I fear that our little book, “When The Soul Listens” has fallen by the wayside. The start of something is always full of interest and enthusiasm, but over time we can get busy and distracted and not follow through.
So, hopefully this little reflection on ch. 6 will reignite enthusiasm and passion for the book, and more importantly for the theme – contemplation.
My natural impulse in reading this chapter is to gravitate to the second last paragraph on page 71 where, “the Jesus Prayer” is mentioned. But, I’ve probably said enough about the Jesus Prayer! I use my personal blog, “Jesus Have Mercy” to write about that if you’re interested.
This chapter is all about learning how to “let go of concerns surrounding us” and to “become steadily aware of God’s presence.” (p.68). Quite frankly this isn’t easy.
Our minds are generally clenched and to unclench them takes practice. On page 71 Johnson quotes Henri Nouwen who writes that the goal is to, “empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.“
What makes this so hard? Pretty much the simple fact that we’re not accustomed to doing it and it’s unlike anything else – the way to “do it” can almost be described as a lesson in learning how to stop trying. It’s hard to explain, I think. We all know someone who is trying to learn how to do something (e.g. hit a tennis ball), but the harder they try, the more the keeping messing it up. They need to let go and stop trying!
And so, Johnson suggests various helps like posture, a centering word or phrase (the Jesus Prayer!), singing, and journalling. The key it to find what helps you “let go” and “become steadily aware of God’s presence.” And the moment we get it it’s like a whole new world opens up to us – a space, a safe space, a quiet space, a still space, a space where communion and encounter happen. Kind of like those old Magic Eye Pictures – remember them? You stare and stare at a picture of patterns and shapes, and colours, and then suddenly out of nowhere you see the picture and exclaim, “Oh!”
It’s like that, I think.
The only way to find out is to try!
So, please keep reading that book and growing. I’ll put up a reflection on Chapter 7 – “Asking God Questions” next week or so.