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22 minutes | Dec 14, 2020
A Julian of Norwich Meditation
A meditation based on the spirituality of Julian of Norwich
25 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
The Prayer of Recollection
Contemplative spirituality has its own jargon, and this "language of prayer" evolves over time. Nowadays you'll find students of the mystical path speaking about meditation, nonduality, mindfulness and heightened consciousness, whereas a century ago you'd be more likely to encounter terminology like mental prayer, unitive life, recollection and rapture.Sometimes words themselves evolve in how they are used: when Evelyn Underhill spoke about the prayer of rapture, she was not talking about the end of mass ascension taking place at the end of time, such as you will find in some corners of the evangelical world. Rather, for Underhill, rapture referred an ecstatic transformation of consciousness, available in the present to anyone to whom God might bestow such a grace. Likewise, meditation used to imply any kind of thoughtful reflection as prayer, whereas we now tend to use the word to describe a practice of silent attentiveness.So part of the challenge of exploring contemplative spirituality is learning how the language of the interior life has evolved over time.With this as our backdrop, here is a guided meditation I recorded several weeks ago for an online program I directed. I was introducing the participants to the spirituality of Evelyn Underhill, and so I wanted to offer them a spiritual exercise based on Underhill's teachings. Drawing primarily from her books Mysticism and Practical Mysticism, this recording invites you into prayer through silence and relaxed attentiveness. I hope you'll give it a listen and take the time to rest prayerfully in the silence.As you listen to this recording, you may notice that the instructions for practicing the prayer of recollection are very similar to the guidelines for Centering Prayer or for other forms of contemplative practice. This is because, while different "methods" of prayer might have slightly different instructions — for example, the Jesus Prayer involves reciting the name of Jesus or a short prayer in a repetitive way, while Centering Prayer involves each person choosing their own sacred word to recite — the essential components are the same: entering into silence in a devotional, prayerful spirit, seeking to place our relaxed attentiveness into the silence where we trust God to be present.The Prayer of Recollection reminds us that these kinds of silent methods of prayer are nothing new. It's been over a century since Underhill described this way of praying, and she in turn was drawing on the wisdom of the mystics of past, like St. Teresa of Ávila (16th century). The ways in which we describe silent forms of prayer may change over time, but the essential elements of this kind of prayer — restful silence, relaxed attention, a word or icon on which we focus our intention to be present to God — have a long history indeed.Hope you enjoy this recording. I'll be releasing other recordings of meditations and prayer practices in the future.
21 minutes | Nov 10, 2020
A meditation practice inspired by the Sufi muraqabah meditation practice.
25 minutes | Nov 1, 2020
Practice the method of Centering Prayer, with instructions conforming to the teaching of the Trappist monks William Meninger, Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington. This recording uses the four step guidelines as published by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.
22 minutes | Oct 26, 2020
Divine Name Meditation
This meditation on the Hebrew Divine Name (YHWH) is based on a "Breathing the Divine Name" meditation from the book Gate to the Heart: A Manual of Contemplative Jewish Practice by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, with additional instructions based on a Yahweh breath meditation I learned from Richard Rohr.
19 minutes | Oct 19, 2020
Tonglen is a Tibetan word, that means “giving and taking” or “sending and receiving.” It is a long-standing Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice, and in our time has been taught by figures like the Dalai Lama and Pema Chödrön.It’s a way of meditation that cultivates a compassionate heart and helps us to see others with an eye of kindness and care. It is a way of anchoring yourself in bodhichitta, which means the Buddha-mind or enlightened-mind.
24 minutes | Oct 12, 2020
For the beginner in meditation, the human mind can be compared to a stray dog, noisy and frenetic. If this untrained feral dog runs loose in a village, it can wreak considerable havoc. Likewise, the mind, left to its own distractible devices, can cause considerable damage to our quest for inner peace and serenity.But if the dog is invited into a relationship with a human, it can be transformed into a being filled with playful love. Yet the first step toward taming this companion would be to leash it. At first, the feral dog might fight against the leash, frightened and angry. But if the human companion can win over the trust of the dog, then there is hope that a relationship can be formed that would allow both dog and human to flourish and find joy in each other.If the human mind, noisy and easily distracted, is like a feral dog, then a mantra functions like the leash that makes training the mind possible.The meaning of the word mantra is uncertain, but its Sanskrit origin seems to be simply “secret speech” or “sacred word.” It has a long history in the east as a word or sound that is repeated for the purpose of stabilizing our mental awareness during meditation. A mantra can be a sound without any inherent meaning, or a word with particular spiritual quality, or a name of a god or goddess. Different schools of meditation advocate for different types of mantras, with the basic purpose always the same: to entrain the consciousness so that it can allow awareness to rest first on the word itself, then ultimately on the silence between the words.Mantra does not have an equivalent word in languages such as English, but this is not to say that western religions do not have their own tradition of sacred repetition in order to facilitate meditation. We see in Christianity, for example, a long tradition of repeating the name Jesus in prayer, that goes back to at least the 3rd century. More than once in the New Testament we find the phrase, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This was the inspiration of what came to be known as the “Jesus Prayer.” In Islam, the practice of Zikr, which means remembrance, includes the repetition of one or more of the names of Allah, again in a manner conducive to meditative consciousness.Note that some forms of meditation, like the Christian practice of Centering Prayer, are similar to mantra meditation in that they utilize a sacred word as a point of attention. But different meditation practices can have subtle differences. Centering Prayer, for example, instructs the practitioner to allow the sacred word to fall away in silence, and to return to the sacred word only when distracting thoughts arise. Mantra meditation, by contrast, entails reciting the mantra through the meditation period, even when distractions cease.For an interspiritual introduction to meditation with a mantra, read The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran.
23 minutes | Oct 5, 2020
The four elements of air, water, earth and fire invite us to acknowledge our bodies as sacred — and as the home for the Spirit. This imaginative meditation leads us into a reflection on each of the elements, followed by time for silent reflection.
27 minutes | Sep 28, 2020
This audio file offers instructions for a basic breath meditation, with timed silence for practice. Take the opportunity to gently rest in silence, allowing your breath to be your guide and the focal point of your attention. When your attention wanders, simply and gently return it to your breath. Do this on a daily basis and you will begin to cultivate the foundation of all spiritual practice: a stable mind and an open heart.
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