Breath-prayer brings deep rest
Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you…The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.…” John 15:4,5
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
It’s such an exciting time to be alive in this world as Christians around the world in many institutions are hungering for more of God and make it a priority to encounter the presence of God. We are understanding that living in the presence of God is the most important factor in living the abundant life and filling one’s destiny.
The interesting thing about contemporary expressions of Christian fellowship is that many have found corporate singing to be the highlight of the gathering and perhaps the best way to encounter God. This troubles those who continue to find the “preaching/teaching of the word” as what is the pinnacle of the church service. They wonder about those who go on singing for a long time.
What they don’t understand, I believe, is that what is called “worship music” is actually meditation that is similar in nature to the ancient Christian practice of contemplative prayer. The goal of meditation, you see, is to enter into and abide in God’s presence.
So, when Christians are singing a slow, repetitious line like “I give my love, I give my love, I give my love, you can have it all” they are really meditating – using a different technique. For meditating is the act of allowing our minds to focus on a word or phrase that draws us into – stillness. Meditation is the settling of our hearts and minds to be still, be quiet, rest.
Those who criticize the repetition don’t get what is happening. We are not thinking about the lyrics. We are discipline our minds to simply “gaze at the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4) rejoicing, making known our gratefulness, singing the praises of the goodness and greatness of God, and celebrating the great work of Jesus has been accomplished – and since “the righteousness of God is by faith” we simply enter the presence of God because we are bringing our souls into rest.
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, e just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9,10
The outside atmosphere is loud with music and singing and dancing. What a contrast from the well-known revivals of even the recent past when people were solemn and quiet in church before the great message was preached. Yet this is actually what helps quiet the interior noise. Only when our souls are quiet do we enter this presence.
This contemporary technique becomes more obvious when we consider how many of the same people “soak” in worship – which is simply the practice of being silent in a room where worship music – or just something instrumental – is played aloud. The participant knows the primary goal is to open up to God. Listening. Abiding. Releasing. Resting.
It’s a practice that embraces the high call of God by St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” Galatians 2:20 This is the ultimate definition of a surrendered life. It is the pathway to stillness, to the quietness of mind, heart, and soul.
This is how ancient mystics have explained how it works. St. John of the Cross says of those who are born anew of God, “The soul’s center is God.”
“Union with God is not something to be acquired but realized.” – says Martin Laird, author of “Into the Silent Land”. God is the ground of the reborn man. He goes on to explain that our sense of separation exists because our mind has so much activity – like “a cocktail party going on in our heads” (ML)
We have a marvelous thought life of thoughts, sensations, emotions which are merely patterns of “stunning weather on the holy mountain of God.” BUT “When the mind is brought to stillness, we see that we are the mountain and not the changing patterns of weather”.
- “When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, and the sense of separation goes.”
- “For when the mind is brought to stillness, and all our strategies of the acquisition have dropped, a deeper truth presents itself: we are and have always been one with God…” (ML p. 16)
- “The heart communes with God in a silent and direct way that the conceptual level of our mind does not.” -p. 26
How does meditation make this happen? It is by the continually repeating of a short prayer for a period of time.
First, it’s very hard to ‘clear’ your mind; but you notice you can do this as you wake up, or while focusing on certain activities like painting, exercising, or taking a walk in a beautiful area.
The main point of the breath-prayer is to interrupt the mind’s chatter, get it to focus on something that will actually allow it to rest and be quiet. We must be still; our problem is usually that the mind keeps racing like a runaway train.” Reliving an argument; trying to solve a dilemma; fearing the future, regretting the past, the list goes on…
Thus, we give the mind something to do, but not too much. Perhaps imagine my dog Neo will be still when he sees the cat perched at the top of the stairs and is obedient to the rule that he may not touch the stairs. He can sit there for 30 minutes easily.
“The challenge most people face in passing through the first doorway is coping, on the one hand, with the tremendous noise going on in the head, and, on the other, with paralyzing boredom.” First, don’t try to push the chaotic thoughts away and replace them with peaceful thoughts – that’s just engaging the mind with more thinking. Simply return to the prayer word or phrase… “we might well catch ourselves commenting, “This is hopelessly boring and inane practice.” The advice here is the same: note them, let them be; return to the prayer word. This simple disciple is called practice.
When finally, it feels natural and you actually sense the stillness and entering into the Holy ground of your heart, and simply rest in God – and there find he is resting in you. God is at ground zero of the reborn person.
What happens in this state is best expressed by St. John of the Cross: “Preserve a loving attentiveness to God with no desire to feel or understand any particular thing concerning God.”