In a Spiritual Book Club I am facilitating, the members selected a very profound and experienced-based book by John Welwood called Toward a Psychology of Awakening. At the start, Welwood makes the point that his Christian upbringing (and it is my personal opinion, many of our Christian upbringings) did not provide experiential practice for realizing our true natures even though there was wonderful ritual and music. As a result, Welwood, like me and many in my generation, turned to Asian religions and other sources for insight. Even today, I personally believe this is the primary reason why serious seekers are not attracted to the mainline Christian religions: there is often too much emphasis on the organization, joining it, being a member, and contributing to it—when what people really want is an experience of the divine!
In studying Buddhism at the graduate level, I was fortunate to have mentors who were well versed not only in meditation but also in working with dreams. For me, it was primarily through dreamwork that I first developed a spiritual methodology that gave me a deeply meaningful experiential access to the spiritual life and its healing. Later, through meditation, I experienced the power of intuition and other states of consciousness that inform one of the wide and awesome nature of our true being. With such experience, the scriptures, rituals and music had all the more meaning! I could personally relate to the stories of salvation and God’s presence in our lives. These no longer seemed like myths and fairy tales. Religion was no longer about following the rules or joining a group but about living a rich experience-based life with fellow seekers.
I think that if Christianity is to thrive, it will have to incorporate experiential practices such as dreamwork and meditation into regular activities such as bible class and Sunday school.