This is probably not enough words on the topic. It’s just meant as a sample for some who might not realize that they would really enjoy Christian Meditation. For non-Christians, I encourage you to read it too, because you still might learn something that can help you in your non-Christian life. I personally read from many perspectives, and it can be enlightening, trust me.
If you’re a believer who wants to be present with God (He is always present with you), and available to Him, at all times, then you need the spacious, non-dualistic mind of the Christian mystic.
As I mentioned, God is always present with us, even if sometimes in a hidden way, but we are not always present to Him. Any time we are caught up in our thinking, day dreaming, worrying, planning, and attachment or aversion to anything, our heart is not a blank canvas for God to communicate on, instead our inside person is occupied, like Adam and Eve hiding in the trees from God. I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen, and in that show, you would witness Gordon Ramsay screaming at a cook to get their attention, but they would be so stressed out that, they would not realize their boss was yelling at them, right in front of their face. When we are not in the contemplative mind, we are kind of like that, unable to notice the Spirit’s subtle communication, leading and presence-ing.
Don’t misunderstand me. Thoughts are not bad, neither is liking or disliking something. The problem comes, when instead of having a quick thought, we turn the thought into many more thoughts, and now we are totally attentive to them, leaving no attention-energy for God. Of course, sometimes you need to think a lot, like at school or work. There are even times when God will think with you, and give you lines and lines of thoughts, imaginations and mental happenings, but a lot of times we are just taken captive by our thoughts, and God or productivity has nothing to do with it, and that is a problem.
The loved, anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, arguably one of the most influential books on Christian mysticism, tells us that a thought or memory that is taking too much real estate and time in our mind, “is a kind of spiritual light, for the eye of the soul is opened on it and even fixed upon it (as the eye of an archer is upon the mark he shoots at).” He also says right after,
“Every thing that you think about is situated above you for that time, and lies between you and your God. And in that same degree, if anything is in your mind except God alone, you are that much further from God.”
On the subject of liking or disliking something too much, again, the issue is not attraction to something, or the attraction to get away from something (aversion), but too much attraction, what monks and mystics call attachments. Check out what Church Doctor, Saint John of the Cross has to say in The Ascent of Mount Carmel:
“Those are decidedly hindered, then, from attainment of this high state of union with God who are attached to any understanding, feeling, imagining, desire, or way of their own, or to any other of their works or affairs, and know not how to detach and denude themselves of these impediments.”
“They [people who are in a state of detachment, as opposed to attachment] obtain more joy and recreation in creatures [anything or anyone that isn’t God] through the dispossession of them. They cannot rejoice in them if they behold them with possessiveness, for this is a care that, like a trap, holds the spirit to earth and does not allow wideness of heart.” [Emphasis mine]
These spiritual giants tell us that too much thinking is like allowing clouds to come and cover the sun (God), and that being too attached to anything causes us to lose “wideness of heart,” which earlier I called the “blank canvas.” This is why the Christian mystics always talk about “emptying ourselves.” The extreme would be to not live a normal life, and be some weird hermit, forcing thoughts out of our heads and never enjoying the good things in life. They are not saying that. They are saying, as much as possible, to have your heart and mind like an open field, so that God can fill that space. They are also saying that God is that Open Field, but that can be a topic for another time.
Letting thoughts come and go with a mind like Teflon, holding the things we enjoy with a loose grip, and not forcing out the things we don’t want in our lives, are spiritual keys that would make a huge and ginormous difference in your daily and hourly walk with God. It really is that simple, but it’s easier said than done, not because it’s not easy in itself, but because we are just so used to the opposite.
Some Christians will call these meditative practices “works of the law,” but really, these practices are stopping the works of the law-man that we’ve been doing this whole time, without even noticing it. They are non-doings, what Buddha called “non-attainment,” not efforts to earn God’s approval or love. We are not bringing God’s presence into ourselves. We are changing the channel to enjoy the Show that’s been playing the whole time. This changing of mind, is something that St. John of the Cross calls faith, which we know is the only way to “receive” grace. We’ve always had the fullness of God, and always will, within and all around, but we are distracted and don’t even know it. St. Augustine said, “You were within me, but I was outside.”
Christian meditation is not opposed to God’s grace. Some extremists love to arbitrarily call certain actions “works.” I would ask these people: Did you drive to work today? Why? You’re already there in Christ, right? Did you get advice from a friend? Why? You already have the mind of Christ, don’t you? Did you tell your partner you love them? Why? They’re already in God’s love. Did you enjoy a nice meal today? Why? He’s already given you fullness of joy.
Doing things are not bad, it’s how and why we do things that can “alienate us from Christ” like Paul teaches in Galatians. If you are happy, relaxed, and worry-free, knowing that, yes, God has mystically solved the world’s problems in Christ, and yes, it’s fun, and our destiny, to participate in the manifestation of that Reality, then you are in Good Hands.
This is the last note I’ll leave you on. The fundamental and primary errors where you can totally get off course in the world of the Christian Mystic, have to do with how you feel and the mood you bring to the table. You have to be carefree and non-anxious, not taking the “goal” or your experiences too seriously. The irony is that to be detached from God experiences gives you more God experiences, because the God of your experience is continually found when you are detached from the idolization of experience itself.
Enjoying union with God is not the Olympics! Don’t be so hard on yourself. Meister Eckhart brilliantly tells us to “live without a why.” This advice helps us slip and slide in the world of God, versus rigorously training like we’re a Navy Seal or something. The devil is drawn to the mentality that it’s all up to you, to get “there” as quick as possible, like one sided criticisms on Twitter.
You putting all of this weight on yourself is exactly what I’ve been telling you not to do this whole blog! Participating is more important than accomplishing. The very fact that you are trying, will draw success in this field to you, but you have to try in a light, it’s-all-gonna-be-okay-anyways way. God does the accomplishing part. This is the fun of the Christian life. We can’t fail! God has us.
For those interested, I recommend Entering the Silent Land by Martin Laird for practical advice, and anything by Richard Rohr for inspiration and revelation.
If you have any questions, or if you want a coach in this field, find the Contact page and the Spiritual Coaching page above.
“We must learn to possess God in all things, while remaining free in all that we do and wherever we are.” – Meister Eckhart