There are different kinds of mediation situated on a sliding scale from concentrative to receptive, with concentrative being the most attention based and the receptive being pure intention.

There are basically three schools of meditation, three stops on the scale:

1. Concentrative practices based on attention.

The practices give you something simple to tether your mind to, to pull your mind back. The method known as “Christian Meditation” pioneered by John Main, uses a mantra for this purpose.  Following the breath can be another means of focusing the mind . There are also body based concentrative practices, moving the attention around in the body. The technique is always to tether the mind to something. The Jesus Prayer is a concentrative meditation method.

2. Awareness practices – This is the tendency in Buddhism. The goal is to be able to step back and experience what usually goes on in our customary emotional , psychological state as simply energy phenomena happening at times so we learn not to put our sense of identity in it. When thoughts come up or feelings, we just say, “angry thinking,” “fear,” “impulse.”

You watch, you label, you take a giant step back in your being and are able to keep your hands off it. So you begin to see that you are not your emotional reactivity because, if you can watch it, you must be bigger than it.

3. Surrender practices – Centering Prayer (CP) works on that moment where you face a choice to go with the thought or to let it go. CP works over and over again on that moment. The goal is not to clear your mind of thoughts. The goal is to be willing to let go when something calls your attention to the fact that you are thinking.

This gesture of surrender is the gateway; it’s the connecting of the finite with the infinite. The gesture itself contains the whole thing.

The goal of awareness practice is “clear mind.” This is not the goal of CP. The goal in CP is purity of heart. The reward is in the freedom to give – how are you ever going to be closer to God, more like God than when you give away everything?

Trust the process.

CP is embodied prayer. You’re not escaping from your body when you are doing CP. What you are doing is you are going within the body that lives within your body. Or, to put it another way, you are going into the body that your body lives within. There is a whole field of aliveness which lives in you and which is you and which you are by and large completely unaware is there. When you are in touch with that you are in touch with that which lives beyond death and it is right there in your body right now.

There are two fundamental motions required in the spiritual journey, two operations. You have to be proficient at both or you are incomplete: 1. attention 2. surrender. They are the breathing of the spiritual life.

Attention means “I am here.”

Tuesday a.m.

There are two modes of spiritual being:

1. Kataphatic – prayer using forms. Prayer which relies on the faculties = reason/ intellect, memory, emotions, will, imagination – all the things that tie us to our usual mind and our usual sense of self. Reinforces your kataphatic self, your ordinary awareness, your usual psychological sense of who you are and what you are all about.

2. Apophatic – prayer that does not make use of your usual faculties. Doesn’t reinforce kataphatic self. Instead reinforces “spiritual awareness.”

CP is apophatic prayer. Every mistake we get into in CP is a result of trying to bring a little kataphatic into CP. We get the idea that we are supposed to use our silence to hear God who can only speak in a whisper. In fact the silence is its own reality. It is reality listening at a more subtle level.

No matter what can be gained by taking the hook of mystical experience, it is not worth the price.

The ego abhors a vacuum which it perceives as emptiness and loss of control. So it will keep trying to seduce you back into the kataphatic realm which is its natural realm.

What do we gain by staying with the apophatic?

You are learning the art of spiritual non-possessiveness which is the opposite of “spiritual materialism” which is the ‘bete noir’ of spiritual seekers.

Spiritual Materialism is the tendency to help ourselves to spiritual experience for the building up of our ordinary awareness. We think that there’s a great realm out there called the “mystical,” called the “unitive.” And it exists just right out there and if we can grab it, and get something for us, it will make our usual self stronger, more real, more flexible, more enlightened, more able to cope. So we go into the realm of the mystical wanting to bring something home with us. John of the Cross called these “spiritual consolations.”