Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #92
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on September 29, 1975
I have been asked to give some comments on the general subject of meditation and perhaps to give some techniques of meditation. I am happy to do this today.
First, I would like to say that “meditation” is a word that has many meanings. In a sense, in the last few years it has become a fad as certain kinds of exercise or playing certain games. It’s kind of taken the country by storm, and this is good because many people have been led into new ways of relaxation and into experiences that have been very helpful to them. It is important, however, to understand that there is no one way of meditation. Meditation is not something that can be patented, and it is not some unique and special way of reaching God or finding oneness with life. I think it is important to understand also that each one of us is a creature with certain transcendent processes that are part and parcel of our nature. Meditation is not some special way to achieve the right relationship with life—it is simply a means of getting into the wholeness of ourselves.
Because meditation has a definite spiritual connotation, it is important that we have some kind of a practical insight in relation to that which we call God. There are many definitions of God, but perhaps none so insightful as this one: “God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” This is not a picture that can be drawn. As a matter of fact, it should draw the mind away from a tendency to envision God as an anthropomorphic being or of thinking of God as being in any place—no,”God is a sphere whose center is everywhere.”
It may seem impossible, but if the center of God is everywhere, then the center of God must also be where I am. Perhaps, this is the meaning of omnipresence. If this is true, then shocking as it may seem I am a center of God too. This may seem sacrilegious, but every person, or center, in this sphere of God is thus a bubbling forth of the infinite flow of life. So, meditation then is a turning away from the outer orientation toward life—it is a turning within to get ourselves centered in the center of God which we are, in the activity of God which we express.
We might think of the prevailing attitudes in this thing called life. There are two basic views: First of all is the idea that we come into the world as empty creatures and go forth in life to be filled, so that life at any time for us is the sum total of what has happened to us, what we have been able to accumulate in wisdom or experience or things. Secondly is the idea that we come into the world as living souls with infinite potentiality to be discovered and released, for life is lived from within out.
The first view is that which has possession of most of us; this is the so-called “wisdom of the world.” In other words, we are trained in this concept to look at life as a “getting” experience. Like Buddist monks we are given the psychological counterpart of a little begging bowl with which we go out into the world to seek the gifts of God from our parents, our school, our religion, our work. No matter what the hungers or desires, we invariably go begging “out there” for fulfillment. We are always reaching outward, and we feel competition, tension, anxiety, and pressure. We go to work, and there is always this thought that we must do this “out there”,that people “out there” are standing in our way,and so we build up tremendous tensions.
But you see, if we can once get hold of the higher ideal—that we come into life as dynamic creatures with infinite potentiality to be released, to be unfolded—then we know that our good is not “out there”, that nobody can take our good from us. Rather, the truth for us is that our good is within ourselves. The answers to the decisions we must make, the strength to meet the responsibilities, the new ideas with which we can be successful and creative—all these always come from within ourselves.
So, the most practical thing to do is to take a time to get still and let go of the tensions and the pressures around us, and to just let ourselves contemplate the reality of our inward flow, the infinite process that is expressing itself as us. Now you see, this does not mean going to God; it does not mean reaching into the infinite process somewhere or looking into a window at the divine activity and seeking some way for it to come to us. Because if we can get this idea that, “God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” then we are within, an integral part of what Teilhard de Chardin spoke of as the “divine milieu.” Then, we realize that when we pray or meditate there is no place to go to, no one to speak to “out there”, no one to bow down to and worship, because the activity of the infinite is supporting us, surrounding us, unfolding and expressing as us exactly where we are.
So, it’s “Be still and know that I am God,” as the Psalmist said. Not that I am all of God, but that I am a point of life in the allness of God expressing itself as me. Then, we see that basically what we call meditation is the art of “letting go.” It’s a key to relaxation—get still, get relaxed. You don’t have to sit lotus fashion on the floor, you don’t have to get in any particular position, you don’t have to be in any particular place, though it is helpful if you are in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Just sit relaxed, put your hands loosely in your lap, place your feet flat on the floor, only because this is the best way to relax, and get the feeling that all of the strings that you have attached yourself to in terms of jobs, things, people, situations, responsibilities are unloose, are cut free one by one, like letting the ballast go from a balloon. You know that you are in no danger of falling away, for as the old scripture says, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Just let it all go, and then get the sense of being at the very heart and center of the whole universe with substance and life and intelligence; see it all streaming and pouring into you, filling you, thrilling you, strengthening you, revitalizing you.
Now, I love this thought of Plotinus, which I have paraphrased in my new book. In the Flow of Life, which goes like this: “Let your mind and heart release all that disturbs you. Let your body be still and all the frettings of your body and all that surrounds it. Let the earth and sea and air be still and heaven itself; and then think of spirit as streaming, pouring, rushing, shining into you, through you and out from you in all directions while you sit quietly.” Now, think upon this you don’t have to remember the exact words—just the beautiful thoughts. Get the feeling that the whole infinite process is in support of you, will never let you go, and that you can never get out of it. The truth is that you are always in this relationship with the infinite even though you are not always conscious of it. Meditation is the art of letting go of the tensions of the world so that you can once again be conscious that you are in the center of the divine flow.
Meister Eckhart has a beautiful thought when he says that we should let go of the idea that we are created beings, and just “Let God be God in us.” In other words let go of the idea that God “up there” created you “down here.” This thought: can be used like a mantra: Consciously let go of all things, and quietly as you inhale and exhale develop a great sense of quietness and relaxation. Then, just let the words be whispered on the breath, “I let God be God in me.”
Now, this is a very transcendent experience which sometimes is called meditation. It can be a key to healing, not that you have reached to God that he will heal you, but rather that it is you who have let go of the pressures and tensions which are blocking the flow of life so that health “springs forth and speedily” as the scriptures say. It can be the key to making decisions because the big problem in making decisions is the fear of indecision. When you get the fear out of the way you can let the divine flow move in you. You can let ideas and directions come forth naturally in you. You are in the flow of success, guidance, ideas, directions, and you move easily in the world.
All this comes out of an experience of quiet meditation or inner prayer when you let go of your concerns and your anxieties and tensions, and let yourself be one with the infinite activity which is rushing, streaming, pouring into you while you sit quietly. This is one little technique of meditation, and we suggest you try it, and I’ll be happy to know how it works for you.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth