thoughts on faith, justice, politics and philosophy

Month: August 2013

Something to Meditate On

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I’ve had something of a revelation recently: meditation is brilliant, and we don’t take nearly enough time out of our days in order to spend time in contemplation. Meditation has an intriguing place in modern western society. It is reserved for the ‘spiritual’, or simply understood as psychological tool to sooth the mind.

Yet meditation is something that people have done for centuries as a part of every day life. Instead of a medicine to the rush and busyness of the world, meditation was once held as an essential practice for those wanting to truly connect with the world around them.

In the Psalms, there is talk of “meditating” on God. It’s actually something that ancient Israelites would have done. Richard Foster comments on our lack of appreciation and time for meditating in his book (which I am currently reading), “A Celebration of Discipline”:

The purpose of meditation is to enable us to hear God more clearly. Meditation is listening, sensing, heeding the life and light of Christ. This comes right to the heart of our faith. The life that pleases God is not a set of religious duties; it is to hear His voice and obey His word. Meditation opens the door to this way of living.

I have suffered, and continue occasionally to suffer, from anxiety and from panic attacks. I initially turned to meditation as a refuge from them. To an extent, that has worked well. I am able to take time out if I feel stressed or panicked; learn to breathe slowly and with control, and more often than not I feel significantly better afterwards. So that’s nice.

Last weekend however, I began to explore a much deeper, more meaningful use for meditation. I went on a retreat with a neo-monastic community that I have connected with. We spent a night and a day in a lovely place called Llangasty, near Brecon in Wales. As a part of the weekend, we spent time doing awareness meditation – deliberately recognising our body and the feelings we experience – as well as spending two hours in silence.

I found the experience extremely refreshing. Far from the secular meditation I have been using to calm myself, I found myself instead able to focus on my subconscious feelings; on God; and most importantly, the presence of God in the here and now.

So often we act as though God is not present. We “invite” God to be a part of our prayer meeting or worship service. We forget that God is here, always, at all times, among us, around us, and in us. Through meditation and focusing myself, I have postured my soul, my body and my mind towards this reality; something I am finding incredibly refreshing.

Spending some time – even if only fifteen minutes – in meditation each day, sometimes in silence, sometimes repeating the name ‘Jesus’, sometimes letting my thoughts wander inwards; I have found a deeper and greater sense of the love God has for me. Best of all, I have found that my idle thoughts more often than not drift towards the presence of God in my day to day. Even now as I write this I have a sense of the Holy Spirit living within me.

So there you have it – it turns out that a bit of silent meditation can cure even the most deep rooted of hopeful-skeptics. Give it a go…


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Postmodern Love

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Love is chilled out,
good to the Other,
it doesn’t get jealous,
it doesn’t speak truths at people,
it isn’t arrogant,
it doesn’t invalidate the Other’s opinion,
it wants the best for the Other,
it doesn’t snap easily at you,
it holds no grudges.

Love isn’t happy when the Other is hurt,
instead it rejoices when hurt is healed with the good news.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

One of the most interesting things about the post-modern world is the shift of love, truth and offense. In the modernist worldview, one shared by a great many people who were brought up within it, love [in the context of religious conversion, specifically] looks something like this:

  • I have a truth [the ‘gospel’]
  • I tell you this truth [I show you love]
  • You receive the truth [you accept the love]
  • You are happier

However, in the postmodern world, the transaction looks more like this:

  • I have a truth
  • I tell you this truth
  • You reject the truth as alien
  • You are offended that I should try to override your perfectly valid, self-formed opinion

There are those who lament the change of our society from modern to post modern as a slip further down the slippery slope of moral decline. Yet this is the very same society whose core value is equality. Surely such a society is on the right tracks?

If we look at the way that Jesus dealt with people he was more than happy to tailor his way with each individual. The countless different ways it seems from the gospels that man can be ‘saved’ are but one example of the plurality of ‘truth’ to Jesus.

Perhaps then, love looks more like this:

  • I have a perspective on something
  • You have a different perspective
  • Both of our perspectives are experienced-based and thus valid
  • Instead of correcting what I believe to be a mis-founded perspective, I seek to understand why you have a different perspective
  • In doing so, I allow myself to see beyond my own understanding, have a richer and deeper relationship with you, and most likely your perception is influenced by my own, on account of my openness.
  • I have shown you something good, a way you perceive to be better, and so your perspective changes.
  • or
  • I have shown you something which is found wanting, and you choose to reject it

Of course, this version of events is more complex, involves more time, involves a better relationship, and could go wrong if we don’t live up to the standards we preach or sign up to (or in the case of leadership in churches, both!) But it shows far more respect and kindness towards others, especially in a world where to simply convey a truth is seen as offensive and rude. Perhaps we need to change our approach – especially those like me, who feel stuck between the modern and the post-modern.

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