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Longing for the simplest wordless presence

Anu Pylkkänen, a meditator from Finland

Finland is very Lutheran: about 70% of the population are members of the Church. In Helsinki, the reformed Lutheran church and its services are very down to earth, non-mystical and really open to everyone. It has both women and men priests and bishops. Growing up in Helsinki, with its liberal and permissive spiritual atmosphere where the Church did not regulate or really exercise any strong role in our lives, formed my relationship with the Church. I am very grateful that the Church was approachable and sort of neutral. Even if I only went there for weddings, christenings, confirmations and funerals, the support and steadiness of the Church felt really good.

This Church, however, was not the place where I would go for spiritual nourishment. I have felt the strong pull of the simplest wordless presence for as long as I can remember, so I went looking for answers elsewhere. My path took me along what I would call the “usual eastern route”. I explored the really wonderful teachings of many Indian and Buddhist masters which still today I appreciate as precious jewels. I am enormously grateful for the doors they opened in me. Meditation, I felt, was the way forward for me, and I longed to find a practice that would “make flesh” all these teachings. However, the last place I would look for this was the Church, as I had never heard of meditation being combined with Christianity. 

I have felt the strong pull of the simplest wordless presence for as long as I can remember, so I went looking for answers elsewhere.

So when, some ten years ago, a friend saw a small advertisement about Christian meditation, we decided to go and see what it was all about. I still remember that little group where we felt so welcome. I had a sense of homecoming. It was something I immediately knew I wanted to go deeper into. From that day on, I have attended the group every week. I read John Main`s Word into Silence, which opened the door for me. It remains to this day the book to which I perhaps feel closest.

The path, then, has presented a number of interesting adventures and challenges, such as giving many presentations on Christian meditation, doing translations, meeting absolutely wonderful people, and then also becoming the National Coordinator for Finland, and finally also returning to the Church. A priest once said that he had to stop his theological university education, as he felt that they were only talking about recipes and there was no food on the table. When he found meditation, he found the food and then could go back to the university. Or as an Indian Master put it, “You cannot taste honey by licking a book where the word honey is written.” 

“You cannot taste honey by licking a book where the word honey is written.”

Meditation is the real experience.

I also feel that like any meal, the manna of meditation is best shared with other people. John Main said that meditation creates community and, as one of my favourite writers, Simone Weil, put it:

“For nothing among human things has such power to keep our gaze fixed ever more intensely upon God than friendship for the friends of God.”

Simone Weil (Waiting for God)

Quarterly Newsletter

Anu Pylkkänen’s sharing is part of the October issue of the WCCM Quarterly Newsletter.

Read and download the full issue here.

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