What is lacking in the West...

This morning I was reading a book by Thomas Keating, who is a well-known teacher on contemplative prayer. Whereas I do not necessarily agree with everything Keating says, there were two sentences that really rang a bell in my mind: "The rush to the East is a symptom of what is lacking in the West. There is a deep spiritual hunger that is not being satisfied in the West." (Note: Keating does not advocate adopting Eastern spirituality in any way.)

The "rush to the East" Keating refers to is the great fascination with Eastern spirituality, particularly Eastern meditation, that is so prevalent in postmodern America. There is no denying that in postmodern America, there is a noticeable rush to the East.

I also think Keating has identified something important about the rush to the East. What is one of the great weaknesses of contemporary western culture? We are overly busy and chronically fatigued. We don't know how to stop and rest. Eastern meditation is a method of stopping. That is one reason why so many people who don't have a relationship with the Triune God are fascinated with Eastern spirituality. It represents an antidote to one of our illnesses: one must stop and be quiet for a change.

Keating teaches that Christian prayer includes stopping and resting with God, quietly enjoying his presence. He believes that Christian spirituality holds the answer to what people are mistakenly seeking in Eastern religion. And this idea drew my thoughts beyond Keating to Augustine, the towering theologian and bishop of the 5th century. Augustine said, "Our souls are restless until they find their rest in God." If Keating is right, most of us American Christians don't know how to find our rest in God, and that is why people looking for rest run for answers not to us but to the East.


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