Notes on Contemplation — by Mary Sargent

#60 Safeguarding Serenity

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #60 02-19-17

Safeguarding Serenity

Reflections on Fr. John Main and Fr. Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation 

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by Mary Sargent

In John Main’s talk “The Way of the Mantra” he says that the invitation of the Christian life is to be one with Christ; to live your life in union with Christ.  Silent prayer is a communion in which we discover within ourselves a oneness with Christ.  This union takes us right out of ourselves as we become the people we are called to be; rooted and founded in love.

So how do we apply this practice when we are stressed, when we are in mental or physical pain, or when life isn’t going our way?  I think the answer is to turn to the mantra.  Begin meditation and stick with it.  Forget the words of prayer and center on the silence.  Soon, the mantra will soothe your mind and body.  Whatever the trouble is, it will lessen and eventually will vanish completely.  This is union with Christ, our Christian challenge.

In John Main’s talk “The Peace of Christ” he tells us that it is through meditation that we find our way into the peace of Christ.  But how do we hang on to this peace in these troubled times?

Any woman who’s ever been a mother will tell you how it completely transforms you.  You are no longer focused on yourself, but focused on the child.  We need to safeguard our own serenity the way a mother would safeguard her child against hurt, danger, negative situations and unhealthy choices, by becoming our own mothers.  We need to see ourselves as the children of God that we are.  As Christians, we are called to turn away from forms of negative entertainment and news, anger, violence, grudge-holding, revenge, self-destructive habits, gossip, and so many things that the culture, media and society are pushing on us these days.  Safeguarding our serenity is asking ourselves silently in all situations, “What would Christ do?”   This is the essence of Christianity.  This is what sets Christians apart from other religion’s followers.  There is a Catholic hymn that goes like this:  And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

 

 

 

#59 Christ Connection

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #59 01-19-17

Christ Connection

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation 

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

Mary Sargent

We hear John Main saying in his talk entitled, Set your mind on the Kingdom, “Jesus is at the center of our soul.”  By setting our minds on the Kingdom of God and establishing conscious contact with our own being, we are essentially maintaining our Christ Connection.

2017 has been a difficult year to dial in the focus on.  This January it is not just about recovering from the 366-day year of 2016 and the rush and excitement of the Christmas season, it is about the political climate that we are in the midst of in America today. We are crossing our fingers, holding our breath and just hoping for the best that we and our families will get through the next presidential administration unscathed.  Change is not easy for us.  We feel as if we are stepping off the escalator and not sure what we are stepping into, or if our feet will cause us to stumble and fall as they grip the floor.

Now more than ever we have to be vigilant about peace. I am talking about the peace within ourselves.  We need to maintain our Christ connection in order to get through these times and ride out the storm with a “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (The Eagles), and to be able to impart that feeling to everyone we encounter in our lives each day. We need to have tolerance, kindness and love for all.  We need to banish uncharitable thoughts about anyone (including ourselves) right out of our minds and stay close to Christ with conscious living, eating, speaking, writing and actions.

Anytime you turn to the news these days there is a potential threat to your inner peace.  Someone wants to get you riled up about something; a hideous crime has been reported and innocent lives have been taken; someone’s misfortune is tugging at your heartstrings and changes your mood to blue; your worries and suspicions overcome you and soon you are fearful, unhappy, un-peaceful and in a foul mood.  This is when Christian Meditation is at its most effective. This is when we must turn to Christ and keep the lines of communication of our Christ connection open and free of static.  We must “Go to the Mantra” as the characters in The Godfather said in times of shoot-outs, “Go to the mattresses.”

 

#58 The Freeways Of Your Mind

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #58 12-17-16

The Freeways of Your Mind

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation 

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

Mary Sargent

When I was a child, my family went on many car trips up and down the California coast.  Sometimes, my father would have to pull over at a rest area if he was getting too tired to drive, and the family would take a nap in the car.  I remember the sound of the freeway with the cars rumbling by loudly, and then the engine sounds trailing off into the silence of the night.  But even during the wee small hours of the morning, there is always the sound of cars on the freeway.

During meditation, our minds can be like freeways.  Sometimes it is rush hour and we have a hundred cars containing more thoughts rushing by than we can ever count.  Sometimes the traffic of thoughts is light and we can actually catch a few moments of silence.

There was a song by Jerry Jeff Walker in the 1970’s called LA Freeway:   

If I can just get off of that L.A. freeway
Without getting killed or caught
Down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought
If I can just get off of that L.A. freeway

So how do we get our minds out of that LA Freeway-mode?  We find a quiet place away from the freeway.  We take a few deep breaths, relax, and ask for help.  We ask for Jesus Christ to help us clear our minds.  We keep asking for help every time our thoughts distract us from saying the mantra.

Advent is the perfect time to meditate.  We are waiting for Christmas and focused on the Christ-child’s birth.  With all the hustle bustle of the Christmas season, it’s important to slow down and remember the reason for the season – Jesus.  Christmas can be overwhelming.  There is so much to do.  Dotting all the “I’s” and crossing all the “t’s” in Christmas can be anxiety-making.  We have to keep our Christmas spirits high.  The negativity of the news, dismal movies and music can really bring us down. Go to the mantra to keep your Christmas spirits bright.  Steer clear of negativity in all its forms and look to the “star of wonder, star of light.”

# 57 Mastering The Art Of Doing Nothing

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #57 11-07-16

Mastering The Art of Doing Nothing

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation 

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

Mary Sargent

I saw a print advertisement for the city of Palm Springs.  It showed tanned, young people lounging in the sun by a majestic hotel spa façade.  The caption read, “Master the art of doing nothing.”  I thought about how so few of us practice this ancient art in these pressured and multi-tasking times.  I also thought of how so many new technological devices have made silence, solitude and leisure a thing of the past, or a privilege confined only to hospitals and rest homes.

In Christian Meditation, we have to let go.  We have to leave those moments in the hands of Christ to do with us as he will.  In order to let go, we must first begin by mastering the art of doing nothing at all.  We can’t tweak and tinker with things.  We have to leave that to Christ.

Once we have emptied our mind of thoughts, debris, memories, song jingle melodies and all images and to-do lists, we can sink into the silence as Christ reveals the hidden layers of ourselves to ourselves.  After all the buzz has been shut off, we can then seek, ask our questions and knock.  “Christ, what do you think I should do about this?”  We then wait in silence for the answer which will surely come.  “Christ, how can I help build your Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth?”  There is a particular purpose each of us has that no one else can fulfill.  Listen closely for yours.  Maybe you are already engaged in your purpose and are actively living the Christian life while building the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth.

Christ speaks many languages.  He wears many faces.  Christ reveals himself in a thousand different ways in every country in the world.  He means different things to different people of many different faiths.  All are welcome.  All are seeking.  And if we continue on the pilgrimage of Meditation, we will find him and find ourselves.

 

 

#56 Interior Silence

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #56 09-19-16

INTERIOR SILENCE

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation 

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

Mary Sargent

“Now, my sisters, you will go to the chapel for your last prayers before you enter our blessed community.  Tomorrow is the day.  You will pray for the help you need, each one speaking to God in her own way.  Ask Him now to give you the things of the spirit. Ask Him in silence for strength in the practice of silence.  Remember interior silence is the very marrow of perfection as told in our Holy Rule.”  “My Waterloo, Gabrielle said again to herself.  But I’ll smother every voice that talks back to destroy my inner quiet.”  (Excerpts from the book The Nun’s Story by Kathryn Hulme, 1956).

Interior Silence is at the heart of Christian Meditation. It is essential. We cannot listen for God’s voice and speak at the same time.  Or listen for God while listening to the radio or the voice on the telephone.  The still small voice doesn’t even attempt to compete with the boom-box clatter of this noisy world.  So how do we clear our minds of the constant barrage of thoughts, noises, images and every form of distraction in order to have Interior Silence within?  After many years of meditation, the answer is so simple I cannot believe it took me so long to give it a try.  We ask. We ask God to help us meditate.  We ask Him to show us how to clear our minds now and to be ready for Interior Silence and available to Him for whatever He wants to say to us now.

“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will

find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks

finds. To him who knocks it will be opened” –  Matthew 7:7-8

The first thing to do is decide that you want to meditate and open yourself totally to God now.  (Thought)  Then say it out loud or silently in your mind words like:  “Christ, I want to hear you and I want your help now with clearing away the thoughts of my mind for meditation.” (Word)  Then you listen and wait. (Deed)  Thought, word and deed is how we create the lives we want.  This is how we create our meditation with Christ.  Sometimes, we get so hung up on techniques that we forget the really basic things like  asking for what it is we want.  Most of the time, we negatively presume that whatever it is we won’t get it anyway, so we don’t even bother asking.  The next meditation session, give it a try.  Ask God for help with meditation.  See what happens.  Stay on the pilgrimage.  Keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.

 

 

 

#55 Prayer Of The Heart

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #55 08-19-16

PRAYER OF THE HEART

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by

Mary Sargent

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

What is the purpose of meditation? In the ”prayer of the heart”, we seek the deepest ground of our identity in God. We seek to gain a direct experience of finding ourselves in God’s truth. We return to simplicity and sincerity of heart. We listen for God’s will, in direct and simple attention to reality. Prayer means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, and for knowledge of his will.

What Thomas Merton is saying in regards to our Christian Meditation practice is that by emptying our minds of all distractions, thoughts and images, we are clearing a pathway on which we can find ourselves in God.  We give him a chance to breathe in us through our hearts.  In our hearts, we can listen for the will of God to direct us, guide us and lead us to the truth of our reality – The prayer of the heart.

Prayer can mean many different things.  Your relative is in the hospital dying.  Your prayer becomes desperate.  You try to bargain with God, “if you will heal him, I will do this.”  Your future depends on your passing this test or getting this job.  You beg God to help you out, not really knowing if this is his will for you or not, but you think it is, so you try and make a deal with God.  “If you’ll let me pass this test or get this job, I will …” Prayer can be for one’s self or for others or for general things like “World Peace.”

But in The Prayer of the Heart Merton is speaking of, we lay all these check-lists of requested prayers aside.  We are opening all of our senses for Christ to enter us.  We are looking with our eyes for him in our hearts.  We have shut down the many screens of distraction and are simply looking at him.  We are listening with our ears.  We have turned off the radio, TV, cell phone and all other useless noise to hear only him as he whispers softly in our hearts.  In the church of our hearts, we smell the burning candles and Frankincense; the familiar mystical odors that remind us of Christ.  Our fingers lay still as we touch the air.  Christ is in that air so close to us in silence.  And finally, with our mind and body motionless, with our minds resting in the interior silence within us, we can feel the presence of Christ within us. This is especially true after one has just received Holy Communion. The Prayer of the Heart can be done anywhere, anytime.

 

 

 

#54 The Inner Chant

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS #54  07-19-16

THE INNER CHANT

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by

Mary Sargent

As Christians, we are called to go deeper; to think on a deeper level; to live on a more mindful level.  Meditation makes this possible.  It is in meditation that we move beyond the frivolities, amusements and distractions of our busy thoughts and begin leading more meaningful lives of contemplation.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men (and women) live lives of quiet desperation.”  But we as Christians do not have to be among the many purposeless people leading lives of quiet desperation.  We can discover our purpose and discover our life while consulting with Christ in the silence of meditation.

When we set aside time to be alone with Christ in prayer and meditation, we are closing the door and going to our inner room, as Christ taught us.  In silence, we empty ourselves and start silently reciting our inner chant; the mantra.  Ma-ra-na-tha or whatever sacred word you have chosen.  We listen in silence for the still small voice of God.  Do you have a decision to make?  Do you know not what you are going to do today?  This is the time to ask:  Christ, what should I do next?  What is the right decision about this?  What do you want me to do?  How can I help you build your Kingdom?  And then we wait.

Waiting and silence are not popular today.  Waiting has been replaced by instant gratification, instant cellphone and internet information, and people who speak very rapidly.  Silence is even more unpopular these days.  There are a thousand noises going on at once including ring tones, music, traffic, buzz saws and shouting.  People are uncomfortable with silence.  It is a lull in the conversation that doesn’t sit well; it makes us remember things we’d rather forget.

But none of this matters because like I said, as Christians, we are called to go deeper.  We are not going to be keeping up with the trends of this mad world.  We are going to be listening in meditation to our inner chant.  This is the voice of God in our hearts.  This is the voice that tells us what the right decision is.  This is our true voice, not the one we put-on for the outside world.  The inner chant is what we use to shut out the many thoughts that flicker rapidly through our mind.  In the silence, you will find God.  Today, turn off the noise.  Turn off the television, the cellphone, the computer, the radio, the video game and any other noise maker.  For whatever time you can spare, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, close your eyes in a quiet place and listen.  Begin the inner chant and see how your life begins to make sense and have meaning.  Sink into the silence and relax into your real life of quiet, steady purpose.

#53 “Notes on Fr. Laurence Freeman’s Changing the World, Changing Yourself talk”

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS

June 17, 2016 #53 “Notes on Father Laurence Freeman’s May 24th Talk”

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by

Mary Sargent

On Tuesday, May 24th, I heard Fr. Laurence Freeman speak at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Long Beach, CA.   His talk, Changing the World, Changing Yourself:  Contemplation Today included a 20 minute meditation session and Q & A.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • We began with the prologue: Be still and know that I am God. We recited it together, dropping one word each time until the only word left was “Be.”
  • Meditation is a way into the heart and essence of the Gospels; discovering the transforming power of the Gospels to change lives. In meditation, we go from mind to heart. We are being with God and in touch with total authenticity which awakens a hunger and desire to know and experience.
  • The Gospel of Jesus tells us of this meditative experience which is within us and among us. But we must enter into silence. We are not used to being silent and still and just beingSilence of the mind will come depending on how much you practice.  You will begin to respond to life in a calmer and more loving way as you continue to meditate.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven – Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, in our midst and among us. Meditation is about the experience of the Kingdom of Heaven transforming us into the person God has loved into existence. We become more focused, more present, more open, more calm and loving.
  • When Jesus speaks in the Gospels about “The Kingdom of Heaven being “like a treasure a man found buried in a field. The man sold all he had, re-buried the treasure and bought the field”, he is speaking of meditation. When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven being “like a merchant looking for a fine pearl, when he finds the pearl, he sells all he has and buys it”, he is speaking of meditation as the gift and grace from his heavenly father.
  • As Christians, we meditate within the context of our Christian lives; the Sacraments, the Mass, the Rosary, and prayer. This is the gift we share with others, the gift of our spiritual transformation through meditation. This is how we change the world.  We change.  We don’t pray to get benefits from God, we pray to become like God; to fully share in the life of God and then pass this on to others.  If we could do this, it would totally reprioritize everything; time, education, spirituality, etc.  As Christians, it is our job to “Seek first The Kingdom of Heaven.”
  • When we open ourselves in meditation, we are finding the treasure in our own hearts where it belongs. But we must seek it; engage it. Letting go of our thoughts allows us to become deeply and interiorly free.  Free from possessions, addictions, anxieties, confusion.  Letting go a little more every day means we are living the Gospel.  We are called to go deeper
  • Don’t worry about success with meditation, don’t try to succeed, just do the best you can. There is no “A” or “F” with meditation, just be faithful. Just take a single word, a mantra, repeating it silently and gently in your mind and heart.  When your thoughts wander, come back to the word.  Stay with the same word.  You can’t think your way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  We let all our thoughts go and let the Kingdom of heaven embrace us by being simple, humble, present and faithful.

#52 “Pentecost Meditation”

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS

May 13, 2016 #52  “ Pentecost Meditation”

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by Mary Sargent

The Hebrew word Torah, means “instruction or teaching.” The Torah was given by God exactly 50 days after the crossing of the Red Sea.  Shavuot (Pentecost) is called the season of giving because this is the day that God revealed Himself to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

Jesus (Yeshua) was resurrected on the Feast of First Fruits (Easter Sunday).  50 days after his resurrection, the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) came to dwell in the hearts and lives of all believers.  (Acts 1:8; 2:1-18; Luke 24:49).

Pentecost, like all of Christianity has its roots in Judaism.  Shavout, the Jewish Holiday equivalent occurs exactly fifty days after Passover.  It is a holiday when dairy foods, like cheese blitzes are served. Dairy foods are associated with the loving, nurturing generosity given by a mother nursing her baby. It is this love that we connect to on the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Meditating on Pentecost is very powerful.  We, who follow Christ, want the empowerment, conviction and courage given to The Apostles in that upper room on the first Pentecost, in order to spread Christ’s  teachings in our own individual ways.  We strive to keep Christ’s three most important commandments faithfully:  To love God, love one another and to be peaceful (“Peace be with you.”).  We know that by keeping these three commandments, we will be keeping the other seven and then some.  But how can we have the strength to keep on when we are feeling down?  How can we have the power to break a bad habit that we have failed to shake again and again?  How can we keep our minds from inventing things at be worried about?  The answer is prayer and meditation.

In the old days (pre – 1966) The Holy Spirit was called “The Holy Ghost.”  To children, it seemed scary, or like the TV cartoon, Casper, the Friendly Ghost. Praying to the Holy Spirit is esoteric and mysterious.    Begin with the words, Come Holy Spirit.  Then try and follow wherever you think the Spirit is leading you.

This Pentecost, just for a few minutes, try to imagine yourself in the Upper Room.  Try and hear the wind and see the flaming tongues of fire.  Close your eyes and feel the Holy Spirit giving you The Fruits of the Holy Spirit:  charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, modesty, kindness, self- control, goodness and chastity.   With these fruits, we can cope with anything life throws at us.

 

#51 “Only One Thing”

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION REFLECTIONS

April 18, 2016 #51  “ Only One Thing”

Reflections on John Main and Laurence Freeman’s Christian Meditation Lectures 

Presented by The World Community for Christian Meditation

www.wccm.org or www.wccm-usa.org

by Mary Sargent

Martha and Mary
Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

Father Laurence Freeman, the successor of Fr. John Main, had a talk entitled The Balance between Action and Contemplation.  He concluded it with a letter a nurse in Thailand had written.  Being the only nurse stationed at this troubled area, she had lines of patients still waiting to see her long after her non-stop shift had ended. She wrote that she had to eat something and to meditate before she could take on any more patients.  This reminded me of the Martha & Mary Gospel of Luke.  There is need of only one thing…for Mary, it was listening to Jesus and not doing anything else in those moments.  For the nurse, it was nourishing herself physically, mentally and spiritually before she could continue her work.

And us, how do we do “only one thing?”  To me, meditation is firstly doing one thing at a time.  In this age of multi-tasking, can we balance the active with the contemplative?  Can we do one things at a time?  Do we have the discipline to sit quietly at Jesus’ feet and turn off our busy minds?  The dishes can wait.  The root of the word “disciple” is discipline.  Do we have the discipline to do only one thing?  That means sitting quietly and still, not checking our E-mail; not checking our voice mail; not looking at our wristwatch at the time.  It means, for cell phone users, not responding to every call.  You do not have to “take this.”  There is an impatience for information these days when what we really need to do is to turn off the information machines.  Discipline means not looking at the TV news incessantly.   For a few minutes today, do only one thing.  Choose “the better part”, the part that won’t be distracted, the part that returns to the silent mantra, the part that is spending this time only with Christ.