Many people try meditating but give up because they can’t stop the distractions. Harris explains that we don’t need to clear our minds–which is impossible to do–just focus and keep focussing.
I’ve heard this before from Cynthia Bourgeault and Thomas Keating. But because they meditate for spiritual reasons, (Harris does not), they take it one step further and understand that refocusing as a returning to God. Keating often said, “Even if you have to return to the sacred word a hundred times in a prayer period, God rejoices. You have come home to God a hundred times!” Our intent isn’t to master the art of meditation but to be in loving relationship with God.
I told Fred about Harris’s video while we were walking to church and something clicked. “All I have to do when I am inundated with distractions is to return to focusing on my breath again and again. And all I have to do to make peace with my addiction to food is to keep saying no again and again.”
I had wanted to resolve my struggles with one big crashing of the door. I wanted to enter the chamber of Love and be set free from my addiction to food and thoughts once and for all. But I’m discovering that all Love wants me to do is keep crashing the door–in this moment and the next.
If I fail; it’s okay. That moment’s gone. I’ll have another opportunity to choose Love in the next. If I succeed, that’s good, but that moment’s gone too, and I must choose again.
How often I succeed or fail doesn’t affect what I need to do right now and every moment after that: just keep returning to Love.
God is with me in this. God wants me to reap the benefits of healthy eating and contemplative prayer practices. God wants what’s good for me. But more than that, God wants to awaken me–moment by moment–to the reality that I am in God. I am in Love. And God is in Love with me.
In returning and rest, you will be saved.
In quietness and trust you will find strength.
— Isaiah 30:15 (The Voice)
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Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. (1923-2018), Father Basil Pennington and Father William Menninger revived the practice of Centering Prayer after finding an old copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in a monastery library. Keating is the founder of Contemplative Outreach, “a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.” Father Keating travelled the world to speak with laypeople and communities about contemplative Christian practices and the psychology of the spiritual journey. One of my favourite quotes by Keating is “The chief thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from him. If we get rid of that thought, our troubles will be greatly reduced.”