Thursday, September 30, 2010

dhyana-the group

I’ll begin with an excerpt from the book, “The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life,” a compilation of Henri Nouwen’s writings:

“The Divine Spirit Praying in Us

The practice of contemplative prayer is the discipline by which we begin to see God in our heart. It is a careful attentiveness to the One who dwells in the center of our being such that through the recognition of God’s presence we allow God to take possession of all our senses. Through the discipline of prayer we awaken ourselves to the God in us and let God enter into our heartbeat and our breathing, into our thoughts and emotions, our hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting. It is by being awake to this God in us that we can see God in the world around us. The great mystery of the contemplative life is not that we see God in the world, but that God within us recognizes God in the world. God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart. Contemplation, therefore, is a participation in this divine self-recognition. It is the divine Spirit praying in us who makes our world transparent and opens our eyes to the presence of the divine Spirit in all that surrounds us. It is with our hearts that we see the heart of the world. This explains the intimate relationship between contemplation and ministry.”

I take away from this a couple of things:
1. Namaste-It’s a common form of greeting in India and Nepal.  One translation is “The Divine Light in me recognizes The Divine Light in you.” I like this greeting because it reminds me that I am a child of God and He dwells in me. But it also reminds me that everyone else is too. When we say it to someone else, it is a gentle reminder to them, as well, of the presence of God within them. It’s unfortunate that our culture pretty much sees it as just plain weird)

2. “Let God enter into our heartbeat and our breathing…” I find this part interesting because God is already in there! We are just quieting ourselves enough so that we are more aware of His Divine presence!

3. “The Divine Spirit praying within us…”

John 14:26
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative--that is, the Holy Spirit--he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

Romans 8:26
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

Tonight we’ll try using a “Sacred Word” to help us keep our minds focused. The word, which we each choose ourselves, is used to help us bring our minds back from wandering.
Some word suggestions might be Possible "Jesus," "Christos," "Jesus Christ," "Father," "Abba," "God," "Amen," "God." Other possibilities are "Love," "Peace," "Mercy," "Listen," "Yes,” “Shalom.”
You may prefer a short phrase, such as “Lead me,” “Kyrie Eleison,” “Christe Eleison,”
The key is find one that you are comfortable and stick with it during your meditation. Don’t change around. Stick with it. Also, you may wish to find one that will work with inhaling and exhaling. “Lead Me,” for example, is good because it sounds smooth and works with breath.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

pratyahara-I think it's a balance thing

Today I went to an energy awareness workshop at a small private studio not far from where I live. There were about a dozen of us there, and we talked about universal energy, energy healing, sensing energy in others, and a little bit about the energy we ourselves put out.

I went because I've felt dry. Closed up. As a Reiki II practitioner, I have been given the means by which to be a conduit of God's healing energy. But I rarely use it. I rarely feel "permission" to. And I rarely feel that I receive it from others.

I told a couple of people in my small group that I keep my energy and emotions tightly closed up most of the time. It protects me from the "stuff" that flows around my office and the people I meet. But I also find that I'm turning inward more and more as I meditation more and more. I'm living inside my head most of the time. Spending time with myself most of the time.

This has been good for me, because in the past I have relied too much on others to gain my own sense of self. To feel loved and protected. But now I wonder if I've swung too far the other way.

I think I need to start figuring out a way to allow love to flow out from me to others, and for it to flow from others to me, but then also to keep it at a reasonable, balanced level.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

dhyana-the group

Tonight we'll talk about listening and recognizing God's voice.

Scripture says "My sheep hear my voice." John 10:27. I remember once our pastor did an experiment with the children during his children's sermon. While he had the kids at the front of the sanctuary seated at the floor, he had some of their parents speak out loud from where they were sitting. The children were instructed to react if they recognized the voice of the person who was speaking. He pointed out that we, as children of God, recognize His voice simply because we are His children.

But more than that, we recognize our parents' voices, and God's voice, because we are tuned in by habit and training. As we grow up as children (and even before we are born) hearing the voices of our parents, we also grow to recognize God's voice and presence in our lives.

I found this anecdote online at Sermon Central this morning:

"Two men were walking along a crowded city sidewalk. Suddenly, one of the men remarked, "Listen to the lovely sound of that cricket," But the other man could not hear the sound. He asked his friend how he could hear the sound of a cricket amid the roar of the traffic and the sound of the people. The first man, who was a zoologist, had trained himself to hear the sounds of nature. He didn't explain to his friend in words how he could hear the sound of the cricket, but instead, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a half-dollar coin, dropped it onto the sidewalk, and watch intently as a dozen people began to look for the coin as they heard it clanking around amid the sounds of the traffic and the sounds of the crowded city living.

He turned to his friend and said, "We hear what we listen for."

So. We hear what we listen for. Huh. Sound simple. NOT!

I wish I had more to offer than this, but this is all I have: Sit. Listen. But don't try to make it happen. Let God's voice come to you. How do we know it's God's voice we are hearing? I think it's like when your mom says "YOU'LL JUST  KNOW" when you find the person you'll marry. And she also says "you can't make it happen. It just will."

Here's another story to illustrate that point from inward/

Author James Finley tells of a conversation he once had with trappist monk Thomas Merton. "Merton once told me to quit trying so hard in prayer. He said: 'How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.' A small green apple cannot ripen in one night by tightening all its muscles, squinting its eyes and tightening its jaw in order to find itself the next morning miraculously large, red, ripe and juicy beside its small green counterparts. Like the birth of a baby or the opening of a rose, the birth of the true self takes place in God's time. We must wait for God, we must be awake; we must trust in God's hidden action within us."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

dhyana-the group Sept 16

It's Really Hard to Shut the Mind Up Sometimes

What a fantastic strip featured on Elephant Journal this week:

After last week's meditation sit, a couple of the members said they would like to hear some techniques for quieting the mind. So I've decided to do breath focus this week. 

My first scripture passage will be from Genesis 2:7
"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

I heard (or read) this comment somewhere: "He is the very breath of our breaths." I wish I knew what wise person said that. It might have been Job! Job 33: 4 says “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”

Henri Nouwen wrote about the Holy Spirit and our relationship to Him. He said:

"When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us. The Greek word for 'spirit' is pneuma, which means 'breath.' We are seldom aware of our breathing. It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.
The Spirit of God is like our breath. God's spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. We might not often be aware of it, but without it we cannot live a 'spiritual life.' It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy. Let us pray: 'Come, Holy Spirit, come.'"

And so tonight we will focus on our breath. We will use our awareness of our breath, or PRANA (a Sanskrit word meaning “vital force”), to help focus our mind and kick the hamster off the wheel.

In the silence tonight I want you to notice your inhales and exhales. Don’t try to control it. Just let it be. Notice how the air passes through your nostrils. Notice the rise and fall of our chest and abdomen. Notice how each exhale brings a measure of relaxation to your body. You can imagine each inhale as a divinely-driven resuscitation. The dictionary defines resuscitation as “to revive.” Think of each breath, each intake of fresh oxygen, as a revival of your body, mind and spirit.

If your mind has a hard time focusing on just that, here is a visualization I’ve used periodically. I think of God as a divine conductor of the orchestra that is my life. I imagine his hand rising as I inhale, and falling gracefully as I exhale. He conducts each in-flow and out-flow of my breath.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

dhyana-the group

So tonight is the first night of the Centering Prayer & Meditation group I'm going to facilitate at our church. Our plan is to meet from 7 - 7:50 each Thursday evening. I will open each week with 10 minutes of meditation tips and techniques, maybe something inspirational to chew on, and then we'll go into 20 minutes of silence. We'll end with whatever the group would like to do...share or write in notebooks...we'll see how that pans out.

I'm nervous. I don't want to set myself up as some sort of champion of contemplation. I just want to offer what I know and have experienced and then, over time, I hope we will all just learn and grow together.

Tonight I'll read I Samuel 3: 1-11, which is the story of Samuel first hearing God's voice. He heard his name called in the middle of the night and thought it was his rabbi, Eli. Here are the points I'll bring out from that reading:

  • Samuel was resting. His body and mind were relaxed as he lay in his bed. This kind of quiet for his body and mind enabled him to hear God’s voice
  • After Eli told Samuel to listen and then how to respond, Samuel was able to hear God’s voice again and tell Him he was ready to hear what God had to tell him.
    You have to be quiet in body, mind and spirit to hear God's voice. I Kings 19: 11-13 tells the story of God speaking to Elijah. He was not heard in the great and strong wind, he was not heard in the earthquake, or in the fire. Scripture tells us his was a "still small voice."

    Teachers often use that technique to get students to pay attention in the classroom. They will speak softly so that students must be quiet to be heard. I used to have trouble falling asleep. I could not quiet my body enough to relax and sleep. At some point, I don't remember when, I began turning on the radio to a talk radio station. I figured out that if I played the radio very very quietly, I had to lay perfectly still to hear it. In laying perfectly still I stopped fidgeting and fell asleep.

    Of course we don't want to fall asleep in meditation, although there may be times that we do. (If that happens, don't beat yourself up. You may need the sleep. Eventually you'll be able to calm yourself and still stay awake)

    back to the story--

    • Eli. He’s the funny part of the story, I think. He’s an unlikely teacher here. Eli was a poor excuse for a rabbi and father. He had no control over his sons, who committed so much evil that it brought a curse down upon his family for all generations to come. And yet he was chosen to be the one to train young Samuel. And he gave correct instruction to Samuel about how to hear God and respond. To me this says that sometimes timeless truth and instruction comes from what we think are unlikely sources. My journey into my meditation practice has actually about from my quest to quiet my central nervous system and calm my aching body. As I study yoga, which is not a religion, I find that I am growing spiritually each and every day. It is true that the point of the yoga asanas is to teach the body stillness so that the practitioner can meditate on the Divine. In my case, as I hear about the teachings of yogis through the ages, most of whom are of Eastern religions, I find my own Christian beliefs strengthened.

      I plan to write each week's 10-minute blurb here. Hopefully eventually I'll have a nice record to review and maybe even stuff to re-use as we go through this journey.

      Sunday, September 5, 2010


      Who am I to write about meditation? Who am I to think I can practice and it? And mostly...WHO AM I TO THINK I CAN HELP OTHERS DO IT?


      This Thursday I'll begin our new Centering Prayer & Meditation group at church. I want to build my own practice, help others to start or build theirs, and mostly I want to grow a community of meditators that can support each other in this practice.

      I've mapped out 4 weeks of meetings. Each meeting will have 10 minutes of tips, techniques, inspiration.

      That's the part that kind of freaks me out. That's my part.

      I've been going over and over what the first week should be about. I thought maybe just dive in with a breathing technique. But then I've thought about starting with talking about posture: how you have to be comfortable to pull it off. And I've thought about explaining how I came to meditation.

      I think I'm going to start with the story of Samuel and my observations about it. I Samuel 3:1-11a.

      Now I just have to jot down what those observations are. What are they?