“The time for thinkers has come,” Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote on the first page of her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which explains her discoveries about the nature of God and man, and the connection to our health. What does she mean when she calls this age the “time for thinkers”?
Christianity is often viewed as a “doing” and “talking” religion rather than a thoughtful one, but this is a misconception that would put an entire religion into one tidy box. Actually there are many different contemplative practices within Christianity and Christian Science is one of them. However, unlike some meditation practices, Christian Science does not require emptying the mind of thought, but instead looks to gaining a sense of closeness with God, our divine source. There are many forms of prayer, but in Christian Science it is a contemplative action, where a sense of peace is not centered in oneself, nor a pleading with God to change something. Rather this practice of prayer is a willingness to let go of how the problem looks, and be willing to see fresh spiritual perspectives – in other words, “to think.”
Contemplative prayer is a discipline, which can afford many insightful and healing moments. Old hurts and memories have slipped away, fears overcome, and new perspectives have been gained. Health has often been restored. It is the moment when the restless turning of the hamster wheel of thought ceases.
In this knowledge-obsessed, activity oriented age we often feel the pressure to be continually “doing” or “getting” something to fix a problem. But while contemplative prayer can be a little unnerving at first, and may initially seem unproductive, it IS doing much. For example, at one time in my life I was really struggling with loss and grief. It felt as if I had lost my joy – maybe forever. One day as I was praying in this way, a thought gently came to me, reminding me that joy can never be lost when viewed as a spiritual quality of a loving God, rather than as being dependent on human circumstances. This was an “ah ha” moment for me. I realized that I didn’t have to depend on others for my happiness, or make myself happy. Rather my true, spiritual joy was always present and I just needed to notice it. From that moment on I began to consciously cultivate and look for moments of joy in my life – in other words to be mindful of joy, whether they appeared to me as a child laughing or a dog wagging its tail. Gradually, as I contemplated this joy around me, I began to feel it myself. This took some time, but gently, focusing on joy as a spiritual quality that is never lost, I rediscovered it in even greater measure than before, with more than enough to share.
Quiet contemplation has become a rare and beautiful practice in this day and age, yet peace is something that many seek in different ways. Studies show the healthful benefits of contemplation and meditation, and thousands are turning to it to help with the stresses of everyday life, and for their health needs. Can anyone learn to use contemplative prayer? Absolutely! Mary Baker Eddy wasn’t just referring to “thinkers” as the elite, the inventors, and the artists. She includes each one of us in her statement. We are all thinkers. We can all learn to cultivate contemplative prayer one thought at a time, no matter what age we are, where we are, or what is going on. It is free, and the benefits for us individually and collectively are priceless.
Published on in the Times Colonist January 20 2102