NOTE: I’m outlining the next series of blogposts (which I will be using to hammer out my thinking for my next book). While I’m doing that, and since our spiritual community is giving a summertime focus to meditation, I thought I’d repost this blog series from 2012. Have a read! Doug
If you’re familiar with centering prayer, you realize that when we Christians meditate, it doesn’t look much different from those who meditate in the East.
This frightens a lot of good Christians.
I was one of them. In this series of posts, I want to tell you the story of my journey from there to where I am today.
I grew up in a pretty conservative version of the Christian faith. We believed the other brands of Christian might go to heaven, but the heathen hoards would surely not. Our posture toward other faiths was condescending at best; hostile at worst.
I grew up in a little beach community north of San Diego. In the 60’s and 70’s when I was growing up there, it was hippy-town. And where the hippies were, the gurus and swamis were not far behind. The New Age was in full flower in my home town, and we Christians developed a belligerent, combative posture toward it.
At church I took classes about false religions, but at school I liked these kids (I’ve always gravitated to the off-beat). The New Age kids published a weekly newspaper called “The Garbanzo Bean” and over time that became their name.
I enjoyed hanging out with the “Garbanzo Beans,” and meditation was an everyday part of their lives. Our family shopped at the local organic co-op, where there was always a flyer about some meditation group or another. I resonated with most of the things the Garbanzos talked about. Organic foods – good! Caring for the environment – good! Opposing Vietnam – good! Resisting consumerism as a social narrative – good, good, good!
But meditation??? That was the devil’s brew!
Things would have stayed that way were it not for my unusual spiritual hunger and religious zeal.
My Myers-Briggs profile is ENFJ. We’re a small percentage of the population, but a pretty large percentage of the clergy. Religious zeal was just in my blood. If I had been born Jewish, I’d probably have been a rabbi, Muslim, an imam; born in Papua New Guinea, I bet I would have been a witch-doctor.
But I was born Christian, so as a teenager, my instincts took me deep into my own tradition. Along the way I ran into our contemplatives; Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, and a group of contemporary monastics, the Trappists.
When I read them, I began to hear the same language my Garbanzo friends used. I heard these Christian voices speak of the “Indwelling Divine” and the “Divine Presence,” as they intentionally dismantled our human-like images of God.
And they talked about meditation!
Not “meditating on the Bible” like I’d been taught. No. They talked about meditation-meditation.
The “silence-your-mind” kind of meditation.