After engaging in contemplative practice for about seven years, in mid-2014 I had an awakening experience and for about 3 months it seemed like I had superpowers.
Things that would normally eat at me just fell by the wayside. I had a sudden burst of energy and wrote most of my book during that stretch. I had insights into questions I’d long been diving into. It was like a bubble had burst and I could see relationships, the outside world, and the inner landscape with sudden freshness and clarity.
As a child growing up in an Evangelical context, Catholic depictions of Jesus fascinated me. One especially striking image was that of the Sacred Heart in which Christ touches his chest with his heart aglow.
Maybe it seemed archaic or too formal or stoic on the one hand or too simplistic or too melodramatic. Maybe it seemed too obviously metaphorical and therefore a little bit dangerous. But maybe the most striking aspect of it was it seemed too vulnerable.
One of the things I noticed early on in my marriage is that my wife and I have a very different natural relationship to time. By that I don’t just mean she’s goal oriented and I’m more process oriented, which is also true, but no, this was something else.
By way of example, by the time I woke up, my wife would have already run through a mental list of what had to be done that day, in what order, why it had to be done, the potential obstacles, possible costs involved, and so on. Psychologically, she’s future-oriented.
One of the things I enjoy listening to in my downtime is a podcast by writer and TV personality Bill Simmons on sports and pop culture. In contemplative terms, it’s a far cry from, say, St. Basil the Younger, but it’s thoughtful, it’s light, it’s entertaining. On a recent episode, one of the ads was for an app that helps people with meditation. During the ad read, the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” were basically used interchangeably, as these terms sometimes are.
Not a huge deal. It’s a sports and culture podcast hawking an app. No biggie. But I think as a culture, it speaks to some of the misconceptions about contemplative or mindfulness practice.