Christians in search of a second wind

Christians in search of a second wind

It is to meditation that I owe having made choices in line with my deep desires: to live in the countryside, to set up as an independent person,” says Benjamin, 43 years old. Broken by a romantic breakup, this IT consultant devoted himself to it two hours a day for ten years, using a very old technique from India, called Vipassana. “Today,” he concedes, “it’s more irregular, but it has helped me control my emotions and acquire a certain wisdom. »

In a world breathless by its mad rush and hyperconnection, inner peace and letting go have been the key words of meditation enthusiasts since the 1970s. The American medical biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn then became the champion of meditation. mindfulness (mindfulness). Popularized in France in the 2000s by the psychiatrist Christophe André and the philosopher Fabrice Midal, founder of the Western School of meditation, this modernized and secularized version of Buddhist meditative traditions is on the rise.

According to a 2021 YouGov study, more than one in three French people resort to meditation. 18-34 year olds, affected by the Covid crisis, come out on top (47% of practitioners). A craze facilitated since 2015 by the rise of mobile meditation applications: more than 2,500! One click on Petit Bambou or Headspace and you are invited to concentrate on your breath and your bodily sensations, to inhabit your body and the present moment. A host of medical studies simultaneously demonstrate the effectiveness of meditation in countering stress, pain and spleen.

Reconciling meditation and prayer

For fear of abuses (esotericism or pantheism), the Church has long viewed these practices from the East with suspicion: within it, a fringe still rejects them altogether. But more and more Catholics want to decipher what is at stake in this trend and take control. The challenge ? Revalorize the body, which is struggling to recover from the blows dealt in the 17th century by Jansenism and Protestant Puritanism. The time has come for reconciliation between meditation and prayer, personal development and spiritual growth. Exit the disembodied currents which have diverted the faithful towards other spiritualities or towards atheism: Christians are rediscovering the treasures of their heritage and relying on new technologies to promote them. So you can learn, for example, the Vittoz method via applications.

Although it is not a meditation technique but a therapy, the Vittoz method is in many ways the ancestor of secular meditation. At a time when Freud attributed primacy to the unconscious, the Swiss doctor Roger Vittoz (1863-1925), a fervent Christian, was developing a method aimed at strengthening the control of the unconscious by the conscious. Its principle is based on welcoming sensations and paying attention to one’s actions through simple exercises, taken up by mindfulness: sitting comfortably cross-legged (on a chair or cushion), soaking up one’s environment (scenery, sounds, smells), close your eyes, concentrate on your breathing, mentally and gradually focus on each part of the body. Then welcome the thoughts that arise without judgment and let them pass. With, the key, relaxation and anchoring in the moment.

“For me, this learning process was decisive,” says Father Jean-Luc Souveton, 63, priest of the diocese of Saint-Étienne (Loire). Overwhelmed by a whirlwind of activities, it was through work to calm the body that I managed to calm the mind. » For nine months, guided by a Vittoz practitioner, he re-educated his five senses. “No more brain wandering!” I learned to be fully in the sensation, the here and now. Which opens up the relationship with others and makes it more available to listen to the Word. » This reunification between physical, psychological and spiritual is the framework of the fasting and meditation sessions that Father Jean-Luc Souveton offers through the Coramesprit association.

This sixty-year-old is one of the Christian pioneers who, for twenty years, have been inspired by the contemplative practices of Asia to restore all its dignity to the body, the path to God. The message resonated given the number of initiatives which, in today’s Church, are riding the wave of meditation or personal development to make them spaces for the deployment of spirituality. Meditation and prayer complement each other: the first generates personal well-being, sometimes opening up to the spiritual; the second often relies on meditation, but flourishes in encounter with someone other than oneself, the All-Other. “Sit down, be silent, calm your thoughts,” the Desert Fathers already recommended. In this way we put ourselves in a condition to invoke God, offer Him this time in silence or meditate on the Word.

“Turned like a pancake” by a retreat by the priest and psychologist Patrice Gourrier, combining teaching on the Desert Fathers and initiation to full consciousness, Cécile, a midwife, trained in all directions and has just created, in Haute -Normandy with her coach husband, a welcoming place open to all but based on Christian anthropology ( On the program: mindful walking, fasting sessions, positive psychology, learning meditation… This young mother is convinced: “Mindfulness can be a stepping stone to spirituality. »

Drawing on Church tradition

Let us draw on other wisdoms, but let us not neglect the Christian heritage! This updating of their traditions by the faithful to avoid the pitfall of a spirituality focused on a God with vague contours is a novelty. Thus the Meditatio application, intended for seekers of meaning as well as convinced practitioners. Launched in 2021 by a couple in their thirties, Thomas (also creator of the social prayer network Hozana) and Jeanne Delenda, this application combines courses dedicated to Vittoz therapy or the management of emotions with a wide range of meditations drawn from centuries-old tradition of the Church: prayer of Carmel, spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, lectio divina, prayer of the heart, dear to the Orthodox and Eastern Christians – repetition throughout the day of an invocation to the rhythm of inspiration and of the exhale.

It is this repetitive prayer that Christine, 76 years old, enjoys: after having devoted a long time to tai chi chuan and Buddhist meditation, this teacher, angry with Catholicism, returned to it thanks to the World Community for Christian Meditation. For one hour a day, she meditates on a “mantra”, a word or verse taken from the Bible: “My relationship with others and with Creation has been transformed, pacified. Above all, I experienced the presence of God and reconnected with Him. »

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