I didn’t do John Main any justice on Saturday afternoon when asked to give a synopsis of his book “The Way of Unknowing”. We had such a full morning and then there were a few interactions that afternoon that seemed to transport me out of the room into another space and time. It took me the last 48 hours or so to catch up with myself. As I continue to read this little book, John Main’s words sink into my psyche or perhaps, more correctly, my soul. I was awoken at about 3am this morning with questions begging answers. Have I opened my heart to God or am I still I still caught up in the trivialities of life? My stress level provides the correct answer. What if I fully committed to a practice that would invite the universal cosmic energy into my heart and what would that practice look and feel like? As Carl Leggo, UBC professor and poet, stated during our Saturday morning class..life is about a constant state of recalibration. I feel like this is my recalibration around John Main. I felt completely out of integrity Saturday afternoon when asked who John Main was. I responded like a deer caught in the headlights. I had lost my frame of thought as well as my words. In retrospect, I felt a huge amount of guilt and shame around this. This man deserved a much better introduction than I had afforded him and I was not being true to myself in that moment either. So here it goes.
John Main was a Catholic priest and Benedictine monk who promoted a form Christian meditation using a simple one word mantra. He was also responsible the beginning of a meditation network of Christian churches. He died in 1982. I think most importantly, John Main’s recommendation for meditation includes sitting completely still, in an upright position empty yourself and repeat your mantra…Maranatha which mean “come lord” in Aramaic. He believed that this simplifying led to an emptying or a sort of poverty that made space for connections with God and through this connection one could experience the divine. Love, wisdom, and peace to name a few. His use of biblical scriptures to help one understand God and Christ’s calling to us is the most palatable I have come across so far in life. He speaks of the way we trivialize life when we become externalized and caught up in the all the material trappings of our physical world. This can never lead to the sort of fulfillment that daily meditation and connection with God can provide, according to Main. Discovering our true state of “being” separate from our physical experience cannot, according to Main, be achieved any other way. He states that one must practice meditation with discipline consistently, daily at least 20 minutes each morning and each night. He considered one a beginner until about 5 years into one’s practice, at which point he said one could choose to study meditation. Prior to that he simply recommends beginning the practice and reading as little about it as possible. Simplicity, discipline and consistency is key. He warns about the egos role in that our ego is a bit of a trickster that will surely take us off our path through the use of thoughts of either discouragement or superiority. One must remain aware and return to the simple practice of meditation and repeating the mantra.
I’ve never considered myself to be a Christian, although I am spiritual. After spending time with this book I am reconsidering and I am open to the possibility that allowing God into my heart may be just what is needed at this point in my life.To use the term God is a risk. Many have intense reactions to this but I truly think it is because God has been so misrepresented by people who are practicing religion superficially and as a form of security and not as a way of connecting with the human-ness and divinity we all share. I am re-thinking my relationship with God, Christianity and meditation. I’ll keep you posted.