And so we have “the mind of Christ!” But what difference does it make? What are its effects in our lives? Ideally, we would say the effects would be a deeper joy and peace, and sense of freedom. The mind of Christ is who we actually are in our higher selves, our Christ selves.
The apostle Paul wrote these words in first Corinthians chapter 2, verse 16. Paul was what I call one of those early Gnostics, long before the church in the fourth century erased the title from Orthodox use. A growing number of scholars today see Paul as one of the early Gnostics. He wrote about sharing the mystery of the ages, which is a familiar Gnostic term known for many centuries. It is the whole idea of having a God Center within us as our true self. But the question today is, how do we make that work for us beyond just simply confessing it? Since the fourth century, the church has been what some have called a “confessing church.” People are admitted into the congregation by a profession of their faith. Usually such a confession involves very little in the experience of what they are confessing except to make them feel especially superior to others who do not.
In order to experience the Mind of Christ, we must be growing in our understanding and awareness of what this Mind is. Just joining a church or any religious body and keeping busy does not work for many today. Joining a busy church, confessing that we should believe, is a hard sell for many in today’s working and thinking families.
My wife has had a computer for several years. She actually is getting quite proficient at using it. However, she still often calls me to help explain “how does this program work?” Just having a computer does not make one a computer user. One must have a basic understanding of how it works and how to use it. The more understanding that one has, the more one knows how to use a computer. The same principle would apply to doctors and auto mechanics. Just to say that you have a medical book or an operation manual does not mean that you know how to use them. Just owning a car does not mean you know how to drive it.
The ancient word, Gnosis, actually comes from a root which means “to know.” The more one knows or understands how the Christ Self, or the Christ Mind relates to this life, the more one is able to use it. But first, one needs to make the choice. As I have said before and will say often, “repentance” is a change in our understanding. We grow to understand that happiness and peace are not something that we acquire outside of our minds, but within them.
Besides study and learning what the Christ Mind means, meditation can be another way to monitor and deepen one’s understanding. Meditation helps us to examine ourselves and get a picture or vision for how we want to live. I’m sure all of you heard of the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. Perhaps you have seen the book or the movie. I read the book and have shown the movie to people. I concluded that “the secret” taught by Rhonda Byrne is merely a way to get more and bigger things rather than to increase one’s inner peace. For a higher use of “the secret” in meditation is to see oneself as already having Everything!
The word meditation comes from the words “healing thoughts.” It is a way to stop and reflect and to become more aware of what is going on in our minds. “As a person thinks in the mind so is he or she,” goes the proverb. When we sit in quiet meditation, we become more aware of all the racing and flittering about going through our minds. We can notice the many attachments in our thinking and how unashamed the mind is in what it thinks! But in meditation we also learn to just listen and to forgive and love ourselves. It can be a time of deep intimacy. We learn to program positive thoughts by imagining in pictures or words how we want to live. We can see ourselves remaining peaceful in times of stress and test. We can learn to quiet our minds by simply repeating a word or short phrase, called in the East, “a mantra.”
Simple times of meditation can be arranged for a daily practice. We can set aside 20 minutes in the morning and/or the evening to be quiet, to observe our busy mind, and to quiet it with a repetition of the word or phrase. It can become an important “secret” to help us live the lives that we would intend to. Besides this, it is just healthy for our minds to become quiet and at peace. Medical authorities tell us now that it may even help prevent dementia, which is always a concern for people my age!
Artists and athletes use visualization in meditation regularly. Perhaps the coach Phil Jackson, who coached the Chicago Bulls in the Los Angeles Lakers, was the most well-known. He used quiet times of meditation and visualization to prepare his athletes for each game. He often was called the “Zen Buddhist coach.” Why did he do it? Well, it obviously worked!
I often think of meditation as a time when we return to our Christ Mind amidst the busy and fast-moving pace of life around us. It’s like stopping to see oneself sitting on a moving train, or in a speeding airplane, our bodies remaining still as we speed along through space at high speeds. It’s an allegory of the Christ Mind within, always still and at peace in the midst of the shifting, moving chaos of our lives.
What then are the results of such a practice of stopping to remember who we are, this Christ Mind within? What is the test of “we received not the Spirit of the world but the Spirit from God?” The results ought to be a life of deeper peace and joy and love for others. If not, we simply need to forgive ourselves, and continue learning and practicing.
Did you see yesterday’s paper where two young Buffalo boys named Mark Chee, age 16 and Yarod Yap, age 11, played piano pieces in Carnegie Hall? They both have been studying music for a few years, taking piano and one taking even learning violin. I was amazed when I read the story and wondered if perhaps they had been tortured and bribed to perform by their parents! But they both said they just love to practice! And so loving to practice for many hours has given them at such an early age a great deal of accomplishment!
When we desire to deepen our joy and peace and love for others so much that we become willing to study and to practice in meditation, we will find ourselves living in a much deeper peace and happiness. We will discover ourselves living in a deeper state of what I call, “non-defensiveness.” Do we realize that true love and true power never oppose anything! That seems so opposite to what we normally believe. But if you think about it, if God is all-powerful and all love, then what does God need to oppose? And if God did oppose that which was apparently evil, God would lose power and love.
Think what happens if a powerful person tries to lift a very heavy weight. In just a few moments he will begin to lose strength. And then the person will have to take hours or days to recover strength. That is why pure love and power in the Christ Mind can never ultimately oppose anything in Reality! It is All, Everything in itself. Why would it fight against illusions or imitations? It remains quiet and at peace in the face of apparent opposition, of threats to its safety, of the loss of anything. “God, Love, never takes days off to recover!” In one of the most dramatic illustrations of this we remember the story of Jesus, that while dying on the cross he prays to God, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
This does not mean that that here in this time/space world we do not stay “no” or oppose bigotry, ignorance, or brutality. But we learn to oppose not out of and in anger but out and in love. We learn to simply say “No!” As Jesus said, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this comes from the evil one!” (Matthew 5:37)
There are no such things as “hateful love” or “weakened power.” It is an oxymoron, as people say today. That Presence and Power is within each one of us in what Paul called “the Christ Mind.” That presence is Who we truly are. The material, time-bound world around us, including our own bodies, is temporary, mortal, heading toward death and nonexistence. But our Christ Mind is eternal, forever, and who we truly are in our existence. As we practice our identity and understanding with this presence, we gradually learn to let go of our many attachments and illusions that we cannot control. And our peace will deepen along with our love.
The story goes that a monk studied in an Eastern monastery for many years. His desire was to learn peace, so that he could return to the world and live and teach peace. After many years passed, he expressed to the Head monk that he was ready to go back to the world! (Like a Seminarian ready to “go get a congregation!”) And so the Head monk said that he would meet him the next day after breakfast to bid farewell. The next day the Head monk met the young monk at the gate of the monastery. The young monk bowed and gave thanks for his time to study. But to give him a little test of his readiness to reenter the world, the Head monk said some unkind insults to the younger monk! He said things like “you never really learned anything here! You are so stupid, you will never get anywhere!” Shocked and horrified by the comments, the younger man began to weep in shock and disgust. The older Head monk then simply put his hand gently on the younger monk and said, “I don’t think you’re ready to leave. I suggest you return and meditate a few more years!” (Good advice for Seminarians?)
We have received the Mind of Christ, not the spirit of this world. It takes all of our lives to slowly grow to understand what this means and to practice in meditation and living to make it grow. Perhaps it takes many lifetimes, but whatever the length, let us decide anew today to take the time to grow in understanding more of the Mind of Christ within us and to practice meditating and living it within every encounter we have. Amen.
Nothing to say,
Nowhere to go,
Nothing to do,
No promises to make
No-one to know
Nothing to prove
It’s a strange sort of existence
But somehow it seems so true,
The only thing I really know
Is that I don’t know a thing
The only sound that I hear now
Is the silence when I sing
The only sight my eyes can see
Is the darkness of my dreams
This is how I’m born to be, Empty
From the song “Empty”, by Daniel Nahmod
Shared by Rev. David Persons with the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, NY, February 6, 2011.
A short video summary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCWlLFrEXMY