“God yearns that we might awaken to that eternal oneness with God that Christ reveals and proclaims”.
With help from the book Christian Meditation by James Finley
It may be difficult to understand how sitting in silence and allowing thoughts to pass through us can have such a profound impact on our lives. It’s a practice that seems like nothing’s happening or can feel like a waste of time. Initially it seems like all we do is wait for our meditation to be over so we can get on with seemingly more important things.
I can’t remember what led me a few years ago to begin engaging in more quiet contemplation, in stillness and silence but something enticed me into this space and bit by bit it has changed my life. Now I can’t live without mediation as part of my daily life even though it still most often feels like failure. Richard Rohr says it perfectly…
“This is what we are practicing when we sit quietly in prayer: we are practicing under-doing and assured failure, which radically rearranges our inner hardware after a while”.
James Finley says of Christian meditation…
“Meditative experience offers the least resistance to the Spirit of God with us, who, with unutterable groaning, yearns that we might awaken to that eternal oneness with God that Christ reveals and proclaims”.
Over time mediation quiets the soul and creates an openness to God. It takes us away from the outer edges of our lives where we often find ourselves restless and discontent and makes a way into the inner depths of transcendence where we hear that voice whisper “it is well with my soul”. We begin to realise that what we have been searching for is actually dwelling within us – God entwined about our lives, living as one with us in every breath and moment.
Engaging in a contemplative practice mysteriously yet deeply changes us. It awakens within us a greater ability to be present to life in all its fullness. What once may have passed us by in its ordinariness becomes a place to breathe, to be present, to be caught up in wonder. We stop and watch a leaf fall to the ground, a raindrop fall from the sky and get drawn to the movement of a cloud as it passes overhead. In meditation we experience the eternal newness of the present moment as we let the past and future fall away. In this newness we begin to awaken to God perpetually unfolding that newness breath by breath throughout our days.
James Finley describes meditation…
“We sit, quietly attentive and receptive to our breathing, until, by God’s grace, our awareness of this breath awakens to the presence of God that wholly transcends this breath. We sit in this moment of attentive silence until, by God’s grace, our awareness of this moment of silence awakens us to the eternal silence of God. Little by little, or all at once, the unconsummated longings of our awakened heart find a hallowed clearing in which we learn to quietly rest with a sense of trusting expectancy… as we cultivate the habit of meditation, a more habitual meditative awareness slowly becomes our way of experiencing our day-by-day lives”.
During mediation, as we let thoughts, feelings and sensations pass through us without attaching to them we momentarily become free of all questions and answers, all problems and all agreements or disagreements. In this fleeting moment there is nothing to prove or solve. We are free to simply be – held, contained and liberated in the love of God. In time we are brought into freedom from the need to be right, to have an opinion, to agree or disagree, from being ruled by our often obsessive, always relentless thinking. We become more and more liberated to let go and trust the One and the Oneness that is ours in the love of the Trinity. And it comes as a gift rather than us attaining it within our own efforts…
“Day by day, we set aside time to sit still and straight – a “Here I am, Lord” stance of receptive openness to an experience of God that transcends the power of the will to attain. And in these moments the desire for realised oneness with God catches fire; it burns with light that transcends what can be accounted for by our efforts to evoke it”.
As we grow in realising our oneness with God things that once mattered become less significant, what was important loses its power and what held us bound in our past through pain is healed. We also look ahead with less reliance on outcomes, less anxiety about what may or may not happen, and we live open-handedly rather than clinging and grasping. We realise that we no longer need to fight for our position, our slice of the pie or for our voice to be heard because all we need and all we’ll ever need from here into all of eternity is already present in this moment. The aching void is filled and we are one with its stunning mystery.
And all this from sitting still every day in silence. Oh the grace and love of God that it would be this simple and come as pure gift. My failing at achieving anything, my inadequate, faltering meditation as I struggle to stay awake and not attach to the stream of thoughts that come to me. Even here in this humble place I am changed. Even here, what is not true about me falls away to reveal who I really am, entwined all about with the love and generosity of God. I open my hands to continue to receive this gift and live into deeper places of contentment, joy and love.
If you’re interested in learning more about Christian Meditation and growing in contempaltive practice I highly recommend James Finley’s book (link above). It’s also something that can be explored in Spiritual Direction so do get in touch if you’d like to know more. This is a wonderful and rich subject that I will undoubtedly return to in future posts.