Monday, December 21, 2015

Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 4)

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

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


I remember being struck more than a decade ago by a comment made by Father Laurence Freeman, successor to Dom John Main in the teaching of Christian meditation, during a homily for All Souls Day at the Benedictine Priory in Montreal. Pondering what meditation has to teach us about Jesus' own death, Father Laurence remarked, "Every time we meditate, we participate in the death of Christ."

He is quite right, of course. The practice of meditation is indeed an authentic experience of dying to self – at the level of something very fundamental; our core sense of identity and the egoic processing methods that keep it in place. When we enter meditation, it is like a "mini-death," at least from the perspective of the ego (which is why it can initially feel so scary). We let go of our self-talk, our interior dialogue, our fears, wants, needs, preferences, daydreams, and fantasies. These all become just "thoughts," and we learn to let them go. We simply entrust ourselves to a deeper aliveness, gently pulling the plug on that tendency of the mind to want to check in with itself all the time. In this sense, meditation is a mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death, in which the same thing will happen. There comes a moment when the ego is no longer able to hold us together, and our identity is cast to the mercy of Being itself. This is the existential experience of "losing one's life."

I think the inference is obvious: Just as in meditation we participate in the death of Christ, we also participate in his resurrection. At the end of those twenty or so minutes of sitting, when the bell is rung, we are still here! For twenty minutes we have not been holding ourselves in life, yet life remains. Something has carried us. And this same something, we gradually come to trust, will hold and carry us at the hour of our death. To know this – really know this – is the beginning of resurrection life.

– Cynthia Bourgeault
Excerpted from Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

NEXT: Part 5

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 1)
Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 2)
Thoughts on Christian Meditation (Part 3)
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)
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
In the Garden of Spirituality – Anthony de Mello
"Joined at the Heart": Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Image: "Cosmic Embrace" (artist unknown).

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