[acimlessons_list] Lesson 183 extra - Name of God Meditation
sue at circleofa.org
Tue Jul 1 05:58:46 EDT 2008
NAME OF GOD MEDITATION
We in the West, primarily through the influx of Eastern spiritualities, are
slowly discovering that meditation is an extremely powerful tool. If one
wants to scale the heights of the Divine, attempting this without meditation
might be the mountain-climbing equivalent of forgetting your gear, and your
hiking boots as well. If this practice is so central to our journey home,
what does A COURSE IN MIRACLES have to say about it?
I have argued for many years that one of the major goals of the Course's
Workbook is to train us in meditation. This training begins early on, in
Lessons 41 and 44, after which meditation instruction becomes a staple of
Workbook practice. The technique taught in the 40s is something I have
written about several times. However, there is another method of meditation
which is distinctly different from that one. This one is not introduced
until Lesson 183. This technique is not only accorded great importance in
that lesson (and in Lesson 184), but is a practice we are apparently
expected to continue in Part II of the Workbook (see W-pII.In.10:4 and
W-pII.222.2:1). It is a practice of entering into God's Presence by
repeating His Name over and over, to the exclusion of all else.
This is a method I have tried to use over the years, and have received some
benefit from. Yet it never quite clicked into place for me until a few
months ago when I took a personal retreat. One of the goals I had for this
retreat was to really <get> this method - both in theory and in practice -
in part because our group here in Sedona would soon be practicing Workbook
Lesson 183. Oddly enough, I just happened to take my retreat at a Catholic
retreat center which, I discovered upon arrival, is very focused on
Centering Prayer, a contemporary form of Christian meditation which is
rooted in the medieval mystical text, The Cloud of Unknowing - and which is
very similar (though not identical) to the method taught in Lesson 183. The
focus at the retreat center on Centering Prayer gave me a feeling of support
and a renewed motivation. Then, while there, I did a close study of Lesson
183, which really clarified its method in my mind, so that when I went to
practice it, it began to work much better than it had before. As a result, I
enjoyed many wonderful meditations with this method during my retreat, and
since then it has become my preferred technique.
The purpose of this essay is to clarify this technique to Course students so
that they can make use of it, or make better use of it if they are
practicing it already. The rest of the essay is divided into three parts:
theory, technique, and instructions.
This method of meditation is grounded in a teaching which makes this
meditation seem like the most logical and natural thing one can do with
Our attention is naturally drawn to those things we think can bring us
happiness, or at least protect us from pain. When our eyes look at a
particular scene, don't they automatically gravitate to perceived sources of
pleasure? To put this differently, we give our attention to what we think
can answer our prayers. Attention, then, is an expression of desire, and
desire is prayer. When we place our attention on the things of this world -
which is where we usually place it - we are in essence praying to those
things, hoping that they can fill our needs and make us safe. Yet can they
really answer our prayers? Can they bring us true happiness? According to
the Course, the answer is an emphatic <no.> Only God can bring us true joy.
He is the only true Object of our desires. By giving our attention to things
of this world, we are making them into false gods, substitutes for the only
One Who can truly reward our attention. We are behaving like the ancient
worshipper who prayed to a lifeless piece of stone that could neither hear
nor answer his prayers.
We also give our attention to what we think is real. We don't spend a lot of
our time, for instance, thinking about pink elephants - they're not real.
Instead, we spend it thinking about the events and situations that face us
in our day, precisely because we regard these as real. The Course, however,
teaches that the world is a dream; only God is real. Certainly you and I are
also real (Workbook Lesson 132 has us say, <For I am real because the world
is not>), but our reality is part of God's. His reality encompasses ours, as
well as the reality of all things.This means that the characters we see
walking around in the world have two aspects to them, a real aspect and an
unreal one. They have the outer face they show us - their body and
personality - which, the Course tells us, is unreal. And then behind this
outer face lies their eternal spirit, the only thing truly real. And that
spirit is part of God. Therefore, by placing our attention on God, we are
simultaneously placing it on the truth within others, even while we are
withdrawing our attention from the face they present the world.
In summary, we place our attention on what we think is real and will make us
happy. The things of the world (in their outer aspect, the aspect we are
generally focused on) are unreal and cannot make us happy. Only God is real
(<only> because He encompasses all things real) and only He can make us
This has obvious implications for where to put our attention. It implies
that the most honest and appropriate thing we can do with our attention is
to remove it from the outer realm and place it on God. And that is the
essence of this meditation technique. We can see this as having several
aspects. We transfer our attention from the outer to the inner, removing it
from the sensory realm and placing it on God's Presence deep within. We
transfer our attention from the many to the One, withdrawing it from the
numberless external bodies and placing it on the One Spirit. We transfer our
attention from the thousand nameless things of the world (nameless, because
only real things deserve names) to the one Name, which stands for all of
reality. We remove our desire from the little gods of the world, since they
cannot answer our prayers, and we give it to the One God, Who yearns to
answer all our prayers with the priceless gift of Himself.
An important element of this technique is that it uses only one word. This
is part of the Workbook's focus in the latter half of its year, where it
sets the goal of gradually going beyond words. Ultimately, we will not need
words at all for our practice. With a single motion of our will, we will be
instantly ushered into God's Presence. Reducing our practice from many words
to just one is an important step towards this goal. Given that using only
one word is central to this technique, I would not recommend using multiple
names for God within a single meditation.
1. Selecting a name. Select a name of God to use (since the Workbook does
not dictate which name you use for God). It can be any word that signifies
God to you, but it should be a single word - preferably a short word of one
or two syllables. It should have maximum personal meaning to you, maximum
ability to evoke your desire and love for God. You may want to ask within
for guidance on what word to choose.
2. Beginning the meditation. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. The
meditation consists in repeating the Name, slowly and intentionally, over
and over. You can repeat it constantly, or regularly every several seconds
(synchronized with your breath, if you like), or irregularly, whenever you
feel moved to. The Workbook is silent on these issues and generally
considers such matters unimportant.
3. Focusing only on repeating the Name. Draw your attention in from
everything else and put all your attention and desire on the Name:
Practice but this today; repeat God's Name slowly again and still again.
Become oblivious to every name but His. Hear nothing else. Let all your
thoughts become anchored on This. No other word we use except at the
beginning, when we say today's idea but once. And then God's Name becomes
our only thought, our only word, the only thing that occupies our minds, the
only wish we have, the only sound with any meaning, and the only Name of
everything that we desire to see; of everything that we would call our own.
4. Repeating the Name as a call for everything real and desirable. The
meaning, the feeling, you place in this Name is important (as you can see in
the above quote). Some suggestions about that:
4a. Don't say God's Name just as a word. Speak it directly to God, as a
communication from you to Him. Expect Him to hear and respond. <Thus do we
give an invitation which can never be refused. And God will come, and answer
it Himself> (W-pI.183.7:1).
4b. Repeat the Name as a call, <Which calls out for a response from God.>
* You are calling to God to come and reveal Himself to you in direct
experience. Let this call contain all your desire to experience Him.
* You are calling to your true Identity, Which is part of God. You are
asking to know Who you really are.
* You are calling to all things real - including the reality of your
brothers - since everything real is a part of God.
* You are calling for everything you truly want, since God is the only One
you really want. As the Course asks us to pray, <Yet is Your Love the only
thing I seek, or ever sought. For there is nothing else that I could ever
really want to find> (W-pII.231.1:3).
In other words, with this one single word, you are calling for <everything>.
You are calling for everything that is real and everything you truly want.
Don't try to consciously include all of the above meanings in your mind. It
is important to repeat the Name gently, without strain. However, while you
do, also say it with meaning. Make it the appeal of your heart. As THE CLOUD
OF UNKNOWING (a medieval mystical text) put it, make this repetition into <a
dart of longing love.>
5. Drawing your mind back from wandering. Whenever your thought wanders to
something of the world, or to anything besides God's Name, respond by
repeating the Name. This wandering will be a regular occurrence, so don't be
distressed by it. Expect it. Simply be ready to respond by repeating the
Name and so dispelling the extraneous thought. Do this as often as you need
to. <If you spend the whole time doing this and nothing else, the time will
have been well spent.>
Sit silently, and let His Name become the all-encompassing idea that holds
your mind completely. Let all thoughts be still except this one. And to all
other thoughts respond with this, and see God's Name replace the thousand
little names you gave your thoughts, not realizing that there is one Name
for all there is, and all that there will be. (W-pI.183.8:3-5)
In repeating the Name to dispel wandering thoughts, it helps if you remember
that what you were thinking about is essentially nothing - it is unreal and
unsatisfying, and that God's Name represents everything - all that is real
and all that you really want. So, when you notice a wandering thought,
repeat God's Name in the awareness that it represents everything and what
you were thinking about is nothing.
I have found the following instructions useful for beginning the meditation.
They are a way of turning the Name into a full and heartfelt call. Since
they only take a few minutes, they are just there to get you started on the
At the beginning of the meditation, repeat God's Name two or three times, as
a way of addressing Him directly. Treat Him as a real Person. Expect Him to
And now repeat God's Name as an act of calling on Him, calling Him to come
to you and reveal Himself to you in direct experience.
And now repeat the Name as a way of calling on the awareness of your true
Identity. By calling on God you also call on your true Self, for They are
Now repeat the Name as a way of calling on all of reality, including the
reality of your brothers, for everything real is part of God.
And now repeat God's Name as a prayer that asks for everything you truly
want, a prayer that contains all possible prayers. Say it as the prayer of
And now repeat His Name in love; as <a dart of longing love.>
Now let all of these meanings blend together into one, so that by speaking
this one word you are calling on everything - everything real and everything
you truly want. As you continue the meditation, continue repeating His Name
in this spirit.
And whenever your mind wanders to something besides His Name, repeat the
Name gently as a way of drawing your mind back to focus. Repeat it as an
affirmation that God's Name represents everything, while the thing you were
thinking about is really nothing.
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