Reflections on Meditation

This page will include periodic (rotating) reflections on Christian meditation

Richard Rohr at the Centre for Action and Contemplation, New Mexico:

 

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form—without filters, judgments, or commentaries. The ego doesn’t trust this way of seeing, which is why it is so rare, “a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14, New Jerusalem Bible). The only way we can contemplate is by recognizing and relativizing our own compulsive mental grids—our practiced ways of judging, critiquing, blocking, and computing everything. 

Depth psychologist David G. Benner offers the following framing of Christian contemplative practices in a way that can help deepen our experience of them:

"The Christian forms of meditation bring us to the question of the relationship between meditation and prayer. This is an important question because I think there are limits to what meditation can, in itself, accomplish that are overcome when meditation is placed within a context of prayer. 

Although contemplative prayer and meditation may share many features, contemplative prayer is wordless openness to God. Hence it involves a relationship. It is this intentional openness to God while setting aside thoughts that makes contemplative prayer so deeply transformational. 

Contemplative prayer always requires hospitality to your deep self, to the deep parts of your self. It demands the openness to receive whatever might arise in you and then gently release it into God’s hands. But in prayer you are not alone as you open yourself to whatever might emerge. You do so in a relationship that provides a safety and support in holding whatever emerges. That which arises might come with a flood of emotional intensity. Sometimes, being still before self and God releases a torrent of emotions. Tears may be intermixed with joy. . . . But whatever emerges in silence and stillness before God emerges in the place within you in which you are held within God. It emerges, therefore, within the context of prayer, whether or not you are thinking of God or talking to God. Your openness to God makes it prayer.  

Thomas Keating describes what happens in stillness and silence before God in unworded presence as divine therapy. It may involve an unloading of the unconscious, but this is only the visible face of the invisible process of reworking your unconscious, a process that is going on as you sit in stillness before God and yourself. . . . This isn’t the time to try to understand the things that float to the surface of your consciousness. Instead, it’s the time to simply note them and then release them to God. But as you recognize their presence, you become aware of what exists within you, and you have an opportunity to peek at the deep hidden work of healing and transformation that God is doing in your soul. This is the transformational way in which contemplative prayer works". 

 

David G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self (Brazos Press: 2012), 226-227.