Friday, December 18, 2015

Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 3)

The Wild Reed's Advent 2015 series on Christian meditation continues with an excerpt from Cynthia Bourgeault's 2004 book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening.

(Note: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)


Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it. Whether it be meditation of the yogic and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal affirmation that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.

When I talk about "transformation" and "awakening," incidentally, I should make clear that [I am not using New Age terminology]. I am speaking of: "You must be born from above" (John 3:7), or "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears fruit" (John 12:24), or perhaps more pointedly: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). Among the worldwide religions, Christianity is surely one of the most urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human person.

And while it is true that we don't have pictures of Jesus teaching meditation practice exactly – this can be read between the lines fairly easily on any number of occasions and more importantly, derived theologically.

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our universe, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be – that busy, anxious little "I" so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues – is never even remotely the whole of who I am, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger picture. This is why, according to his teaching,the one who tries to keep his "life" (i.e., the small one) will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing. Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the small "I" with its insatiable needs and demands.

This confusion between small self and larger Self (variously known in the traditions as "True Self," "Essential Self," or "Real I") is the core illusion of the human condition, and penetrating this illusion is what awakening is all about.

– Cynthia Bourgeault
Excerpted from Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

NEXT: Part 4

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 1)
Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 2)
Diarmuid O'Murchú on Our Capacity to Meditate: "A Gift Bestowed Upon Every Human Being"
Happy Birthday, Mum! (includes Thích Nhất Hạnh's thoughts on walking meditation)
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
Prayer of the Week – November 23, 2015
The Source is Within You
The Ground Zero Papal Prayer Service . . . and a Reminder of the Spirituality That Transcends What All the Religions Claim to Represent
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
In the Garden of Spirituality – Anthony de Mello
"Joined at the Heart": Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Related Off-site Link:
What is Meditation? – The World Community for Christian Meditation.

1 comment:

tao663 said...

I appreciate these thoughts on the little self vs. the True Self. Have you read or written on the idea that the True Self, perhaps, is on a journey that incorporates many human lifetimes?