09 February 2007

Recollection

Enough whining - here's an excerpt from a reading that I found insightful earlier this week. It's from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform US, by Adele Alhberg Calhoun. (Thanks, J. W. C.) The brief chapter on the prayer of recollection offered these insights:

"The Psalmist recollected his soul with this prayer, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you" (Ps. 116:7). A recollected soul is the opposite of a distracted, fragmented soul. It is a soul collected and at rest in God. Because it is natural for the mind to make random associations and wander off in a million directions, we need a prayer that recalls our soul to its center in God. The prayer of recollection reveals where our distracted hearts are going... Distractions reveal our attachments. Attachments reveal what in our heart needs recollecting back to God once again...

"... [T]he flood of distracting thoughts in prayer can be received as a gift! What you want to recollect your soul and end up rewriting the agenda for the next meeting in your head or when you begin praying for a colleague and end up imagining where you want to go on vacation, don't push these thoughts aside. Notice them. You cannot collect what you know to be scattered. You cannot abandon what you don't see. The way to a heart at rest in God comes through confessing and abandoning our limited, preoccupied heart. ...

"Confessing our attachments before the holy One, we return to our true root identity in God. We abandon the false self to embrace the true one. Remember, the self caught up in worry, power plays and image management is not the true self; it's a self that creates its identity through attachment to secondary things. But God has given you an identity. Receive it. Recollect your Christ-in-me identity..."

The chapter goes on to suggest a couple of ways to practice the prayer of recollection. This one resonates with me, perhaps it will with you, too:

"Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably before the Lord. Take some deep breaths, relaxing your body and quieting your mind. Offer yourself to God. Ask [God] to gather up the fragments of your scattered life and recollect your soul. Rest before [God]. When distracting thoughts come up, write down one word that expresses your distraction. Let the thought go and return to your rest in God. After ten minutes look at the words you have jotted down. What stands out to you? What anxieties do you see? Where is your identity centered? Confess that you are not called to control all that disrupts your life. Return these concerns to the Lord. Let [God] hold the concerns of your heart as you rest in him."

2 comments:

bodhibuddy said...

hi there,
Lots of parallells between our types of spirituality here. Let me just throw them your way:

- 'resting in God' = resting in the buddha nature (in 'my' language)

Whether we call it God our buddha nature, it's where we come from, it's where all beings and things find their origin and their destination. It's home. Resting with a calm mind is coming home. There's no need to discover anything 'new', God/buddha nature has always been there, or rather, been here, within you. Coming home is rediscovery. All phenomena are just 'play' added to that home base. Real enough for you and me, but not really real. Not like God is, or buddha nature is.

- noting distractions, labelling them, putting them aside = a classic buddhist meditation practice. You rest calmly, distractions will arise, you note them ('label them'), you let them go. It's a mental technique, not a religion-specific act of faith. Useful across cultural and religious divides.

I'm not saying 'see, all religions are the same basically'. I am saying man is man everywhere you go, the mind is the mind, calm is calm, distractions are distractions, the eternal is the eternal.

Interesting parallells, interesting differences.

I wish you well.

Kelli said...

Sorry for posting this one twice, friends.

Bohdibuddy - I really appreciate the connections that you're making between Buddhist meditation and Christian meditation. While they seem to have different ends, I also think that it's significant that the means to get there have overlaps with other religious traditions. Labeling thoughts and letting them go is one of those.

This isn't surprising really - the religions are different, but I think that all human beings are able to experience the divine or ultimate in some way.

I think that the distinctions we sense between one another and between us and God really are real, though. Some of our distractions are petty, but I think some of them are significant, too. Letting them go is not so much a matter of denying their reality - it seems to be more of about relinquishing the felt need to control my world.

Thank you so much for your thoughts! I think you have a lot to contribute to this conversation, and I look forward to more similar conversations.

Blessings and peace to you!