Letter 30: Transformation, the essence of meditation

One of the most important correspondences we have seen between the teaching of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart and John Main is the emphasis on letting go off ego-centric thoughts and images, so that we can access our true nature in Christ. This awareness that we are much more than we think we are comes as a grace-given revelation. Meister Eckhart called this moment “The birth of Christ in the soul”. John Main, agreeing with this, quotes the German mystic Silesius in The Hunger for Depth and Meaningas saying “it may be that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but that will be of no avail to us unless he is born in our hearts…. That is the whole purpose of Christian Meditation….Our hearts must be made ready for him…..we must let go off everything else, so that there is space for him in our hearts.”

That is our task: with the help of the mantra we let go off our focus on our ego-centric thoughts, which in one way or the other have to do with the survival needs in our life – the need for love, security, esteem, power, control and pleasure, as we have explored in other Weekly Teachings already. These are perfectly valid needs, but if they were partially unmet they can drive our thoughts, desires and actions ‘demonically’ from the personal unconscious to seek compensation for the perceived lack of those needs. Our preoccupation with having these needs met then so fills our minds, that there is no “space for him in our hearts.” Only when we let these thoughts fade into the background and pay them no mind, can we ‘put our heart, soul and mind on God’ (Matt 22:37). With grace this will result in a breakthrough to a different spiritual level of consciousness and a subsequent transformation of our whole being, influenced by the Divine love that is the ground and essence of our true self. This in turn influences and heals our relationships with ourselves, others and Creation.

This is the essential advice on the spiritual path given by all the mystics of all traditions. The reason for this in Christian terms is expressed by St Paul (2Cor4:6): “For the same God who said, ‘Out of darkness, let light shine’, has caused this light to shine within us, to give us the light of revelation – the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

For John Main and all in our World Community meditation is the way to become aware of this Divine Light and Glory within us. By repeating our mantra, he teaches us that we “learn to stand back…to take that step away from self-centredness” and thus we are led to silence, stillness, simplicity, humility and to the actual experience of the Divine Light and Glory within us. He stresses that it is “the first responsibility of our lives…to be fully human: to return to our own centre, and to live out of the depths of our own profound capacity….. We discover that being reconnected with our own centre reconnects us with every centre. The truly spiritual man or woman learns to live in harmony with themselves, and to live in harmony with the whole creation…To be in one’s own centre is to be in God.” This connectedness, this oneness of humanity, creation and the Divine that John Main emphasize here, is also the main message of The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart and all the mystics. In Word into Silence John Main reiterates the importance of the awareness of the consciousness of Jesus within us: “The presence of Jesus within us, His Holy Spirit, calls out to us to become fully conscious of this level of our being. In the twinkling of an eye, we awaken to ourselves, to the spirit dwelling in us, and thence to consciousness of the communion with God himself in which we are called to share.”

How different the world, in which we live would be, if all walked the path to their own centre in their different ways and traditions. As Thomas Merton explains when recounting his spiritual experience at a busy crossroad in Louisville: “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depth of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in the eyes of the Divine. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.”

Kim Nataraja

(All John Main quotes come from ‘The hunger for depth and meaning’ ed. Peter Ng)