Ever since I took a class on Christian History in seminary two summers ago, I have been fascinated with the Desert Fathers and Mothers. These were the Christians who, after Rome made Christianity a “state religion,” went into the desert to seek spiritual purity directly from God. They felt that “official Christianity” was becoming diluted from the pure relationship Jesus taught.
I have long related to these desert aesthetes. We all have a spiritual yearning for finding a quiet place with God. The Desert Fathers and Mothers practiced this through meditation, referred to by Thomas Merton as “centering prayer.” There are wonderful books available to learn more, and I’ve been reading and practicing center prayer (or trying to) for the past two years.
I’m revisiting the book called Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault. I find particularly relevant for today something she discusses on p. 62. It’s the Desert Fathers’ practice of giving full focus to whatever you are doing at the moment – whether it’s praying or working or resting – and not letting your mind wander. The problem with mind-wandering is those negative, destructive, or even just distracting thoughts that enter in.
That’s one thing I struggle with, and before I realize it, I’ve allowed muck to creep into my spiritual reservoir. Then one little things goes wrong, and I go into a tailspin. I’d like to keep my reservoir pure. When something goes wrong, I’d like to approach it from a place of peace.
I am asking God to help me with this – including to see if there are roots that need to be dealt with. But I think part of my vulnerability isn’t so much deep roots or doors open to the enemy. I think this is more just my daily practice of letting my mind wander. I see it even when I’m praying quietly with God and stray thoughts creep in. It’s like setting out fly paper for not only my own thoughts, but also the “thoughts” that the enemy will toss my way.
As I read this book on Centering Prayer, I am asking God to help me “practice His presence” in all that I do, and stay focused on whatever task He has given me in the moment, and not let my thoughts wander.