In anticipation of our move I started packing the non-essential layers of the apartment. Winter coats, sweaters, and fall jackets won’t be missed in the remaining summer months. I enjoy this opportunity to sort through unmatched socks or wade into the back recesses of our closet to re-discover old memories. My bookshelves are like stratigraphic layers recording each passing semester. I can even trace the changing contours of my faith through the eclectic acquisition of reading material that has accumulated here. The one continuous thread is my interest in meditation. It has served as a sanctuary for my spirit as I explored new facets of my faith. If I found myself weighed down in dogma, I could always sustain an authentic connection to the Divine in meditation.
When I began studying the Christian faith, I was disappointed by the lack of guidance concerning a meditation practice. I was also hesitant to adapt Catholic or Orthodox practices for my own use, even though they provided a “legitimate” framework for Christian contemplation. So I created a simple, Christ-centered meditation and consistently reflected upon it every morning. During Lent, I also experimented with my own rosary. I have discovered that the intention and regular practice of meditation is more important than the external dressing. The actions utilized in meditation are only a vehicle for inviting our awareness to turn to the in-dwelling presence of God.
The connotations surrounding meditation are often a barrier to envisioning how regular contemplation compliments Christian teachings. Meditation is not like a drug, there is no particular feeling or experience created by practicing meditation. Sometimes this discourages or disappoints new practitioners. Meditation is not individualistic, though many seek a solitary place and turn their attention inward during their practice. Meditation actually leads to authentic community. Self-awareness gained in contemplative practice manifests itself in growing compassion toward others, personal accountability, and forgiveness. Our understanding of God is deepened through the effects of meditation in our daily lives.
Meditation is an awakening to the loving presence of the Divine within, shaping who we are. Christian meditation is a unique embodiment of the prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” It empowers the practitioner to be fully present to their intention to follow Christ’s example as a peace-maker in the image of God’s love. I believe it is this Spirit which has allowed meditation to be a vehicle for inter-faith dialogue. Sometimes meditation circles lapse into generic “spirituality” which can seem shallow and noncommittal. But I have found that swapping ideas across traditions has the potential to open me up to new encounters with God, and I have gained a few life-long friends in the process.