I come from a career in education where the dominant ethos has been one of frenetic assessment and testing of children about a core curriculum.
What has become increasingly clear is that these same children have spent more time engaged in a virtual life behind computer and tv screens than in the classrooms where they are groomed to be tested.
Prof Susan Greenfield even reckons their brains will have been permanently moulded into short attention spanners for the rest of their lives.
It was then, a seriously counter - cultural thing to attend Mary Jo Meadows’ two day teaching on the tradition of what she calls Christian Insight Meditation from May 7th to 8th.
The car parks were full at St Luke’s Church.
Mary Jo speaks from the Carmelite perspective,and was a psychology professor.
She prefaced her conference by repeating the comments of those two classic saints of prayer, and best friends, Teresa and John of the Cross, that the way to God involves the process of self knowledge. That by learning to be fully attentive to each moment in meditation, we could eventually find ourselves being more attentive to each moment in our daily lives and nearer to God.
The teaching was effectively broken up with spells of instruction followed by practising what we had learnt.
What followed was a warning that as a result of meditative discipline, all kinds of repressed emotions might surface, though there was a way of removing them, so that we could become more attentive to the gift of life that God had given us.
Rather than the repetition of a phrase or word, this style of prayer / meditation involved becoming more aware of the breathing, which becomes the focus of your practice.
All distractions were to be noted before returning to the rhythm of the breathing.
She gave us careful instruction of all the distractions which may emerge, as even ecstatic experiences were to be noted before a return to the breath.
I was left keen to re - read St Teresa of Avila’s book “The Interior Castle” with different lenses this time. I was also far more aware of the mindlessness of much of our lives: The multi tasking. The constant noise. The urge to be always active.
That we need to be more real. “In the world but not of it”.
A Report of the event by Rod Kibble