Two weeks ago I began a series on Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, a Carmelite monk who lived and served in the 17th century at a monastery near Paris.
Please read the previous two posts for my introductory remarks on this subject. As always, in my comments on Brother Lawrence, I encourage non-Christian believers to adapt the language, images, and perspectives discussed in this series into the context of their chosen faith tradition. For those who are secular humanists or atheists please know I have no interest in asking you to change your views. Rather my hope is to simply disseminate information and facilitate dialogue between different spiritual traditions as well as between people of faith and non-believers as well. After all, one does not need to believe in God to appreciate the music of Bach or Palestrina, or the architecture of Notre Dame, or the paintings of Raphael. The same is true for the writings of a distinctive personality such as Brother Lawrence. Nor does one need to be an atheist to appreciate the genius of Darwin, Einstein, or Heisenberg.
The question I posed over the past two weeks is “How can the busy modern tradesman, professional, or business person put into action St. Paul’s encouragement to ‘Pray without ceasing.'” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Most modern people have a hard enough time setting aside any time in the morning or evening for meditation. The idea of maintaining a meditative awareness and practice throughout the work day may seem to be way too much. But I think there is a way to do this, regardless of how much time a person has for formal meditation practice. I also believe Brother Lawrence’s approach of “Practicing the Presence of God,” offers a more viable approach for modern people than does the form of practice suggested by Greek and Russian Orthodox monks (see previous two posts). I feel this way because his approach is less verbal and is not tied to a constant repetition of a mantra.
My description of this approach varies somewhat from Brother Lawrence’s but not too much.
Whatever your specific practice or mantra during meditation is, when you get up from your meditation cushion or chair, maintain a simple openness to see if it is possible to see or to feel God’s presence as you enter into the activities of the day.
Another way to engage this practice during the active hours of life is to turn your awareness from time to time to observe, “What is the tone of your spiritual heart? This is what the Hindu’s call the Heart Chakra. It is an area, or a circular field of subtle energy, that for me is in the center of the upper chest. While you may have a different way of engaging this “Prayer of the Heart”, I have come to believe (rightly or wrongly) that this field of subtle energy in the center of the upper chest is a connection point between my life and God’s divine energy. It feels like a field of shared energy and life.
I do not know if this subtle field of energy is some imagined sensation or if there is some physiological basis western science is not able to measure at this point. Certainly the Hindus, Daoists, and eastern medicine professionals feel this and other places of subtle energy in the body are very real phenomena. What I can tell you is the sensation of this circular field of energy and spirit seems real to me.
When I talk of loving God it is from this field from where the love I offer to God originates within me and streams forth to God. The following is one way to imagine this streaming of love and worship/
“May my prayer rise before you as incense in your sight” (Psalm 141:2)
When I talk about being joined in union with God it is in this place where a living communion between my life and God’s life is felt and sustained.
While I am surprised that my practice has developed in this way, my sense that this is a favorable direction of practice is very sincere.
The specifics of what works for you (if any of this is of interest) may be very different. If you are interested, what is important is to be very, very open to allowing God’s guidance and inspiration to develop within your feelings and intuition as you move through the activities of your life and during formal times of meditation.
Whatever may be the specifics of your beliefs, I believe you will find the following is true:
As you realize there is room for very real improvement to be made in your ability to love without compromise, and as diligently labor to refine your skills with love, your meditation practice will progress. This is just as true for Christians as it is for Non-Christians and atheists.
The willingness to turn to your awareness to your heart and feelings throughout the day to see what you are giving and receiving to yourself and others will help with this process.
It is simple. Is your heart open or closed? If it is open, consent to let it open more. If it is closed see what you can do to let it open.
More next week on the practical aspects of working with this “Prayer of the Heart” in the midst of a busy 21st century work and family life.
Let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of Meditationpractice.com will at meditation practice dot com (spelled out to limit spam) 774-232-0884