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How to Meditate

How to Meditate

What is meditation? Meditation is a mindfulness practice that has been around for thousands of years. Forms of meditation exist in nearly every religious tradition, including Christianity. You may know it by another name, such as prayer or contemplation.  Meditation techniques are simple and can be learned in a few minutes or hours, but they take a lifetime of practice to master (or, rather, be mastered by!). Meditation is just one of many contemplative experiences that we teach at the Center for Action and Contemplation.

First and foremost, meditation is a practice of self-emptying. At its most basic, meditation is letting go—of our habitual thoughts, preferences, judgments, and feelings. . . . Meditation teaches us to live in an undefended way. Little by little we let go of the need to prove ourselves right or superior. We discover that we are not so different from others. We tap into our immense, God-given source of compassion and kindness. Meditation retrains our minds and hearts to know true humility and love.

You can make meditation a part of your journey to awaken your True Self and free yourself from the bonds of the ego.

Much has been written about the benefits of meditation. Many doctors and experts recommend meditation to reduce stress and as a path to relaxation, inner peace, and happiness. This may be true. But we believe that the most important benefits are the hardest to quantify.

It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. There is an old saying, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.” Meditation can reveal truths about yourself that may be hard to face. But it’s in facing these truths that transformation occurs. Meditation can be intimidating. It is not uncommon for people to feel like they aren’t ready to start. But meditation is a practice. The best way to start meditating, is to start meditating, even if you feel like you are failing.

There are many ways to practice at home or wherever you feel most comfortable. We’ve compiled some of our best resources to help you learn the practice, methods, and benefits of meditation. These teachings by Father Richard Rohr will give guidance and direction for all levels of experience from beginner to long-time practitioner.

Blog posts:

Centering Prayer: Returning to a “sacred word,” a symbol of your intention to be present

Lectio Divina:  A contemplative way to read short passages of sacred text

Watching the River: Learning to calmly observe your own stream of consciousness, seeing your compulsive patterns and learning to let go

Welcoming Prayer: A simple practice focused on letting go and forgiveness of past wrongs

YHWH Prayer: Consciously saying God’s name through each breath

Lifelong Conversion: Repeated contemplative practice changes our very consciousness

Union with Love: While a healthy ego is important, meditation awakens us to our deeper longing for union with God

Books:

Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer: In this work, Father Richard shows that only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can “everything belong.”

The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See: Father Richard encourages us to recognize the forces that separate us from our deeper selves. Drawing from the Gospels and the greatest Christian contemplatives, he shows us what it means to be spiritually awake.

Recordings:

Beginners Mind (CD, MP3 download): Richard Rohr suggests that a Beginner’s Mind is crucial for correct understanding of religion. Ignorance does not result from what we don’t know, but from what we think we do know. Great spiritual teachers balance knowing with not knowing—and know that they don’t know. Being willing not to know, because God knows, is a great gift.

Contemplative Prayer (CD, MP3 download): One cannot really look at life and society from an ego-less position except through the lens of prayer, particularly the emptying form of prayer that we call contemplation. Richard Rohr gives an overview of both the theory and practice of “the contemplative stance toward life.”

Emotional Sobriety: Rewiring Our Programs for Happiness (DVD, CD, MP3 download): Authentic spirituality should lead to a total “rewiring” of both our conscious lives and our unconscious, or programmed, responses. It will not just change external behavior, but internal emotions and responses, what some call “the healing of memories.”

Exploring and Experiencing the Naked Now (DVD, CD, MP3 download): A compilation of two talks by Father Rohr on his book, The Naked Now.

Living the Eternal Now (CD, MP3 download): This profound teaching explores how we can observe the obstacles within that keep us from living in the present. Father Richard offers suggestions for how we might allow ourselves to be led to live in Presence.

Image Credit: Still Waters Dock and Lake (detail), by Joelle Chase. CAC archives.

The Enneagram: An Introduction

What is the Enneagram? How can the Enneagram help me? Which number on the Enneagram am I? Does the Enneagram work?

We often hear these questions about the Enneagram. Answering them can take a few minutes and an entire lifetime. This blog post provides a brief introduction to this ancient personality tool and a compilation of different resources created by Father Richard Rohr, the Center for Action and Contemplation, and others. We hope it helps you begin to discover and live more fully as your True Self.

Click the section-headings below to learn more about the Enneagram:

Self-exploration is best accompanied by a contemplative or meditative practice. We over-identify with our repetitive thoughts and feelings. Contemplative prayer helps us let go of who we think we are and rest in simple awareness of Presence. Learn more about the Center for Action and Contemplation.

The Enneagram: A (Very) Short History

The Enneagram is old. It has roots in several wisdom traditions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Seven of the nine Enneagram types are associated with the “capital” or “deadly” sins which originated with the Desert Fathers. But it was not until the late 1960s that Oscar Ichazo began teaching the Enneagram as we know it today. From Ichazo’s school in South America, a group of Jesuits learned the system and brought it back with them to the United States. Richard Rohr learned about the Enneagram from this group and was one of the first people to publish a book  about it in English.

The Enneagram gained popularity as a tool within spiritual direction. Today it is widely taught as a way of understanding personality, addiction, relationships, and vocation.

The Enneagram: What It Is and What It Isn’t

The Enneagram is a dynamic system. It was developed primarily in an oral tradition, in the context of relationships between students and teachers. A “dynamic system” is one that recognizes that humans are far too complex and nuanced to fit easily into simple categories; it supports the evolving, maturing human journey.

The Enneagram is not a strict law or code. Its categories are not meant to bind or restrict you to a certain way of being and living. People who know the Enneagram in a superficial way think it’s about putting people into boxes, but it actually works to free people from their self-created boxes.

The Enneagram is a powerful tool for self-discovery and spiritual transformation. But it shouldn’t be your only tool. The Enneagram is most helpful when used in conjunction with other practices like study, meditation, spiritual direction, and life in community with others.

The Enneagram is not just a personality typing system. Yes, there are tests and quizzes  that help you identify your primary Enneagram type, but that is often just the first step. This tool is meant to help you over a life-long journey.

While self-discovery is important, it is not the Enneagram’s final objective. The Enneagram’s purpose is to help us uncover the traps that keep us from living fully and freely as our True Self so that we will use our unique, authentic gifts for the good of others and the world.

For a more in-depth introduction to the Enneagram, check out these three posts by Father Richard Rohr:

Knowing Ourselves: When used in conjunction with a regular practice of contemplative prayer, the Enneagram can be powerfully transformative. It can open us to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and insight, love and grace.

Loving the Whole Self: Our deepest sin and our greatest gift are two sides of the same coin. When we are excessively fixated on our supposed gift it becomes a sin. Maintaining this self-image, this false self, becomes more important than anything else.

Belly, Heart, and Head: The Enneagram is organized around three Triads: gut (instinctive), heart (feeling), and head (thinking). We need each part to be awake and integrated in order to do our inner work and to truly love ourselves, others, and God in a holistic, non-dual manner.

The Enneagram: 9 Personality Types

The Enneagram is divided into nine distinct personality types. As you read the descriptions of each, you may discover that you feel deep resonance with one or many of the different types. In fact, all of us have a little bit of each one inside us.

Below are short summaries of the nine types with a link to a reflection by Richard Rohr where you can learn more about each number.

The ONE

Role: Reformer
Virtue: Serenity
Vice: Anger and resentment
Basic Desire: Goodness, integrity, excellence
Further Reading: Without prayer, love, and nature, ONEs can scarcely imagine cheerful serenity and patience, but remain aggressive idealists and ideologues.

The TWO

Role: Helper
Virtue: Humility
Vice: Pride
Basic Desire: To give and receive love
Further Reading: TWOs are redeemed from themselves the more they experience God as the real lover and realize that their puny love can only consist in sharing in God’s infinite love.

The THREE

Role: Achiever
Virtue: Authenticity
Vice: Deceit (especially self-deceit)
Basic Desire: To feel valuable
Further Reading: THREEs need endless successes and feedback to reassure themselves against a very honest and realistic insecurity.

The FOUR

Role: Individualist
Virtue: Equanimity (appreciating life just as it is)
Vice: Envy
Basic Desire: To be uniquely themselves
Further Reading: The essence of the FOUR is the mystery of our true identity. It feels oceanic, deep, unfathomable, mysterious. FOURs live for beauty, intimacy, and depth.

The FIVE

Role: Investigator
Virtue: Non-attachment (not clinging and not avoiding)
Vice: Avarice (for knowledge and for personal privacy)
Basic Desire: Mastery, understanding
Further Reading: The essential core of the FIVE is the soul’s capacity to be illuminated and to illuminate, to make things clear.

The SIX

Role: Loyalist
Virtue: Courage
Vice: Fear
Basic Desire: To have support, guidance
Further Reading: The original blessing of the SIX is the quality of awakeness . . . that gives you an unshakable courage to take your place and walk your walk in the world.

The SEVEN

Role: Enthusiast
Virtue: Sobriety (a sober joy despite life’s difficulties)
Vice: Gluttony (an insatiable quest for new experiences and options)
Basic Desire: To be satisfied and content
Further Reading: SEVENs are people who radiate joy and optimism. Their motto is “More is always better.” Mostly they are gluttonous for fun and options.

The EIGHT

Role: Challenger
Virtue: Innocence (or mercy)
Vice: Lust (an addiction to intensity)
Basic Desire: Self-protection
Further Reading: Losing the sense of divine Presence makes EIGHTs feel vulnerable, deflated, and dead. The ego tries to force life into feeling real and alive again.

The NINE

Role: Peacemaker
Virtue: Decisive action
Vice: Sloth (lack of focused energy)
Basic Desire: Wholeness, peace, harmony
Further Reading: NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. Love changes everything; love resolves everything.

Additional Resources

Here are additional audio, video, and print resources to help you understand more about the Enneagram and how to use this tool for your own spiritual and personal growth.

The Enneagram and Grace: 9 Journeys to Divine Presence (AUDIO)

Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson offer a deep study of the Enneagram. At its core, the Enneagram addresses the question of how we fail to recognize the presence of Grace in our lives. It helps us see the psychological issues that cause us to forget the Divine Presence here in each moment.

The Enneagram is an important aid in helping us gain clear self-knowledge and in awakening to our True Self. Rohr and Hudson offer lectures and practices to nurture transformation for ourselves, compassion for our companions, and prayer for the world.

Approximate length: 10.5 hours; available as CD and MP3 download from CAC’s Bookstore

The Enneagram as a Tool for Your Spiritual Journey  (AUDIO & VIDEO)

In these talks, Richard Rohr and Russ Hudson go far beyond the identification of the nine Enneagram types. Their talks include in-depth explorations of the three centers: body, heart, and head. This study of the Enneagram shows the importance of compassion, grace, and the awakening of the soul.

Approximate length: 7.5 hours; available as DVD, CD, and MP3 download from CAC’s Bookstore

The Enneagram: The Discernment of Spirits (AUDIO & VIDEO)

Richard Rohr explores in detail each of the nine Enneagram types: their virtues, their compulsions, and their paths toward spiritual growth. For the serious learner of the Enneagram, this workshop offers clear, practical, and deep teaching.

Approximate length: 7 hours; available as DVD, CD, and MP3 download from CAC’s Bookstore

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (BOOK)

This is a significant revision of Richard Rohr’s original Enneagram book, with special emphasis on the Enneagram’s compatibility with Christian faith and the discernment of spirits. The book contains excellent diagrams to illustrate the relationship between the numbers and the ways that each Enneagram type develops and changes.

280 pages; available from CAC’s Bookstore

The Wisdom of the Enneagram (BOOK)

Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson, renowned Enneagram teachers and founders of the Enneagram Institute, offer an integrated model of the human psyche. This comprehensive model for spiritual and emotional development provides practical suggestions for greater self-awareness and freedom from fixations.

400 pages; available from most major booksellers

The Enneagram Institute offers a comprehensive personality test that can help you discern what Enneagram number or numbers you identify with the most. Just remember that while some people find this test helpful, it is only one step in applying the wisdom of the Enneagram to your life.

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