Becoming conscious of mimetic desire, our inborn and pre-conscious tendency to copy the desires of other people (See Human See, Human Want) poses a large challenge to our daily living. When we bring in the tendency to fall into rivalry with other people and how that can lead to collective violence (see Two Ways of Gathering) then we need tools to live with this challenge.
I wrote Tools for Peace to suggest ways that the spiritual practices from the monastic tradition and the Rule of St. Benedict in particular can help us with this challenge. Contemplative Prayer, although important in monastic practice, has a small place in the Rule of St. Benedict and so there is not a detailed discussion of the practice in this book, although I have a few comments about it.
Many years ago, I wrote a pamphlet called “The Indwelling God” to introduce the practice of contemplative prayer and give practical suggestions for initiating and sustaining this practice. Last year, I wrote an article for our Abbey Letter called “Resting in God’s Desire” which discusses contemplative prayer specifically in connection to mimetic desire. The Divine Office is indeed the heart of Benedictine spirituality, but praying in silence, just being before and with God, allowing God to contemplate us, as Saint Gertrude and other writers have suggested, is a pearl of great price, a pearl worth some of our valuable time and worthy of much room in our hearts.
This pamphlet has been available in hard copy and is still available in that form, but I have just had a eBook made of it to make it available in that form since many readers are using that medium. I have coupled the pamphlet with the essay “Resting in God’s Desire” as they make good companion pieces.
“The Indwelling God” with its companion article can be purchased on the abbey’s website at http://www.saintgregorysthreerivers.org/digitalpubs.html A hard copy version which has only “The Indwelling God” is available at http://www.saintgregorysthreerivers.org/orderpage.html
May we all give of ourselves to receive this pearl of great price.
While reading this blog post, I reached over to my bookcase and pulled the copy I purchased of “The Indwelling God” a few years ago, to look at it again. (Much underlining in it!) Earlier today, I was reading Christian Wiman’s “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer,” and there is something I read that feels to be in a similar arena of thought, that is the challenge in every day life to bring meditation and contemplative prayer into it.
I offer the following passage here not as the question that comes at the end of it to be answered, but simply as sharing, as what all this has been for me, again picking up “The Indwelling God” plus coming here plus reading Wiman’s book. This is from a chapter called “Hive of Nerves:”
“How does one remember God, reach for God, realize God in the midst of one’s life if one is constantly being overwhelmed by that life? It is one thing to encourage contemplation, prayer, quiet spaces in which God, or at least a galvanizing consciousness of his absence (‘Be present with your Want of a Deity, and you shall be present with the Deity,’ as the seventeenth-century poet Thomas Traherne put it), can enter the mind and heart. But the reality of contemporary American life — which often seems like a kind of collective ADHD — is that this consciousness requires a great deal of resistance, and how does one relax and resist at the same time?”