This is an extremely important lesson. It introduces a form of meditation that is distinctly different from what we have practiced thus far. In standard, down-and-inward meditation (taught starting in Lesson 41), we focused on sinking toward the center of our mind, while occasionally repeating the idea for the day. In Open Mind meditation (the main focus of meditation starting with Review V), we hold our mind in a state of silent expectancy, without repeating anything, waiting for the arrival of God.
Here in Lesson 183, though, we are taught what I call Name of God meditation. In this method, we repeat a name for God over and over, saying it not as a mere sound, but as an act of calling God, an invitation filled with desire and confidence. This method has many parallels in other traditions. I find it particularly similar to the method taught in the mystical classic The Cloud of Unknowing, where we choose a short word to repeat and then repeat it as a "dart of longing love," using that word to penetrate the cloud of unknowing and reach past that cloud to God.
I recommend reading this lesson very slowly and personally, letting its beautiful language and imagery have its effect on you. I think of it as having three sections:
1. Paragraphs 1-5: The power of repeating the Name
These paragraphs are sheer poetry. Their purpose is to give us a sense that repeating God's Name is an act which carries enormous power. This includes power to dispel all the "little names" of all the idols we pray to; i.e., the things of the world we desire and dwell on. Read these paragraphs and let them infuse the act of repeating God's Name with great power and significance.
2. Paragraphs 6-8: Meditation instructions
These give us the actual instructions. Paragraph 6 tells us the beginning of and bulk of the meditation: repeating God's Name as the only thing we want. Paragraph 7 gives us confidence that God will answer our invitation, but will not answer if we pray instead to our idols—if we dwell on the little things of the world. Paragraph 8 tells us what to do when our thoughts turn away from God and back to worldly things: repeat the Name once more, realizing that that Name stands for everything and those other names stand for nothing.
3. Paragraphs 9-11: What you can achieve with this practice
Like the first section, this last one is there to infuse the practice with power and significance. They tell us that this practice can bring God to us and dispel our valuing of the things of earth, to the point where "The little things of earth have disappeared" (11:3), and all that remains is Heaven, where for eternity we do exactly what we did in this meditation: We call on God and He answers.
I have written an article about this form of meditation, which will give you a much more complete picture. For a shorter version of this method, see the following instructions:
Purpose: to go past the defense of valuing other gods, of valuing the idols of the world, and so experience the true God. This will intensify your motivation and strengthen your commitment.
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 5 minutes; ideally, 30 or more
This lesson is the introduction of what I call Name of God Meditation. This meditation (which is described more fully in the cameo essay on p. ) can be summarized in the following way.
- Choose a name for God that you will use. You may want to ask within for this.
- Close your eyes and repeat the idea for today just once.
- After that, simply "repeat God's Name slowly again and still again" (6:1). Do not, however, repeat it as a mere word. Repeat it as a heartfelt invitation to God. Fully expect Him to hear. "And God will come, and answer it Himself" (W-pI.183.7:2). You are asking, then, for the experience of God, and of your true Self, which is part of Him. Repeat the Name, then, with all the desire you have to know God and yourself. Repeat it as "the only wish we have" (6:6).
- Whenever your mind wanders and starts thinking about the idols of the world, repeat the Name to dispel those thoughts. It will help if you repeat it with the awareness that the Name is everything and the things you were thinking about are nothing.
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
Do a short version of the morning/evening exercise. Close by asking for God's guidance for the coming hour and thank Him for His gifts in the past hour.
Response to temptation: when tempted to cherish an idol, a valueless thing of this world
Repeat God's Name, realizing that this Name signifies everything you want, while the idol is nothing.