Living with Distractions

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I know that I have tried your patience with excerpts from this single essay, but all I can say is that I have found its insights so helpful I cannot resist sharing. However, this will be the last. Once again, I cannot reccommend this book highly enough. While it is about the Carmelite tradition of prayer, its insights (it would seem) can be helpful to anyone in any walk of life interested in prayer.

from Carmelite Prayer: A Tradition for the 21st Century
Ed. Fr. Keith J. Egan

"Contemplation and the Stream of Consciousness"
Fr. Kiernan Kavanaugh

What can we do then about the stream of consciousness? In a sense the response, "Welcome to planet earth" fits the reality of distraction in prayer. Rather than trying to stop the stream of consciousness during our prayer, we can influence it indirectly through love, detachment, and humility, the Christian virtues stressed by our [Carmelite] saints As the love of God grows, God will enter all the more frequently into the stream of consciousness. John teaches that the soul lives where it loves, lives through love in the object of its love (Spiritual Canticle 8.3). Through love the soul spurs itself to seek and find God everywhere, in all the creatures of the summer heat, in the winter snowflakes at our feet, in all things, all events. The impassioned lover will go out from self and become fixed on the loved object. God will go out from self and become fixed on the loved object. God begins to pervade all the pieces, large and small, of the bride-soul's consciousness. Especially does she discover Christ in her neighbor which prompts her to the services of love. In going out ot the Beloved, then, she goes out in freedom from the many entanglements of her attachments and self-interests. The effect left on her consciousness is humility, "her heart of love will not be set on herself or her own satisfaction and gain, but on pleasing God and giving him honor and glory" (Spiritual Canticle 9.5)

In short, do not do violence to prayer by trying to force those things that are so uniquely you out of the picture. Be gentle; let the distractions flow around and always gently, lovingly, return to the center. Yes, you may be distracted for a while about some particularly knotty problem, but when you become aware of it, gently turn the eyes of the soul back to Jesus. Often recommended is a prayer word, or a short prayer, some meaningful reminder to you of Jesus in your life. For example, I prefer, "My Lord and my God." (Despite appearances I have secret sympathies for the monarchists out there.)

But the important part of prayer is to continue despite the swarm of gnats we call thoughts or stream of consciousness. These gnats are who you are and where you are right here and now. They are integral to what you are as a person and God loves them as He loves the entire person. When we share those we are sharing a part of ourselves. We should not be ashamed we do not have the strength to throw them off. Think of small children. For example, my conversations with Sam follow some alien trajectory that always ends up somewhere in Sponge-Bob land or roller coasters no matter where they start. I cherish this deeply because it is so much who he is. So God is with us, cherishing us for our childlike babbling and sharing of so many unrelated things. He will enter in and organize as He sees fit, so long as we continue to approach Him in love.

The most important point is not to let distraction stop you from talking to God. If you want to, make them the topic of conversation some time. But continue to talk, continue to spend time with the Beloved. For, as in any relationship, time spent increases the bond of love and understanding and makes us more amenable to the ways of the One who is Loved.

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We all have trouble with this. It is always good to know that there are many of us.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 3, 2005 8:57 AM.

A Gentle Reminder/Request was the previous entry in this blog.

The Indwelling God is the next entry in this blog.

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