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Centering Prayer

Internal Experience

Centering Prayer

New Zealanders (and others) have a tradition of journey as part of early adulthood. Here, we call it ‘OE’ (“Overseas Experience” – my own lasted six years). Covid has pushed ‘pause’ on that.

On Sunday, I read an article about a young couple who were forced to cancel their planned OE due to Covid-19. They would now “head on an IE (Internal Experience) instead.” By “IE (Internal Experience)”, they meant staying in our country and exploring “parts of New Zealand they have never been to before.”

I wonder if we as church, we as Christians, can also be (1) going more deeply into our own “IE (Internal Experience)” – in this case, I am meaning an inner journey; and (2) helping others to see that we as church, we as Christians can offer maps and companionship on this “IE (Internal Experience)”, this inner journey.

When people think of the inner journey, this IE, does church and Christians immediately spring to their mind? I think not. We, Christians, is that how we think of ourselves? And is that how we think of presenting ourselves to others?

I mentioned, only recently, seeing notice boards full of ways to go on the inner journey (Yoga, Buddhist meditation,…) and not a single reference to church, to Christianity. How agile are Christians, even Christian leaders, in communicating the maps of our inner journey? And how much are Christians seriously committed to this inner journey?

Last weekend, I walked into a bookshop and saw a new book called Think Like A Monk, a Number One New York Times best seller. The author, Jay Shetty, draws on his experience of monasticism to “train your mind for peace and purpose every day.” No prizes for realising that he is not drawing from and makes little reference to the Christian experience of monasticism.

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2 thoughts on “Internal Experience”

  1. To be fair, Fr Bosco, according to his Wikipedia page, he lived as some kind of ‘Vedic monk’ in an ashram in India.

    That said, I agree with what you’re saying – Tradition has much to offer us. The problem is that people see tradition as simply being something fossilised that only gives ‘votes to the ancestors’ and is therefore implicitly dull, whereas those of us who seriously engage with any tradition know that it’s as much about what was done before as it is about keeping things fresh by innovation shaped by the tradition’s bounds, as well as seeing what you can find that’s new when you practise something for the umpteenth time. I really hope that somehow we (the Church) can demonstrate that there’s plenty in Christian tradition that is liberating, grounding, and life enhancing.

    I guess it all come back to theological formation and what the Church provides to its laity (particularly ordinands) and clergy. A theological college lecturer I know who teaches Reformation history posted the other day about how not a single ordinand in the class had ever heard of Bunyan’s ‘He who would valiant be’ so there’s clearly room for improvement in terms of Christian cultural literacy (and practice).

    1. Thanks, Robert.

      Yes, Jay Shetty draws on his time in an ashram. My point is that I would be very surprised to walk into a bookshop (unless it was explicitly Christian) and find a book entitled something like Think like a monk and open it to find it was written by someone drawing on their experience in a Christian monastery.

      It has been well said that tradition can be the dead faith of people who are alive or the living faith carried on from people who have died.

      You make a good point about the shallowness of the Christianity even the most committed experience. I have regularly advocated for a contemplative year as part of priestly formation.


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