Meditation is a necessity, not a luxury: Christian monk
When people claim they just don't have time to meditate, Fr. Laurence Freeman points to his friends in the business world. He says they're better examples for others than he is.
"If I speak about taking two periods of meditation a day, morning and evening, and making that part of your life, people might say 'oh, that's easy for him, he's a monk, he's got nothing else to do and doesn't have a job,' but I think when they hear about it from somebody who is very busy and who has three teenage children and has a family life ... of course they listen: This is somebody, a role model, in a way, that they will listen to."
But Fr. Laurence has been at this for quite a while, so he can also address the question of meditation and time in a more metaphysical way:
Time is very much a matter of perception. Sometimes time flies by if you're having a good time, sometimes time seems to drag if things are going difficult ... even in great pieces of music you can experience how time slows down, or even seems to stop on some occasions. I think the regular practice of meditation does slow time down, or your relationship to time is less stressed, less anxious, less driven, and as a result of that, you're able to actually do more.- Fr. Laurence Freeman
Fr. Laurence is a Benedictine monk and a former investment banker who spends much of his time traveling the world and teaching meditation. He's the director of the World Community for Christian Meditation.
Western culture often thinks of meditation as a means to an end; an aid to good health, or even a tool for productivity in the workplace. Fr. Laurence sees that as a somewhat reductive way to measure its benefits.
'It's a little amusing that you reduce something as profound, as universal as meditation just to a way of reducing stress, improving your cholesterol, boosting your immune system, or improving your blood pressure. We focus more on the spiritual fruits of practicing meditation ... which you could describe as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, self-control ... when you feel that those qualities are developing within you ... this is something of greatest significance to your humanity."- Fr. Laurence Freeman
Meditation is rooted in the earliest Christian teachings. It has been reclaimed over recent decades, thanks in part to the late Fr. John Main, a diplomat-turned-monk and mentor to Fr. Laurence Freeman. Fr. Laurence makes the case that Jesus was a teacher of contemplation. He cites the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus instructs his followers to turn inward in prayer and to experience silence.
What's the biggest danger to would-be meditators? Fr. Laurence says it's perfectionism.
"If we're not free of this compulsion to be perfect, we will never actually learn how to be excellent, and by excellent there I mean 'whole'. So we shouldn't be worried about failing in meditation. The first step of the spiritual journey, like the first step in a human relationship as well, is to accept yourself as you are. And every time you meditate, that's who you are and where you are at that moment. Going back to that point of self-acceptance is humility."
Click LISTEN above to hear part of Mary Hynes' conversation with Fr. Laurence Freeman, from October 2012.