MEDITATION AND MARRIAGE
by Liz and Albert King
Our encounter with Christian Meditation (CM) can be divided into three distinct periods:
I. Before We Started to Meditate:
We were not cradle Catholics. The priests and nuns who converted us had prepared us well for our faith when we were both baptized during our teens in China. Throughout our years, God has continued to provide us with many spiritual directors who unhesitatingly guided and led us to a closer union with Christ.
After our baptism, we were both involved in the Legion of Mary and other church activities. We were among the four sent by Fr. Fergus Cronin SJ, of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), to the first Pax Romana Seminar (an international movement of Catholic students) in Madras, India for the entire month of December 1954. Upon our return, we formed, together with the other two attendees and Fr. Cronin, the Catholic Society of HKU, the mission of which was to inculcate truth, beauty, and love. The Society is still thriving well after 65 years.
Although we met in 1951, we didn’t take our friendship seriously until 1958, when we reconnected in San Francisco. By then, both of us were more mature, we were in our mid-20s and knew what we wanted in our spouse. We felt good together and we both loved God and felt that our love with, in and through Him is so much deeper and fuller. We corresponded daily as Albert was in Detroit and Liz was in the Bay Area. In our letters, we shared our faith, mission and hopes for the future. We were attracted to each other because we shared the same vision, passion and values. In 1959, we were officially engaged at St. Francis of Assisi Church in San Francisco and married in June 1960 in the beautiful Old St. Mary’s Church in the same city.
In fact, Liz’s engagement and wedding rings were chosen with the ‘vine and the branches’ design: our love was based on His love, for He is the vine and we, as the branches, draw sustenance from His well of Love. Our habit of attending daily mass during our graduate school years, as well as annual retreats helped to increase our faith and trust in the Lord. To us, marriage is a union of two souls, two hearts, two minds and two bodies.
We knew that we were brought together by God…it has been clear from the first years of our marriage. Although we went through many hardships, deaths and disappointments in building our family and marriage…we were still grounded in God and our union is based on that reality.
God blessed us with two wonderful sons, Albert, Jr. and Thomas. They were baptized as infants and confirmed and all four of us attended Mass regularly as a family.
We sent them to Catholic schools for the first five years, grounding them in the faith. Although the extracurricular activities for the children were considerably less than today, it was still hard to balance teaching and taking care of them with housework and our respective vocations. But we began to learn to give ourselves totally to the children. To this day, we are still learning to give ourselves to each other in marriage. When we moved to another neighborhood, we had no choice but to send them to a public school, since both of us were working full-time and had no help from relatives. Now, Albert, Jr. is a regular at a Baptist church in Nashville, TN, while Thomas is an Easter and Christmas Catholic in Michigan. We know that eventually God will find them and bring them back to our church.
Though busy with raising our family of two sons and working in our respective vocations, we were both passionate about apostolic work. Albert, a professor in biomedical engineering and researcher at Wayne State University, was a father to all his students; while Liz, a librarian at Henry Ford College, was very active in community work among the Chinese Americans in Michigan for over 30 years. When our sons left our nest, we continued to attend mass regularly and prayed during mealtimes. But we did not actually pray together as a couple. Each of us said our daily prayers privately.
II. When Liz became a Meditator:
In the mid-80s, although our marriage was solid, Liz felt restless, and somehow knew that there was more to life. The peace and love she felt after receiving the Eucharist were too short - she yearned for a deeper, more intimate and lasting relationship with Jesus. At the same time due to circumstances in her childhood, she also had a ‘big black hole’ inside her. Twenty years of psychological counseling couldn’t help her feel balanced and whole.
She read many books, attended many retreats and programs like Progoff’s Progressive Journal, Attitudinal Healing, A Course in Miracles, Lectio Divina. She finally paid $1,000 to learn Transcendental Meditation (TM) in February of 1994. Serendipitously, two months later, a dear friend, Diana, asked why she was praying the Hindu way. Before then, Liz, by some unknown intuition, had changed her TM mantra to Abba. She told Diana that she was using the Hindu technique, but her mantra was definitely Christian. Then Diana, a non-meditator, stumbled upon a copy of Fr. John’s Christian Meditation: The Gethsemani Talks and sent that to her.
Eureka! This gift opened her eyes made her realize that meditation was actually practiced in our church by the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the 3rd and 4th centuries and was not solely an Eastern or Hindu discipline. Two months later, in June 1994, Liz formed the first meditation group in her parish (St. Regis) with support from Fr. Jack Schuett, SJ, and Deacon Brian Carroll. Then she got in touch with the WCCM/USA and started to read and study Fr. John Main OSB and Fr. Laurence Freeman OSB’s teachings. Christian meditation became a regular discipline for her from then on.
Metanoia…When she meditated in silence and in stillness, it felt so right. She not only realized how much she is loved for herself, just as she was; but it opened her to love, love of God, of self and of neighbor. Not only was her big black hole healed, her hunger and thirst filled, but she had “come home” at last, home to where she belonged. At the same time, she became more in tune to the whispers of the Holy Spirit…to His intuitions each day…Indeed, the third person of the Blessed Trinity came alive for her.
Fiat…Liz became a faithful disciple of Fr. Laurence when she met him in 2001. Two years later, she became a World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM) oblate. She, always with Albert’s blessings, followed him to many cities in four continents. She also served on the WCCM Guiding Board as Coordinator for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan and for the next 10 years flew to Asia annually to help nurture meditation.
III. When We both Started to Meditate:
For 10 years, Liz was faithful to her twice daily ‘prayer of the heart’ which she did by herself. Albert was too busy with his teaching and research to join her, although he was always her helper whenever she had to give a talk on CM. We both tried Marriage Encounter for five years, but found its methods insufficient to nurture or add to our marriage.
Ten years later, in 2004, through the grace of God, Albert decided to try to meditate. He had noticed a distinct change in Liz’s behavior and personality. She used to cry a lot when frustrated or angry. But after practicing CM, through the fruits of the Holy Spirit, she became more patient, less judgmental, more forgiving and more loving. He also met Fr. Laurence who gave a homily on the ego. It was then that he realized that his ‘professor’s ego’ needed to be curbed and that meditation was an excellent way to achieve that.
Meditating together certainly deepened our faith and our relationship and helped us ‘fall in love’ with God again. While the two of us always included Christ - in our engagement, wedding, and daily life - meditating together twice a day made a monumental difference in our regard for each other and in our marriage. Now, we actively and consciously invite Him to be with us each day, twice a day.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
When we meditate together, we are rooted in Christ, the Eternal Love. When we allow Him to be in us, we feel balanced and centered, and in harmony with Him, with ourselves and with the world. Our mantra, Maranatha, meaning “Come, Lord”, has given us the power and the understanding that the three of us work as a team.
Fr. John talked about the “community of love”. In marriage, we believe we are a ‘union of love with Love’. Our purpose in our marriage is to serve each other and love each other as much as we can. What we found is that we can’t out-love each other because God’s love is infinite. He replenishes it with more love each time we meditate. Human love can’t offer that. Only God’s love can do that. We believe that our marriage is a partnership of three: I, you and God and we have unconditional support from the Almighty. Now who could ask for more?
Praying together bonds us…it is the glue of our marriage now, especially after we both meditate together each day. We are each other’s best friend, confidante, soul mate and prayer partner. When we meditate together, we are truly in sync. We agree on many issues: about money, relationships with family and friends, etc. We are in total unity, because we are in union with Christ.
We are committed to meditating for 30 minutes twice a day. Although we do not have set times for our morning and evening meditation, since each of our day has its different challenges, we always find time to do both sessions every day, that is, we are regular in our irregularity. We cannot NOT meditate. Even after an argument or disagreement, we still meditate together. Then Liz’s anger or frustration melts away and she apologizes. And Albert also apologizes.
Meditation is definitely part of our life…the two daily periods are the pillars that support our day-to-day living and loving. Our day would be chaotic if we miss a session. Hence, it is paramount that we find time to meditate twice a day. If we can find time to eat three times a day, we must be able to find time to meditate twice a day. It is also our promise that we don’t go to bed angry…we must make up before we sleep. And when we travel, we manage to meditate in the airport lounge, while waiting to board or on the plane.
Most important of all, we have learned, and firmly believe, that CM is not only a discipline of prayer, but also a way of life. Fr. John Main emphasized that in meditation, we are swept up into the prayer of Jesus with the Father in the Spirit and enter into the circle of the Trinity. Since the Holy Spirit prays and guides us each time we meditate, His fruits are slowly infused into us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In our daily living, the fruits are reflected in our relationship with everyone, including ourselves.
By regular meditating, we have learned:
• To CURB our ego which is our false self. In silence and stillness, we focus away from our fears, feelings, desires, thoughts, attachments and pains, and concentrate our attention on God. By letting our ego out, we let love in. When we let our false self out, we become the true man or true woman that God created us to be. We are valuable because we are and He is.
• To BE rather than do, that is, to be more of a human being, not a human doing. In our silence and stillness, we do not talk to God, we do not ask for things, but just to be with God, as we are, to be one with Him, to be whole.
• To LISTEN, then understand, with our hearts, our whole being. In the past, when Liz was frustrated or angry, Albert was quiet and non-argumentative, but didn’t listen or understand her that much. That did infuriate Liz and twice, in our first 34 years of marriage, Liz had to walk away for a few hours to quiet down. Now that we both learned how to listen, with our hearts, patiently and attentively, to each other… we can talk openly and freely and are open to each other’s point of view. Although we may not always see eye-to-eye…we are willing to see the pros and cons and talk about it. It does not take long for us to come to a compromise or agreement. By listening in such a way, it is giving our attention, which is a form of love, as Fr. Laurence often opines. We’re slowly cultivating this way of listening and understanding, and find that it drastically improves our relationship and with others too.
• To SUPPORT each other unconditionally. We did support each other in our respective work and inclinations for many years. When Albert was totally preoccupied with his research and teaching and was seldom home when our boys were young, Liz was resentful and angry. But when she started CM, she became more understanding and less resentful and supported his full-time need for his career and mission. She even cooked an eight-course Chinese dinner for 200 of his staff and colleagues for 20 Christmases. Albert, in turn, became more supportive of Liz’s passion to introduce and nurture Christian meditation in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, and consented to her leaving home to spend two months in Hong Kong in 2004. In the following 10 years, she was away in London and elsewhere for the same purpose… Albert did not complain because Liz made sure he was well provided for in her absence. Later, aside from his full blessing, he even accompanied her on many of her trips.
• To RESPECT and TRUST each other while we’re fully aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses…We make it a point to say “Thank you” and “Please” in little things and tasks…We try to do little acts of kindness for each other since we know that appreciation is very important in a relationship. We make it a point to show appreciation for each other, although we’re still shy about doing that in public.
• To DETACH: In 2014, when we decided to leave our beautiful and large house-in-the- woods which has been our home for 30 years, for a much smaller condo, we surprised ourselves and each other. We had to give away many of our former treasures: books, furnishings and other possessions and completely changed our lifestyle but discovered, when we live more simply with less, we have actually gained more freedom and time to do what was more important in our life.
• To ACCEPT change in ourselves and in our circumstances. We realize that change is the norm and with help from our daily meditation, we can accept it gracefully and humbly.
We also learn that we cannot change others, only ourselves. But when we change our behavior, others sense it and they too change their behavior. We no longer need to be in charge, to control or to dominate, since we know that Our Loving Father understands all our needs. We’ve learned to accept situations as they come, people as they are, not as we’d like them to be. By the same token, we’re also kinder to ourselves and are learning also to accept ourselves as we are.
• To LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Each time we meditate, we are in ‘the now.’ We no longer worry, and just take one day at a time. We were both high achievers in our younger days…but now that we are older and a little more mature, we have come to realize that everything is in God’s hands. When we give up our thoughts, feelings, imaginations and dreams in our meditation, we let God take care of us. Many acquaintances thought we were much younger than we look and were surprised when they found out that we’re both octogenarians. Stress, fear and worry no longer debilitate us.
• To be PATIENT: While Albert, by nature, is more patient, Liz has always been impatient, trying to multi-task and juggle many challenges at once. As we continue with CM, Liz has become a little more patient and less demanding, of herself and others. When she is tempted to rush, Albert gently reminds her to be more patient, to let go and wait and see.
• To SHARE the gift of CM: Although Liz is no longer involved in the international or national scene, we still give talks on CM whenever we’re invited and we still lead two groups in our parish and attend a third (that we formerly led) in a neighboring parish each week. We need to share the gift, for in sharing, we are enriched and strengthened. To us, weekly group meetings are very important, not only for ourselves, but for others. We get support, encouragement and nourishment each time we meditate together for we are truly a spiritual community of love, helping one another in our journey in life.
• To SERVE: We are actively involved in our parish: Albert, a former usher, now serves as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist with Liz who also doubles as a sacristan. We also visit the sick whenever we are assigned. Since she is developing her listening skills, Liz is a friend to many younger persons who come to talk and confide in her.
After meditating for so many years, we feel the discipline of CM has given and helped us live more deeply and fully. Fortunately, in our small condo, we have a prayer room where we can meditate quietly without interruption. By using our mantra, Maranatha, we are unceasingly inviting Jesus to come to our aid. These two pillars of daily meditation continue to enrich our life and help our love and marriage to grow. The grace of God is abundantly around us. CM helps to reach out and grasp it so that we can live the fruits of the Spirit.
or which God made us, and He has given us the pledge of the Spirit.
After all that has been written, it may appear that our marriage is almost perfect. Well, it isn’t, for nothing in this world is perfect and we know that we are still beginners and have endless room to grow…. While we are fully aware of all that CM can offer, we are still very human and weak…it will take more than a lifetime to perfect all these virtues… Distractions in our daily periods of meditation are still plentiful, but Fr. John’s remark ‘that we must continue to be faithful, not necessarily successful in our meditation’ is certainly very consoling. After all, we must continually make time and room for Christ to join our marriage.
Our day-to-day living continues to have many vicissitudes and challenges. The fact that we know that the Spirit of Christ is with and in us, that He is always ready to help us solve our problems, big or small, makes all the difference. CM brings forth the grace of trust in God in our daily tasks.
As we travel together in our pilgrimage, day by day, year by year, we feel most blessed to have CM as our guide and anchor and the support from other meditators in our community of love.
May the grace of God continue to give us the discipline and commitment to do CM.
We will be celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary on June 18 this year. During our Holy Land pilgrimage in early February, Fr. Laurence celebrated the mass in which we renewed our marriage vows, together with eight other couples, in a church in Cana. What a special blessing and gift. Thank you, Lord.
Liz and Albert King
Bingham Farms, Michigan, USA
May 18, 2020