A series on Christian Meditation by Sandee Bengochea, Coordinator, WCCM Trinidad
To meditate we simply sit still and upright. Close our eyes lightly. Be relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly begin to repeat a single word over and over. We listen to ourselves as we say it gently and constantly in time with our breathing. We do not think or imagine anything spiritual or otherwise. If thoughts or images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation. We gently move them aside and come back to our breath and to our word.
The word or mantra recommended is ‘Ma- ra- na- tha’, said in four syllables. Maranatha is an Aramaic word which means, ‘Come Lord. Come Lord Jesus.’
It is the word that St Paul uses to end his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:22), and the word with which St John ends the book of Revelation (Rev 22:20).
It is good to pay attention to the body before we enter a meditation. This can be especially useful if we have aches and pains, or if we are stressed out in any way. A ‘mindful’ body scan will help us to listen to our body so we can make the mind aware of its needs. It can be used for calming the mind for meditation.
Many new meditators find that one of the biggest obstacles to starting meditation is the tendency to focus on the intellectual side of meditation while ignoring the current state of their body and mind.
Meditation is simple, but it is not easy. While our body remains still, our mind is doing ‘mental aerobics’. We must suspend the operations of the mind through the repetition of the mantra (‘manas’ -mind; ‘tra’ -tool). The consciousness along with the quietness. The thought-free experience of the self.
When we begin to meditate, we discover just how distracted we are, almost addicted to distractions as the mind flits from one thought to the other.
The Indian mystic Sri Ramakrishna, who lived in Bengal in the 19th century, used to describe the mind as a mighty tree filled with monkeys, all swinging from branch to branch and all in an incessant riot of chatter and movement. When we begin to meditate, we recognise that as a wonderfully apt description of the constant whirl going on in our mind: mundane thoughts like cooking, or the car needs gas; bigger thoughts, like grief or fears, or deeper issues that we may have been suppressing.
And then, there is also the distraction of our own ego, it is said that the ego has a limited level of intelligence. We become obsessed by the desire for perfection. Almost like an addiction.
Meditation teaches us to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves. In meditation, we learn to accept our distractions as our teacher. We accept them as our own woundedness.
Meditation is not problem-solving time. There is no good meditation or bad meditation; there is just meditation. It is a time of inner work. The work of meditation is to bring all of this mobile and distracted mind to stillness, silence, and concentration, to bring it, that is, into its proper service.
This is the aim given to us by the psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God.” We go into the ‘inner room’ or the heart.
Meditation is a learning process. It is a process of learning to pay attention, to concentrate, to attend. The great conviction of the New Testament is that Jesus, by giving us His Spirit, has dramatically transformed the fabric of human consciousness.
The all-important aim in Christian Meditation is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality in our lives. What happens in Christian Meditation can be summed up in the opening prayer we say, “Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call, ‘Maranatha… Come, Lord Jesus’.”
To contact WCCM Trinidad, email: email@example.com or WhatsApp 750-1172. Our Meditation Center at St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain is now open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.