Click here for a short reflection on apophatic meditation methods.
Reflection and Discussion
1. What questions or comments do you have about this lesson?
2. What are some of your experiences in using concentrative and receptive forms of apophatic meditation?
May I recommend Open Mind, Open Heart by Fr. John Keating?
He and Frs. William Meninger and Basil Pennington, as you may already know, lauched 'the Centering Prayer' back in the 70's.
It is mostly based upon the 're-approach and modern english interpretation' of the method described in "The Cloud of Unknowing", a book written in 1375 c. describing the approach in use from early desert fathers.
This is an elegant and substantial book. I found a modern english 're-write' from the harder to follow 14th century English, compiled by Clifton Wolters, and bought it used on Amazon for $3.95!!!
This edition also has other writings by this anonymous monk such as "The Epistle of Privy Counsel", and "Dionysius' Mystical Teaching (Dionise Hid Divinite)", and "The Epistle of Prayer".
In another thread, I was in a conversation that moved to the theme of apophatic meditation methods, so I thought it would be fitting to move it to this thread. Hope that is ok.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by revkah:
[QB] Dear Ryan,
"...about using your awareness of kundalini energy as your symbol of receptivity in centering prayer. I really like that idea... could you say more about it? Are you still doing it?"
Yes, Revkah, When I "center" or "recollect" I gently turn within, and ordinarily, when I do so, I become aware of a kind of inner energy. In yogic tradition, that energy is called prana or kundalini. But the primary tradition I meditate in is the Chrisitian mystical tradition. I regard my attention to that energy as my symbol of receptivity to the presence and action of God within. I do not regard the energy as God, instead, I see it as a gift of God, a comfort to help me in the path of transformative grace.
The quality of the energy, as I experience it, is different than emotional arousal or passion, different from the energy of hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. It can be intertwined with passions at times, but when the passions run their course, the energy often remains with a peaceful resonance. I think of it as spiritual energy that aids me in the process of, as Thomas Keating says, dismantling emotional programs for happiness. It also makes me receptive to the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22: "love, joy, peace, longsuffering/patience, goodness, kindness, meekness, self-control."
I could say more, but I will leave it at that for now, and wait to see if you or others have questions or comments. Thanks for listening.
About a year ago I read two of Keating's books --"Invitation to Love" and "Open Mind, Open Heart". I really appreciated what he had to say, and began to try to practice centering prayer, but it was a struggle. I would find myself in a wrestling match with the sacred word, no matter what word I chose, dragging myself back to it again and again. I think part of the problem is that every word contains meaning, and no matter what word I chose I would end up reflecting on it's meaning, or doing word associations in my mind (remember the old TV game "Password"?) . The other part of the problem was that I was returning to the sacred word by an act of will --dragging myself back to it because I thought I was supposed to -- and willfulness is a killer of contemplation. I'm sure from this that I wasn't doing centering prayer the way Keating intends it, but I finally gave up the whole word thing and just let myself kind of float in God, and found it easier to let any thoughts that came into my mind just drift away.
Anyway, since the kundalini energy began to awaken, I have found the quiet inner buzz in my ears to be a great comfort and constant reminder of the grace and love that God has given me in this bewildering gift. Since reading your post, I have begun to let this be my "word" or symbol of receptivity, as you call it. My "insect choir" carries no meaning in the sense that words do, but it does carry other things, like humility and awe and gratitude. I don't know if this will "work" (and what does that mean, anyway?) but it seems like a natural development.
You write: "I think of it as spiritual energy that aids me in the process of, as Thomas Keating says, dismantling emotional programs for happiness. "
Yes...I liked what he said about internal housecleaning and "taking out the garbage" being a kind of divine psychotherapy. This has been a big part of my experience in the last 6 months. I have no idea how the energy is aiding me, I just know that it is. I think Reiki has been a big part of this...but maybe that's another conversation.
Excellent observations re Reiki energy being a catalyst in your kundalini symptoms and awakening. I did mention same and tuned into it intuitively reading your original post.
Could you share the time between your Reiki initiation and the start of your kundalini symptoms.
I asked a Reiki Master a few years ago if it would benefit for me to receive a Reiki initiation. She informed me that this was not necessary since I was born with an open Reiki energy channel, which was an unknown gift from God and beneficial in my healing practitioner's work. I, of course, call it the flowing love of God.
I think it was about 2 months, after the third session. I think Reiki was definitely a catalyst. After the first session, I felt nothing except a great peacefulness, but soon after the second session I began to feel strange sensations in my 3rd chakra, like something breaking loose inside. The other kundlaini symptoms came soon after that. I very much experience Reiki as the flowing love of God, or as prayer with laying on of hands. It's important to me that my Reiki practitioner is also my spiritual director, and a Chrisitan.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by revkah:
"...I have found the quiet inner buzz in my ears to be a great comfort and constant reminder of the grace and love that God has given me in this bewildering gift. Since reading your post, I have begun to let this be my "word" or symbol of receptivity, as you call it. My "insect choir" carries no meaning..."
If gently returning to it is easy, if it carries no inherent linguistic meaning, if it is part and parcel of detachment from the stream of thought, the way I figure it, it makes a fitting symbol of receptivity. By the way, calling the "word" a symbol of receptivity is Keating's idea, receptivity to the presence and action of God within.
I relate to the inner energy as a symbol rather than as the direct presence and action of God in perhaps the same way I look at the Eucharist as symbol rather than the real body of Christ. I'm a child of the radical reformation. That said, there is a mystery wherein the human spirit cooperates with the Holy Spirit.
You wrote: "I relate to the inner energy as a symbol rather than as the direct presence and action of God in perhaps the same way I look at the Eucharist as symbol rather than the real body of Christ. I'm a child of the radical reformation. That said, there is a mystery wherein the human spirit cooperates with the Holy Spirit."
Hmmm...I've been pondering this today while cleaning out the basement, and am still pondering. I'll get back to you, though probably not for a few days. I have a dismal 3-day conference/business meeting to attend but will also get some time at my beloved monastery so should have some good thinking and praying time.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by revkah:
"Hmmm...I've been pondering... I'll get back to you."
Thanks Revkah, I look forward to hearing from you.
This has been fun to ponder: what do I really believe about Holy Communion, kundalini, symbol and sacrament? Surely, the bread and wine in Communion are symbols, pointing to and participating in a reality beyond themselves. But the act of Communion I see as more than a symbol. It is sacrament. The prayer of consecration in our church goes: �Pour out your Holy Spirit upon these gifts of bread and wine that they may be for us the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.� As a diverse congregation, some people would see the elements as symbols that have been blessed, others would believe that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood, molecule for molecule. I would say that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but in the act of receiving them in joy and faith and community, Christ is really and fully present, through the Holy Spirit. I also believe that Holy Communion is an actual means of grace�it contains a power that goes beyond mere symbol. Something really happens when we �take and eat� whether we are aware of it or not. Our church dares to welcome everyone, believers and non-believers, to the table because we believe in this ability of the meal to not just represent, but channel grace. Mystery, indeed.
I would agree that kundalini a symbol of God rather than the direct action and presence of God. In and of itself, I think it is neutral�it carries no particular meaning. Non-believers experience it as well. It is only by the Holy Spirit, as this gift is faithfully and joyfully received, that if becomes more: a symbol and reminder of the presence of God in every cell of my body�maybe even a kind of sacrament, just as sex within marriage can be a kind of sacrament. But unlike communion or good sex, kundalini is a very solitary and even isolating experience. I have to constantly look beyond it to the Giver, or it becomes nothing more than a sideshow acted out within my body. But still, it is in relationship that sacrament occurs...in this case in a living relationship with the Holy Spirit.
I don't know if that makes sense...I'm still trying to figure it out. And of course, I never will...that's inherent in the gift, I think. But I try. Thoughts?
revkah, I very much agree with your reflections on Holy Communion and the relational aspect of sacraments. I'm not sure my consent is different than what I bring to prayer (maybe that's what Ryan meant?), but I do believe that what is received is qualitatively different from kundalini.
And so, for me, Holy Communion is that movement in the liturgy that corresponds to the contemplatio of lectio divina. We have sung, read, reflected and prayed, and now we receive the Mystery together and (in good liturgy) we take some time to simply rest in the presence of the Christ whom we have received. I often feel drawn to apophatic silence during that time, and will even stay after Mass when possible to continue to sit quietly in the presence that also receives me.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Phil:
[QB] ...we receive the Mystery together and (in good liturgy) we take some time to simply rest in the presence of the Christ whom we have received. I often feel drawn to apophatic silence during that time...
That's a really good point, Phil, and something that is generally missing in our liturgy. It's most often: sing one last hymn and get to the coffee hour. Worship in general, at least what I've experienced, doesn't have enough silence in it, and virtually no sense of resting in the presence. We could do much better.
Yes, in centering prayer, I have chosen awareness of the inner energy as my symbol of intention to consent to the presence and action of God within, one that I return to when I become aware of thought.
I have to constantly look beyond it to the Giver
I'm deeply impressed by all that you have said above. I too look beyond to the Giver of whom I have no image or perception. If I understand the notion of apophatic prayer, that is what makes the prayer apophatic.
Those are helpful distinctions you both are making. For myself, in prayer where the Holy Spirit takes over through simplest consent and guides the entire process, including the bodily energy, there is simply gazing upon God, or the "Giver" as Revkah describes.
But I like Ryan's description as well, perhaps techinically more kataphatic, where the energy can be a living symbol of the soul's intimacy in yearning/consenting to Him; this is a loving way to treat and respect the body as shrine or temple of deepest intent, allowed to be according to its design.
"I don't know what I do."- Father Thomas Keating
I'm just not there yet, but remain hope-full...
A recent discovery of mine comes from Bernardin de Laredo, from the book that launched Theresa of Avila
into "Second Conversion."
"In one long conversation, lasting for the greater part of five days with a person who had 'more and longer, and more genuine experience of it than one would believe in these days of ours to exist anywhere on earth', he actually witnessed this person's raptures, and 'learned certain things that I had never thought to learn and cannot set down here on paper'.
'He told me once that for fully five-and-twenty years there had not been as many as ten nights on which on which his soul had not been enraptured. And he said that true alienations brought such satisfactions that a single one of them was more than sufficient to compensate for all the tribulations which in a long life had offered to God and suffered for His sake.'
This and some further testimony Laredo reports, partly for his reader's edification, and partly for refutation of those who deny that raptures are of any value. Pseudo-raptures, he concedes (and in this day, when they abounded, he could hardly do otherwise), are common. They prove to be 'laughable and ridiculous'. 'Feeble souls, unversed in the delectible fellowship of quiet contemplation, think that some unaccustomed spark touches the fuel of some unaccustomed thought, they must kindle the fuel by blowing on it with all their poor strength. And thus they rack their brains, wondering with their puny minds, if they are really experiencing alienation'.
This chapter, the only one in which Laredo describes such physical phenomena, ends with some
reports of other things that occur 'which cannot be explained in speech or writing'. They are set down with no great enthusiasm, in a tone which contrasts strikingly with the self-confidence of the so-called alumbrados (illuminists): 'it was quite appropriate that they should recieve the light of the Holy Inquisition.' Laredo's only teaching on the subject of raptures is an exhortation to those who experience them to dissimulate them as far as they can. here he is entirely in agreement with all genuine Christian mystics as opposed to practitioners in the mystical sciences that are falsely so called."
Dude, I am so busted! Blush! I have wasted years in Charismatic/Pentacostal dreamland. OH and
AARRGGGHHH!!! Feeble soul that I have been, laughable and ridiculous!
At least now I can take some comfort in seeing some of the traps and pitfalls of false mysticism and might save someone years of trouble.
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