Like many in our community, I was first introduced to a meditation practice by the Buddhists. I had grown up in the Anglican tradition
and studied theology in my early twenties, but by the time I was introduced to meditation I had left the church and Christian faith (as I thought) well behind me. I hadn’t been able to make faith ‘real’ for me and the question of prayer felt particularly fraught. If God answers some prayer and not others, where is justice? If God knows everything, why do we have to pray? Intercessory and petitionary prayer seemed bound up with such insoluble ethical and metaphysical problems that I was left unable to pray at all.
What I loved about meditation was that I didn’t have to resolve any of this in advance. I didn’t even have to know what I believed. I just had to follow the practice and trust that if something were there, it would declare itself. Truth would become apparent. Gradually through the practice, I did begin to hear the Scripture and symbols of my own tradition in a different and vital way. Beyond my doubts and intellectualizing, I glimpsed something of the deeper mystery. I returned to church and continued to meditate. A couple of years later, I discovered The WCCM and the possibility of making the theological connections between my meditation and my newly emerging faith. I had come home. My sense of vocation to the priesthood followed soon after.
In the twelve or so years since that time, meditation has been at the heart of my journey of faith and my spiritual practice, though my experience continues to change. This is not just about the level of distraction which does gradually lessen, although on any given day I can still be much more distracted that I like! More significantly, I keep discovering the wisdom inscribed in the deceptive simplicity of John Main’s teaching. The wisdom, for example, of listening to the mantra rather than visualizing it – and how the attention needed to listen draws us beyond our thoughts. This year, I joined with Fr Laurence and four others from WCCM (Sicco Claus, Leonardo Correa, Karen Pedigo and Vladimir Volrab) at the Contemplative Exchange hosted at St Benedict’s Monastery, in Colorado. This gathering came about as Fr Laurence and Fr Thomas, together with Fr Richard Rohr and Rev. Tilden Edwards, had conceived the vision to bring together a group of younger teachers and leaders from their communities. It was an opportunity for us to get to know one another, to share from the experience of our different chairisms and emphases, and to be open to listen to what might be being called forth as we seek to communicate the Christian contemplative tradition and join in the work of healing of our world. It was a week for deepening our practice, and strengthening the bonds of affection between strands of
the contemplative renewal. It felt like a beginning; as yet we do not know where these friendships will lead, but we left filled with a sense of possibility and encouraged in faithfulness to our own callings as individuals and communities of faith.