On kenosis and being horrible at meditation

It’s fall, so I’ll be going all-in on fall pictures this season. This one is by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

As I touched on last night, I’m really bad at meditating. I also mentioned that this fact doesn’t keep me from the benefits of my practice.

I get distracted easily. Being a writer, the voice in my head is reeeally adamant. (I mean, I depend on that voice for my livelihood. So there's that...)

But in my centering prayer (meditation) time, my task is to remove my investment from it for a short while. To not get caught up in what that thing is saying. To let those thoughts float right by and ascend back into the ether from which they came.

This is the notion of kenosis. It’s the term mystics use to describe the self-emptying quality of Jesus (read more here if you care to enter the rabbit hole of kenosis).

And so, in centering prayer, the point isn’t necessarily to be in a perfectly clear blissed-out mental state the whole time. (I mean, if you can actually get there, fantastic, but it’s certainly not a requirement — if it was, no one would still be doing it).

The point of contemplative prayer is kenosis — the self-emptying of personal thinking, agenda, and emotional mental attachment.

We cast away our incessant personal yammerings so that we can sit in the quiet, sacred presence of divine action.

Okay, so back to sucking…

The more I get distracted, the more opportunities I have to work my kenotic muscles (no, I promise, I don’t do it on purpose). To let the thoughts go and return to the silence, if ever so temporarily.

It’s this leaving and returning, leaving and returning, latching onto thinking and kenosis that… does something, internally.

I don’t ever notice drastic internal shifts while I’m sitting ass-on-cushion (for lack of a better term). The changes seep in quietly like an editing of my internal coding and show up when least expected (this is the whole ‘divine action’ thing I mentioned earlier).

That’s when the real mystery of this contemplative faith presents itself… When I find myself (occasionally) not getting pissed off to the point of cardiomyopathy in bad traffic. When I (occasionally) let my five-year-old actually be a five-year-old instead of holding her to stricter standards than that of my fellow adults. When (occasionally) I see a headline that would have typically been triggering but has now been rendered emotionally impotent.

Hmmm…. Strange.

It just shows, when we quiet down our mental chatter, we allow the divine to go to work on us.

And so, as horrible I am at it, I’ll keep on with this ancient mystical practice of contemplative prayer. Getting caught up in my head… and then returning to the emptiness that undergirds my very being.