Below is a post by St. Nicholas member Ona Graham:
Contemplative prayer is like deep sea diving, but without the diving equipment. Most people think, “This is insanity. Can’t be done.” And leave it at that. They go about their lives and never give it a second thought. They stay land locked by their fear of deep water
But some of us feel called to the deeps of the ocean. We can’t resist. So we get a boat and head out onto the sea. We are a tiny spec on a vast ocean and we begin to see how insignificant we are and how vulnerable to the storms of life.
So the next step is to get into the water. This involves a deliberate decision and a risk of drowning. It actually involves putting aside time for prayer, each day if possible. During this time of prayer we learn that we can float on the surface of the ocean without the support of our little boats, or in other words, Words. We drift quietly for a while and feel pretty good.
Just as we get comfortable, something hits us on the head, a bit of debris from our life, a worry or a concern. We push away from it, but more debris keeps hitting us, distracting us from our effortless float. Then more debris. We learn to swim a bit. Duck under the junk. Or put some effort into putting it aside. During this stage we are being purged of our imperfections and learning lessons from our life experiences. We can examine what we did right and what we did wrong. We can let go of strong emotions of resentment, anger and hate, as well as more subtle feelings of bitterness, envy and greed.
With new lessons comes new strength and courage. We take a shallow dive to see what we can see. More peace and beautiful sunlight filtered under the surface of the ocean. We feel the power of the waves moving us forward. We dive deeper taking deeper breathes each time and staying under water longer. We are learning fast and want to go deeper still. We feel the energy of the ocean surrounding us, supporting us, but we are still afraid to let go. We fear death.
Faith takes us to the next level. Only faith can take us there. God begins to transform us into deep sea creatures. We learn to breathe under water. Slowly. Each dive takes us deeper and we begin to encounter life forms that are unfamiliar. Some are beautiful and seem harmless. Others seem threatening or even dangerous. We say, “That’s enough for me! Where’s dry land!?” We head home and try to forget where we have been, for days, weeks even years.
But life on land seems dry. And it is. And we long for the deep again. It calls to us. And so we start the odyssey once again, this time with hope and faith as food for our soul. In we go, down, down, down deeper. With each dive we are transformed into the creatures who live at that level of the ocean. It is a slow process. At times it is wonderful. At times it is terrifying. At times, when we think we are only land animals, we believe we are drowning. But the power of the ocean is greater the deeper we go. We are draw to the Source of all being. We long to put our foot on the bottom and feel that power within our soul. To join with the source of our being.
This story never ends. There are times we return to the land in a sleep with dreams of deep water still sounding in our being. We awaken and search again for the deep waters of our lives. For deep lasting love. For deep lasting friendships. For the power of the source of our being. We really belong to the sea and we will return to its depths, again and again. And Peace that surpasses all understanding will sustain us there.
Ona leads a contemplative prayer group for women called Lebh Shomea (meaning “Listening Heart) on every other Thursday evening at her office (1443 17th Street, Columbus, GA). For more information on the next meeting, e-mail her at email@example.com.