Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mysticism is Weird... Like JumboShrimp

As a Christian, when you begin to explore meditation and prayer deeply, people are quick to label you a "mystic" or to start recommending books on "Christian Mysticism" for you to read.

I don't know about you, but... when you say "mysticism" all I can think of is rainbow tie dyed T-shirts, weird candlelit ceremonies, and kooky phrases like "get in touch with the divine."  And #sorrynotsorry that is just NOT me.

I'm not looking for mystical experiences of the divine on the daily.

It's not that I don't believe they can happen... it's just, to be honest, at this time I don't feel like I need more mysteries in my day. I need more peace. More stability. More love for others. More energy to serve. More joy. I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and smile. I need to have a calm heart so I can be there for my kids, my community, my marriage. (Not necessarily in that order.) 

I read a brainy, high-brow article by April D. DeConick this week. She wrote, "As a word, 'mysticism' has a notorious reputation... It is often used as an antonym for so-called 'rationalism' [and is] associated with so-called 'supernaturalism' in contradistinction to our contemporary scientific view of the world."  And I'm like... yeah... that. I prefer a more practical, scientific approach.

She goes on to explain that "as an '-ism'" mysticism wasn't even a word ancient peoples would have used to describe their experience. "When the early Jews and Christians describe their mystical experiences in a single word, they do so most often by employ the term... 'revelation'" (2).

If I'm going to have a revelation experience, God will be the chief agent of that encounter!
God knocked wayward Paul off his horse on the highroad while the dude was traveling to slaughter a bunch of Christians... not seeking him out in the slightest. My practice or non-practice will not inhibit God from revealing himself if he needs to or wants to. (Ok, ok, it might possibly slow him down because he has allowed us to be involved in this process... but that's another topic!)

The goal of my exploration and practice of meditation and prayer is not to achieve a revelation/ a mystical experience. When I turn to meditative practice and prayer, I'm reaching for something more practical... more daily... more habitual. I'm looking to train my heart toward peace, like you train a bean vine to climb a pole. I'm looking to train my mind to quiet so that I can sleep. I'm looking to train my anger to disperse before it explodes and hurts the ones I love. I'm looking to train myself to have a knee jerk reaction of compassion rather than judgement.

And here's the thing.... I think that's probably what most Christian Mystics are going for. But the title "Mystic" kind of gums up the works when it comes to sharing the way with those outside the faith.
It undermines their street-cred and makes them sounds like wackodoodles to the skeptical Modern.

Buddhism has acquired a much friendlier term that we, modern scientific Americans, are more comfortable with: Mindfulness. Brain training. And so, in the quest for winning hearts and minds, they're ahead.

So what is a better word we can use to describe the similar Christian practice?
Cause "Mysticism" is weird.

Let's brain storm. I got nuthin.