It's a Fearsome Thing....

....to fall into the hands of the Living God.

You make these Lenten promises and don't think too much about what they mean. So, at the start of Lent I thought I would discipline myself to blog everyday,  which has got me into a habit of regular reflection and communication, and, as an unexpected and very satisfying side effect, led to an approximately 500% increase in my audience. I also stopped, as far as I could manage it, using plastic which had as one of its main results a drop off in my coffee consumption, which has got to be good for me, but you'll need to ask the planet if there were any other benefits. Almost as an afterthought I also looked at my daily meditation schedule.

I sit quietly every morning for about 30 minutes. I usually do this before breakfast when there are few phone calls and even fewer visitors so it has been easy, over the years, to make this a habit. I also try, and usually fail, to meditate every afternoon. My timetable is so erratic that this has been hard to establish as a routine, so it's a promise that is honoured more in the breach than in the keeping. On Ash Wednesday I stopped listening to the excuses presented by my chaotic diary and did it anyway, scheduling things around my quiet time and, if I was driving, as I often am at the appointed hour, pulling over and praying in the car. So, long story short, I effectively doubled the amount of meditation I was doing during Lent. And the results of this change have been the most dramatic of all.

The effects of meditation are a bit like those of going for a walk. Do it once or twice and the only noticeable results will be the inconvenience of fitting yet one more time consuming activity into your schedule. Do it for a month and things begin to change. Doubling my meditation has had two quite dramatic effects.

Firstly my Holy Spirit times, which are those periods when I wake in the night, generally around 2 or 3 am with my head full stuff of which is, for me anyway, new and exciting or challenging or puzzling or all of the above, have increased in number and in depth.

Secondly I have been confronted more and more with my past. Things which I had thought long resolved have resurfaced and reminded me that perhaps a little more work was required. These include ideas and realisations and intuitions about past events, but also feelings about those events. In most cases these have required no particular action on my part: some long forgotten bit of psychic detritus has been shaken loose from its decades long encrustation in my unconscious and is making its way out via my cognitive or affective consciousness. In one or two cases though, things have surfaced which will require some attention and I have made arrangements for the necessary spiritual direction.

The strange thing is that these inner events in my consciousness have been accompanied by the sorts of synchronistic meetings and confluences of events which are completely out of my control, but which happen at exactly the right time and make me realise that there is another, greater consciousness at work here. Centering Prayer is about surrender. I say my prayer word daily not as a mantra but as a kind of token to myself of my intention to consent to whatever God wants to do in me. My mind drifts and I say my word, to centre myself and signal consent, a hundred times in any half hour. So two hundred times a day I consent. So why should I be surprised when God  takes me at my word, shows up and gently, tenderly but relentlessly continues to disassemble the self I have made to keep all that terrifying reality at bay.

This Lent is not yet over and already it has been the most profound, the most powerful of my life.

Comments

Father Ron said…
Dear Bishop Kelvin, a question from me; Do you think your recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, via el Camino, have any constructive part in this new facility for 'taking time' in meditation and prayer?
Elaine Dent said…
than Thank you for the positive reminder that Centering Prayer can be done by a busy bishop (and therefore busy priest/pastor) in the midst of responsibilities...and that it does change us! It was helpful to hear the part of surrendering 100 times!
Kelvin Wright said…
God question Ron. The short answer is yes, absolutely. You've prompted me to think about a longer answer and I'll make that a blog post all by itself. Watch this space.

But in brief: the camino taught me how to make a journey, as opposed to merely travelling. And all the lessons learned in making that journey - travelling light, being in the now, problem solving, responding to the immediate environment, being committed to the ultimate goal - have a direct application to the inner journey I have been bumbling along for decades now.
Kelvin Wright said…
I meant Good question, but the typo is just fine.

You have your own experience of journey Elaine and it is helpful to me to witness and be part of your very public processing of it. I find myself hankering to be on the trail again. In New Zealand we have Te Araroa, which means "the long trail" which is a hiking trail from one end of our country to another. 3,000km (2,000 miles)through forests, across mountains, through cities and farmland. It takes 50-80 days per Island (we have 2 main ones) and is more demanding than the Camino in that it requires the walker to carry a range of clothing, food, a stove and a tent (sound familiar?) and therefore a much heavier pack than the 6.5 kg I toted across Spain. It requires quite extensive periods away from civilisation. I'm hoping to do it, starting at the end of next year. I also want to walk the Camino again and Clemency and I are debating the route. (I want La Via de la Plata, she wants to walk the Camino Frances again.) But maybe all this is a distraction. Perhaps the biggest step to make is taking the lessons of the trail and applying them to the path along which Jesus is calling us on a daily basis.