Spiritual Practice

My Passages for Meditation: 3 Nourishing, Life-Changing Habits of Thought

Ideas that we consider repeatedly – like I do with my personal passages for meditation – can set one’s life tone and direction.

My Passages for MeditationI call this list in my phone “passages for meditation”. At first, a few years ago, I would read or recite all of them daily (the list was shorter then). Then it became one per day, reading it more than once. Then three per day, reading each one one time. This is not exactly following the Eknath Easwaran “passage meditation” plan, but that was the initial inspiration.

My “Practice”:

I’ve memorized most of them. At present I revisit the list 2 or 3 times a week, to read some or all of them, or focus on one for several minutes, or just work on memorizing one of the 2 longer ones not yet memorized. Or I even write simple notes about one or the other. The list has grown very slowly, and may be at its limit.

These may not be the world’s best quotes for meditation but they are doing me a lot of good.  They cover for me crucial basics of human living, and that’s my desire in this habit – to choose for myself which basic values are shaping my thinking, and thus my life.

My Passages for Meditation:

The nine on my list are from varied sources – the ancient Hebrew and Christian Bibles, ancient Hinduism, 20th and 21st Century atheists and agnostics. I judge the passages by their substance, not by whether they have the imprimatur of various groups’ chosen authorizing agencies.

  1. Matthew 25 – Jesus clarifies who are the Righteous, who will enter the Kingdom.
  2. James Hollis – “Embrace the anxiety attendant upon our condition.”
  3. Psalm 84 – “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty”
  4. Frank Andrews – 30 synonyms for “love”
  5. Sri Krishna (from the Hindus’ Gita) – “My love is the same always.”
  6. Psalm 91 – “Because he loves me …”
  7. Jiddu Krishnamurti. — “Without self-knowledge, what you think is not true.”
  8. Matthew 5 – “The Beatitudes” of Jesus
  9. Wim Hof – “The mind without thoughts …”

Here are 3 of them – maybe even passages to memorize:

I. Matthew 25 – Who Are “the Righteous”; Who Will Be Saved?

“Then the righteous will answer him, • ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? • When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? • When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ • “The King will reply, • ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

How do you get saved?” Well, lots of churches have lots of answers – maybe in three categories a) fate: everyone is saved, or it’s solely on God’s whim (yuk!!); b) participate in their forms and ceremonies (readings, baptisms, special meals or mini-meals, meetings for preaching, maybe even prayer), preferably with an honest heart if at all possible; c) “receive Jesus” into your heart, the moral/spiritual value of which is generally not any more clearly defined than the hoped-for values of the above rituals.

Jesus said it bluntly. And the way Matthew recorded the remarks, “how you get saved” gets stated and re-stated four times. Four times. That should be seen as enough clarification – for anyone who actually wants to know what Jesus taught.

In this Matthew passage Jesus sets himself as the arbiter of who enters the kingdom and who does not. And that decision is based on who is righteous and who is not. And righteousness” is defined as being apparent in a set of behaviors (Lord, when did we “see you a stranger and invite you in … see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”). Then Jesus, as the “King” or “Lord” in the story, calls those who do such things “the righteous.”

Do we wonder who the “righteous” are? Here Jesus tells us plainly. If you have a different definition, you perhaps should verify that you can justify your choice. “Then [those who did not do such things] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is not an unclear teaching. And it was not casually thrown out to us by Jesus nor hastily and shallowly recorded by Matthew. This is deliberate, and it is clear. That’s where Jesus ALWAYS is; he’s always intensely interested in the people around, focused on developing people for (present and) eternal holiness and happiness. Seems to me that would be an important reality for professing Christians to keep constantly in mind. I endeavor to do so.

Jesus said it bluntly. And the way Matthew recorded the remarks, “how you get saved” gets stated and re-stated four times. Four times. That should be seen as enough clarification – for anyone who actually wants to know what Jesus taught.

II. James Hollis – Embrace the Anxiety

When we embrace the anxiety attendant upon our condition, we open to the power of the divine. • Ironically, the authority we seek is to be found only in the relinquishing of the fantasies of authority, to remember that we do not know enough. • Through this humble openness the gods will most surely come.

• Our condition IS one of vulnerability, of contingency. Really, and permanently. That can freak us out! But since it is an incontrovertible and unchangeable reality of human life, it would be wise to learn to live with it somehow or other. He even says “embrace” it.
• When we fantasize about having durable, effective authority over this world or any parts of it (like our own lives, family members, employees, church members), we put ourselves in a false place, a fantasy world. One does not deal well with reality while describing it falsely. This principle applies to churches, corporations, nations, politicians and other power elites as well as to each of us as individuals.
• Those fantasies of control are not only frustrating, they are quite dangerous.
• The realism Hollis commends here is, he argues, a trigger of some natural (or divine) process that in real life brings support in our direction.
• That support does not start out under our control, and never comes under our control. Perhaps it’s like St. Teresa of Avila said, “One does not deal well with God by force.”
• Hollis subscribes to no formal religion, and might even be unwilling to profess belief in “God.” But he is certain there are some sort of wise, good, and powerful forces “out there” that regularly respond to true humility and realism among humans.
• If he’s right, and I’m pretty sure he is, we should accept and deal with these simple principles he describes.
• He has high confidence in this “natural (divine) process”: “Through this humble openness the gods will most surely come.”
[This quote is at the head of Chapter 4 in “Partnership of Peril: Psychopathic and Authoritarian Influences in Politics” by Michael Dobkevich. I don’t know where Hollis first wrote it. Here are a couple of Hollis’ books I have profitably read more than twice apiece: James Hollis “Through the Dark Wood and James Hollis “Living an Examined Life.”]

III. Wim Hof – The Mind Without Thoughts

“The mind without thoughts is always still, always confident. Just follow the power of the mind and you will get through the worst, most stressful situations.”

“The mind without thoughts” – for even 2 or 3 minutes this is a remarkably difficult skill to acquire! When you start out, you want to think about having no thoughts, which defeats the purpose. Our minds are used to being incessantly busy, and are quite uncomfortable and fretful when we ask them to briefly adopt a different stance. It comes as a bit of a shock to just shut up for a couple of minutes. Even a couple of minutes! It’s a big change.

But I find even 3 or 4 minutes of such stillness is wonderfully refreshing. It is a wonderful peacefulness. And you won’t get stuck in it. Your mind will instinctively jump back into action.  This is good as a fairly frequent practice because

  • a) it puts us in touch with the wonderful reality that our own thoughts are not the biggest or most necessary context or source of life – life exists already and beyond us, and
  • b) when achieved even briefly it’s really relaxing, refreshing, renewing! Why didn’t someone tell me about this before?

This is not the long term, life-pervading, underlying peace that some of the other passages contribute to. It’s a much more functional, immediate peace, like a short episode of brief refreshment or stretching. But I tell you, it’s a blessing.
Here are a couple additional quotes to help clarify the idea – from his The Wim Hof Method (a regimen of deep breathing and cold exposure).

“follow something [for a moment] that does not excite the thinking brain” (p70-1)
“You can be strong without thoughts, just existing in the stillness of your mind, well nourished with the life force, the blood flow, because your thinking brain isn’t dominating those resources.” (p102)

Passages for meditation – I recommend the practice,

after careful selection of valuable passages.

See Also on PublicChristian.com
Prayer for All of Us! – 5 Helps to Realism and Comfort in Prayer
Love God – Can Even GOD Demand That? Well, Yes and No.
The Quiet Places in Our Lives Make Our Public Activity Much Safer
Spirituality – posts prior to 2023
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