“But what about you and me?” I wondered. “Is there a natural habitat for us? And, if there is, what is it?”
I made that thought the source of my morning meditation. Half way through morning prayers, I found myself right in the the middle of our natural habitat.
Coincidentally, my prayers are no longer comprised of a lot of chatter. They used to be, as they still are for most praying people. Prayer was my infrequent recitation of needs, wants, wishes, and, on occasion, even demands. I’d use “In Jesus Name” the way a misguided parent demands obedience from a disobedient child. “I said ‘Eat your green beans’ or else!” “In Jesus’ name, I command…” Well, you’ve heard the rhetoric before.
If you do not know what I’m talking about, however, it’s probably because you haven’t watched much TBN or CBN produced “Christian” television. That sounds like I do, but I don’t, except when I want to look in on what madness is being perpetrated by “Christians” and to “Christians.” I put the word Christian in quotes because you could easily argue that those “Christian” networks or anything but. It is there you will observe the frequent use and, more accurately, the misuse of Jesus’ name as a means of placing demands on God and often disguised as putting Satan in his place. “In Jesus’ name, I command you evil spirit, come out!”
Medieval madness lingers in the modern world no matter how intelligent we think humans have become.
For me, prayer is becoming more and more what I think Jesus intended prayer to be – the stepping into the “closet” as he called it (Matt. 6:6-14).
“And, when you prayer, go into your closet” (Matt.6:6)
Why a closet?
Closet is a metaphor for what you might think of as your inner chamber…your inner world which may be a microcosm of space beyond, equally as endless, equally as empty.
The inner closet is a chamber of stillness…a world of silence…a room filled with immortal contentment, what the writer of Hebrews called “the Sabbath rest” (Hebrews 4).
It is your natural habitat, too.
That’s what occurred to me from inside this place…this morning. Joyous beyond description. Few words spoken there. Words were not needed. Why would they be? When you and the Eternal Stillness share a oneness that is inseparable, the Presence is there with you. The Presence IS you. In oneness with the Eternal…with yourself. Who would you be speaking to, if you spoke? To ask something of this Other would be tantamount to asking something of yourself. It’s a oneness thing, my friend. When it happens to you, you’ll understand.
Once you experience this oneness just once, you’ll return to this place once more. And, once again. And, then again and again.
It becomes as important to you as sleep is to the body by night…as breakfast is to the body by day.
This place will take precedence over all other places and priorities.
How could it not?
Inside this chamber of stillness…this place of Oneness…you become whole. You become you. More you than you’ve ever been before.
Why is this? Because it is your natural habitat. A place of complete trust…where faith is more than what you believe and what we believe and who’s right and who’s wrong and all that madness that religion becomes far too often. When you enter into this inner world of complete stillness…the Emptiness that is God…the Nothingness that is Everything…all fear…all separation…all distinctions disappear. What you’re wearing is no longer important. What others think of you, even less. There is no worrying over the stuff that occupies your mind almost all the time. Here, there the feeling of lack leaves. There is only abundance alone, provisions from the hand of that One who cares of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field (Matt. 6). Here, it’s an endless wheat field blowing carefree in the wind. Presence envelopes you. Contentment abounds, too. All grasping, clinging, holding on for fear of losing something you could never hold anyway…well, my friend, that disappears, too. This is that place of perfect “peace that passes all understanding,” as Saint Paul put it (Phil 4:7).
Do not try to understand this mysterious chamber. There is nothing to understand. But everything to enjoy.
“If this inner world is our natural habitat” you ask, “then why is it so darn hard to meditate?”
Everything worthwhile betrays the “instant everything” culture of the west. You cannot microwave your way into a meditative life, my friend. The contemplative life takes a lifetime of con…tem…pla…tion. It’s just that simple. Just that hard, too.
I’m not saying God is hard to find. Not at all. It’s just that the stuff inside you and me creates an illusion of separation that takes nearly a lifetime to sweep from the chamber floor.
If you want the benefits of your natural habitat, here are four things that might help.
1. Go to the chamber of stillness daily.
2. Better to go there twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Benedictine monks call this twice journey, “morning prayers” and “evening prayers.”
3. Twenty minutes each time you visit. “But I am too busy,” you object, “to spend twenty minutes in prayer and meditation!”
In that case, spend one hour in the morning; one hour in the evening. The busier you are…the noisier your mind, the longer it’ll take you. This universe of stillness…of peace…of contentment is only for the serious-minded.
4. In order to get inside the chamber, practice quieting your mind.
Ah, that will be the most difficult part for most of you.
All your life you’ve been taught to think…to reason…to solve problems…to map equations…to judge. Which explains why in our culture we know how to think. Hardly anyone, however, knows how to stop thinking. What Eckhart Tolle describes as “the incessant stream of thinking.”
To halt the stream takes practice. It will be hard at first. It may remain difficult for many for months, too. But, if you stay with it…slowly, but certainly, your mind will give way to the infinity of stillness. One day on your journey inward, you’ll find yourself standing at the door to the chamber. Instead of the door being closed, however, it will be wide open. Perhaps even removed from the hinges. Once open, the door to the chamber never closes again.
At first, you’ll step slowly into the chamber and, if your experience is like my first visit, it will likely last but a few seconds, and the noise will come blasting through the hallways of your mind like a toddler running into the room calling for the attention of a busy parent.
Once you’ve been there, however, even for a few fleeting seconds…just once, my friend, that’s all it takes…
Once you’ve tasted vintage wine, cheaper stuff all tastes the same;
Once you’ve been to the coast of Spain, all other beaches are just too plain.
Once you’ve stepped inside the Chamber…
You have entered into bliss…
And, nothing is ever the same.