“The aim of meditation . . . is not to arrive at an objective and apparently ‘scientific’ knowledge about God, but to come to know God through the realization that our very being is penetrated with God’s knowledge and love for us.” —Thomas Merton
A Word of Hope
I am taking my first online course from the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, the home base of Fr. Richard Rohr and other fine teachers. My two month long class focuses on The Interior Castle, seminal work of St. Teresa of Avila, 16th Spanish mystic, and is guided by the masterful James Finley and Mirabai Starr, whose translation of the discalced Carmelite sister we are reading. *
I invite you to come along with me over the next few weeks.
One of the key dimensions of the course is regular contemplative practice, practice we are encouraged to use as “book ends” to the videos, reading, journaling, and discussion.
Some of James Finley’s suggestions for contemplative prayer follow:
Sit in a comfortable position, relaxed but alert, head bowed, hands folded or open on your lap. Close your eyes and take a few deep natural breaths. Bow in reverence, then speak the following quieting prayer: “Be still and know that I am God.” Then “Be still and know that I am.” “Be still and know.” “Be still.” “Be.”
Now enter the silence and open yourself to an encounter with God. Some people simply follow their breaths, some repeat a word or phrase: “Jesus, Mercy,” “Open my heart,” or others. During contemplation (from 5-20 minutes), the mind will do what mind does and thoughts will come. We accept whatever arises in an even-handed, non-judgmental way with compassion towards ourselves.
One of Finley’s beautiful variations on this mode of prayer is to hear God’s silent “I love you” on the inhalation of the breath—God breathing God’s very life in you. On the exhalation, give your own self in love to the Love loving you, inwardly saying, “I love you.” Whenever the mind wanders, return to the exchange of love. If sadness arises during the meditation, hear God loving you through all the sadness and then give yourself—sadness and all– to the One loving you. (The same is true for physical pain or fear or any discomfort that arises.)
Over time and with regular practice, the scales of our eyes fall away and we see only Love. The defenses of our hearts fall away and we know only Love.
Oh You, who seek union with us always, open us to the outpouring of your Love. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
For an in-depth video interview with Mirabai Starr on Teresa’s life, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aPyx5daW50