So, before you think I’m virtue signaling, let me just tell you that I’m one of the worst, most distracted meditators you’ll ever know.
I’ve written about this before, but I don’t particularly enjoy meditation. It’s not a blissful stretch of time for me. I’d rather be thinking or grilling or reading or sleeping rather than meditating.
So it’s interesting that I’ve somehow fallen in love with my contemplative/centering prayer practice. Because every time, I lucidly realize how horrible I am at it.
This is the beauty of the practice. The point isn’t to achieve some kind of perfectly serene state the whole time through. The point is to return back to the silence (to god, if you will) when you feel caught up in personal thinking. If you can do it once or twice in that 20-minute period, well, you got your money’s worth.
For me, the first 10 minutes is rough. I’m up in my head the entire time. Like, waaaay up there. And then, right around the 10-minute mark, things start to shift. This shifting can’t be rushed, it just… happens (sometimes).
The best way I can describe it is you know how, when you turn the lights off, your eyes take some time to adjust. In that first however-many minutes, all you see is darkness — maybe even some shapes and shadows from when the room was illumined.
But then, suddenly, the room starts opening up to you. And before long, it’s like you’re sitting in a well-lit room, but you’re actually in the dark.
That’s exactly how contemplative prayer is for me (and how I’ve heard it described by others).
When your inner eye softens and relaxes its gaze, you find yourself in the luminous interior space of the divine.
It’s indescribable in nature, but you’re floating in the presence of something… more. Something numinous.
As for me, I still shift back and forth into thinking about my grocery list and my email inbox and the numerous other urgent-yet-unimportant things that strive for my attention.
But I’m in the midst of a psycho-spiritual atmosphere that’s easier to sink back into than it was 10 minutes or so before.
As fleeting as those moments of non-thinking are, what a peaceful place to be.