Focus In An Age of Distraction
An Introduction To Meditation
The more distracted we are, the easier we are to control.
For a glimpse into the inner-workings of our consumer society, check out Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs and notice the bottom level to see how Marketers, Politicians, or an unscrupulous preacher can spin us down the rosy path of control without our even knowing it. It’s not evil unless we’re manipulated by it. Be Discerning. Test the spirits.
Every Spiritual Tradition
Every spiritual tradition trains us in the disciplines of prayer, meditation, and the study of Scriptures…to clarify our hearts so we can make good decisions.
Every song and every sermon in a Baptist worship service is choreographed to move you to the altar.
Every song and every sermon in a Charismatic worship service is designed to sweep you up into a corporate experience of the Holy Spirit.
Every song and every sermon in a Catholic, Orthodox or other liturgical worship service is to prepare you to receive the Eucharist.
Some of us use the liturgy of emotion, and some use the liturgy of intellect, but every one of us uses the liturgy of our community. It’s worship by design. We all need cues to cross the threshold.
The One-Two Combo
Cues are why I believe prayer and meditation are the one-two combos to knock out our ego, that we might enter into God’s presence.
Let me explain: The first two gifts of meditation is meditation helps to:
1. Clear away all the distractions.
2. Meditation amplifies our ability to focus.
This is huge in a society that’s addicted to distractions.
Though meditation is native to us, it isn’t easy. Don’t let anyone fool you. You don’t learn a new language overnight or become a nuclear scientist in a day.
Here’s a hint to motives: if you’re led by joy rather than being driven by duty or will-power, or anything else, the journey will be a whole lot easier.
All spirituality is moving out of our little, small, mean, self-willed self, our ego, into our large, expansive, true self which is a consciousness shift. Then from our true self, dwelling in wholeness, we begin the integration process of our transformation.
Meditation is native to all of us as young children, hence Jesus’ statement, “unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” But once the ego is in place, our spirituality is an internal battle.
The Internal Battle
Stephen Pressfield in the War of Art calls our ego, the dragon of resistance we must slay every day. Buddhists meditate on their death. The mystics call it the Dark Night of the Soul and the Cloud of Unknowing, St. Francis meditated on a skull. The Scriptures call our ego the old man, the fallen self, or the false self according to the translation.
However, we come to it, facing our death clarifies us by removing the distractions of our suffering and reveals what is truly important to us. Recently, cancer has helped clarify my life immensely. Spirituality doesn’t make us immune to life. In fact, it’s counterintuitive, our spirituality makes us more human, because we see that we’re all connected, and we all belong to each other. We are our brother’s keeper.
Brain science is giving us language to talk about this shift, but traditionally we’ve talked about it through metaphor, and Scripture has a boat-load of them: Putting on the mind of Christ, abiding in the vine, the eye of the needle, and other metaphors, but the idea is that we’ve got to die to our old self, our ego, to be able to live out of our true self in God. Let me reiterate, this is a consciousness shift, not merely a belief. This is knowing, center to center, spirit to Spirit.
So this prayer and meditation combo is the best way I know to enter in.
But a Caution: prayer and quoting Scripture is not merely saying words, it is not a formula nor is it mystical words. It’s not magic. It is not a declaration. But prayer is turning our hearts toward the Eternal and to do that, everything else must fall away. (That’s focus) Getting the junk out of the way, forgiveness, and letting go.
Meditation in the Christian sense is the tuning of our spirit to, with, and in God’s Spirit.
I love the metaphor Jesus uses, “Abide in me, for apart from me you can do nothing”. And by nothing he means nothing.
So let’s review: Meditation clears the space of our heart for undistracted focus.
Are you ready for a cool change?