This morning I decided to try a meditation experiment, a new way of entering into the Presence at the center of being. A drum, a unique phrase from The Gospel of Thomas, and my singing voice were involved. The phrase is well worth meditating on in the form of lectio divina (sacred reading), but today I used it as an audio divina (sacred sounding).
I was following the suggestion of Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault in her book Wisdom Jesus. She writes about the contemplative practice of chanting, giving several examples like chanting the Psalms, Taize’ chants of simple scriptural songs, and Sufi chanting with one word as a name or attribute of God. Then she invites the reader to use the words from The Gospel of Thomas and to listen for a sound or musical phrase from within with which to chant the passage.
The phrase is perfect for a contemplative practice: “Come into being as you pass away.”
I was led to pick up a drum and to begin playing a rhythmic pattern. A musical form arose within: a monotone of one note to sing the phrase, and a rhythm for singing and playing the drum. I set my intention to use the chanting as a way to simply be in the Presence. And I began. I sang a while, played a while, and when my thoughts wandered, I simply returned my attention to the phrase and the sacred sound.
I do not know how long the meditation experiment lasted. I would guess fifteen minutes.
In the process I decided to follow a suggestion from the new senior pastor at Rayne United Methodist Church in New Orleans. Jay invited his associate pastor, Marissa, and me to spend the next six weeks praying at the same time each week to discern how we could be led to use a new house the church purchased for ministry. For some reason, my meditation experiment with chanting seemed like a good time to begin the inner listening we call spiritual discernment. I sought to let go of any preconceptions I might have had about the use of that house and simply opened my heart-mind as I chanted.
Soon an image of gathering people for daily meditation/prayer in the house came to mind. The phrase “urban monastery” came to mind. The remembrance of my primary calling in life, which has been clear since 1992, arose within: “I am called to a life of prayer for the world.”
In the early years the phrase primarily meant a call to be praying for the world. Later that evolved into the act of holding others in my heart as prayer, and that heart-holding practice took many forms. And in the last decade the call has evolved into also meaning I am called to a life of prayer – for the sake of the world. That became the basis of my becoming a contemplative.
Okay, so that was a lot of explanation. But what arose this morning was a simple image that the house could be a place where I live my calling each day, in the company of other contemplatives, even visitors from around the world. Who knows if this imagination will lead across the liminal threshold to become a sacred reality. Figuring out the details of what happens there is not up to me. The church’s pastors and many people will dream dreams, listen and discern, and give input from their own heart-minds until decisions are made.
So I share how the images arose this morning as a hint of what can happen when we try a meditation experiment, a new way of opening the heart-mind to the divine. If we let go of what we think should happen, and engage in spiritual opening, the divine can bring whatever She/He wants to bring. And if we let go of any attachments to even what arises, not getting lost into figuring out how to make the image a reality, we might find that it will lead in new directions we had not imagined.
Today I chanted with a drum, my voice, and a gospel phrase: “Come into being as you pass away.” I will return to this meditation experiment again, for it helped me open the heart-mind to the Presence, and that is how I want to begin each day.
I wonder if you will engage in a meditation experiment today, or this week, to enhance your own contact with a Power Greater than yourself?