Krishnamurti had a helpful phrase – “premeditated meditation,” by which he meant reliance on rituals in order to meditate. Sit in this position, do this with your breath, focus your mind on that image. True meditation, he said, was a “psychological revolution” that could be neither contained nor induced by ritual.
Meditation in daily life is the transformation of the mind . . . not in theory, not as an ideal, but in every moment of that life (This Light in Oneself, 8).
Thomas Merton moves in this direction as well, when he taught that “[M]editation is really very simple and there is not much need of elaborate techniques to teach us how to go about it . . . the necessity for discipline does not imply the obligation for all men to follow one identical and rigid system (Spiritual Direction and Meditation, 77).
Later in that work, Merton observes that those who wish to meditate should “try to set apart some part of the day in which he can pray under conditions which seem to be most favorable for himself (83).
Though both men were intense and devoted to the awakened life, albeit in different traditions, they saw in meditation and prayer something that was deeply personal which pervaded the whole of life and was not – on its own – impossible to achieve.
Because I spent many many years in the Catholic church, a part of me is wedded to ritual and form. I also spent a fair amount of time studying and practicing Buddhism (in, I must say, a very half-assed sort of way) and that, too, was invested in form and ritual.
But A Course in Miracles makes very few prescriptions for how to pray. Lesson 125, for example, asks that we give ten minutes three times that day to choose “a gentle listening to the Word of God (W-pI.125.7:1).
My first ten minutes (actually closer to twenty) I was sitting on a zafu in the bedroom, the lights dimmed, a tea candle burning. But the second session I did while baking bread. I am making a yeasted cinnamon raisin bread which starts with a sponge – water, yeast, honey and flour. I worked slowly and quietly – giving attention to what I was doing, my mind open to God’s word.
Though both meditations were different in form, they shared a similar content: silence, attention, willingness, diligence. I’m not saying a master meditator – I am not. Rather, I am saying that our prayer need not be limited by form when it is infused by love – a sincere desire to remember God so far as is possible at this moment in time.
Only be quiet. You will need no rule but this, to let your practicing today lift you above the thinking of the world, and free your vision from the body’s eyes. Only be still and listen (Wp-I.125.9:1-3).
More and more I value A Course in Miracles for its practicality. It is not not aim to entangle us in rituals or ideology. God longs to be remembered, and that longing is not separate from our longing to remember God. The more I give my life to this learning, the more I receive, and the easier it becomes to give yet more energy and attention.
This makes sense. Prayer is the “means of communication of the created with the Creator” (T-1.I.11:2). Through it, we receive love which, through miracles, we are able to express (T-1.I.11:3). This happens in simple ways and in the normal routines of which our lives are apparently composed. Go for a walk, find God. Pray on your knees, find God. Bake bread, find God.
There is nothing wrong with formal meditation techniques. They can be very helpful. But A Course in Miracles offers us something different – not a rigorous ritualistic practice but a chance to see the divine in each moment, and in each moment to awaken to reality.