Today’s blog continues the discussion of what I call “the church of the Magdalene” – the inner, intuitive, contemplative, aspect of the Christian experience that got lost beneath the cloud of orthodoxy and the invitation to bring this aspect of the Jesus experience back into the open where it belongs.
Jesus went off to pray
In scripture, most notably in the gospel attributed to Mark, prayer is revealed to be the foundation and heart of Jesus’ personal journey. Jesus is depicted as frequently making time, even in the midst of his very public ministry, for prayer. “And Jesus went off to pray.” This is a key component of Jesus’ life and his ministry that often gets overlooked in the shadow of his teachings, healings and debates with the Pharisees. Prayer, as Jesus lived it, was not rote recitation of written or prescribed liturgical prayers. Instead, Jesus’ prayer was an attunement with God. It was through his prayer that he had come to understand his Oneness with God and the knowledge that each and everyone of us had access to the contentment, love and joy that he had experienced in this rediscovered state of union with God. It could be said that this was “the truth” that Jesus came to teach us or “the way” he came to reveal. It is through contemplation and meditation (aka prayer) that we too are invited to reclaim the peace and joy that Jesus came to know.
The church of the Magdalene and contemplation
Continuing my thesis…….I believe that it is through the hidden, interior, intuitive expression of the Jesus message (aka the church of the Magdalene) that this tradition of contemplation and prayer has been preserved and seeks to be reborn into the world….accessible to everyone. (I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not learn the contemplative traditions of Christianity from orthodoxy.) If we are to really KNOW God, if we are really going to KNOW ourselves and if we seek to KNOW our unique gifts and how we are called to share these gifts in the world in service to God and to humanity…..we have to go WITHIN….to that intimate place of knowledge, understanding, wisdom and truth. Prayer, contemplation and meditation are the tools that help us to get there. The challenge in the Western world, however is that all kinds of myths and falsehoods have been strewn about regarding a personal spiritual practice. So, in the hopes of clearing space in which we can all be free to explore, discover, cultivate and embrace a sound, personal spiritual practice…..here are some things it might help you to know:
The following are myths that have been propogated in regards to meditation as a spiritual practice. None of these myths (from my perspective as an experienced meditator and Spiritual Director) are true.
- Meditation has a goal
- The goal of meditation is silencing of the mind
- There is a right and a wrong way to ”do” meditation
- If you reach the state of peace, you did it right….if not, you did it wrong
- An empty mind is the devil’s playground
- Meditating makes you a ”better” person
- Only enlightened/holy people meditate
- Meditation is the path to enlightenment
- Sitting in silence is the only valid form of meditation….or it is the preferred method
- Meditation is an Eastern practice and cannot be practiced by Christians
- Eastern meditation practices are dangerous
- Lay people cannot meditate
Before embarking on a meditation practice, it may be helpful to know:
- The goal of spiritual practice is “NO GOAL.” Your job is to simply show up. Striving after a goal (other than showing up) will prove to be an obstacle to your practice.
- There is no right or wrong way to meditate.
- If you find that state of inner calm and peace…..it is PURE GRACE…..not something you received because you finally meditated the right way or enough times.
- There is a rich tradition of meditation and contemplation in the Western Hebrew and Christian traditions.
- It is in the emptiness that we find God/Love/Truth…..and we are also invited to find God in the midst of the chaos.
- Meditation can be receptive (listening, sitting, being) or active (expressing, moving, giving, processing,).
- Meditation encompasses many formats and practices including but not limited to: meditative reading of sacred texts, journalling, sitting in silence, movement (yoga, tai chi, dance, etc.), chant, listening to music, daydreaming, paying attention to our dreams, mindfulness practices, acts of service, making love, being present to our family and friends, being out in nature, creative expression, painting, drawing, cooking, cleaning, etc. etc. etc.
- A spiritual practice is anything that helps us to connect with God, peace, love, joy, flow, compassion, harmony, forgiveness, mercy, ecstasy.
- In the Western tradition, Meditation refers to the reflective thoughts in the mind. In the Eastern Tradition, meditation is understood to mean sitting in silence. Contemplation is the term used in the Western tradition to refer to sitting or being in silence with God.
- The only danger in meditation or contemplation is connecting with your truth. Warning: Truth can be a dangerous thing if we are not prepared or if we do not have the tools to handle it. As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will kick your butt.”
- Meditation may lead you to enlightenment, if that is your path in this life; regardless, it will help you to be a happier, more peaceful and more loving human being.
- From the Hebrew and Christian perspectives, meditation and contemplation will empower you to experience the Kingdom of God right here, right now, in this life. You will discover that you don’t have to die to know the peace and love of God.
- Meditation can be practiced by ANYONE……regardless of your race, color, creed, education, status, position of power, ordained or not, etc. etc. etc.
As mentioned above, there is no right or wrong way to meditation or to enter into spiritual practice. I have learned, however, that there are certain things we can do that will help us to be successful in our goal of SHOWING UP for our spiritual practice. Remember…the only goal is to SHOW UP. The following steps may help you to do this.
- Set aside a regular time each day for your spiritual practice where you can be uninterrupted for 15-30 minutes. For many people, this is first thing in the morning, but choose a time that works for your own personal bio-rhythms.
- Choose a special place in your home or office that is designated as your place for your spiritual practice. It might be a certain chair in your living room, your drawing easel, maybe you have the luxury of setting up a meditation corner or room.
- Have the tools that you need for your practice near your chosen place – your journal, a bible, writing utensils, maybe a candle or incense burner, a blanket.
- Turn off any potential distractions – phones, computers, pagers, etc.
- Create a ritual that helps you to enter into your spiritual practice. Light a candle. Burn incense. Say a prayer. Bow to your sacred space.
Tomorrow I will discuss The Agape’ Project and how it will help to support you in your personal spiritual practice.
Authentic Freedom Ministries