Recently, I had occasion to reflect on, and speak about, prayer and meditation. In preparation, I went to some of my favorite sources to dig into an idea I had about prayer and repentance.
It begins with Marcus Borg and his reflection on repentance:
The roots of the word “repent” are very interesting and suggest something quite different — not intensification of guilt and contrition. When we look at the Greek roots of the word repentance, the verb is metonoata. The noun is metanoia. The Greek roots are very interesting. Meta means beyond. The noun from which the second part of the word repent is derived is noose in Greek, and it means mind. Putting that together, to repent means “to go beyond the mind that you have.”
Dr. Marcus J. Borg
It continues with some words from another favorite source, Cynthia Bourgeault:
Whatever form of meditation you practice, it is in essence simply a method for detaching yourself from thinking (which tends to reinforce the egoic process) long enough for you to begin to trust this other, deeper intelligence moving inside you. It provides you with another way to think: from “beyond the mind” — which, incidentally, is what the word metanoia, usually translated as “repentance,” actually means.
Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope
On my worst days, I am very small-minded. And it is obvious that I need to repent. What I mean, in this case, is that I am often in my own head (the small mind). This is the locus of sometimes circular thinking, catastrophization, blaming, resentments, etc. It has been said that when one is in one’s own head, one is behind enemy lines.
The small mind, or mine at least, is somewhat of a closed system. It resists or shuts out new ideas; it is turned in on itself out of fear, or rigid belief. It has a very clear sense of what “ought” to be, especially in terms of other people’s behavior. And, where does that lead? In some of my communities, we say that “my best thinking” got me to a very low place.
So, the need for going beyond the mind that I have, and into a bigger mind, is not only necessary, it is life-saving. When I am able to crack the window of my closed mind, I am willing to let in Wisdom, Love, Truth….God. I am saying that, though fearful, I am willing to learn something new. I might even change my mind.
It takes a village to keep me well…a village peopled with soul-friends, meetings, church, libraries of sacred writings (current and historical), not to mention self-examination and prayer.
Is it worth all the work? Yes. My life is more glorious, blessed and real.
Do I always live in “big mind”? No. But, I know how to get back there and what the results will be. And I understand that “repentance”, therefore, is on ongoing process.