I recently attended a one-day retreat here in Phoenix with Abbot Meletios Webber from the Monastery of St. John. The retreat was titled “Being Present in the Presence.”
Much of what he shared was so powerful and yet so simple.
He spoke on prayer saying that we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts. He said that we mostly spend our prayer time in our head. We think. We analyze.
As long as you are in your head you will never master your thoughts. Thoughts are like mosquitoes in summer. When thoughts invade, you will need to enter / descend into your heart. Fr. Meletios
He argued that the stream of thoughts emerging without any effort (the Greek word for these thoughts is logismoi) is a sign of how broken we are, how disconnected our head is from our hearts. His directive is that we need to live in silence. We need to ignore the streams of thoughts in our head.
Where do these stream of thoughts come from? In Genesis we know the story. At the fall something had broken. The Orthodox Church is amazing here. In the west, Adam and Eve is a story about punishment. They disobeyed God and God punished them is not the same main thrust of story as understood in the Eastern Christian experience. The Orthodox Church tells the story as primarily regarding the division between God and Man… The intimacy is gone, the innocence is gone. Because of the fall there is now a division between man and animals. Animals had no need to fear man before the fall. Because of the fall there is now a division between male and female. Because of the fall there is now a division there is now a division within the human person. Our head and our hearts are separated.
Whenever you are caught up in your thoughts you are not present. You cannot be thinking and present at the same time. Most western tradition’s goal is to get people to think about God. We are not called to think about God but to experience God.
We can only meet God in the present. Unless we are present we will not be in the presence. The presence of God is always there. We do not recognize it because of the fall. The mission of Christ is to heal the brokenness.
*see my response below to Jeremy’s comment for further clarification