St. Symeon’s discussion of contemplative prayer in the Philokalia might serve as a good reference point for the practice I teach. He establishes three levels of attention and prayer. The first level relates to the five senses, with God as Other; the practice makes use of outward props such as icons, statues and formal ritual. The second level relates to the mind, and is described by Symeon as “thought fighting thought”; the problem with that is that it takes place in the head. The third level is the mind resting in the Heart, the Heart being not the seat of emotionality but the place within us where God resides. Only with third-level practice do we actually have the opportunity to be truly still, beyond thought. This practice can be found in nearly every spiritual tradition, including Sufism, Christianity, Judaism, and the many Indic and East Asian traditions.
By working toward the third level of attention and prayer, people from all backgrounds can begin moving toward a dialogue in which they are not so attached to their own individual and collective narratives. We can then get past much of what separates us and find the unity in the diversity. My goal is to get people to experience that unity for themselves, not just think it. With that in mind, I try to avoid using jargon of any kind, so that people can approach the experience from their own traditions.
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