Do Not let Your Hearts Be Troubled - Laurence Freeman Workshop

‘In meditation, we go to the heart; we discover the heart, and we stay there in stillness and silence. It’s very simple. We should never forget the simplicity of meditation.’

Fr Laurence Freeman OSB

One of the great Christian thinkers of the last century, Karl Rahner, once said that either the Christian of the future would be a mystic, or there would be no Christians. History seems to be proving him right. There are of course many forms of Christianity today, but it is the contemplative expression that is reshaping this ancient stream of wisdom into a contemporary, unifying and enlightening part of the human family.

The situation we face today is something of a paradox. At a time when interest in contemplative practice is becoming increasingly widespread, for many people the contemplative tradition that is least accessible is the one that lies closest to home. There are many reasons for this disaffection with Christian faith – including its dogma and institutions. Yet there are also many who, inside or outside the Christian tradition, feel something vital and essential in Christ’s teaching and in the contemplative traditions that arise from it. There is a treasury of wisdom waiting to be rediscovered here. What is needed is a fresh and more direct encounter to uncover it.

In October 2019, it was the great privilege of The Contemplary to host Laurence Freeman, a Benedictine monk and the director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, for a one-day introduction to the essentials of meditation in the Christian tradition. This event was intended not only for meditators in the Christian tradition, but for contemplatives and aspiring contemplatives from all faith backgrounds – and for the many who stand unaligned to any tradition. Fr Laurence’s teachings were specifically focused on the meaning of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called a ‘religionless Christianity’. Contemplation, he suggests, radically reforms religion in a way that transcends all divisions.

Drawing upon the message of the Gospels and the Christian mystical tradition, Fr Laurence introduced participants to a practice of meditation that was passed on by his teacher John Main. Main was an Irish Benedictine monk who, while comfortable in his own Christian tradition, discovered meditation as universal practice while working as a diplomat in the Far East. His encounter led him to recognize and re-express the tradition of meditation in his own Christian monastic tradition. This sowed the seed for what would become a world-wide revitalization of the Christian contemplative tradition and the community that Fr Laurence now leads. This practice is special in the way it can be shared and practiced within both religious and secular contexts. Fr Laurence sees this as a sign of the ‘contemplative revolution’ that the world needs to embrace.

In addition to his instruction on the practice taught by John Main, Fr Laurence discusses the role that meditation has to play in healing the wounds of division and working for the justice that must underlie global peace. As with all our events, this seminar was open to people of all religious persuasions and none. All that is needed is an open mind. Meditation, as Fr Laurence says, is not limited to one faith, but it does require faith in oneself. He hopes that this first step of faith can be nurtured in gatherings such as we hosted on this occasion.

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