I want to begin this post with some thoughts from M. Basil Pennington, a Cistercian monk, who taught on Centering prayer, “God is infinitely present. He will not push himself into our lives. He knows the greatest thing he as given us is our freedom. If we want habitually, even exclusively, to operate from the level of our own reason, he will respectfully keep silent. We can fill ourselves with our own thoughts, ideas, images, and feelings. He will not interfere. But if we invite him with attention, opening the inner spaces with silence, he will speak to our souls, not in words or concepts, but in the mysterious way that love expresses itself – by presence.” What Pennington so wisely is describing is the experience of “knowledge through love.” For years that thought bothered me. But now I know some of its reality in my life. I have a burden then you who read this post might experience “knowledge through love.” That is the contemplative journey.
To finally know God’s love at the level of the heart, we will need to learn the practice of silence and solitude. In silence we move away from the distractions and demands of our daily life, finding a quiet place to just be. Men, you will simply have to take the time. Not a lot but some. Have a short devotion and then just sit there. We will talk more about this later. This practice will then begin to produce inner solitude in our hearts, a quiet space that allows God to speak to us. In the words of Leanne Payne we learn to “see that which is invisible and to hear that which is inaudible”, seeing with the eyes and ears of our heart, that which is the “unseen Real.” In the silence comes a growing awareness of the “still, small voice” coming from deep in his heart. There is a growing discontent with the ordinary, creating a hunger to experience God in deeper, personal ways. It is like a longing and desire for more of a connectedness to God.
If you are a man who is already practicing silence before God, then you have passed the threshold. You know some the joys and struggles of “letting go” of the controls of the mind, the need be be in charge, and facing the fears of the unknown. It is a practice that has to be learned through intentionality. At first you will have to be disciplined to stick with the time alone. Others might not be aware or even care to pay attention to the longings of your heart. I have to say honestly, these posts have little relevance to where you are on the journey. Basically you are stuck in “the control tower” of the mind, afraid to risk being loved. But it is especially the men, who know they need to go deeper, to move beyond what has been their normal practice in devotions, to finally come to a place where they know they are loved and accepted by God just as they are, not as they should be. If only one man is at that place, and he is reading this blog, I want to be a voice of encouragement in your life. I would like to be another man “who is willing to fight for your heart.” In the words of Richard Rohr, “you can trust yourself” ; that is, follow the longing and desire. The first step is to start quieting down and learn to listen.
In listening we are learning to be attentive and aware of our hearts. We “sink” with our minds into our hearts. This is wordless prayer in which we are not making a effort to “get anywhere,” because we are already there (in God’s presence). It is just that we are not conscious of our being there. So my best advice is to learn to just be there in the presence of God. You don’t have to think any thoughts or do any spiritual practices. Just let God speak to your heart. You are learning to let go of the controls of thought and practice. Instead of learning in the usual sense, you are “un-learning”; that is you are getting acclaimated to not knowing. It is similar to spiritual sitting in the dark, yet knowing that you are being loved in the darkness. Don’t let the distractions that come discourage and frighten you. This is only an indication that you are slowing down. All of what has preoccupied your attention is demanding your awareness. Learn to just sit with the distractions, treating them like ‘cobwebs’ you simply learn to blow away. Most of all, continue the practice just being there. With the eyes of your heart, look up and out at Jesus as you weather the storm of your mind wanting attention and control. Again I am warning you, it will take time to get used to the storms of your mind. After awhile you will get used to it.