Three 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 posts of the past week or two for the opening remarks of this series.
As always, in my comments on any topic, I encourage non-Christian believers to adapt the language, images, and perspectives discussed in this series to 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. One of my goals is to simply share information from many different traditions with people of many different beliefs to increase respect among sincere people who happen to have very different visions of life and truth.
The general practice Brother Lawrence calls “Practicing the Presence of God” is to maintain an awareness of God’s life throughout the day. The question raised in earlier posts is, “What is the best way to do this?”
I believe Brother Lawrence’s practice offers a viable alternative to such practices as the one called for by Greek Orthodox monks in the Jesus Prayer (See my series from February-March 2015). With his approach there are several features:
Maintain an awareness of God’s life in a simple natural way throughout the mundane and the fascinating tasks of life. As noted in other posts, for me this sense of God’s life is clear of any of the conflicted messages of divine rage and punishment that are such common features of organized religion. For me this sense is also free of any delusional thinking that God or his angel’s will act as a force field preventing bad things from happening to me or those I care about although sometimes it seems like this does happen.
This is a subtle point but an important one. A close relationship with God in Christ is not some magic force that shields me or others from disaster. Yet when one’s faith in Jesus becomes unshakably strong, one is definitely able to tap into resources that help with both practical and esoteric needs. Still, what we call bad things can happen to the best of people. What we call good things can happen to what we call the worst of people. What is gained by a life of deep faith is an ability to endure that which must be endured with greater courage and fortitude than most people have. Also one gains an ability to overcome more readily a wider range of trials than one previously could as well as a far more delicate and intimate sense of what is meant by the words love and grace.
Practicing the Presence of God is an intuitive search by the mind and the spiritual heart for God’s presence moment by moment. This is conducted when things are going well, when things are very ordinary, when troubles are mounting, or when real catastrophe strikes. This is conducted in times of deep faith and surging doubt.
Throughout the day can you turn your attention to the thoughts of your mind. Is your current thought something essential or just more random mind chatter? If the latter, can you make the conscious choice to turn your thoughts to the beauty and the glory of Jesus in the transfiguration, or the image of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, or laughing with children, or some other favorite scene?
Throughout the day can you turn the attention of your mind to the intention of the thoughts or acts you are considering. Is your intention something base and petty or vindictive? Or is your intention to remember it is possible to give your love to your higher power in the silent chambers of your spiritual heart in both the ordinary and the extraordinary moments of life.
In the traffic jam, when you are running late for an important meeting, in the business meeting when the fate of the company or your job is being discussed, in the conversations with friends or co-workers about current events in the news, in arguments with those you are closest to, is it possible to step back from your ordinary thought processes and repeat a simple prayer or word?
Is it possible to turn your attention to the tone of your spiritual heart, what I referred to last week as the subtle energy Hindu’s call the heart chakra? Are you able to choose the intention of allowing your love to stream from your spiritual heart to your higher power with simple adoration as you pause for a moment in your mind in the midst of reviewing a menu at a restaurant or doing your grocery shopping?
Instead of thinking of God only during meditation or in Church can you open your heart and mind to God four times a day? How will your spiritual practice deepen if you are able to remember to remember to do this four times an hour or twenty times an hour?
At times such reflections may be just a simple openness to communion with God whether there is any felt sense of presence or not. At other times this reflection may be of the devotional sort where you give your love to God in the midst of ordinary events.
More on the practical aspects of this practice next week. But in general, please remember to keep your efforts simple and natural.
Let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.
will at meditation practice dot com ( Spelled out to avoid spam)