I come from a Christian (C of E) background, although we weren’t a particularly religious family. Over recent months, I’ve been taking my first real forays in to organised religion, having always been a very spiritual person but having always been repelled, as a child, by the women I’d meet who’d introduce themselves as Christians and then proceed to show me how very zealously un-Christian they were through their actions.
[Obviously I’m not dissing all Christian women (absolutely not!), but the ones I met during my formative years were amongst some of the unkindest women I’ve ever met. Kind of like they were wearing the ‘Christian’ label as a plaster to cover their openly bad behaviours. The suspicion this disjunct instilled in me lasted nearly 30 years, so strongly was I repelled!]
When I began my process of ‘spiritual awakening’ (which is rather a grand way of saying that I realised I needed something bigger than myself to get me through the mess my soon-to-be-ex-husband had left us in), I was attracted to meditation. Because I was seeking, I realise, solace in peace. Because I needed to find some way of finding peace in the chaos. And peace I did find. Endless waves of peace that started to give me hope, because I did (do) see things beyond me, beyond ego, when I meditate. The best way I can describe it is that I see possibility because I feel barriers being lifted.
As I was meditating regularly, I began to be drawn, like a moth to a flame, to seeking God’s words and, in fact, on one of my darkest days, when dark thoughts had invaded even my eternally sunny mind, my body led me to kneel in prayer, at the foot of my bed.
Desperation led my body to lead me there, to kneel. Something I’d never previously done and never expected myself to do. It was a primordial act, my body leading me to give thanks and then, humbly, to ask. I didn’t bargain, didn’t offer anything up if He helped (I respected Him sufficiently).
I simply asked Him to help me get through it because I still have to help my children (goodness, I can’t read that line back as I’m editing, because the tears claw at my throat). A few minutes in to the experience, I felt a light enter the dead centre of my chest, thwack. A physical sensation so strong I still remember the jolt I felt and still feel that light there, anchoring me to faith (in myself, in life, in Him).
A few days later, still a little confused by the experience, I read somewhere that in prayer we speak to God and in meditation we listen to God. They’re some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever read, because they explained, in a nutshell, a great confusion I’d had: how can I meditate and pray to God? “Isn’t that kind of greedy, Helen?“, I’d think.
I find God – my personal version of God – when I meditate. I speak to God when I pray, or when I sit in silence and give thanks. This ‘belts and braces’ approach (as a very devout friend of mine calls it!) has also helped me to find God in daily life because it’s helped me be more mindful of the beauty – and fragility – of life. Of the value of a moment.
And I’ve come to realise that’s where God lives: in moments, in fragments. In those milliseconds when we feel so connected, so loved, so enwrapped (enraptured, in fact): we hold our breath willing them to last longer but they never do. If we want more of those kind of moments, we have to calm down, so we can learn to dive right in to the moment, to be able to fully appreciate every thing we encounter. Once we do this, we’ll find we’ll have more of those moments and we appreciate them much more deeply. Their frequency and depth are both increased.
If prayer is when we speak to God and meditation is when we listen to God, then if we’re mindful (a side effect of daily meditation), we’ll even come to see God. See the miracles. Marvel at the multiple – myriad – beauties of life. It’ll train our eye (and our hearts) to see joy when it’s right there in front of us. No more chasing. No more discontent. You’ll see it all there, right in front of your nose.
Things are always in the last place you think to look, aren’t they?!
[This post was written in response to Karen Beth’s Tuesday at Ten word for this week (peace). My thoughts are with Karen Beth and her family at this most difficult time]