I’ve gone to a psychic fair, used colored stones to help balance my chakras, applied flower essences to improve my mood, participated in a sweat lodge, listened to a channeled message, had my astrology chart done, read a book on past lives, and done a lot more things labeled “new age.” And no lightning bolt from heaven has struck me down for daring to stray into what some would think is dangerous territory, inconsistent with being a good Catholic.
Here is the simple premise of this blog. We don’t have to be afraid of all these varied methods and paths to finding self-realization, spirituality, and wholeness. We are not betraying our Christian heritage or consorting with the devil by exploring them. Yes, there are some things we need to be careful and discerning about but on the whole we can benefit from new age (whatever that means) experiences if these things appeal to us. And even if they don’t we can still respect them. And it might even broaden us to learn something about them.
Part 2: How to meditate successfully
The one feeling that is common to most people who undertake meditation is that they are not doing it well. A comment in one of my meditation classes expresses the experience and frustration of many: “I tried doing it, but my mind kept jumping all over. I just couldn’t still it. I guess I’m not cut out for meditation.”
My first item of business in this blog is to clear up an almost universal error about meditation—that the objective is to have a still mind (or a focus on God with no distractions) and that anything short of that is flawed. If any of us start out with an expectation that high and unrealistic, no wonder we are doomed to failure, discouragement, and eventual abandonment of this prayer form altogether. Meditation is not designed to make people feel bad about themselves.
Let me tell you about my surprising visit to St. Francis of the Earth Catholic Church last Sunday while I was traveling.
Upon arriving, I notice that the parking lot is only half full of cars, but the bike racks, on the other hand, are crowded with colorful bikes of all sizes. People are streaming in on foot too, talking and laughing with their neighbors who made the jaunt from home with them.
As I enter the church, I am bathed in natural soft light from the sky lights and the many windows. What additional illumination is needed comes from LED lights.
The church furnishings are made from natural products and no carpets can be seen anywhere. Plants and seasonal flowers grown by parishioners adorn the sanctuary.
To prepare for the opening hymn, I reach for a hymnal, only to find none in sight. When I look around puzzled, a parishioner leans over and explains that they are as paper-free as possible and that the music will be projected on a big screen at the front of church. She says they do have a few booklets with the order of the Mass for those who need one and not to expect a bulletin, because everyone reads it online.
Part I: The living gifts of meditation
This is part one of a three-part series: 1) The benefits of meditation 2) Instruction and tips in how to meditate and 3) Meditation in daily life.
I’m starting with the benefits because motivation is what gets us started on this path in the first place and keeps us on it. These words of Antoine de Saint Exupery express it well: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” So we are beginning with the goal in mind.
I have been teaching meditation classes called Peace Within: Learning to Meditate for over 12 years and a steady stream of people come primarily to learn how to relieve stress. The first thing I tell them is what their expectations are way too low.
Most people don’t realize that the regular practice of meditation can positively impact every aspect of their lives, and has the potential to transform their lives quite radically. If you are seasoned in meditation or some type of centering or contemplative prayer, you know this to be true, and I invite your testimonials.