on 30 November 2010
An incredibly inspiring book. John Main, a Benedictine monk, takes us back to the practice of the desert fathers and mothers who closed the door and sat in quiet meditation / contemplation in the presence of God. We are encouraged to find the Kingdom of God within by quietly sitting for 20 mins every morning and evening focusing on one word to calm the mind and allow ourselves to connect with the ground of our being. It is about learning to be still and listening within. To be still and to be. By being still and learning more about ourselves and thereby losing ourselves we are better able to act in the world in accordance to the divine will.
'Be Still and know that I am God' it says in the Bible. This daily practice is the experiential way of doing just that.
Main suggests that the regular practice of sitting in silence is key because it is by experience rather than by theory that we can touch the grounding of infinite love that is at the depth of our very being and begin to move into becoming who we truly are away from the conditioning of the social structures around us.
Words often confuse and complicate. It is through silent prayer focusing on one word which means 'Lord, come' that we can touch the infinite. This form of silent prayer avoids verbiage and imagery and thus cleanses, clarifies, calms and refreshes the spirit. This stilling is so necessary in our busy, ever frenetic world full of beckoning images and doings.
Main proposes that if we disciplined ourselves to stick to this practice twice a day we would get closer to the heart of creation and set God free in the world. His message has been taken up by groups all over the world and an organisation called the World Community of Christian Meditation has emerged though I would suggest that anyone can do this practice without being a member of any organisation and feel the benefits with regular sitting.
Beautiful, practical and inspirational in its simplicity. Meditation & contemplation is not just for the monastery. It is for every single human being.
This book is a call for more silence and stillness in the world through individuals finding peace and depth within themselves by touching the infinite love that lies at the heart of all creation. There are many quotes from the Gospel to highlight why this practice is beneficial.
on 23 November 2011
This is a superb book! John Main offers another invaluable contribution to contemporary spirituality with this volume. The Heart of Creation is a work of wisdom, compassion, and brilliant simplicity.
Numerous scientific studies provide evidence for the benefits of meditation as a physical and mental discipline - reduction of stress, lowering of blood pressure, strengthening of the immune system, etc. However, for the Christian who takes up the practice of mediation, the journey has an even deeper significance: for, in meditation, we come to realize that the "cosmic power which has driven back our own egotistical darkness, this power of triumphant love, is to be found in our own hearts."
With a keen understanding of the Christian mysteries, coupled with a transcendent vision of human potential, John Main offers a much needed breath of fresh air. I daresay his work will be as practical and relevant a hundred years from now as it is today. The Church and the world should be grateful to John Main. This book is a gift and a treasure, and well worth your attention, no matter what faith you follow or do not follow. It may very well change your life forever.
on 21 December 2013
I have heard many people, whom I respect, rave about this author so I thought it was about time that I gave him a go.
This book is a collection of his talks after he died by one of his disciples. There is a lot of repetition because of this. Then again, some things need to be heard more than once before they sink in.
The basic message is that we should meditate from between twenty to thirty minutes each morning and evening. That is because even an expert violinist like Yehudi Menuin practices four hours daily. While I have been able to fit in time for this when I was working to a busy schedule, I can't help thinking that it's a counsel for perfection, especially if you have a family as well as a full-time job and I wonder if all Christians are called to this. There are many other styles of prayer. For example, Franciscan, sensing spirituality might prescribe a walk in the woods, savouring the colours and smells. But this author would not count that as meditation. Rather, he says that his mantra-using-meditation might, as a biproduct, produce a fresh awareness of nature.
The other `bottom line' is that one should use a mantra: 'No one can be a follower of mine unless he leaves self behind'. In saying your mantra you have to let go of your own thoughts, your own theories and ideas, your imagination, fears and daydreams, and simply be there, listening to the sound of the mantra.
OK, I've done that in the past, usually while swimming rather than when sitting still.
I agreed with: Meditation is practised in solitude but it is the great way to learn to be in relationship. The reason for this paradox is that, having contacted our own reality, we have the existential confidence to go out to others, to meet them at their real level and so the solitary element in meditation is mysteriously the true antidote to loneliness..... if we want to find our lives we have to be prepared to lose them. In meditating, exactly what we do. We find ourselves because we are prepared to let go of ourselves, to launch ourselves out into the depths which soon appear to be the depths of God...... The wonder of the Christian revelation is that the consciousness of Christ dwells in our hearts and once we accept that, then the most important task of our life becomes to be fully open to it. Our attentiveness to God, our prayer, is eternally united to the indwelling consciousness of Christ at prayer within us.
Also that time is not `lost'. Rather, we are `renewed, energized, vitalized and refreshingly humbled as well.'
I particularly liked, as a spiritual director who frequently has to address this subject, for my directees and for myself: The early monastic Fathers soon discovered that one of the hurdles that every man and woman of prayer must surmount is what they described as acedia. Acedia is a fairly complex psychological concept, but it contains the notions of boredom, dryness, lack of satisfaction, a feeling of hopelessness, of not making progress. I think all of us are to some extent familiar with these manifestations of the ego. In fact, the concept of acedia is a particularly modern one. I think people in our society are very easily bored. (As a person who gives a lot of talks on the same subject I realize that myself very much). Boredom makes us restless and inconsistent in our commitments, all of us. Just as the early monks used to saunter off to Alexandria for a little bit of distraction from time to time, so we, in our secular society, are usually on the look-out for distraction. Those of us who have discovered the path of meditation will often feel a contrary tug, to withdraw our necks from the yoke so that we can rest up for a while. We all seek a diversion because we are getting a little tired with the sameness of the daily commitment to a pilgrimage that tests us with long periods of uneventfulness. Only the other day a young man came to see me. He asked me, 'How can you bear to look out of your window and see the same thing every day? Doesn't it drive you mad?' Perhaps the real question should be, 'How is it we can always see so much, looking out of the same window every day?' The early Fathers knew that boredom comes from 'desire', the desire for fulfilment or fame, for something new, for a change of environment or activity, for different relationships, for a new toy, whatever it might be. Pure prayer shrinks desire. In the stillness of prayer, increasingly still as we approach the Source of all that is, of all that can be, we are so filled with wonder that there is no place for desire. It is not so much that we transcend desire but rather that there is simply no place in us any longer for such desire. All our space is being filled with the wonder of God. The attention that is scattered in desiring is recalled and absorbed in God..... result of that openness that we are filled with wonder and with the power and energy of God which is the power to be and the energy to be in love. When we are in love it is impossible to be bored.
My chief criticism in this book is its directness - `mankind cannot bear much reality' so preachers need to season their words. But this one doesn't. He says: Some years ago when I was first giving talks on meditation I showed a talk I was preparing to one of my confreres in London. When he came back to see me, his face looked very serious. He said, 'This isn't all there is, surely?' I said, 'Well, it is, actually'. But he said, 'You have some funny stories to put in, haven't you?' I said, 'Well, no, I hadn't thought of putting any in'. So he said, 'If you give that talk as it is, I can assure you that everyone will walk away in absolute despair'.
I was astonished to see that he believed church disunity to be more scandalous than millions of pounds being defrauded from the Vatican Bank.
His use of scripture is all geared towards meditation. For example, instead of arguing about atonement of the relationship of Christianity to temple-Judaism, he sees it as advice that Christ has walked the way of surrender before us. I like that.