During my sabbatical study at Oxford University many years ago, I decided to take a week away. That turned out to be Plum Village in the south of France, near Dordogne. Plum Village is a Buddhist meditation center of the Order of Interbeing and the hangout for Thích Nhất Hạnh.
Each morning I joined the monks at 4:30 a.m., and we walked in silence to the mediation house. After a goblet of hot tea, we entered the sacred space and sat on large cushions in a traditional lotus position. A surta (verse) was read from the Tipitaka (Buddhist Holy book) and the bell was rung commencing a one-hour meditation. We were engaged in mindfulness.
If you know me, you are aware of my attention-challenges. However, as the week moved along, I enlarged my attention capacity, and I grew in mindfulness. The rhythm of the week found a place in my spirit. The offerings of salient silence and simple food increased this capacity during my stay.
How did I perceive this experience? It was calming. It was relieving. It was discerning.
There was no objective on my part to become a Buddhist. But my openness and search netted me insight – that is, insight into my own profession of faith as a Jesus follower. This is not what I expected.
As I flew back to Oxford, I thanked God for the revelatory experience that brought me into a better understanding of what it might mean to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
Think about it. A lifelong Baptist Christian who knows his Bible and has read that Philippians passage (and others) many times, is prompted into deeper embrace to take on the mind of Christ.
The quest for spirituality is central these days. There exists a wide diversity of understanding. What does it mean to be spiritual? John Cobb in his book, Becoming a Thinking Christian writes, “it [spirituality] means that we sense a need to order and deepen our inner lives…” p13.
I like that clean definition. And where do we find this spirituality – our ordered and deepened lives? We can find it in the imago Dei planted within all human beings, including Buddhists or anyone engaged in the quest for purpose and meaning.
Any time we approach the spiritual practices (disciplines) we ought to do so without limiting where God might reveal God’s self.