Saturday, March 21, 2009

School of Prayer – Meditation

SCHOOL OF PRAYER - Part IV – Meditation

Thomas B. Woodward

We will look at several forms and approaches to meditation, both secular and religious, none of which are too demanding for people with limited time or background.

I. Recollective Meditation.

This form of meditation focuses on quieting our distractions and returning to a natural state of undisturbed, relaxed consciousness – who we are beyond our thoughts. The most popular form of this form of meditation is probably an offshoot of Transcendental Meditation. Dr. Herbert Benson, in The Relaxation Response, compares TM and various other approaches to meditation and finds remarkable similarities. You can get this book at amazon.com for the price of postage.

a. The use of a candle. Sit comfortably in front of a lighted candle and focus on the light given off as goodness, purity or another virtue. When you are ready, pay attention to your breathing and then breathe in the light and exhale the darkness in yourself. Don't be specific about the referents for the light or darkness. (Experience in the Committee on the Status of Women)

b. "I/We are in the presence of God." This introduces a brief meditative time before the beginning of a meeting – or of a new part of your day. (Dawley)

c. Dealing with distractions: when you are distracted in a consistent manner, you should consider focusing on the distraction as the matter to be addressed in your prayers at that time.

II. The Jesus Prayer

a. The classical form of the Jesus Prayer is, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
The actual words of our short prayers can vary. We might say the classic version of the Jesus Prayer, or we might say, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." or "Lord Jesus, have mercy." Or, we might say a Psalm verse, or a Bible quote, or some other prayer. (from St. Vladimir's Seminary). The prayer is repeated for long periods of time, often tied with our breathing. The end point is when we are repeating the prayer unconsciously.

b. While saying the Jesus Prayer, allow your mind to affix the five parts of the Five Finger Prayer to the time you spend in this form of prayer.

III. Meditation on an Object or Process

a. The Anglican use of the Rosary. Check this out on-line.

b. Michael Quoist's Prayers is a stunning collection of prayer/meditations on such things as a tractor and a Twenty Dollar Bill, as well as the events surrounding the Passion of Jesus Christ. You can find the book in the parish library and at Allibris for less than $2, plus postage.

c. Ken Feit's approach to joining American Sign Language to haikus. "Since my house burned down, I now have a better view of the rising moon."

d. Affirmations, as a way of contradicting the ways we have been badly conditioned.

e. Allowing the core of a story from the Bible to penetrate our hearts and souls. "Alleluia" and imagining various retelling of the core of the story.

IV. Jesus before my eyes, Jesus before my heart, Jesus in my hands.

This is the form of classic Christian meditation. It is similar in nature to our response to a successful advertisement: we are attracted to an image promoting a product, we begin to long to have that image for ourselves, we go out and purchase it.

The form of being attentive to a virtue or an image of Jesus in the Scripture, then longing for it in our own life, followed by a specific resolution for implementation or use of that virtue or quality is a needed corrective to simply meditating on a virtue without implementing it with specific action.

V. The Parables (and stories) of Jesus from the Inside

This approach can be used individually or in a group. It was developed by Walter Wink and based on a Jungian approach to Scripture. Wink believes that we can find important parts of ourselves in the various persons and elements in the parables and other stories – and can use that information in the spiritual transformation of ourselves.

First, select a parable or story from Scripture. Then discover the meaning of any technical terms that have an impact on the story (e.g., "What is a Samaritan? What is the significance of a Levite?" in the Parable of the Good Samaritan). Read the parable in more than one voice – and then ask yourself the question, "Who am I in the thief, the Levite, the Samaritan, and other elements of the story?"). Allow yourself to feel the pain, affirmation or struggle of that identification – and then ask for God's healing, guidance or whatever else you find you need at this point. (The Parable of the Good Samaritan) "The Parables of Jesus from the Inside," by TBW in The Sewanee Theological Review, Christmas 2003.

Other Matters

Basic meditation: http://www.beliefnet.com/Holistic-Living/Meditation/index.aspx. You can subscribe to various elements of beliefnet – Christian, Jewish and Buddhist daily postings are often very helpful. They are free!

"Alleluia" based on the story of the healing of the demoniac in Mark's Gospel, with encouragement from Ken Feit.

"Recent Entries from the Diaries of God V," by TBW. You can find this entry at: http://turningthingsupsidedown.blogspot.com/2006/02/recent-entries-in-gods-diaries-v.html
another entry is a little earlier in that year's postings.

1 comment:

ronpogue said...

Tom, thanks so much for this piece and for reminding me of Michael Quoist's book. My copy was in my study at the church before Hurricane Ike. I hope it is now in a box in storage where I can find it, dig it out, and reacquaint myself with those prayers that were very much a part of my life a few years back. Sometimes, it is good to go back!