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Center for Action and Contemplation

How to Meditate

Sunday, May 8, 2016

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


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.


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.
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