I hope others reply because I am a beginner in prayer and my experiences are limited...
I don't think the 5th, 6th, and 7th mansions of Teresa are normative experiences... I think very few are brought to this level by Jesus and ultimately to the transforming union where you can say that you no longer live but Jesus lives in you. I think the most important teaching in prayer for the masses is the "transition from meditation to contemplation" (Dubay talks about this in detail as does Arraj). John says half come to the beginning of the 4th mansion, while Teresa believes most are brought to it. John's "3 signs" are very helpful, frustration and boredom with meditation I believe is often God's way of leading us to a new kind of prayer where we do less and less of the work in prayer and He does more and more of it.
I think the most important confirmation of how authentic your prayer is not what you experience during prayer, but how you live your life outside of prayer. Is the Holy Spirit birthing more fruit in your daily life? Are you more patient with others, more loving with your family, kind in difficult situations, have more compassion toward others in general... and most importantly, are you falling more deeply in love with Jesus? I don't think we can grow in the virtues like this unless we remain faithful to receiving/giving love to Jesus in our time of prayer... we can only be changed by exposing ourselves to Him spirit to Spirit during prayer.
I believe that God gives people gifts that enable them to receive supernatural manifestations and experiences from Him (visions, locutions, translations, etc.)... but if you talk to many of these people about what their prayer lives are like and if they are knowing the Person of Jesus I think you will be disappointed in their answers... at least this has been my experience.
Thanks again for your response, Caneman. I understand what you are saying that the attaining the higher mansions is a very rare occurance. But that raises more questions. Are we told about them by saints, mystics and the Scriptures themselves, only to so we can admire them from afar? Or are we told about them to help us understand what is possible, and to ignite our hearts to long for them and and our willilngness to do whatever is in our power to prepare ourselves to receive them? Does St. Teresa write about those higher mansions only for the rare few who will get there, or does she write to encourage all people? Should I be satisfied where I am, and accept the fact that God does not intend for me to go farther? Is that the highest good the vast majority of us can hope for in this life? Or should should we continue to pursue this longing to become as close to God in this life as is humanly possible? Is it, as I have been told occasionally, a matter of spiritual pride that I have this longing? (That's an indictment I have accepted, by the way, and I have done my utmost to repent of this pride, but the longing continues to grow.)
This is what Teresa says regarding the 4th mansion and the start of contemplative prayer:
"...there are many, many souls that reach this state and few that pass beyond it, and I do not know who is to blame for this. Most certainly it is not God." Life, Chapter XV
I think the answer to your questions above are no, yes, no, and yes. It is a mistake to look at Teresa's supernatural experiences and think that this is normative and for all... certainly possible for God to bring these to you, but He has made us all different with different gifts and abilities to receive supernatural experiences.
I believe that thinking about progressing through the mansions is a trap... I really believe that we must learn to be satisfied with BEING ON THE JOURNEY with Him even if He has decided to take a good long rest at whatever stage you are at. Are you going to allow Him to be Lord of the journey, and trust Him that He knows what is best for you regarding the pace of the journey? Are you still going to be faithful to Him in prayer every day and still love Him even if He were to stop the journey right now and never move it forward? Will you still be faithful even if He never gave you another moment of sweetness with Him? Progress in our spiritual relationship with Him can never be measured by the mansions or by what is happening during our time of prayer, maturity can only be measured by the fruit that the Holy Spirit bears in our daily living toward others and toward the Lord.
There is a book discussed here on this website written by a man who has had extrordinary supernatural experiences... experiences equal to or perhaps beyond what Teresa discusses. This man, I belive, considers himself to have arrived at spiritual union with Jesus Christ... this man is also a homosexual and believes that Jesus has told him that this is acceptable. I only bring this up to contrast "spiritual experiences" and "spiritual fruit" as evidence of authentic prayer.
I really think you have to look at the mansions as phases along the journey; phases that may be sequential or may overlap to one degree or another; with differing lengths of time. If you look at the mansions, the 4th and 5th are basically the same but more intense degrees of consciously experiencing the Lord's loving and peaceful presence. Many get shipwrecked here because they think the Lord is only in the refreshing living waters and don't also realize that He is also in the drying desert winds too; both are His Personality that He shares with us during this phase... they fight the dryness instead of accepting it and end up quitting prayer.
There are some Carmelite scholars who equate the 6th mansion with the "Dark Night of the Spirit", and the 7th as union. To have God pass you through the 6th mansion you absolutely have to die to self and completely lose your life in Him via extreme trials... I don't know anyone personally who has done this! We long for the sweetness of devotion and His presence and to not want to die to self. You have to absolutely allow Jesus to have access to every aspect of your life at all times and yield it all to His cross to have the ego completed detached from being centered on self... ouch! I know there have been saints who have passed through this mansion and on to union without having extrordinary supernatural expereriences like Teresa describes. John says of the this phase "The night of the spirit is the portion of very few." (Dark Night, Book I.8)
That type of longing can not come from personal pride or passion; that longing can only come from the Lord Jesus... To me, anyone who would tell you that those desires are a result of personal pride are usually people who are convicted by their own lack of devotion in comparison to your own. Anyone who can get up day after day, week after week, year after year and desire the Lord and spend time with Him in quietude on a daily basis can not be doing this because they have a "type A" personality or an iron will; those desires and energy can only come from the Holy Spirit.
Sorry to hog up the forum... I really want others to jump in and respond so I can learn also...
Thank you, Caneman. Your response is both thoughtful and helpful, especially this:
"I know there have been saints who have passed through this mansion and on to union without having extrordinary supernatural expereriences like Teresa describes. John says of the this phase "The night of the spirit is the portion of very few." (Dark Night, Book I.8) "
My sticking point has not been that I am looking and longing for spiritual experiences. I am perfectly content to forgo any of the extraordinary things the mystics describe. It's just that reading the mystics, it seems that while they downplay the importance of mystical experience, they still contend that they are, as I said before, signs that progress is being made. Other than that, I care nothing about them one way or another. I have never sought them, nor have I desired them for their own sake, but I HAVE watched for them as one watches for road signs when driving somplace unfamiliar. My nagging question hasn't been "Where is the delight I'm supposed have," but, "Am I doing the right things? Should I be doing more? Should I be doing something different?"
Thank you again for your thoughtful response. It's given me food for thought that I'm sure will be very helpful.
Here are four women who reached union with God and tell us of no supernatural experiences even close to what Teresa describes:
Therese of Lisieux (Doctor of the RCC)
Elizabeth of the Trinity (Saint of the RCC, "the saint of the indwelling Trinity")
Jeanne Guyon [imprisoned for heresy by the RCC, treasured by many Protestants (Wesley, Zinzendorf) and Pentecostals (Watchman Nee, Witness Less)]
Martha Wing Robinson (lesser known Pentecostal minister, excellent biography on inner prayer)
yeah, i'm pretty clueless about mansions 5,6 and 7.
i may have a thought about it after i read I Am a Daughter of the Church, hopefully by Christ-mass.
Spoonboy, I bought that book, but I noticed that it is the second of two, the first being about mansions 1-3, and entitled "I Want to See God". I decided not to dive into mansions 4-7 until I felt I had a handle on the first three. I am a couple of chapters into it. I'll let you know what I think.
Welcome and thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. I very much appreciate your openness about your path. And thank you Caneman for your reflections above. There is so much love in your "voice." You should be a teacher...are you a teacher? ;-)
I am just catching up on this thread and have enjoyed your exchange.
"Am I doing the right things? Should I be doing more? Should I be doing something different?"
Let me share with you, Charis, that I have experienced a huge "leap" in my intimacy with God recently as I have stepped out to pray with and for others. This may or may not "work" for you, but I find that a certain grace is released upon me when I pray with and for others. This grace just isn't there, it seems, when I pray alone. It is a fairly new season for me; for a few years I was mostly drawn into a lot of silence and solitude.
I think it's that living-in-community piece--giving love in concrete ways to those who are hurting--that gets formed out of prayer and leads to deeper connection with God. Just some more food for thought...
much peace to you!
Sasha, thanks so much for your response and sharing what has been helpful for you. I too have noticed a deeper calm in my spirit when I am in prayer with others. I lead a group of women that meets once a week for lectio, sharing and centering prayer together, and there does seem to be a spirit present in those sessions that I do not sense otherwise. Even when the prayer is completely silent and individual, it seems as though I am upheld by the unity of spirit that their presence provides. I don't understand it at all, but there is a genuine difference, almost as though I am "plugging in" to what the Lord is doing with them, and maybe sharing in it a little. I know that sounds weird, and I'm probably not expressing it well.
Charis, if you don't mind can we discuss what you are doing now with more details... I know that many will read this and be encouraged by your testimony.
I think you said that you have daily regular times of quietude with the Lord using both meditation and centering prayer. Tell us what happens during these times... To me, centering prayer is a form of simplified meditation, it is not contemplative prayer, but it is a way to meditate to keep our attentionn on His indwelling presence by faith, while we wait for God to act and "pour His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit". So when you are meditating using CP, what happens? Do you repeat your short meditative phrase (the CP mantra) when you get distracted and then wait? Are you constantly meditating with the mantra? Do you ever get the desire to stop using the mantra and just sit before the Lord and be quiet? Do ever feel like the Lord is pulling inward toward Him in silence and it is easy to sit there with Him and enjoy Him while you do nothing but receive from Him?
At this stage, both Teresa and John tell us to "keep meditating" with CP or something similar, "until the Lord gives us something better to do" which is to receive His loving and peaceful presence in contemplation...
"Meditation must be discontinued only when the soul is placed in that peace and quietude (infused contemplation)..." John of the Cross, Dark Night, II.13.2
"God gave us our faculties to work with (meditate)... they must be allowed to perform their office until God gives them a better one (infused contemplation)." Teresa of Avila, 4th Mansion Chapter 3
Infused contemplation starts with passive recollection (really it starts earlier with the aridities of the night of sense), IMO. This passive recollection is the desire and ability to just sit with God in quietude and gaze at Him internally in your spirit. This won't last for hours (although possible for very few), it usually lasts on the range of seconds to minutes, and God can cylce you in and out of this state during your time with Him alone (and during unexpected times during your day- which is always a pleasant surprise!). Without God giving us the ability to do this it is basically impossible because of distractions from the mind!
So what is happening with you during your alone times with Jesus, the loving and personal Alone?
SB, it is a great book, but I don't think it is a good introductory book on Teresian prayer. I think Thomas Dubay's book "Prayer Primer" is a good one to start with, then read his book "Fire Within" as a second book... then read "I am a Daughter of the Church" to broaden your understanding.
I think the best part of Dubay's book is his information on the transition from meditation to contemplation, which occurs when one is leaving the 3rd mansion and beginning to enter the 4th mansion, and the purpose for the dark night of sense... in his two books above, and his book "Seeking Spiritual Direction" he does an excellent job of explaining this time- I wish every Christian who desires a deep, personal, intimate, spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ could have this teaching on the transition from meditation to contemplation... I think it is the difference maker in developing that long lasting relationship with Jesus.
Caneman, first I want to thank you for all the thought and attention you are giving this. I didn't expect it, and it is a great blessing.
Discussing what happens during prayer is where it gets difficult. It's very hard to talk about without getting emotional to the point of tears. To be honest, I'd much rather leave it at generalities, but you have been so kind, I'll give it a go. My first prayer time of the day is right after I wake up in the morning. I begin with lectio, and move into cp. Often it feels like a routine I am running through. In lectio, I'm usually able to find something to ponder and some way to respond to God, but it always seems to stay in the intellect rather than the internal tug that would alert me to the fact that "this is of the Spirit."
I don't feel drawn into cp. It's more like I make the decision that it's time to do it. I begin cp with my sacred word, but I don't repeat it continually like a mantra. While thoughts are always there, there are times that they don't seem to be a distraction. I'm able briefly to notice them but not become engaged with them. That is rare though. Most of the time I feel like a yo-yo, getting caught up in thoughts and going back to my sacred word. I know that's not unusual, but from my understanding that kind of experience should eventually grow into something deeper. After over 2 years, the routine is the same. But one good thing, I don't stay with the thoughts for long before returning to my sacred word, and although they come in a continual, neverending stream, I am usually able to let go of them fairly easily. My desire is to be with Christ, and that desire is stronger than the thoughts.
There are occasional, very brief moments when I feel on the edge of "someting", when thoughts do indeed seem to disappear, but those moments are only a fraction of a second before I feel "startled", almost like one feels when crept up upon unexpectedly, and I'm back in the intellect again.
Your last question is the hardest of all. The answer to both parts is "no." I never feel drawn. Like I said, it always feels like a decision I am making. I never seem to "enjoy" what I am doing. In fact, and this is going to sound absolutely horrible, but sometimes when I go to my "prayer chair," instead of a sense of anticipation and peace, I feel a sense of foreboding, almost as though the chair itself is mocking me.
Thanks again for all your help.
There's one thing I feel like I need to make clear. My hope is not for an altered state of consciousness. What I long for is intimate connection with the triune God. My prayer, my hopes and my longings are all very centered on the person of Christ. That's why the impersonal nature of my prayes and meditations are is so distressing.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Thank you so much for all your thought and help. I am again feeling uncomfortable about continuing this discussion on this thread. If I read it correctly, this is for people to share transformative experiences, and I am concerned that those who have transformative experiences to share would be reluctant to do so and interrupt the current conversation. I would like to continue this discussion, but I would feel much more confortable if we could move it to another area. Being new here, I'm not sure where that would be appropriate, but I want to be sensitive to the intent of this particular thread and not highack it for my own purposes.
Blessings, and many thanks,
Please, you are not hijacking the thread, what could be better use of this thread and forum than discussing how we can connect with the love and presence of Jesus during our time alone with Him to be transformed... after all, isn't that what it is all about? We have no hope of living the Christian life if we can not connect with His presence...
No, we are not after altered states of consciousness, we are after the Person of our Lord Jesus, to be loved by Him personally and to give Him that love back... but please do realize, that infused contemplation is a conscious awareness of the Presence of Jesus in your soul... so in that sense it is a different state of consciousness. Much of the 6th and 7th mansions of Teresa are about altered states of conscousness (you could say this for the 4th and 5th mansions also). The spiritual union is living in an almost uninterrupted altered state of consciousness; its unfortunate that the New Age movement has gained ownership over this term, but altered states of consciousness are numerous in the Bible. We don't seek these things for themselves, we are after kissing Abba in spirit and in truth and receiving His kisses.
I have a few more questions because I want to understand your journey so far, that is, if you feel comfortable about it... I think you are in a good place, even though it may not feel like it right now:
In the past, lectio was satisfying?
At the present, lectio is not very satisfying?
Do you now look at lectio as difficult, like work, almost drudgery, perhaps having to get your self up for doing it every day?
The presence of God is hard to perceive during lectio and CP?
Okay, Caneman. I will, for the time being, trust what you say, and I will trust that Phil, as administrator of this site and moderator of this forum will let me know if any boundaries have been violated.
To answer your questions, yes, lectio used to be wonderful. Even before I knew the term or the "official" process, it was my natural way of connecting with scripture and with God. I even taught it to other people before I knew that it was an ancient tradiational way of praying. All I knew was that it was a lifeline for me, and that I believed it could be for other people. (I'm Presbyeterian, remember, so lectio was not part of my faith tradition).
Next question: Yes again. I cannot seem to connect spiritually with the scriptures or spiritual writings anymore except in a purely intellectual way. They still speak to me, but only as processes, outlines -- I don't know, call it what you will --- ummm --- like the 10 commandments -- something to follow, something to do.
CP is similar. It was at one time an instinctual way of connecting with God. I first heard about the "official" label it carries about 2 years ago and recognized it as part of my instinctual way of connecting with God, but it had already "dried up" so to speak. I researched Thomas Keating, read everything I could about his methods, even purchased his 24-cd teaching on "The Contemplative Life." Hypocritically, I have even taught a 2 classes at my church based on Cynthia Bourgeault's book, "Centering Prayer and Spiritual Awakening" which is based on Thomas Keating's work. It's strange, though. Even though I feel like I am not experiencing the reality of what Keating teaches, when I lead a group through this information, I feel like it is real, like I am teaching imnportant truth, and people are deeply blessed. It's a contradiction, I know. It's like it's a truth for them, but I am not able to experience the truth I am teaching. (AHHHH! I know this sounds crazy!).
For me, as I said in my earlier post, cp feels empty. Not just like darkness. I've felt spiritual darkness before, and there is something good about it, there is -- ummm -- I don't know -- somehow a presence in it that darkness that satisfies and attracts -- painful but still beautiful But what I am experiencing now feels like utter emptiness. I've entertained the thought in the past that this might be what St. John of of the Cross calls the "Dark Night of the Soul," but I know without a doubt that it can't be. I have not progressed to the level of holiness that ushers one into that sacred but dark place.
Okay, my brother Caneman. You asked, I told. And again, I thank you for listening and for even being interested.
Charis, you don't have to take my word on this, I am sure others will comment also... but you dear sister are being placed in the dark night of sense; this may seem strange, but God is leading you to learn how to pray much differently. You have been going through this for some time now... no worries, you are in a blessed place. It may not feel like it, but you are experiencing supernatural prayer right now... He is drawing you inward and bringing you to the 4th mansion.
Before I continue, I must comment on someone who I am grateful for, and that is Fr. Keating. I think his re-teaching of the ancient form of meditative prayer that he teaches and calls centering prayer is absolutely wonderful... all of it except for the eastern twists he adds to Christianity that are utterly confusing and a dead end! He wants you to forget all thoughts alltogether, even thoughts about thoughts, in order to arive at "pure consciousness", in his own words. I am sorry Fr. Keating, but when the Lord Jesus blesses me with the gift of His presence by making me conscious of it then I am going to absoulutey dive into and consume it for as long as I am aware of it, and as I feel the Holy Spirit leading, I am going to love Him back with all that I have because this is what I am in prayer for- Him! How foolish is it to pray because we belong to Jesus, then ignore Him when He comes- THIS MAKES NO SENSE! So please, take the basic 4 step teaching he gives on simple meditation, and a few other things, as helpful... but please ignore all of his eastern insertions to our precious faith in Jesus. I like his writings, I too purchased a 6 dvd intro on cp prayer and I found him to be really a strange dude, kind of gave me the creeps!
OK, back to you and your journey into the love of Jesus. At first this suggestion may make you feel like I am taking your foundation away from you, but you may want to set aside lectio for a while... I sense God is leading you away from it this to something entirely different. Now in one of your previous postS you said:
This is very significant, and a token from the Holy Spirit that He is indeed drawing you inward to the presence of Jesus... what I perceive you need to do is to learn a new kind of meditiation that you will do as you meditate with cp. How are you supposed to meditate two different ways at the same time, you ask? This second type of meditation is concerning the reality that "the Kingdom of God is within you", you will meditate on the presence of the indwelling Guests who live in the chapel of your spirit... you are going to take the Holy Spirit's hand and let Hime lead you from your head to your heart where you Lover the Lord Jesus lives, it is here he waits to take over your efforts in prayer and start to pray for you. Teresa is a wonderful teacher of this type of meditation, she calls it "active recollection", and she has much to say about it, but the most important thing she says is that this is the best way to meditate when you are at the the stage you currently are in:
"It is called recollection because the soul collects together all the faculties and enters within itself to be with its God. Its Divine Master comes more speedily to teach it, and to grant it the Prayer of Quiet, than in any other way." Way of Perfection 28.4
Here is another beautiful description of active recollection:
"I am not asking you now to think of Him, or to form numerous conceptions of Him, or to make long and subtle meditations with your understanding. I am asking you only to look at Him. For who can prevent you from turning the eyes of your soul (just for a moment, if you can do no more) upon this Lord? You are capable of looking at very ugly and loathsome things: can you not, then, look at the most beautiful thing imaginable? Your Spouse never takes His eyes off you, daughters. He has borne with thousands of foul and abominable sins which you have committed against Him, yet even they have not been enough to make Him cease looking upon you. Is it such a great matter, then, for you to avert the eyes of your soul from outward things and sometimes to look at Him? See, He is only waiting for us to look at Him, as He says to the Bride �you will find Him.� He longs so much for us to look at Him once more that it will not be for lack of effort on His part if we fail to do so� make the slight effort necessary for recollection in order to gaze upon this Lord present within her, which she can do without danger and with only the minimum of trouble..." Way of Perfection Chapter 26
You learn to "set the mind on the Spirit" (Rom 8.6) and "behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror" (2 Cor 3:18) to "worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). You learn to look inwardly at the Beautiful Jesus inside of you and wait on Him in silence, when thoughts come you say your CP mantra, and continue to gaze on Him inside of you...
I can go on with learning how to look inwardly at Him, but are you open to simplifying your time alone with Him? Try it for 3 or 4 weeks and see what the Lord does? All you would do during your time with Jesus is start by praying a few simple prayers from your heart to Jesus for a few minutes to get yourself "recollected inwardly", then start meditating with active recollection and CP at the same time, we do this until God gives us the sweetness of His presence then we just sit there with Him and enjoy Him for however long it lasts (seconds or minutes), then go back to the beholding and CP... its like dancing with Jesus, He takes the lead and we follow, we keep dancing with recollection and CP until He changes direction and we just follow, back and forth following Him in stillness, quietude, and silence (if you count CP as silence, which I do!)...
What do you think, will you consider changing your habit of devotion to see what Jesus does?
All is well, Charis. Not to worry about sharing on this thread, as this forum is supposed to be for personal sharing.
You've gotten some good feedback from Caneman, and perhaps you'd be interested in this thread, where we once had an extended discussion of Centering Prayer. I have misgivings about it -- not that it's of the devil or anything, but precisely that it can lead to the kind of emptiness that you describe, which isn't necessarily the Night of the Senses. Lots and lots of reflection on that and other concerns on the recommended thread, parts of which were edited and used in new book on contemplative practice, co-authored with Jim Arraj.
If you want to change the focus of the discussion to your experiences with CP, you could use that CP thread to do so. Otherwise, you all carry on.
Good morning Caneman,
Thanks again for your help. When you say that leaving lectio would be like taking away my foundation, actually that couldn't be farther from the truth. That foundation has already been taken away. Leaving it behind would feel like a relief. I've only been afraid to do it because I know how important staying connected to the Scriputres is, and allowing prayer to be centered in the Scriptures can help keep one grounded in Christian theology.
I agree with you about Fr. Keating. I don't find him creepy, but refreshingly odd. But I too have the same check in my spirit at the same points you do. That's one reason I mentioned so emphatically that I am not interested in merely an altered state of consciousness. If it isn't the triune God, I want no part of it.
There is something I wanted to say in my previous post, but I didn't because I thought it was somewhat arrogant on my part. I feel almost as though my intellect has taken me as far as it can. Not that I know everythign about God or the Scriptures or the writings of spiritual people. THat's not it at all. The more I know, the more I realize how ignorant I am. But these things no longer "feed" me, if that makes sense. They inform me, but I don't sense any spiritual sustenance in them. I can read them and feel like I know something more ABOUT God, but they don't seem to help me to KNOW God.
I am willing to try your suggestion, Caneman, and I'm grateful for your insights. I am a bit confused, however, about praying both actively and receptively at the same time. I'll stay in touch and let you know what happens. You have been a dear brother, and I am thankful for you and your wisdom.
Thanks Phil. I appreciate your patience and willingness to allow me to go on and on ---- and on and on! I especially appreciate your discernment about the difference between "darkness" and "emptiness". I don't have a problem with higher levels of consciousness except that wherever I go, I want Jesus there with me. In fact, as I reflect on what "heaven" means to some CHristians I know -- meaning living forever in Paradise -- that has no appeal to me whatsoever. It is where Jesus is that I want to be, wheter that means being in light or in darkness, or in paradise or something else. God alone, Father, Son and Spirit, is the only paradise I want to experience, in this life or the next. I'll check out that thread you suggested. I really do need more wisdom than I have in order to navigate this journey with Christ.
No worries at all, this only further confirms to me that God has placed you in the night of sense... The Lord is drawing you to a new way of prayer, prayer that is not in your mind but is in your spirit. He is leading you to simplify your prayer, letting go of lectio will be a huge simplification, but there is more...
This is not arrogant, this is absolutely beautiful, the Holy Spirit has taught you this, He is preparing you for infused contemplation... you can only know about God with your mind, but if you want to know Him personally, as the Person of Jesus, He who is Love and Spirit, you must be able to contact Him with your human spirit; the human spirit is the organ God has given us so that we can contact Him and have relationship with Him... one effective way to learn how to make this contact is by learning how to "turn inwardly" to Him, this is the same thing as "active recollection". The Holy Spirit must teach us how to make the mind the servent of the spirit, the mind is no longer in control and the leader, but it is put in its proper place as a tool to help us live a life in the Spirit with Him...
I know that "looking at Him inwardly in your spirit while meditating with CP" sounds confusing, really only the Holy Spirit can teach you about prayer, but it seems like you have already learned much from Him... I think if you try this new type of meditation, inward recollection and "turning inwardly to Him", you will make that spirit to Spirit connection with Him. I feel like I haven't given you enough explanation on how to meditate like this, so I am giving you an excerpt from Jeanne Guyon's book "Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ", Chapter 2. Madam Guyon is an excellent teacher on how to look inwardly [I am going to include a few of my comments in brackets]:
"Next, while you are before the Lord, begin to read some portion of Scripture [start meditating via CP].
As you read, pause.
The pause should be quite gentle. You have paused so that you may set your mind on the Spirit [active recollection]. You have set your mind inwardly- on Christ ("set your mind on your spirit" (Rom 8:6) using the "eyes of your heart" (Eph 1:18) and the "spirit of your mind" (Eph 4:23)].
(You should always remember that you are not doing this to gain some understanding of what you have read; rather, you are reading in order to turn your mind from outward things to the deep parts of your being. You are not there to learn or to read, but you are there to experience the presence of your Lord!)
While you are before the Lord, hold your heart in His presence. How? This you also do by faith. Yes, by faith you can hold your heart in the Lord�s presence. Now, waiting before Him, turn all your attention toward your spirit. Do not allow your mind to wander. If your mind begins to wander, just turn your attention back again to the inward parts of your being.
You will be free from wandering- free from any outward distractions- and you will be brought near to God.
(The Lord is found only within your spirit, in the recess of your being, in the Holy of Holies; this is where He dwells. The Lord once promised to come and make His home within you (John 14:23). He promised to there meet with those who worship Him and who do His will. The Lord will meet you in your spirit. It was St. Augustine who once said that he had lost much time in the beginning of His Christian experience by trying to find the Lord outwardly father than by turning inwardly.)
Once your heart has been turned inwardly to the Lord, you will have the impression of His presence. You will be able to notice His presence more acutely because your outer senses have not become very calm and quiet. Your attention is no longer on outward things or on the surface thoughts of your mind; instead, sweetly and silently, your mind becomes occupied with what you have read and by that touch of His presence.
Oh, it is not that you will think about what you have read, but you will feed upon what you have read. Out of a love for the Lord you exert your will to hold your mind quiet before Him.
When you have come to this state, you must allow your mind to rest.
How shall I describe what to do next?
In this very peaceful state, swallow what you have tasted. At first this may seem difficult, but perhaps I can show you just how simple it is. Have you not, at times, enjoyed the flavor of a very tasty food? But unless you were willing to swallow the food, you received no nourishment. It is the same with your soul. In this quiet, peaceful, and simple state, simply take in what is there as nourishment.
What about distractions?
Let us say your mind begins to wander. Once you have been deeply touched by the Lord�s Spirit and are distracted, be diligent to bring your wandering mind back to the Lord [by using CP and active recollection]. This is the easiest way in the world to overcome external distractions.
When your mind has wandered, don�t try to deal with it by changing what you are thinking. You see, if you pay attention to what you are thinking, you will only irritate your mind and stir it up more. Instead, withdraw from your mind! Keep turning within to the Lord�s presence. By doing this you will win the war with your wandering mind and yet never directly engage the battle."
Her book, "Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ" is a book that I credit for allowing me to pray in such a way so that I could begin to have an authentic spiritual and personal relationship with Jesus... this book is a must read, if you could only read one Christian book your whole life (besides the Bible, of course) it would be this one, IMO (no doubt others will disagree, we always prize our first love!)... if you decide to read it, make sure you buy and read the Seed Sowers translation by Gene Edwards, here is the amazon link:
Please do... I am excited for you because I know that you have the perseverance to wait for Him (Luke 11:5-10) and that He is leading you to the depths of intimacy with Him (Luke 11:11-13).
Thomas Merton has been invaluable to me, as I have wasted a good deal of time in delusion, of which I am particularly susceptible and find myself having to keep my guard up due to a false sense of security. I am old fashioned enough to believe that we have an adversary with thousands of years of practice. Jesus simply quoted scripture to that
rascal, but there was time spent in the Temple learning them.
Not at all to be a wet blanket here, as I find your experience beautiful in the extreme.
Merton was some ten years into prayer and study,
with many safeguards against pride and subjectivity,
yet still felt this appropriate to mention. A sober enough warning and pretty fair advice, IMO.
"I have described the first kind of false mysticism, which literally substitutes ignorance for knowledge." The whole chapter in Ascent to Truth is valuable, IMO, as a map of either ditch
we can veer off into. An experienced guide can call to us in the fog and warn us when we get close to either side...
Carry on, such a beautiful experience.
Caneman, thank you again. I intend to keep pressing in. One thing that has occured to me over the past couple of days is that, while I'm not a particularly performance oriented person, performance orientation had crept into my prayer life in a big way. As prayer became less and less satisfying, I began trying harder and harder to do it right -- which, from everything I've ever read about this path, is exactly the wrong thing to do. At this point, though, it has become an ingrained pattern that I am going to need to unlearn, with God's help. And --- AHHHH!!! as I type this, I can see that I could even get performance oriented about giving up performance orientation! I think what you are suggesting I do is to "come as a child" as JEsus said.
The past couple of days I have done as you suggested and set lectio aside. I still open my Bible and read a little, not as a way to "get something out of it" but just as a way of gathering myself together. I'm not really even thinking about what I am reading.There's no meditation at all, and no reasoning. It does seem to lead in to a more peaceful place, and it happens much more naturally than when I use cp.
Spoonboy, thanks for your words of caution, and I will heed them. I am grateful for those who have gone before us and have warned us about the pitfalls.
God's blessings on you all as we enter this time of Advent.
Charis, do you have someone to meet with for spiritual direction? I think it would be most helpful to you, especially if you sense you're at a transitional time in your spiritual growth.
I hope you've taken some time to read the discussion we had on centering prayer. Quite frankly, I don't think it's for everyone, and my recommendation to all is to use lectio as the staple of one's prayer, perhaps spending the last few minutes doing CP. If contemplative graces come during the lectio process, it's good to consent to them and "rest," even if briefly.
Here is a teaching on prayer I developed recently for the Diocese of Dodge City. Note the way I speak of Lectio at the end of it -- a free-flowing dialogue.
When people complain about a jealous God, and the image doesn't appeal to them, I sometimes wish we had a different word. I do see God as jealous and
I am also jealous of the relationship. It's worth
guarding and protecting.
If David Hawkins is right, only one out of twenty five experience transrational states and half that many experience altruism. If you go around telling
people that you found something better than sex,
which it is by far, then they are going to trample
your pearls and tear you to pieces because they fear the unknown.
It's best to approach one who may understand, but any group of loving people can be helpful. Brother Lawrence found no one, even in a monastery who could understand his Practice of the Presence of God. That must have been very lonely for him.
Enjoy the consolations as you are very fortunate.
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