It was probably one of the most fascinating insights I ever encountered. I was teaching about prayer and meditation, and I was asking the kids about their experience of zoning-out (see my article on the subject /permission-to-zone-out/ ). As I asked them for their input, one girl explained something that will stay with me forever.
She explained that when she was stressed out in class, she would zone-out by focusing her attention on a single point. She told me that when she did this, she was able to ignore all the sense perceptions around her, and that this was incredibly relaxing.
It was a surprising to hear explained with such simplicity and clarity a natural principle of meditation that many older and more educated people find illusive and difficult to explain. She explained the idea of enstasy which is a common characteristic of both Christian and non-Christian meditation.
Enstasy involves the ability to concentrate on a fixed point of attention in such a way as to tune out external stimuli (at least as I understand it).
But, let’s be careful. In the teenage girl’s description there was no mention of Jesus or any kind of spirituality, there was simply a natural skill that she used to deal with stress. However, the natural good of this kind of learned skill can and must be put at the service of our on-going relationship with Jesus Christ.
Instead of centering our attention on some random spot or some vague notion of a divine presence, we should as Catholics focus our minds on our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. By using the natural skill of enstasy in adoration, we learn to open the eyes of our heart to the truths of faith, and this act quickens our receptivity to the Holy Spirit.
Such attention is a great preparation for more spontaneous and familiar forms of connecting with Jesus Christ. It can be particularly helpful if we, like the girl, come into the classroom of the Chapel stressed out and tired. Instead of trying to engage our mind and heart in discursive reasoning, we can use our breath to simply rest in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord.
Give it a try! Try centering yourself on the Lord!