Spiritual maturing and growth requires an ongoing transcendence of the ego. Meditation helps to achieve that so one can experience one’s true self in God through Jesus.
This was one important message that Benedictine monk Fr Laurence Freeman shared with more than 700 people who attended a meditation retreat on March 12 and 13.
The Singapore chapter of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) organised the retreat, held in Catholic Junior College.
Fr Freeman, WCCM director, last led a meditation retreat in Singapore in November 2014 themed The Eight Big Problems of Life.
For the March 12-13 retreat, titled Milestones: Stages of Life in the Light of Meditation, the Benedictine monk began with an introduction to the meditation process. Meditation, he said, is a way of prayer in which the mind and the heart become one.
“Through silence, stillness and simplicity, we let go of words, thoughts and images and enter into the silence of God.”
Over the two-day retreat, he spoke about how meditation can accompany people through the stages of life. He saw the milestones of childhood, adulthood, old age and death as also stages of faith development.
“Jesus teaches us that in order to follow Him as His disciples, we have to leave our self behind. Unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So, our spiritual maturing and growth requires an ongoing transcendence of our ego and the experience of our true self in God through Jesus,” Fr Laurence said.
He said that in moving from childhood to adulthood, people lose their original innocence as their ego develops. “We actually move into a ‘childish’ stage where we are dominated by our ego, controlled by our desires and fantasies of happiness, and unable to accept disappointment or suffering.”
So if one can learn to meditate early in life – although those fantasies, consumerist tendencies and self-preoccupations may still form – these will not have such a strong grip over one’s consciousness, he added.
“When we meditate, we let go of our self-preoccupations by shifting our attention away from our thoughts and desires and giving our attention to the presence of Christ dwelling within us. The prayer of faith and trust in the practice of meditation restores us to our original innocence and child-likeness,” he said.
In the final milestone of life which is death, Fr Laurence proposed that faith in the resurrection is what gives ultimate meaning to our life. “Death for the Christian is not the end. Death can be a transformation of our being into eternal life. We learn to believe in the resurrection when in this life we have experienced the dying to our ego and rising to our true self in Christ,” he said.
Fr Freeman cited his teacher, the late Benedictine monk Fr John Main, as saying that meditation is like one’s first death, the death of the ego, and prepares one for physical death by a radical letting go of the ego. Seen in this light, one can then understand the words of St Paul, who asked, “O death, where is thy sting?”
Newcomer to meditation Michael Tan said he felt heartened to begin practising meditation after the retreat experience. “I came to the retreat because I wanted to learn something new, and I found the talks very invigorating,” he said.
Mr Wang Kok Wing, who has been practising meditation for the past 16 years, said he felt encouraged as this retreat not only revealed new insights but also rekindled old ones. “These insights help me to appreciate my relationship with God even more and goad me on to deepen this relationship,” he shared.
The WCCM community here in Singapore has over 30 weekly meditation groups gathered in parishes, Catholic institutions, and hospitals. For more information, visit http://wccmsingapore.org/