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Learning to meditate in Lent

“Meditation is a discipline and you will appreciate this for yourself as soon as you try it.” Laurence Freeman OSB

If you’re like me, you’re probably asking yourself “How can I make the best of the Lenten season?”

The simple solution, according to Fr Laurence Freeman OSB, a Benedictine monk and the spiritual guide and Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation (wccm.org) is that persons commit more “generously and absolutely” to mediation twice-daily.

Meditation is an integral part of the Christian tradition of prayer. In this tradition it is called the ‘prayer of the heart’. This distinguishes it from either mental prayer of the external forms of worship with which many Christians have come to identify prayer.

In this way of meditation—praying in the heart, or what Jesus calls the ‘inner room’— “we are not speaking to God or thinking about God or asking God for things. Meditation is not what you think. We are being with God,” Fr Laurence said in his book Sensing God.

The early Christian monks, the desert fathers and mothers, said that meditation was the ‘laying aside of thoughts’. “This means good and bad thoughts, silly as well as wise ones. In meditation we are not trying to have good or better thoughts.”

If you get an “inspired solution” to a problem you are troubled by, “let it go” and it should be there when you finish your meditation (although by then it may not feel so inspired), Fr Laurence said.

In recent years, mindfulness training—a form of Buddhist practice adapted to the modern secular and scientific culture—has attracted much attention for the benefits it is claimed to bestow.

In his book, Fr Laurence said that while some scepticism is often raised at the scientific quality of these claims, clearly people practise it because it makes them feel better.

Archbishop Jason Gordon has openly endorsed the practice of meditating and its many benefits. In fact, the Archbishop of Port of Spain, in his visits to government secondary schools has been conducting exercises in Christian Meditation with students. In his visit to a group of Catholic students of the South East Port of Spain (SEPOS) School, he advised them that through meditation in the moments of silence, they can experience inner calm daily and the importance of spending some quiet time to converse with God daily.

How to meditate

Like everything new, meditation can seem strange at first. Allow time in your day to meditate and allow time to feel familiar with the experience. One day you will see how important meditation is to the quality of the meaning of your life.

  1. Sit down with your back straight. You can use a straight-backed chair or a cushion or meditation bench. Sit alert and comfortably, so that you can sit still throughout the meditation. Close your eyes lightly. Begin to repeat a single word or ‘mantra’ and try to repeat it continuously, faithfully throughout the period of the meditation. When thoughts, problems, plans, memories, fantasies, anxieties, whatever, rise in the mind let them go and return your attention to the mantra.
  2. Repeat the word ‘maranatha’. This is an ancient Christian prayer-word but also one that can be used by all, young and old, those with faith and those without. It means ‘Come Lord’ but the meditator is not consciously thinking of its meaning while it is repeated. If you choose this word say it as four syllables: ma-ra-na-tha. Articulate it clearly in the mind and listen to it as you repeat it.
  3. The simplicity and stillness of the mantra will lead you into the silence that is pure prayer. There is nothing so much like God as silence, according to Meister Eckhart. The simple discipline is to say the mantra from the beginning to the end of the meditation—as best you can. Don’t evaluate yourself. The thought of failure is just another thought to lay aside.

Saying the mantra is the interior form of the discipline of meditation; sitting down to do it every day is the outer form Fr Laurence said. Early morning and early evening are the ideal times but persons have to adapt to circumstances. Aim at first to meditate for 20 minutes then gradually increase to 30 minutes.

In the morning

Try to mediate before you check emails or listen to the news. You can read an appropriate Lenten reading for the day after the meditation.

In the evening

Try not to leave the second meditation too late as you may find that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. You can also then re-read the daily reading from the morning. In this way your meditation practice will help you find a balance and stability in your daily life, whatever kind of day it has been.

Written with information from Sensing God.

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