Learning to Meditate on my Own (in Community)

The meditation room of the WCCM residential community in Ealing, London

The meditation room of the WCCM residential community in Ealing, London

I was feeling pretty good about myself when I was asked to assist Fr. Laurence Freeman in conducting a meditation workshop in Taizé, France. I had recently spent a month living at the World Community for Christian Meditation’s residential community in London, after which I spent a week at a meditation community called Plum Village, near Bourdeaux, before heading on to visit Taizé. As I began my third week there, my spiritual snootiness was reaching its peak; I imagined that all my various flashy spiritual endeavors had raised my spiritual qualifications, if there were such a thing, to the highest heights that anyone my age could possibly reach. It was while my mind was in this state of spiritual pride that Fr. Laurence inquired whether I had kept up my meditation practice since leaving London.

In all my travels and experiences, I had met many fellow meditators, and spent a good deal of time in discussion and reading about the contemplative path. But I hadn’t meditated. Not really, not more than a handful of times. After more than a month of three daily meditations in community while at Meditatio House in London, I had let the practice slip as soon as I walked out the front door and left to France. How could I explain to Fr. Laurence this lapse in fidelity?

Waiting to get an extra nibble after Taizé lunch.
Waiting to get an extra nibble after Taizé lunch.

I asked Fr. Laurence about joining the WCCM’s “Monastery without Walls” by becoming an Oblate. I thought it would provide me with some needed accountability, a duty to others in the World Community to show up and do my work of meditation; for to become an oblate and yet not do so would demean the role of the oblate vows. Fr. Laurence agreed to make me a postulant, and said that if I continued to knock on the metaphoric monastery door, I could be made a novice oblate by the end of the year.

Since then, for the first time in my life, I have almost had no problem keeping up my meditation practice, no matter where I am or who I’m with. That’s not to say it’s been easy; there have been countless times when it’s difficult to break off from friends to go meditate, or when I don’t get to it until late and I struggle to stay awake, just waiting for the bell to ring so that I can plop myself into my bed. But in spite of these normal difficulties, the much larger hurdle of deciding whether and when to meditate has largely faded from my mind. Other than the (few) times when I truly have forgotten, I have meditated, for twenty minutes twice a day, and continue to do so. I do this alone, but connected to the other oblates of the World Community, living and meditating in places all around the world. Whether they know it or not, their presence and fidelity to the practice is what encourages and inspires me to sit down for twenty minutes, each morning and each night.

This article was written by Peter T. Armstrong and was originally featured on his blog on January 10, 2016. The original article is available online here.