A Spiritual Expert’s Private Thoughts on Meditation / Spiritual Meditations

girl meditates at beach

To become immersed in meditation is not easy at first.  In How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness, some basic points are addressed.  However, because, as they say, it is necessary to explain the same thing in three different ways so that everyone understands, I think it useful to present another explanation here.

Evelyn Underhill (1875—1941), an Anglican writer and spiritual director, was the author of several classic works on mysticism. She has become increasingly regarded as an outstanding voice in 20th century spirituality. She offered spiritual direction to many individuals and some of her letters demonstrate ways that she helped them to deal with the challenges of spiritual life. Her practicality, charm, and lack of stuffiness are evident in the following excerpts from her letters:

Regarding meditation, perhaps it is not for you. It is entirely a matter of temperament, I believe. Some people cannot do it at all. Personally, I can do it to a certain stage; but I know others who, with less practice, can pass easily and naturally into far deeper stages. Despite all that the Mystics have told us, we are working with almost an unknown tool. Try this way:

1. Put yourself into some position so easy and natural to you that you don’t notice your body; then shut your eyes.

2. Represent to your mind, some phrase, truth, dogma, event—e. g., something that occurs naturally. The Nativity is the sort of thing I use.  See Spiritual Phrases to Start Your Meditation for some suggestion. There are lots of books which provide set subjects, points, etc. But I think for myself the best and simplest way is just to take some point from a New Testament reading, and ask God for His light, to brood on in His presence till it leads you into acts of penitence, love, worship, etc. as the case may be.

Now, don’t think about it, but keep it before you, turning it over as you might finger some precious possession. Try to get rid of the visual image. 

3. Deliberately, and by an act of will, shut yourself off from your senses, don’t attend to touch or hearing, till the external world seems unreal and far away. Still holding onto your idea, turn your attention inwards and allow yourself to sink downwards and downwards into a profound silence and peace which is the essence of the meditative state. More you cannot do for yourself; if you get further, you will do so automatically as a consequence of the above practice. It is the shutting off of the senses and stopping the wheel of the imagination and ceasing from self-thinking that is hard at first. 

Anyhow, do not try these things when you are tired—it is useless. And do not give up the form of prayer that comes naturally to you and do not be disheartened if it seems at first a barren and profitless performance. It is quite possible to obtain spiritual nourishment without being consciously aware of it!

4. Meditation leads on naturally to prayer; and as soon as you perceive it has done this, you can stop the meditation because it has done its work. Then continue with the communion with God which it has started. On the other hand, if it is a “bad day,” the meditation gives you something definite to do and a subject to attend to and think about which will help to control wandering thoughts.

No fixed rules can safely be laid down, because some people are more imaginative and others more logical in their ways of meditating, and each should follow that to which they are lured and not try to force themselves into a particular method. Prayer should never be regarded as a science or reduced to a system that ruins it, because it is essentially a living and personal relationship, which tends to become more personal and more simple, as one goes on.

Have you read How to Pray by J. N. Grou? I think that is one of the best short expositions of the essence of prayer which has ever been written; and of course, there is much in The Hidden Life of the Soul too, which would be very useful to you.

How to Pray by Jean Nicolas Grou: Free Download – Internet Archive

The Hidden Life of the Soul by Jean Nicolas Grou: Free Download – Internet Archive

Beware of the elaborate arrangements of preludes, points, and so on which are set out in some devotional books on prayer; they only lead to unreality. And do not try to go on too long —10 minutes for the actual meditation will probably be enough at first.

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Essential Writings by Evelyn Underhill

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