Establishing a Christ-Centered Meditation Practice
Meditation by itself is not sufficient for a person to achieve complete realization of God. Other practices, like prayer, contemplation, and moral action also facilitate the journey to God and oneness. A Christ-centered meditation practice seeks the full realization of God in the life of the person meditating and is founded on the principle that unity with God already exists. God is already present, both inside of the person and in a transpersonal sense: God is here, now, everywhere, always. This practice does not operate from a foundation built on duality—that God is absent, or outside of the person, or that the person is separated from God and requires God’s intervention through Jesus to restore the relationship. The understanding of God’s continuous presence is essential to opening ourselves to God’s response within us. Although we surrender to God, we also have an active engagement with God at all levels of our being and experience. Meditation recognizes God’s grace and movement toward us and within the person. However, a Christ-centered meditation practice recognizes that there are developmental stages of union with God that can be realized at all levels of personal growth: psychological, physical, mental, and spiritual. Meditation opens a person to higher states of consciousness and awareness, which lead to a greater experience of God, and results in transformation of the whole being. This leads to greater use of one’s gifts and the development of one’s true purpose in relation to God.
Our awareness during Christ-centered meditation, when properly maintained, is removed from identification with material and ego-centered concerns. It is the movement away from an ego-centered state that helps us move toward higher forms of consciousness. Keep in mind that we are describing an internal process, so “movement” is a relative term. Higher forms of consciousness are first experienced in the moments between breaths and in the awareness that occurs in the moment that follows the end of a prayer or psalm. Over time and with the repetition of our meditation practice, we realize that we are moving away from identification with our thoughts, with our ideas, and with all false forms of identity or ownership. Our intention is to access the part of ourselves that is continuously connected to love, life, and truth, the part of us that is one with God. We are never separated from the love of God. In this love we experience complete freedom.
Christ-centered meditation uses Christ-related ideals (Cayce, 1942) and objects as the point of focus, and they are used in the same manner that breath was used in the basic meditation practice. These objects, or ideals, can be words, phrases, short texts, prayers, mantras, or images. Don’t be fooled or caught up by the use of the word “object.” We describe the tools we are using as objects or ideals because of the way the mind uses words, music, ideas, and images. There is awareness and the object of the awareness. Consciousness enlightens, or animates, both the awareness and the object. We must be careful in the choice of our ideals. In the usual course of human thought (which meditation helps us transcend), in what I call ego-centered thought, we identify with the “object” of our awareness. We use language and words of possession like “I,” “me,” “mine,” “you,” and “yours.” This process is so imprinted in our minds and intellects that we function as if the objects of our perception are who we are. Indeed, poorly chosen objects actually inhibit higher states of awareness. This is the reason many spiritual behaviors are described as “selfless.” The “selfless” behavior goes in a direction that negates, denies, or ignores the ego-centered consciousness. The psychology of this internal process is complex. I am simply making note of this because our purpose here is to overcome the ego-centered process and move to a higher level of awareness and consciousness. The object of focus is used to raise our level of consciousness. The best ideals (objects) are those that embody or manifest perfection, and proper use of an ideal is connected to our intention and purpose. The combination of ideals found in the perfect love of Christ, the intention that expresses that love, and the purpose for which Christ lived, protects the person meditating. Through proper use of the Christ ideal, we withdraw our attention from the outer world and begin an inner journey. Using the ideal helps raise our consciousness according to the proper spiritual process. We are energized and raised up in consciousness by the power of the perfection in the ideal of Christ. We choose our ideals consciously, but they also have powerful unconscious content. Consider using any of the following, keeping in mind that within these there is an ideal of perfection that helps us transcend the mind and intellect:
- Use short phrases from the Sermon on the Mount that encapsulate the spiritual content, like, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
- Use the name of Jesus in a short prayer, like, “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.”
- Use short phrases from the Psalms or hymns, like, “O Come, o come, Emmanuel” or “Be still and know that I am God.”
- Use an icon like an image of the Crucifixion, or of the infant Jesus, or one of the many images of Jesus showing his heart or light emanating from him. If you prefer a female image, try working with images of Mary.
The primary benefit in choosing your own meditation object is that it helps you to avoid practices that pull your awareness away from your inner state of being, like a guided meditation where someone else is choosing images for you. An image or sound that you choose is more likely to generate the process of going inward, even if that image or sound is eventually discarded in later stages of your practice.
The objects are used in the same way as the breath in the section on establishing a basic meditation practice. You begin by repeating the words, the psalm, or hymn, or recalling the image. Hold the object in your consciousness. When other thoughts or images intrude, return to your object of meditation. Pay attention to the “spaces” or the quiet between the use of your chosen object and the first thoughts that intrude. Don’t worry if you seem to be constantly filled with other thoughts. When you are distracted, return to Christ. Think of any interruption as another opportunity to return to the spiritual ideal embodied in the perfection of Christ.
The words, musical sounds, or images that you use have energy and consciousness. The transformative power of this energy and consciousness will grow through your use of them in meditation. This life force and energy is substantial in its transformative power. Eventually you will experience this power in ways that show its true essence, which is love. The highest ideal in this meditation practice is the model of the perfect awareness, perfect consciousness, and perfect love found in Jesus Christ.
In the record we have of the life of Jesus we are given some of his words and actions. There are also things we can interpret from his life about God and the process of becoming one with God. Most, but not all of this, is from the biblical record. I believe we can also access material from the lives of mystics, saints, and other holy persons, especially those who have chosen Christ as their spiritual master and teacher. These are also potentially worthy objects to use in meditation.
From The Readings
2011-135 One of the methods that Jeffrey should emphasize with meditation is that his practice and the practice he teaches is a spiritual meditation—a meditation that’s focused on the understanding of Christ and the transformative power of the presence of God in Christ for those who seek God through the revelation of Jesus Christ. This will feel counter-intuitive to Jeffrey because he was taught to meditate in a secular fashion, and he has always sought to universalize the experience in an effort to appeal to more people. As difficult as it may feel, one of the real purposes of Jeffrey’s work is to teach others to push deeper into meditation with Jesus Christ as the focus, and then for this to become more universal. Although I am speaking to you in a manner as if one is the outside coming in, and the other the inside coming out of meditation, these are all internal processes. There is a need in the Christian church for a re-awakening of the interior life, especially in the Protestant Christian. You must understand one of the differences that I am trying to say to you now. It can be described this way: Jeffrey has worked in the realm of universal truth, and he has connected to the universal aspects of Christianity. By going to the interior of the Christian presence in the world, part of his purpose is bringing them to an appreciation of the universality of Christ and breaking all barriers of exclusivity. He can bring this message into the hearts of those in his spiritual care through the emphasis and focus on the Christ and the transformation of Jesus [found] in the Christian origins.
2012-29 There is an important place for Christ-centered meditation in the world. The forms of meditation that are understood in the Catholic tradition and the Eastern Orthodox tradition are not speaking to the group that Jeffrey will speak to. There will be some who will want to pull him into those arenas, but it is important that he stay true to the method and the practice that he is developing. His practices will form a different kind of liturgy, a different kind of practice for those seeking a deeper faith experience, and a deeper method for remaining mindful in the world—mindful of God’s presence. This is where it integrates with the work of Stelli: because of her unique perspective and experience with the ways that mystics integrate their material and spiritual values. You will be companions on the journey for many people, and there will be certain parts of your practice that will require the ritualization of the beginning and ending of the meditation training. For Jeffrey, his background and learning in other religions will help articulate a Christ-centered meditation in a way that will draw on the power of many traditions. But for the people he wishes to teach this method, and for the people who will resonate most with his method, he is still in the right place as a pastor and leader of a spiritual group. This form will serve him wherever he is and in some ways, this is how he will be connected to a broad range of people.
2012-202 There needs to be a clear understanding that Jeffrey is speaking to those who have a strong spiritual desire to reconnect with God. Those who adopt a moralistic tone think that they can defend God or defend a certain faith, but God does not need to be defended. There is also the need to produce a text using sources in the Judeo-Christian tradition that speaks a universal message. It can be acknowledged and can be spoken that the same embodiment or incarnation of God’s word occurs to all people who love God and seek God with all their heart and soul. There are many ways that this has become manifest in the world, but it is the Word of God, even though it is known by different names. Don’t play games with this understanding, because some will say that anything means the Word of God and they will try to use their own understanding of God and claim that it is one with God. Discernment is always necessary and important. If you are patient, if you will look and listen with more than your eyes and ears, you will be able to know the difference between those who come from God and those who are false prophets.