I’ve been working with variations of Contemplative Prayer for a couple of decades. For those of you familiar with mindfulness meditation, Contemplative Prayer is very similar. When I first started I didn’t even call it that – it was explained to me as “doing nothing”.
At first it was brutal. I found it next to impossible to sit for half an hour doing nothing. I could see no benefit. I gave it up for quite some time.
Later I came back to this form of meditation, primarily through the work of Jon Kabatt-Zinn’s book “Full Catastrophe Living”. This time the struggle was a bit different – I kept falling asleep. Again, I gave it up for quite some time as I couldn’t see the benefit.
I’ve come back to it again, this time under the dual guises of Mindfulness and Christian Meditation, through the work of a number of authors including Jon Kabatt-Zin (Wherever You Go, There You Are), Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), Fr. Thomas Keating (Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, Intimacy with God), Martin Laird (Into the Silent Land), Richard Rohr (daily e-newsletter, Scripture as Spirituality), Alan Watts (The Way of Zen). David Frenette (The Path of Centering Prayer).
I’ve actually come to enjoy praying and meditating this way. I still struggle with ideas such as “I am not my thoughts” and questions such as “where do thoughts come from?”.
As I have become more aware of my thought I come to the rather unfortunate conclusion that I really don’t have an interesting mind. My thoughts are boring and repetitive. Yet when I let go of this I’m left with the question “ok, so what am I supposed to think about? Where should my mind rest?”.
Certainly during meditation the answer is easy: my breath. What a relief it brings to move my attention away from my thoughts to my breath. But the rest of the time?
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. My favorite season.