is guarded, as it were, by distractions. As we grow in faithfulness to the mantra, or prayer word, we come to realise as we pass through the first doorway that:

“…we are not our thoughts and feelings.” Space grows between attention and distraction. What we identify with is shifting. We are growing in ‘looking past’ distraction as reaction to distraction lessens. Peace can rise. So too can anxiousness. Anxiety is normal as identity shifts. In all this faithfulness to the mantra is paramount. Anxiety is simply an ego response to its own decentring. You are not anxiety. All will be well.

This first realisation that we are not our thoughts or feelings comes as we practice saying the mantra. Faithfulness to simply saying the mantra was described by John Main as the ‘first task’ of the meditator. The meditator may spend years saying the mantra, and generally saying it in the head. To have the experience of not being our thoughts or feelings means that the mantra is moving from head to heart, taking our attention with it into the heart.

As we pass through Laird’s second doorway we discover that

“Our own interiority is not a cramped space, but a valley of spaciousness.” We are being liberated into the expanse of being within us. Because of ongoing attention to the mantra, being and awareness are coming together, that is, the experience of awareness is becoming less self-conscious. We are not so aware of being aware. We are simply just being aware. It becomes easier to ‘look past’ distractions to the measureless mystery of our own inner vastness.

John Main described this movement through Laird’s second door as the mantra taking root in the heart. The heart is simply a name for that vastness from which thoughts, feelings and images can distract. Being still and being aware without thought (looking past distraction) has the meditator hearing the mantra in this vast heart. We are not thinking the mantra in the head; we are hearing it in the heart. Attention becomes hearing.

Moving through Laird’s third doorway

“…we realise that what beholds this vast and flowing whole is also the whole. We see that these thoughts and feelings that have plagued us, clouded our vision, seduced us, entertained us, have no substance. They too are a manifestation of the vastness in which they appear.”

As we practice with the mantra attention becomes so grounded in this vastness that we experience the reality of our true and deep identity. We are this vastness. Over time thoughts and feelings loosen and unravel and fade to nothing. The still point of divinity is experienced in deep awareness within this vastness. Here, in this no-place where words do not matter, we are no-thing being loved by a God who is not an object.

Here is where we grow in listening to the mantra (to use John Main’s description). The mantra itself is becoming no-thing, without object. In good time it too may fade into this silent vastness. If this happens it is because it has served its purpose. When thoughts and feelings return so should our attention to the mantra. With the mantra we return to stillness and vastness.


Meditatio House: The Heart Ponders and the Ego Grasps

Each Monday evening at Meditatio House is a time reserved for some teaching about Christian meditation. After the teaching we have a time of meditation, then some questions and/or reflections about our meditation practice.

This regular Monday night pattern was something begun by John Main. It is a good night for anyone new to Christian meditation to visit the house, or indeed anyone inquiring about meditation as contemplative prayer.

Often we have a recorded teaching given by one of the teachers of meditation within the WCCM. This week we heard from a conference given by Laurence Freeman in 1992 at Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky, USA. The conference was released as The Ego On Our Spiritual Journey in 2007. Something that Fr. Laurence said during this conference struck me:

The sayings of the Fathers of the Desert are really a constant commentary upon the dangers of an egotistical spirituality. This is perhaps why St John of the Cross tells us to give up all desire, even the desire for God. Not the love of God, not our innate longing for God which we cannot give up, but our desire for God – the desire to possess, to control, to own, to keep God. In this way of prayer, in the simple ascesis of the single word, we strike at the ‘root of sin’, as The Cloud of Unknowing called it, at the root of our ego. We let go.

There is a distinction going on here between the deep longing of our hearts for God and the ego’s desire to “possess…control…own…” to replace this longing with its own version of longing: desiring. Egoic desiring keeps us attached to the ego, identified with the ego, and focused on it and its needs. If we desire God then we are seeking God on ego’s terms. God becomes just another way to get satisfaction. The longing for God, however, is something ego does not create. As Laurence says, it is innate to us, simply an inherent part of what it is to be human. It is pre-ego. The heart ponders patiently and thoughtlessly in its longing, while the ego can grasp, often with indiscreet calculation.

There is a certain kind of impatience in desiring. Desiring can be the ‘quick fix’ of the human psyche. Often it is all about the satisfaction of the ego’s unmet needs for love, attention, approval – unmet needs that go all the way back into childhood. The desiring around these unmet needs can be powerful, and can at times possess us. In this, desire does not serve love. Desire is all about the satisfaction of these unmet needs in a way that serves ego. This is understandable and part of the human story. There is deep compassion in us for these unmet needs. Life is meant to be so much more than this kind of suffering. Ego wants this suffering gone, but on its terms.

What a contemplative practice such as Christian meditation does is assist in the discovery, through experience, of our deeper “innate longing for God”. To be focused on and attached to ego through desiring is to have little or no attention on the depths of us, where this longing has its source. The fulfilment of this longing deeply heals our unmet needs in ways that ego desiring cannot.

As we meditate attention shifts to the source of longing – our heart. As time passes our desiring shifts as well and becomes more and more a longing for Love. This happens as we encounter at our depths the God of our longing. Our longing is fulfilled quietly and mysteriously by God and in time becomes joy. It is a joy that ego cannot create. It is a joy that rises as God fulfils unmet need with the divine life.

This joy is deep and grows in constancy. It is a joy that finds fulfilment in communal expression (where ever our love life with others is). It is a joy that is not only for us, it is part of the other-centred life of God and our deeper Self. It is not necessarily gregarious; it is however, strong, constant and stable. It is faithful joy. It grows as detachment from ego desiring grows. In this it is a sacrament, an outer sign of the inner reality that our desiring is now more a longing being fulfilled by the divine Love Life.

People and things that were once more the ‘objects of our desire’ instead become the focus and instrument of Love through our own loving. Egocentric desiring, often impatient and needy, becomes the patient, wise, and loving longing of the heart – a longing that is experiencing it’s fulfilment into silence. Silence is the ego-less experience of longing fulfilled. In silence the heart no longer longs.

The root of all sin is ego attachment, ego desiring. As we gracefully detach from ego, ego becomes more and more simply the way our deep Self can relate to others and the world. Awe in the ordinary grows. Compassion flows more easily into action. Other-centredness becomes natural. Unmet needs recede and life takes on a gentle, joyful, grateful, playful way.

So if there is anything that will move you, any incentive in love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any warmth of sympathy – I appeal to you, make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind. Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own mind the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil2:1-5).

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Meditatio House: Contemporary and Contemplative

At Meditatio House we have just completed what we call a Study Week. During this week people come to the house to spend some time (up to a week) living with us. During this time our guests join in the rhythm of the house, experiencing our explorations in what the Christian tradition has come to call the contemplative life.

It needs to be noted here that the contemplative life is not some form of spiritual specialization. To be contemplative is to be, not only Christian, contemplative is to be human. Christian spirituality can use the word contemplative to describe any human life that is prioritizing and living contact with the human spirit. The human spirit is “our lifeline with the Spirit of God” (John Main). The human spirit is in constant union with the divine life. This spirit and divinity pervade soul and body. The contemplative life lives and promotes a life of integration and communion with divinity – where ever and however this may be authentically found.

During Study Week we have four times of meditation a day, as well as praying with the psalms and scriptures (Hebrew and Christian Testaments). We practice silence after Night Prayer until breakfast the next day. One day during the week is a silent day.

During the week we have morning workshops. This week we learnt a little bit about what St. Benedict had to say about silence, as well as what St. Augustine (of Hippo) had to say about contemplative prayer.

Another of the workshops we conducted discussed what it might mean to be contemporary and contemplative. What is it like to prioritize and live spiritually today?

It could be said that we live in a Western culture that is principally ‘post-modern’. Modernity was about making rationalism the dominant approach to life. Post modernity, however, rejects the modern tendency to see life through just the one rational lense. Instead it values diversity, equity, and a plurality of approaches to life and living, while being deeply suspicious of anything and anyone who asserts a ‘universal truth’. Tina Beattie describes it as

…the world-view which asserts that there is no world-view, paradoxically laying claim to the universal truth that there is no universal truth.

This time in Western history can also be named as secular. We could view secular in one of two different ways. A secular consciousness can be one that cannot or refuses “to acknowledge some reality beyond or transcendent to” the human (Sarah Bachelard). In other words, there is no God. Another way to look at a secular worldview is to see it as embracing “the collapse of the distinction between sacred and profane” (Bachelard). In other words, God is everywhere and not just in church or in the heart of a ‘believer’.

A contemporary contemplative could be someone who experiences and embraces divinity as in the all of life, not just in their church community and church activities. The Christian contemplative experiences Christ as really present not just in the tabernacle. Christ is really present in our hearts, our relationships, in all the mess and glory of the human journey. To be Christian and contemplative today is to be a secular Christian in the sense of living all of life as sacred.

To be Christian and contemplative is also to risk making universal truth claims. These claims will be based in our understanding of the Christian story and how this understanding combines with our contemporary and contemplative experience. Perhaps the universal truth claim that we can make (in all sincerity and humility) is one about love:

Love is uncreated, divine. This Love created and creates life. This Love is profoundly personal and intimate to all of life. This Love values human freedom. This Love wants humanity to be love. We are made for Love and to be love. We can be love now and will be in Love after death. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals this to us and empowers us for it.

This would seem to be the post-modern testimony of many secular and contemporary Christians who are living into their human contemplative-ness.

How do we become love? The contemplative tradition of Christianity (like all of Christianity) tells us how by witnessing to one of the basic dynamics of human life: we are growing in love when we have forgotten ourselves enough to love.

What can we practically do to become love? Christianity asserts that we love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbour. In these practical acts of loving, the Love we love with loves us into love.

The contemplative heart of Christianity says that we need to be regularly and faithfully still and quiet in this Love. Doing this empowers us for a life of loving ourselves and others. Doing this allows divine love to love us.

One practical act of loving is contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer invites us to practice a letting go, a losing of what could be the greatest gift that life has given us: our self-consciousness.

The giving and re-giving of attention to a mantra as it sounds deep in us is one practical and inner action that helps us to grow in the forgetting of  self-consciousness. As we do this what is given us is the ability to live life in a fully conscious way. We live life growing in a deep intuition and Love that our self-conscious, rather than getting in the way of, integrates with.

So what role does Meditatio House have in all of this?  Meditatio House is an experiment in a ‘new’ or ‘evolving’ Christian contemplative community. It is in the world, in dialogue with the human needs of a post-modern and secular age. As Christians in this dialogue we encounter Christ afresh, living the fruits of this encounter for and with others. The Study Week is one way we do this living. Meditation and the Rule of Benedict are what we commit to in this experiment, this investigation with grace.

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