John Main in Being On the Way explains the reason for us meditating as follows: “What we know from the words of Jesus and from the actions of Jesus is that God is wholly turned to us in Jesus and in our meditation, and in taking our meditation absolutely seriously, in making it the fundamental axis of our life, we turn wholly to God in Jesus. That is what our meditation is about: turning our lives around so that they are wholly focused within the consciousness of Jesus, and this is what it is to enter eternal life, [the Kingdom]”
Laurence Freeman in Jesus the Teacher Within also lays the emphasis on transformation of consciousness and points to the role faith plays in this: “As this transformation process unfolds, relationship with Jesus deepens. Faith deepens commitment to that relationship and faith pushes consciousness further into spirit…..Values and priorities long accepted are re-evaluated. Qualities we thought ourselves incapable of – patience, empathy, compassion, tolerance – develop in our character and behaviour. One day, almost casually, we see that our image of God has been overhauled.” (p.178)
It is the Spirit that Jesus sent after His resurrection that causes this transformation. “It is the energy of Jesus at work everywhere until the end of time.” (p.179) But “Faith – which is openness to the non-dual and our inherent capacity for transcendent relationship – disposes us to receive the Spirit.” (p.189) Faith is therefore not to be equated with belief in certain dogma but is an attitude of trust and openness.
What is therefore the essence of the discipline of meditation? It is “the simplifying practice of silence and stillness, of non-action beyond thought and imagination, the stilling of the activities of the mind.” (p. 197)
The word meditation has changed its meaning over the centuries but in the teaching of John Main and Laurence Freeman it is: “the work we do to accept the gift of contemplation which is already given and present in the heart.” It is “the discipline of the pilgrimage of spiritual growth.” (p. 197). Nowadays it is often seen purely as a way to relaxation and a lessening of the effects of stress, a health and life-style choice. But “from a spiritual perspective you relax in order to meditate rather than meditate in order to relax.” It is therefore much more than that. It is “a work that harmonises the usually discordant dimensions of our consciousness….it is a way of silence and self-transcendence, a way of relationship and solitude, a way to read without words, to know without thought…Meditation, in the light of Christian faith, is a deepening encounter with the mind of Christ.” (p.198) It is a way of total transformation.
The fruit of meditation is therefore a change in our behaviour. But “the place we should look for the fruits of meditation is not the meditation period itself – what ‘happens’ (or doesn’t) – but in the manner and quality of our lives, especially our relationships. We are not looking for anything extraordinary to happen in meditation. The point is to see the presence of God in the ordinary, to transform our perception of reality.”(p. 199)
Image: St Benedict’s Day in Bonnevaux 2018