4: Do not labor to quiet your thoughts

不識玄旨     Not knowing the deep meaning of the Way

徒勞念靜     The disciple labors to quiet his thoughts


The concept of meditating by making your mind a blank is an error. You cannot make your mind a blank. – Lester Levenson (Keys to the Ultimate Freedom)

Madame Guyon:

I think the way to enter into it is this: After having brought ourselves into the presence of God by a definite act of faith, we should read something substantial, not so much to reason upon it, as to fix the attention, observing that the principal exercise should be the presence of God, and that the purpose of the subject is to fix one’s attention rather than exercise reason.

This faith in the presence of God within our hearts must lead us to enter within ourselves, collecting our thoughts, and preventing their wandering. This is an effectual way of getting rid of distracting thoughts and of losing sight of outward things, in order to draw near to God, who can only be found in the secret place of our hearts, which is the sancta-sanctorum in which He dwells.

When, then, we are thus buried in ourselves, and deeply penetrated with the presence of God within us — when the senses are all drawn from the circumference to the centre, which, though it is not easily accomplished at first, becomes quite natural afterwards — when the soul is thus gathered up within itself, and is sweetly occupied with the truth read, not in reasoning upon it, but in feeding upon it, and exciting the will by affection rather than the understanding by consideration, [then] the affection thus touched must be allowed to repose sweetly and at peace, swallowing what it has tasted.

As a person who only chewed an excellent meat would not be nourished by it, although he would be sensible of its taste, unless he stopped chewing in order to swallow it; so when the affection is stirred, if we seek continually to stir it, we extinguish its fire, and thus deprive the soul of its nourishment. We must swallow by a loving repose (full of respect and confidence) what we have chewed and tasted. This method is very necessary, and would advance the soul in a short time more than any other would do in several years.

But as I said that the direct and principal exercise should be the sense of the presence of God, we must most faithfully recall the senses when they wander.

This is a short and efficacious way of fighting with distractions, because those who endeavour directly to oppose them only irritate and increase them. But by losing ourselves in the thought of a present God and allowing our thoughts to be drawn to Him, we combat them indirectly, and without thinking of them, but in an effectual manner.

And here let me warn beginners not to run from one truth to another, from one subject to another; but to keep themselves to one so long as they feel a taste for it: this is the way to enter deeply into truths, to taste them, and to have them impressed upon us. I say it is difficult at first thus to retire within ourselves because of the habits, which are natural to us, of being taken up with the outside. But when we are a little accustomed to it, it becomes exceedingly easy, both because we have formed the habit of it and because God, who only desires to communicate Himself to us, sends us abundant grace, and an experiential sense of His presence which renders it easy.

Let us apply this method to the Lord’s Prayer. We say “Our Father,” thinking that God is within us, and will indeed be our Father. After having pronounced this word Father, we remain a few moments in silence, waiting for this heavenly Father to make known His will to us. Then we ask this King of Glory to reign within us, abandoning ourselves to Him, that He may do it, and yielding to Him the right that He has over us. If we feel here an inclination to peace and silence, we should not continue, but remain thus so long as the condition may last; after which we proceed to the second petition, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We then desire that God may accomplish, in us and by us, all His will; we give up to God our heart and our liberty, that He may dispose of them at His pleasure. Then, seeing that the occupation of the will should be love, we desire to love, and we ask God to give us His love. But all this is done quietly, peacefully; and so on with the rest of the prayer.

Lester Levenson: (See Meditation)

Meditation is basically thinking in the right direction and holding to it so that other thoughts keep dropping away until the mind is concentrated. When the mind is
concentrated the answers become obvious to you.
* *
Concentration is holding one thought to the exclusion of other thoughts: it will lift you and help you grow.
* *
The ability to hold one thought concentrates the mind so that it can crack the secrets of itself.


Guyon, J. M. B. de la Mot (1875). A Short Method of Prayer. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle.  (Translated by A. W. Marston, who may be Frances Cashel Hoey) (https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/spiritualformation/texts/guyon_shortmethodofprayer.pdf)

Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Phoenix, Arizona: Sedona Institute. ISBN 0-915721-03-1 (download)


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