Just Don’t Tell Me to Quiet My Mind: Coming to Peace with Contemplative Spirituality
Over several years people have encouraged me toward a more contemplative form of spirituality.
They said it provides a sense of rest.
They framed it not as turning off one’s mind,
but quieting it.
Allowing heart and spirit to be heard.
And to experience the Lord’s presence.
Only in the past several days have I begun to carefully and constructively parse between the two.
While I’m undeniably attracted to the renewal aspect,
the quieting the mind element has served as a profound deterrence.
I’m like Pavlov’s dog.
Any whiff of anti-intellectualism causes me to froth at the mouth.
I experience a chaotic,
though no longer volatile,
mess of anger and annoyance.
Thank you, fundamentalist Pentecostal background.
Don’t ever tell me to stop thinking,
quiet my mind,
or anything of the sort.
I simply don’t compartmentalize heart, mind, and spirit likes most folks seem to do.
That’s not the way I’m wired.
I synthesize the three.
So telling me to power down my mind is also telling me to power down everything.
To my ears it’s almost nonsensical.
But there is good news.
I’m beginning to see contemplative spirituality not as turning down the volume of my mind,
but rather turning up the volume of my heart and spirit.
that analogy suffers from a suggestion of a frenetic cacophony.
Perhaps an agricultural metaphor would be better.
It’s not saying to the mind, “You look healthy and green.
We’re gonna cut off the water.”
Instead it’s saying to the heart and spirit, “You’re looking a bit wilted.
You could use a little more water.”
In other words,
I’m beginning to conceive of contemplative spirituality not as detracting from…
or lessening the mind,
but as adding to…
and furthering heart and spirit.
And thereby experiencing God’s presence.
So, for example, during a Taizé service my critical, analyzing mind is still going full bore.
It’s a matter not of activity,
but of channeling.
I’m not thinking about outside concerns.
Nor am I breaking down the structure of the service.
Nor am I letting my mind go off on rabbit trails.
It’s being channeled toward rigorously…
identifying the problems plaguing my mind,
examining the condition of my heart,
illumining the needs of my spirit,
discerning the guidance of the Spirit,
and in so doing is being renewed.
It’s being fully present in the moment:
heart, mind, and spirit.
And in doing that I’m finding peace.