What happens when we gather on Tuesday nights to meditate? Basically, we practice the 4 P’s. They can be done at home, but a group helps:
Create a space free of distraction. Turn off your phone. Dim the lights. If it helps, play some ambient music, but eventually move to silence. Note distracting sounds and sights and simply let them pass by.
“Relaxed alertness” is the aim. Many find sitting in a straight-backed but comfortable chair useful. Sit erect, but relax your muscles. A mental body scan helps identify tension. Simply pause the scan until you have relaxed the muscles, then continue and repeat until all tension is gone.
John Main rediscovered a particular method of the ancient Christian practice of resting in the presence of God through silence. Once you have established place and posture, allow the prayer word “Ma-ra-na-tha” to synchronise with your breathing. Each syllable should be allowed to attach itself to the sequence of breathing in “ma”, breathing out “ra”, breathing in again “na”, breathing out “tha” – and then repeat. This “breath prayer” focuses heart, mind, and soul on the presence of God in silence. Followers of this method recommend 20 minutes at both ends of the day. Beginners might try 5 minutes for a few sessions and then gradually build up to 20 as they become more practiced. (The breath prayer does not need to be sub-vocalised continuously, but serves to ward of distraction and wandering focus, and can be brought is as necessary).
The program is the intention we bring to a Christian meditation session. For many, practicing the presence of God in silence is sufficient. On Tuesday nights, after 20 minutes of centering down, we offer opportunity for those who would like to engage a more discursive method of meditation based on either of the traditional practices of Lectio Divina or Ignation prayer of the imagination. Brief descriptions follow. There is opportunity for group debriefing after the exercise. This is always voluntary.
Lectio (Read): Carefully and slowly read the set text (or peruse the object) several times, taking it all in. Note certain words or phrases (or features) that seem to draw you in. Lectio Divina is based on the Benedictine practice of “divine reading.” Originally a method of engaging the sacred text, it can also be applied to artefacts and objects of nature, like a plant or a rock.
Meditatio (Meditate): Take the word or the aspect that has attracted your attention and mull it over from every conceivable aspect – your associations, memories, hopes, questions, connections.
Oratio (Dialogue): Bring the conversation mindfully into the presence of the Divine. Make a statement, ask a question – whatever seems appropriate to the task. Spend as much time listening as speaking during this internal dialogue.
Contemplatio (Contemplation): This final phase allows the preceding experience to settle. Encounter with the divine is always gift (even if sometimes it doesn’t feel liker it!), so this is a time for appropriation, integration and thanksgiving.
Ignatian Imagination These are guided prayer exercises based on the work of Ignatius Loyola, who discovered the rich role the imagination can play in unlocking the personal dynamic of the Christian story. He developed an exacting system of prayer disciplines to ensure effective engagement in this way. We mostly use Scripture meditations and the examen from his vast repertoire of work.