In 1975 Dom John Main OSB, opened the first Christian Meditation Centre at his monastery in London. He had recovered a simple tradition of silent, contemplative prayer in the teachings of the early Christian monks, the Desert Fathers. It became clear to him that this tradition had relevance today not only for monks ... though he also saw it as a way of monastic renewal ... but for all people.
Meditation is simple and practical. It is about experience rather than theory: a way of being rather than merely a way of thinking. Indeed, because of the profound change meditation can work in one's life it is even more than a way of prayer; it is a way of life, a way of living from the deep centre of one's being.
The focus of meditation is Christocentric. This means that it is centred on the prayer of Christ which is continuously poured forth in the Holy Spirit in the depth of each human being. Deeper than all ideas of God is God himself. Deeper than imagination is the reality of God. Thus, in this way of pure prayer we leave all thoughts, words and images behind in order to set our minds on the Kingdom of God before all else. In this way we leave our egotistical self behind to die and rise to our true self in Christ.
Meditation is the missing contemplative dimension of much Christian life today. It does not exclude other types of prayer and indeed deepens one's reverence for the sacraments and one's reading of scriptures. Laurence Freeman OSB
"Be still and know that I am God"
Meditation involves coming to a stillness of spirit and a stillness of body. The extraordinary thing is that, in spite of all the distractions of the modern world, this silence is perfectly possible for all of us. To attain this silence and stillness we have to devote time, energy and love.
The way we set out on this pilgrimage is to recite a short phrase, a prayer-word that today is commonly called a mantra. The mantra is simply a means of turning our attention beyond ourselves, a method of drawing us away from our own thoughts and concerns. The real work of meditation is to attain harmony of body, mind and spirit. This is the aim given us by the psalmist; be still and know that I am God. In meditation we turn the search light of consciousness off ourselves.
In meditation we are not thinking or imagining about God at all. We seek to do something immeasurably greater; we seek to be with God, to be with Jesus, to be with His holy spirit. In meditation we go beyond thoughts, even holy thoughts. Meditation is concerned not with thinking but with being. Our aim in Christian prayer is to allow God's mysterious and silent presence within us to become the reality which gives meaning, shape and purpose to everything we do, to everything we are. The task of meditation, therefore, is to bring our distracted mind to stillness, silence and attention.
Practical and Simple
To meditate seek a quiet place, and find a comfortable upright sitting position. Close your eyes gently. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly, begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer phrase maranatha. It is utterly simple. Say it like this, ma-ra-na-tha. Four equally stressed syllables. Some people say the word in conjunction with their breathing. The speed at which you say the word should be fairly slow, fairly rhythmical. Maranatha is in Aramaic, the language Jesus himself spoke. It means "Come Lord Jesus". It is probably the most ancient Christian prayer. St. Paul ends Corinthians with it, and St. John ends the book of Revelation with it. Listen to the mantra as you say it gently but continuously. You do not have to think or imagine anything, spiritual or otherwise.
Meditation has nothing to do with quiet reverie or passive stillness, but with attentive wakefulness. If thoughts or images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation, so return simply to saying your word. Don't use any energy in trying to dispel a distraction. Simply ignore it, and the way to ignore it is to say your mantra. Return with fidelity to meditation each morning and evening for between twenty and thirty minutes.
The Pilgrimage of Prayer
Meditation is a pilgrimage to your own centre, to your own heart. To enter into the simplicity of it demands discipline and even courage. We need faith, simplicity; we need to become childlike. If we are faithful and patient meditation will bring us into deeper and deeper realms of silence. It is in this silence that we are led into the mystery of the eternal silence of God. That is the invitation of Christian prayer: to lose ourselves and to be absorbed in God. Each of us is summoned to the heights of Christian prayer, to the fullness of life. What we need, however, is the humility to tread the way very faithfully over a period of years, so that the prayer of Christ may indeed be the grounding experience of our lives.
Meditation is what the early Christians called pure prayer. It is a gift of such staggering proportions that we must respond to it gradually, gently. When we begin we cannot fully understand the sheer magnificence and wonder of it. Each time we return to meditate we enter into that reality a little more deeply, a little more faithfully. Because meditation leads us into the experience of love at the centre of our being, it makes us more loving people in our ordinary lives and relationships. Not only is meditation the necessary basis for contemplative action, but it is the essential condition for a fully human response to life.
"The wonderful beauty of prayer is
Dom John Main OSB (1926-1982)