Event Reports

Photograph courtesy of: Richard W J Koh

The 8 Big Problems of Life

A report on 

The Eight Big Problems of Life 

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by deborah Peterson
29-30 November 2014

On the weekend of 29-30 November, close to 600 people gathered at the Catholic Junior College for a retreat led by Fr Laurence Freeman OSB, Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). The topic was the 8 big problems of life and how we can manage these problems, transcend them, and free ourselves to live more fully and joyfully.

Fr Laurence’s first question as he opened the sessions told me immediately that we were about to experience something transformative. ‘What are you most seeking in Life?’ he asked. ‘The answer,’ he said, ‘is that we are all seeking Meaning, Love, Truth, Beauty. All these are to be found within us – not further than a step away. They are to be found in a deeper dimension within us, in the space within our heart.’

And yet from the dawn of time, humanity has wrestled with Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Acedia, Lust, Sadness, Pride and Vanity. So how does one free oneself from their grip to touch that Truth, Love and Meaning, and to be more fully alive and at peace?

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Fr Laurence set the background ex-plaining that these problems were first formulated by the Desert Fathers of the 4th century as the 8 principal faults. Over time, they came to be known as the 7 Deadly Sins. The Desert Fathers, however, did not view these faults in a moralistic way but saw them as negative states of mind. Seeing these 8 problems as ‘faults’ and inherent ‘states of mind’ which affect every human being regardless of culture, race, age, reli-gion, allows us to move beyond the crippling guilt and shame associated with sin into decisive action and freedom.

Covering the problems in pairs – Gluttony and Greed, Lust and Sadness, Acedia and Anger, Pride and Vanity – Fr Laurence patiently took us through an in-depth analysis of each fault. As he aptly put it ‘It is important to know your enemy better than your enemy knows you’. Understand-ing them and recognizing them clearly for what they are, will prevent us from falling into their traps. These faults were all interconnected, he explained, and they all originated in our desire for truth, for love, for God. Not knowing where to find this, we imagine ways to meet these desires and then act on them.

We were led to see how all these states of mind could be overcome through the ascesis (spiritual self-discipline and exercise) of a deep and faithful spiritual practice. Fr Laurence taught meditation or pure prayer, the prayer of the heart, as a way of transcending these states of mind. The simple discipline takes us from the mind to the heart where we experience the transforming love of God. As one of the participants put it later, ‘Fr Laurence had such wisdom and imparted it with such clarity

 

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Illuminating as the talks, videos and Q&A segments were on those 2 days, my greatest personal take-away was being immersed in the 6 meditation sessions interspaced through the 2 days. 

As Fr Laurence shared with us, Meditation is not just a process but a relationship where we cultivate attentiveness to the presence of God. The meditation practice runs counter to the culture of narcissism and distraction, where we are excessively focused on, and this is why it is such a powerful force against the 8 Big Problems of Life. Meditation doesn’t claim to solve our problems. Rather it trans-forms the way we look at them and is therefore, oftentimes, the starting point of our journey towards becoming free and living more fully and joyfully.

But how do we meditate or pray purely? Fr taught that it was as simple as going back to God’s Words in the Bible - ‘Be Still and Know that I am God’. To meditate, all we have to do is to sit still and upright, close our eyes lightly, sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly, begin to say a single word. The prayer phrase he recommended was ‘Maranatha’. It is in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke. And it means ‘Come Lord.’ Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Do not think of anything. And if thoughts or images come, let them fall away and keep returning to simply saying the word.

Incredibly simplistic as it sounded, it was obvious that people were touched by this deep, heart-centered prayer. As one of the participants later shared: ‘This seminar is so different. Upon the sacred word of God ‘Maranatha’ my soul is gone with the Holy Spirit and I enjoyed the meditation calmly and joyfully throughout these 2 days’. Another said ‘We are convinced of the benefits that meditation can reap and be life transforming on an individual and global level.

Throughout the sessions, I found myself wishing that my family members and close friends who were not there could have come too. I was therefore delighted to learn that the talks were being recorded and would be available later through Medio Media ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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The weekend reminded me of Fr Laurence’s words on another occasion: A retreat is not where one goes to run away from problems, stresses, difficulties in one’s life. A retreat is about ‘coming home’, coming back to where you belong, to who you truly are. In many ways, the weekend proved to be a home coming for many of us.

The retreat closed with a beautiful contemplative mass with meditation built in after communion. What better way to soak in the love of Christ than to sit with him in silence. It was no coincidence that the retreat closed on the first Sunday of Advent – the celebration of Hope. T

Click to download pdf

 
I Want Peace

A report on an introductory workshop led by Peter Ng
Christian Meditation a Way to the Peace of Christ
Church of St Teresa
20 August 2011

On Saturday 20 August Peter Ng led a half-day introductory programme at the Church of St Teresa. About 200 participants came from 15 parishes besides the host parish, drawn by the theme of meditation as a way to peace. The parish priest Fr Michael Arro in a warm welcome address reminded the participants that meditation in the Christian tradition is not a technique but a way of prayer. The purpose of meditation, he said, is union with God.

Peter began with a brief background on the tradition and the community. He spoke about how Father John Main osb (1926-1982) rediscovered the Christian tradition of meditation which had existed in the Church as far back as the 4th Century, and how Christian meditation started in Singapore 23 years ago. He went on to explain why it is important to understand meditation as a spiritual discipline. Practised in this light, meditation takes us to our deepest centre where peace and harmony are found. “The Kingdom of heaven is within you”.

Elaborating on the theme I want Peace Peter said that to have peace we need to drop the I and the want – “leave yourself behind” as the gospel tells us. Repeating our prayer word faithfully in meditation teaches us to take our attention off ourselves and leads us beyond the ego and its desires. This discipline brings us to our true self in Christ.

The session included two 20-minute periods of meditation. Peter introduced the practice with clear instructions including a demonstration of appropriate posture. Posture is important, he explained, because it is a way of bringing the body to prayer. Meditation should be understood as the whole person at prayer – body, mind and spirit.

A period for questions allowed participants to clarify any doubts they had.
A new weekly meditation group will begin for those who wish to continue on the journey. The group will meet on Mondays at 8.00 pm in St Paul’s Room. The first meeting will be on Monday 29 August 2011. Those who may have missed this programme can learn to meditate by attending the weekly group. ALL ARE WELCOME.

Inquiries: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
Wholeness & Holiness Retreat

A Report on the Weekend Retreat led by Fr Joe Pereira
March 21 and 22 2009

STELLA KON

A major cause of distractions in meditation is lack of physical conditioning, Fr Joe Pereira told the Singapore Christian meditators attending his retreat here in March. He is the national co-coordinator for WCCM in India, a priest of the Mumbai archdiocese, an Iyengar yoga teacher, and founder-director of Kripa, a major organisation for caring for sufferers  from addiction and HIV/AIDS.

He recently received the Indian Government's Padma Shree Award for his contributions in the field of social work. Fr Joe showed some simple breathing and stretching exercises to prepare the body for meditation, helping us to sit upright and still as Fr John Main taught. Fr Joe, whose DVD and booklet on the theme is recently published by Medio Media, says yoga helps many meditators in the essential work of shifting the locus of control from the ego to the Spirit of the Risen Lord dwelling in our  hearts.

 
Wholeness & Holiness - through meditation

A Weekend Retreat led by Fr Joe Pereira 

"Did you not know you are God’s temple, here the Spirit of God dwells?"  - Corinthians 3:16

  • How can I experience this truth as a reality?
  • How can I live this truth?

Date: 21-22 March 2009 

Venue: Trinity Theological College (Upper Bukit Timah Road)

Contribution: $60 (includes meals but excludes accomodation)

FR JOE PEREIRA s the National Co-ordinator for the World Community for Christian Meditation (India Chapter). He is also the founder and Managing Trustee of the Kripa Foundation (India), which is devoted to the  care, support, and rehabilitation of those affected by Chemical Dependency, HIV, and AIDS. Fr Joe travels extensively to the US, Canada, and Europe, to give workshops and seminars focused on wholeness through self-knowledge.