Spirituality: meditation, a way to enter into rest

How do we respond spiritually to the restlessness and fatigue of modern times? How to trace a path to rest when everything around us promotes curiosity and insatiability, permanent mobility and performance, generating an unprecedented level of stress. “We have come to a point in history where stress has become universal and a very serious problem. So much so that people who aren’t stressed feel like they’re not working hard enough.” notes Laurence Freeman, Benedictine monk and director of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM).

This ecumenical movement was created in the 1990s in Canada, in the wake of the Benedictine monk John Main (1926-1982) to promote meditation within Christianity. A former diplomat in Asia, John Main had discovered there the resources of meditation. Entering the Benedictine Abbey of Ealing in London in 1959, he discovered in the 1970s the links between this experience and the oldest monastic prayer, going back to the writings of John Cassian (4th-5th century), and lives in this encounters a resource for the spiritual needs of the secular world.

A meditation between East and West

The Christian meditation formulated by John Main is part of the long history of contemplative practices in the Christian tradition, which includes a number of proposals: the Lectio divina stemming from the monastic life and centered on a meditation of the Scriptures, the prayer of the Orthodox heart, the practice of prayer in the Carmelite family, the Ignatian contemplation, in which the one who prays immerses himself in a Gospel scene to collect the interior movements that she arouses in him…

As reformulated by John Main, Christian meditation concretely consists of taking a time of twenty to thirty minutes maximum each day, morning and evening, in a seated posture left to the choice of the meditator – in lotus or half-lotus on a cushion or seated on a small bench or a chair – the back always straight, to remain motionless and to repeat a mantra inwardly to the rhythm of the breath, “Maranatha”, “Come, Lord Jesus”one of the oldest Christian prayers along with the Our Father.

An “energized rest”

Meditation here is something other than a relaxation technique, like mindfulness meditation, which has its benefits for fighting stress, resting the body and mind, but does not aim for a relationship with God. . “Christian meditation is not a technique, it is a spiritual path and an interior discipline, contemplative and daily, says Laurence Freeman. Our culture is so broken, confused, stressed, violent and polarized that we need a freely chosen spiritual discipline. »

This practice presents itself simultaneously as a path of silence, simplification and internalization. “Meditation leads to letting go of thoughts, imagination, concepts, continues the director of the World Community for Christian Meditation. To free our conscience from the compulsiveness of our fears, our activities, our plans, and to follow the teaching of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount which tells us: enter your interior room, let go of anxieties, reject your fears and allow your hearts to be at rest. »

John Main was aware of the off-putting character of this proposition for the ego, for our “so insatiable appetite for self-analysise, for the return on ourselves which is often disguised in spirituality »he writes in The Song of Silence (1). In meditation, rest is born from the decentering of oneself and the entry into the present of God. In A word in the silence (2), John Main speaks of it as a prayer “which transcends complexity and restores unity”a “a very simple means by which we gradually put ourselves at peace with ourselves in order to be able to experience the peace of God within us”. “We then enter into a rest but it is an energized rest, which is characterized not only by the absence of conflicts, but by the energy of joy”, comments Laurence Freeman.


The quote

“A revered word that the early monks used to describe meditation was quies: rest, be still, be still. In this quiet moment, you don’t worry about what you’re going to do, you just think about being. »

John Main

The Song of Silence

Spirituality: meditation, a way to enter into rest