On Uniting Heart and Mind

This sponsored post is part of the Patheos Book Club on Richard Foster’s new book, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer.  This edition of the book club also includes some video responses from the author.

One of my dearest friends, Mark Scandrette, was in town earlier this week.  Mark is, dare I say it, the Richard Foster of my generation and tribe of Christianity.  He’s a guru of spiritual formation, as seen in his new book — though, I must say, Mark’s got a much more urban edge than the spiritual formation gurus of the past generation.

Anyway, Mark and I spent most of Monday catching up, talking about our lives and our careers.  By the end of the day, Mark challenged me to start writing more personally, about what has gone on in my life lately, about how I’ve gotten through it.

The last few years have been, in short, rife with struggle.  Divorce, foreclosure, custody battles, financial troubles have all confronted me.  There’s also been new love, new friendships, and new opportunities.  I won’t be writing about the details of these things, but Mark thinks I should write about what has happened to my soul during these times.

That’s not something that I particularly want to do.  I’m already predisposed to spend most of my life in my head, not in my heart, and these tumultuous times have only reinforced that predisposition.  But that’s probably all the more reason that I should take Mark’s advice.

At this fortuitous time, Richard Foster’s new book landed in my lap, assigned to me by Patheos.  Therein, Foster writes of meditative prayer, a practice that he admits does not come naturally to him.  He covers much of the same ground that I have in a couple books, so Sanctuary of the Soul has served as a reminder to me — a reminder of practices that have sustained me; a reminder of practices I have let slide; a reminder of a life that, in some ways, seems very long ago.

Most helpfully to me on my journey right now, Foster begins chapter three by quoting Theophan the Recluse, reminding me of a quote that has been very meaningful and challenging to me in the past:

To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you.

If you’ve read The Sacred Way, you may remember that quote.  I do.  And it convicts me.

Truth be told, it scares the shit out of me.

But I’m pretty sure that the next chapter in my journey demands just that: my mind descending to the place of my heart; my mind submitting to my heart.  So I’m going to try that here on the blog, and maybe in a book, helped by the likes of Scandrette and Foster.

To take this step, I need to trust what Foster writes, that God will “sanctify my imagination,” and that my reason will not suffer, but will in fact be enhanced.

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  • Dan Hauge

    Sounds great. Looking forward to it.

  • Andy Cornett

    Tony –

    I simply want to say thanks for sharing this. It may indeed be what you need to do, but I know it’s what myself – and likely others – need to be reminded of, to hear, and to do. Thanks for your honest words today and the courage to descend.

  • I went to a Renovare’ event here a couple of weeks ago with Foster & Bishop Robert O’Neill, and that book has been sitting on my coffee table taunting me ever since. I seem to only approach meditative prayer kicking and screaming. Maybe I’ll crack that book soon and see if I can kick a little less.