Retreat master, Fr Laurence Freeman.Retreat master, Fr Laurence Freeman.
Participants at a two-day meditation retreat at Catholic Junior College, received tips on how to manage the “eight big problems in life” and to transcend them.

From Nov 29-30, about 600 participants attended talks by retreat master and The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) director, Benedictine Fr Laurence Freeman, watched videos and attended question-and-answer sessions.

At the start of retreat, called The Eight Big Problems of Life,  organised by WCCM Singapore, Fr Laurence asked participants, “What are you most seeking in life?

“The answer,” he said, “is that we are all seeking meaning, love, truth and beauty. All these are to be found within us...not further than a step away. They are to be found in a deeper dimension within us, in the space within our heart.”

And yet from the dawn of time, humanity has wrestled with gluttony, greed, anger, acedia (spiritual or mental sloth), lust, sadness, vanity and pride. So how does one free oneself from their grip to get to that truth, love and meaning, and to be more fully alive and at peace?

Fr Laurence set the background by explaining that the problems were first formulated by the Desert Fathers of the fourth century as the eight principal faults.
Some of the participants at the Nov 29-30 meditation retreat. Some of the participants at the Nov 29-30 meditation retreat.

The Desert Fathers however, did not view these faults in a moralistic way, but saw them as negative states of mind. By identifying these eight problems as “faults” and inherent “states of mind” affecting every human being regardless of culture, race, age, religion, it allows one to move beyond the crippling guilt and shame associated with sin to decisive action and freedom.

In four talks covering the problems, Fr Laurence gave participants an in-depth analysis of each fault. “It is important to know your enemy better than your enemy knows you,” he said.

Fr Laurence also explained that the faults were interconnected and they all originated in man’s desire for truth, love and God. Not knowing where to find these, one imagines ways to address these desires.

Participants learnt how all these states of mind could be overcome through the ascesis (spiritual self-discipline and exercise) of a deep and faithful spiritual practice. Fr Laurence taught meditation or pure prayer, the prayer of the heart, as a way of transcending these states of mind.

He also shared with participants that meditation was not just a process but a relationship where one cultivates attentiveness to the presence of God. The meditation practice runs counter to the culture of narcissism and distraction.

He added that meditation does not claim to solve problems but instead transforms the way one looks at them.

But how does one meditate or pray purely?

Fr Laurence told participants that it was as simple as going back to God’s words in the Bible: “Be still and know that I am God.”

To meditate, participants had to sit still and upright, and be relaxed and alert at the same time, while closing their eyes.

Participants were asked to use a word recommended by Fr Laurence – “maranatha” or “come Lord”. It is in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.

Participants were asked to recite the word as four syllables of equal length silently.

It was obvious that people were touched by the deep, heart-centred prayer.

As one of the participants later shared: “This seminar is so different ... I enjoyed the meditation calmly and joyfully throughout these two days.”

Another said, “We are convinced of the benefits that meditation can reap ... on an individual and global level.”

To know more about WCCM Singapore, visit www.wccmsingapore.org

By Deborah Peterson

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