Long Islanders' busy lives leave little room for personal reflection. This week's clergy discuss the importance of taking a few minutes out of every day to sit in silent contemplation.
The Rev. Michael O'Connor, senior associate pastor, Island Christian Church, Northport:
I think that meditation in the Bible is not emptying our minds of all thoughts, but rather filing them with God's truth. When we meditate on the word of God, God promises that the richness of his truth will lead us to spiritual prosperity and success. Often we are reading a truth in Scripture, and it will stop us and will cause us to pause and think. To meditate, to help us understand a scriptural passage and apply it, will certainly be of value. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8)
I would encourage people to do this regularly in whatever venue works for them, and for me it's at home in the mornings. If you have children in the house, you can get up before they go to school, or you might wait until they are in bed at night, so that you will have peace and quiet to read the Bible and meditate on the truth that you are reading. Any place relatively free from distractions will serve the purpose of meditation.
The Rev. JoAnn Barrett, Gathering of Light Interspiritual Fellowship, Melville:
Daily meditation can help with your faith. It has been proven to quiet the mind and reduce stress, which will help open your heart. Calm minds, calm bodies and open hearts are perfect avenues to expanded faith. If your vision is clear, you have a broader perspective. When you have that calm, centered sense of self, when you go out to experience the rest of your day, you have a broader perspective. I personally meditate in the morning and the evening, but I believe morning meditation is the best. I recommend a comfortable chair, or any relaxing spot in your house where you can develop meditation as a habit.
We as a community do a variety of different meditation practices that we change throughout the year, depending on the month. We will do centering prayer meditation, which is more of a Christian tradition; we will do metta meditation, a Buddhist tradition that is a loving, kindness meditation. There's an egg of light, in which you surround yourself in white light. We have kabbalistic meditation, which is from the Jewish tradition, which you can actually do in the shower, with the water washing you clean and allowing that light to come through. Meditation is a practical process or practice that allows you to deepen your faith. If you have a sense of calmness, no matter what comes up, you can persevere.
Sister Margaret Rohde, director of ministry, The Cenacle at Ronkonkoma:
Christian meditation is a practice of silent prayer in which we consent to the presence of God. The practice goes back to the early Christians in the 100s and 200s, who would go out in the desert for silence. Some famous Christians who meditated in silence are Abba Antony the Great, Julian of Norwich and Amma Syncletica of Alexandria. Father Thomas Keating, the author of "Open Mind, Open Heart" and "Intimacy with God," meditates twice daily, along with millions of ordinary Christians. The goal is to sit in silence for 20 minutes sometime in the first half of the day and for 20 minutes at night, in a chair or on the floor -- whichever is the best for your body -- with your hands empty.
You take a deep breath in and out and let go of the concerns of the day. You choose a word that you will recite interiorly when you get distracted, that could be anything, such as "peace," or "home" or "Jesus." That will bring your focus back to intention, which is to rest in the presence of God, letting God delight in you. Silent prayer is both a personal relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. We learn to cling to nothing. In short, it reduces the obstacles in us, especially selfishness, so that we can be sensitive to the inspirations of the spirit that lead to divine union. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." It has been my favorite way to pray for many years now.