An Experiential Meditation on Evelyn Underhill's 5 Stages Of Awakening. What is life like after awakening? What are some of the signposts of this process and the shifts of spirit that happen along the way? The stages, while laid out in the most helpful model I've seen, are still only that, a model. They are not set in stone, nor is it essential to locate yourself in the exact phase: growth is rarely linear.
It was an autumn afternoon at Vassar College. I had stayed up the previous night writing a paper. I turned the paper in at an office across campus and began walking back to my dorm room, eager to rest. Soon, it would be nightfall. The cold wind blew across my face. Leaves fell along my path. Gothic architecture merged into the shadows. Tombstones in the nearby cemetery reflected the last vestiges of sunlight.
It's only natural in a society that relies primarily on "evidence-based research" to doubt all things supernatural. A generalized acceptance of God's existence and the teachings of the church may reside one's conscious thoughts, but we usually don't walk around day-to-day expecting the miraculous. So when it does happen, it can be quite a shock. Even startling. And this prayer works miracles.
I've found that using the Jesus Prayer throughout the day can be a simple, contemplative practice that has a powerful effect. The prayer goes back to the Eastern Orthodox spiritual fathers, whose collection of texts, The Philokalia, outlines many mystical practices used by hermits of the early church.
The Rhineland medieval mystic Meister Eckhart emphasized detachment. It was, he thought, a virtue even greater than love. Whereas love may actively carry the seeker towards God, detachment forces God to come to the seeker. Whatever the exact nature of God is, it lies beyond the confines of this mortal coil, the world of sin and impermanence. By detaching from all things not "of God," all of the things "of the world," one is left only with the substance of God.
Have you ever yelled that out at the top of your lungs or whimpered it through tears as you knelt face down on the floor? I have, throughout life, more times than I can count. Sometimes the heavy stuff happens and hits like an avalanche, without warning. At a particularly empty moment where God felt far away, I wondered if I just might be a distant relative of Job, as I wrote these questions in my journal. ’When will I know love?’
Saying the Jesus Prayer regular is like having a steady-workout routine for your soul. Even though you work out every day, it often seems like more trouble than it's worth. Or, even if it is healthy, your physique still isn't close what you want it to be. Then you look in the mirror five years later, and you see a person you don't recognize completely, some reflection of a distant memory. Saying The Jesus Prayer is that transformative for the soul. And yes, sometimes the growth is slow and steady, like building physical muscle. But there are....
The Jesus Prayer has long served mystics as a one-ticket route to Divine Union on The Christian Mystical Path. However, the territory one travels in consistent, disciplined use of the prayer can seem vague and nebulous at times, even when God's brilliant Light is shining the fiercest. It helps my own journey tremendously to make use of the hidden maps and patterns that Ken Wilber, Carl Jung, and other great minds have described for us in their work.