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Greetings, Sister.Yeah, I feel like in Catholicism the idea of "contemplation" is probably closer to the Eastern 'empty mind' idea than Catholic mediation. Because there is definitely a difference between contemplation and meditation in Catholicism. At least the way I've always understood it, meditation is active, deeply thinking about some holy subject like the mysteries of the Rosary or a verse from the Bible. Whereas contemplation is something more 'passive', a gift from God, pure communion with Him.
About fifty years ago I worked for a Japanese manufacturing Company, and decided to learn iaidō (a form of swordsmanship). On one occasion, I made a complete mess of a kata. When asked – by my sensei – why this had happened, I replied: ‘Too much mind!’
In short, instead of focusing solely on the kata itself, I allowed my mind to focus on other things (related to my job as an HR Manager). I was – so to speak – multi-tasking. For me, multi-tasking was – and is – the practice of doing more than one thing at a time…..equally badly.
The school of Rinzai Zen had a fascination for me, and I was fairly well informed. I was well aware of the Zen concept of ‘mushin no shin’ (‘mind without mind’).
Unfortunately, a teenage niece of mine also took an interest in the subject. She (Laura) asked to borrow my books. I agreed. It took a while for me to realise that lending books to Laura meant that I would never see them again.
But I digress, as the bride said, on quitting the marriage bed in order to bake a cake.
The concept of meditating ‘without mind’ is, perhaps, best captured in a story from the life of St. John Vianney:
It is reported that an unnamed peasant from the town of Ars (St. John was, of course, its Curé) who – when asked how he spent his time before the tabernacle – replied: ‘I look at him, and he looks at me!’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2715).
St. Therese of Lisieux is reported as saying: ‘For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.’ (Ibid. 2558).
As you know, Christianity (and Islam) place great emphasis on developing a close and loving relationship with the Beloved. In Islam, for example, those who are deemed to be close to Him are known as ‘awliya Allāh’ (‘Friends of Allāh’).
It this context, ‘emptying the mind’ means that we should free ourselves from distractions, and focus on what is essential – namely, on nurturing a love affair with the One who is the source of all love.