Meditation and Centering Prayer Opportunities
The psalmist says: "Be still and know that I am God." In silence, the language of the spirit, our deepest capacity to be with and in God is realized, here and now. The seed of contemplative prayer is that we give silent, still attention. During meditation we are not speaking to, imagining or thinking about God. We are not making petitions or intentions. To help us pay attention and stay in the present moment we repeat a mantra or sacred word. The mantra helps create a narrow path of interior silence in our often distracted mind and heart.
In scripture, Matthew 6 describes Jesus' teaching on prayer as sincere prayer coming from the heart. This chapter provides an excellent explanation of meditation and tells of Jesus' simple, radical call to leave self behind. When we pray we are sincere if we are open to being changed. The one praying is prepared and willing to be changed by the act of prayer. Thus the essence of meditation is learning to stand back from our own self-centeredness and allow God to come to the forefront of our life. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee," said St. Augustine.
Early Christians called attentive, silent meditation pure prayer. It's called pure because when practiced faithfully over time, the discipline of meditation can help simplify and purify our hearts of self-consciousness, anger, desire, worry, fear and daydreams.
Dedicated time and loving energy are required on this journey to interior silence—simplicity of heart and body stillness. This simplicity requires discipline, even courage. We must be humble enough to meditate faithfully over a period of years to help reduce the chatter of the mind. Slowly we learn “to be” rather than defining ourselves by what we do or what we think. Eventually our relationships are put in good order. We spend less time in the regrets of the past and the worry or fears of the future. We are able to stop daydreaming and instead give our full attention and acceptance to the simple enjoyment of "what is."
St John of the Cross says, "God is the center of my soul." When we meditate our deepest capacity to be with and in God is realized. We expand from our own narrow, ego world into the mind of Christ, the experience of oneness, at the core of our being. Our attention is his attention. His attention is utterly personal, and yet universal. In this presence we begin to realize our true identity here and now. We know we are loved. We are one with ourselves, with others, with all creation and with the mystery of God as the source of all. We allow God's presence within us to become more and more the reality that gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do. We accept the gift of our own creation as fully as we can and we respond to it as generously as we can.
HOW TO MEDITATE
Sit down. Sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Breathe calmly and regularly. Silently, interiorly begin to say a single word (mantra). We recommend the prayer-phrase ma-ra-na-tha.* Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, continuously and very gently. Do not think or imagine anything—spiritual or otherwise. When thoughts and images come, they are distractions at the time of meditation, so keep returning by simply saying the word. Meditate each morning and evening for between twenty and thirty minutes.
*Maranatha is an Aramaic word Jesus used meaning "The Lord Comes." It is preferred because it has no visual or emotional connotation and its continuous repetition will lead over time to a deeper and deeper silence. Other mantras to use could be Jesus or Abba.
SANTA BARBARA MEDITATION GROUPS
Christian Meditation meets once each week. Mary Sue Anderson, 805-565-1213
Weekly Monday Centering Prayer each Monday from 1:00 to 2:00pm at La Casa de Maria, facilitated by Jeannette B. Love
Weekly Tuesday Centering Prayer each Tuesday from 10:30 to 11:30am at La Casa de Maria, facilitated by Suzanne Dunn