These days everybody’s looking for it: through yoga, workshops, retreats, books, DVD’s, spiritual guides, classes. It goes by different names and invitations but there’s a common thread for what we’re seeking.
So, what is it? What are we looking for?
A path! A path to Inner Peace!
And the path is really pretty simple: developing a meditation-based practice that actually changes the way you perceive reality and live your life.
What? Really? Is it that simple? “Can I really change the way I live my life and view the world through meditation?” the doubting Thomas in us might ask.
And the answer is yes. Look at those who have consistently shown us by their lived example the path of meditation as a means to inner peace.
What Me? Meditate?
Jesus was constantly getting up early in the morning to be with his father. He went to the desert often to find solitude, silence, and reconnect with his soul. He even left a group of villagers who were seeking healing from him to retreat to the woods because he had run out of steam. He had lost his spiritual connection, his power.
And in his instructions on daily prayer, Jesus told his followers to go to your room alone each day, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then you will find God’s presence. Matt: 6:5ff.
Modern business leaders are also jumping on-board the meditation bandwagon as a means of finding inner peace.
CNN anchor and Starfish Media CEO Soledad O’Brien began practicing Meditation at the urging of her friend, Def Jam co-founder and meditation practitioner Russell Simmons.
“I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother.”
So, why didn’t the church teach us to mediate?
The truth is meditation (or as some call it daily quiet time or prayer) was always a strong part of the spiritual tradition, both Christian and non-Christian. The desert fathers and mothers in the 3rd through 6th centuries were icons of meditation. Living in caves, they spent their time praying, meditating and seeking deeper connection with God and their souls.
St. Benedict (480-543) the founder of modern monasticism, taught his monks to pray quietly with scripture each day through the meditative practice of Lectio Divina (divine reading). Through the monk’s daily practice of meditation, Benedict and his monks’ lives were transformed by this deeper daily connection.
Despite these rich traditions, as the church became more institutionalized and intellectual, it lost its flavor for contemplative practice for centuries.
Yet, in the mid-1970’s, Christianity began to recover its lost contemplative tradition through the writings and efforts of Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist Monk who wrote and spoke extensively about contemplation in the modern world. Along with Merton, Thomas Keating, another Trappist Monk, issued this challenge to the Christian community:
Is it not possible to put the essence of the Christian contemplative path into a method accessible to modern people living in the world?
Keating then put his money where his challenge was and established the updated format of Christian meditation now widely known as Centering Prayer. Today thousands of people worldwide, supported by the international network known as Contemplative Outreach have learned and regularly practice Centering Prayer.
So, how do I do it? How do I find the path to Inner Peace?
As a daily practice consider establishing a regular rhythm of spending time alone with God.
Create a place of solitude in your home, a Quiet place where you can relax & be comfortable—a place where you can be alone with God.
Place a candle and perhaps an image of God in your Quiet place. Or some things from nature that speak to you.
For the next 7-10 days, set your alarm ½ hour early. Then get up. Get your coffee or tea and sit with God for 15 minutes (or longer if you like) and simply experience God’s presence.
Choose a style that works best for you. Consider any one of these (or other styles) of experiencing God in the Silence each day.
Word or Image. Ask God for a word, a phrase, or an image to carry into the day. Then simply listen. Wait. If something rises within you, trust it and receive it, as coming from God. Savor the word or image throughout the day. Write it on your “to do” list as a reminder. If nothing arises, know it is enough that you have become fertile soil. Trust that God will continue to plant his word, his seed in you when the season is ripe.
Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina—Divine Reading). Read a short piece from scripture or from a morning meditation/reflection. Sit with the reading and let it gently roll over your heart like water flowing over pebbles in a brook. What words or phrases resonate within you? Notice. Observe. Receive them as gifts from God.
Senses. Sit in the Quiet and notice what you experience through your senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? What sensations do you feel in your body?
Breathe. Listen to your breath as you inhale and exhale. Where do you feel it? How does it feel within you? Stay with it. Let it relax you.
Mantra—Centering Prayer. Choose a word or phrase. Slowly repeat it several times. If your mind wanders into monkey mind (chatter) gently bring yourself back to the mantra as a way of centering yourself.
Conversation with God. Have a conversation with God as you would with a friend sitting in the solitude with you. What do you wish to say to God? Say what you need to say. What does God say back to you? What is he inviting you to, toward?
Prayer Walk. When we walk or engage in physical motion, the right brain (creative side of our brain) takes over allowing the left brain (intellectual side of our brain) to become quiet. As you walk, simply notice what you experience inside of you and around you.
Sit or walk in nature. Observe its beauty. Its wisdom. Its awe. What patterns, symbols, or metaphors rise up within you? What does nature wish to teach you?
Pray the Rosary. Pray the rosary reflecting on the life of Christ. Imagine what Christ experienced. How he felt. How he stayed connected to the Father.
Use a gift of creativity to play in the quiet. Write, journal, paint, sculpt, cook, dance, sing etc. Allow yourself to connect with God as you and he play.
Find your Feet. Place your feet flat on the ground. Experience the energy of God’s love flowing from the ground into your body. Feel the sensations. What do they feel like? What emotions rise up in you? What word rises up in you as you experience your feet rooted to the earth/ground beneath you?
Sit in the quiet and simply “be.” Rest in God. When asked what she did in her daily prayer time, Mother Teresa replied, “I look at God. God looks at me and we are very happy.”
Image of God and Yourself. Consider in the Quiet what your current image of God is. Is there a word or metaphor for God that rises up in you? Then consider what God’s image of you is. When the God of love looks at you, what word or metaphor rises up in God to describe you?
Try one or more of the above daily practices for 7 days straight. Then notice. Do you feel more connected, more peaceful, more trusting of the wholeness that lives and breathes in you?