By Joyce Gan
ON SAT, APR 22, several misconceptions about Christian meditation will be cleared up at the "Christian Meditation & Fullness of Life" workshop. One is that meditation is not solely Oriental. The other is that the average Singaporean can still learn to incorporate this practice into their hectic lifestyles. Mr Peter Ng stands as a good testimony.
This Singapore national co-ordinator for the World Community for Christian Meditation manages his time between meditation and his role as Managing Director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Pte Ltd (GIC) for Public Markets. Mr Ng, whose wife, Patricia, passed away last year from cancer, will, at the workshop, share how his meditation practice has helped him to "grow spiritually, be a more effective manager and live life more joyfully and meaningfully, especially in times of crisis".
Participants will learn how to meditate and how to deal with the practical challenges of persevering in the discipline. "Most people feel they are too busy, or too distracted, to meditate. I, too, felt that way when I started 18 years ago," Mr Ng confessed, which is why he hopes to encourage the participants not to give up. There will also be opportunities to listen, via DVDs, to teachers of contemplative prayers, such as Fathers John Main, Thomas Keating and Laurence Freeman who taught Mr Ng himself.
Mr Ng wants to address the mistaken association of meditation with only Oriental religions. In fact, meditation is a universal spiritual practice and Christianity too, has a rich and long tradition of contemplative prayer, he explained. Mr Ng thinks that the misunderstandings arise because most Christian prayers are verbal ones.
However, there is contemplative prayer as well in all great religions, he said. "The difference is our faith in Jesus," he emphasised.
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"Christian meditation takes us beyond words, thoughts and images into silence, stillness and simplicity, [but] in a Christian community, nurtured by Christian scripture and Christian worship," he added. "The whole idea is to give all our attention to [Christ]," he continued. "We empty ourselves of our ego so we can be filled with the love of Christ because quite often, it is our preoccupation with ourselves that get in the way of us coming closer to God."
Mr Ng himself had stumbled upon meditation when he and his wife found a book "The Light Within" by Father Freeman in the Katong Catholic Book Centre when they were searching for more "spiritual depth", he recalled. Father Freeman, who was a student to the Benedictine monk who discovered the tradition of Christian meditation, John Main himself, eventually became Mr Ng's teacher in the practice after the couple sought him out. "And now, 18 years have gone by and I am still meditating," he laughed.
Today, Mr Ng meditates twice a day, every morning and evening for about 25 minutes. "These two periods are the anchors of my life," he claimed. "If you are serious about your spiritual life and your relationship with God, you have got to make time for it. My meditation is my appointment with God!" Mr Ng expressed.
He believes that many Christians at the work place take their spiritual life seriously, judging from the large turnout at weekday lunchtime masses organised by the Catholic Prayer Society. He was also impressed by the several hundred participants at last November's Christ@Work conference that explored different ways to manifest Christ at the workplace.