Saturday, October 10, 2009


“Reflection is a mental looking at the disposition and nature of a thing, and from that reflection comes perception.” Arcana Coelestia §3661

“About reflection
“I was just conversing with spirits and angels about reflection, to which I do not know whether people have given enough attention; and it was said that if they give it some thought, they will discover more secrets in the doctrine of reflection than in any other.
“What reflection achieves can be quite clear to everyone from the fact that we perceive no sensation of the body or its parts, and are unaware of having a sensation, unless we reflect upon that part of our body. Then we perceive heat, cold, pressure - we even feel what that part is suffering. If we reflect on our breathing, then we feel and know that we are breathing, and in this way a voluntary factor joins in; besides innumerable other instances.” Spiritual Experiences §733

These teachings encourage us to make the time in our busy lives to read the Word and then make a special effort to reflect on what we have read.

I am convinced that the ancient people had special ways of reflecting on what they were seeing all around them. That practice has come down in a huge variety of methods of meditation, some of which are deservedly dismissed. For instance, the practice of “contemplating your navel” is only justifying one’s self and its limited ideas and corrupted desires.

Meditation, as I understand it from reading teachings such as those above, is a contemplation of the Word in such a focused and intense manner, that its truths transmit the Lord’s love into our minds and hearts that are prepared to humbly receive them so that they make a difference in our beliefs, our desires and our actions.

That huge result is produced by the Lord in us only when we learn how to meditate on the Word. This is not a natural talent. It is not a gift anyone has without a lot of work. The mental barriers – psychological and spiritual – are many and complex.

For instance, our brains are wired to make associations all the time. We want to be connecting the past or the future to our current experience. This means that we do not automatically provide mental space for the truth of the Word to be all by itself. We tend to attach all kinds of meanings to any idea we get from the Word. And some of those ideas will pollute the message of love the Lord wants us to receive.

To acquire the skill of considering the Lord’s truth in a non judgmental way, in the unaffected present moment, includes a number of steps, some of which seem in themselves useless or pointless. But each skill is part of the final ability. We must learn each skill individually for we cannot learn them all at once.

Note that Swedenborg’s own experience was that we will see the usefulness of such reflection just from the experience of paying attention to our bodies – “reflect on our breathing, then we feel and know that we are breathing, and in this way a voluntary factor joins in; besides innumerable other instances.”

“The voluntary factor,” that is, choosing to pay attention to a specific object, he tells us, makes a difference in our ability to reflect, ultimately, on the truth of the Word!

for instance, as I write this, I am present to the experience that summer provides wonderful times to meditate! The early mornings’ light and coolness draw us to sit and breathe deeply. Or, we can take time to cool down after mowing the lawn with a stillness of body and mind, in the simply enjoyment of a job well done (and, after ten minutes of this, a cold drink!).

So here is a list of meditation skills that, as you become skilled at doing them, can be combined to enhance your reflection upon the Word, bringing a sensation of the Lord’s love for you into your life.

Sit in a comfortable position and put your attention on small parts of your body one at a time until you have paid attention to, and relaxed, every part. For example, you might start by paying attention to the toes of your right foot. Wiggle them a bit, and then relax them. This will take only a few seconds, although the goal is the ability to give full attention to something as small as one toe for a long time. You might then pay attention to one ankle, then the other, one calf and then the other, and so on through all the muscles you can identify. I am surprised almost every time I get to my eyebrows and discover I am holding them up!

Another skill is paying attention to your breathing. Sit comfortably; take a deep breath through your nose so that you do it somewhat slowly. Notice how your lungs fill. Your ribs expand and your belly goes out. Breath out slowly through your mouth, letting your lungs empty completely. After a few of these deep breaths, relax into whatever is your normal breathing. And now the skill part: put all your attention on your breath. Notice the air moving in your nose, your mouth. Notice the movement of your ribs and diaphragm. You might have to close your eyes. If that leads you to think about other things or get anxious, then stare at something right in front of you until you are not paying attention to it anymore. You will quickly discover that you will think of something other than your breath. So, note that your mind wandered for a while, and put your attention back on your breath. This skill is not intended to remove the brain’s wiring. It is to give us the ability to choose where we put our attention for a longer time than we can now. Again, the goal is not to be able to pay attention to your breath for five minutes without a break. The goal is to acquire this skill so that you can use it to contemplate an idea from the Word without distractions. I look forward to being able to do it better!

I encourage you to explore meditation. There are lots of teachers around. It has been shown to help a wide variety of physical ailments. And people who meditate on the Word report many benefits. If you would like to join a meditation group at our church, let me know!

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