Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meditation 101

Occasionally I get asked

*What does your mental prayer consist of?*

*How do you meditate?*

One of the most important aspects of our Carmelite Rule is at least half hour of mental prayer everyday…it could be anytime of the day and can even be split up into two fifteen minute periods or three ten minute periods depending on your state in life.

Christian meditation differs markedly from the meditation that is touted in today’s yoga or meditation classes in that the focus is not on one’s self and one’s *energies* or one’s effort to release these so called *energies* but on the indwelling Trinity…the One Who sustains us at every moment and without Whose Presence, we would cease to exist. He is the One Who releases His energies within us…the One who refreshes, strengthens, and disperses His graces so we can persevere in the daily struggle, to fulfill His Holy Will, to love despite the trials and contradictions, to abandon ourselves to His great mercy.

It is most important to begin our meditation by placing ourselves in God’s Presence, to remember Who we are speaking with…keeping company with. This is aided by recollecting ourselves as frequently as possible during the day…to call to mind His Presence, His love, His will…remembering we are never alone. If we spend the day immersing ourselves in *busyness*…rushing here and there, idle chatter, surfing the internet, leaving the TV on in the background, constantly *doing* instead of *being* without nary a thought to our Lord…we will come to prayer and meditation distracted and scattered and we will have to work all the harder to recollect ourselves.

 “…when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.”
~Basil the Great: Detailed Rules for Monks

Some personalities, like myself, have a tendency to be distracted easily or have a wandering mind. In order to aid in this recollection and begin my meditation, I usually light a candle and have an icon in the background. I have good spiritual reading at my fingertips. Scripture is the best choice for “The Word of God is living and active.” {Hebrews 2:12} It continually speaks to us and never the same way even if we have read it many times before. You may feel drawn to the beautiful poetic words of the Psalms which speaks of every emotion we can experience as humans, you might feel drawn to the Gospels, or the wisdom of St. Paul in his Letters…wherever the Spirit leads you. Divine Intimacy: Meditations on the Interior Life for Every Day of the Liturgical Year is one of my all time favorites for meditation. Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD blesses us with reflections from his own writings, from great Carmelite Saints and scripture. Good spiritual writings from other saints are also worthy to help recollect us. It is recommended to choose something that you are familiar with or have read before so as to not be tempted to read ahead…been there! The purpose is to raise our thoughts to God and His Mysteries, to give us food for meditation and to inflame good holy thoughts and words for our prayer. This *speaking* is sometimes referred to the colloquy…we praise God, we proclaim our love, beg his aid in our resolutions, ask his forgiveness on our weakness, ask His blessing on all who need to be lifted in prayer.

As you progress in your spiritual journey, you will find that sometimes words are not needed…no good thought comes…and there is a desire to sit in silence, to go within oneself to be intimate with the Blessed Trinity Who resides there. Embrace this! 

If, during this silence, you find that distractions are increasing and you cannot recollect yourself, you can gently return to the spiritual reading until you are led again into that quiet or even slowly repeat the Jesus Prayer. The important point is that you return again and again, no matter how much one is distracted…no matter how many times one must return. This is more precious to the Lord than hours spent in absorption or ecstasy in His Presence. It is the test of our love for Him…our faithfulness to our time of prayer…to be with the One who continually calls us into being.


  1. Love this beautiful explanation. Makes me want to take some time today to mediate. The candle & icon are a great idea. I'm also so easily distracted. Mostly by 3 loud boys. =)

    1. Thank you Elisa! I am more distracted by computer haha. Usually night works best for me but I try to steal a few moments during the day : )

  2. What a lovely post! It's no wonder that it has received so many clicks!

    1. Blessings Sarah! Thanks so much. It was neat to go through some old posts and it was nice to read this one again. Sometimes we forget what we wrote LOL!

  3. I like this -- I need this. So often I get stuck in the perfection of something like this. My mind tends to wander too. So instead of getting frustrated I just reread and refocus. Yes. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for such kind words Pam. It is such a grace to see new faces here. It's easy to get frustrated and then say *forget it*. I still struggle with it. I need to learn that determination and patience that is much needed to NOT give up.


Always blessed by your kind words...

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