Remember, presence does not happen in the mind. All the mind can handle is before and after; it does not know how to be present in the now. That is the mind’s great limitation. This is why all teachers of prayer give us methods for literally moving “beyond the mind” (meta-noia), which so many Bibles since St. Jerome’s unfortunate Latin (poenitentia) translate as “repent.”  R Rohr 21.12.17

What does repent mean?  The Chambers dictionary defines it as ‘to regret, be sorry for, or wish to have been otherwise, what one has done or left undone; to change from past evil or misconduct; to feel contrition; to sorrow.’  I have heard it taught in church that repentance should be our response when realising that we have sinned ie we have fallen short of God’s standards.  It is often used to promote acceptable behaviour, and implicitly, acceptance in the church and by God. 

Recently my path has led me to experience the love of the Divine as the fundamental essence of the universe, all embracing, which is a different agent of change to judgement.  I believe we are all loved just as we are, because of who we are, all unique and with the light of that Sacred Unity in our hearts.  That light and love, working both inside and outside, would lead us into more awareness and more love, would enable us to live more fully in our God essence.  This is ‘salvation’ – being brought to a healthier/more whole place.

Interestingly, when I studied the word repentance, I found it was in accord with this.  The Greek word is metanoia.  Noia is from the word nous meaning the mind, not actions.  Metanoia means to change, enlarge or go beyond your mind, in other words to see something differently, and ultimately to change our paradigm or world view.  In current spiritual language it would mean to change our consciousness.  Of course seeing something differently often does lead to a change in behaviour but this is not the primary meaning. 

Jesus in Mark 1.15 says ‘The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news’.  So repentance is clearly tied up with what we believe and with good news not judgment.  It is also integrally related to the Kingdom of God, here and in Matthew 4.17.  Neil Douglas Klotz sees this as coming into right rhythm and harmony with the Sacred which will bring ripeness and blessing in our lives (from ‘The Hidden Gospel’). 

My experience of metanoia when I started to follow Jesus is that it is an ongoing process.  Initially it meant changing the content of my mental boxes such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but then led to changing or dissolving the boxes.  (This reminded me of Galatians 3.28 ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus’., and the quote from Rumi ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’) 

Other scriptures that support this are Romans 12.2 ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’, Ephesians 4.23 ‘You were taught to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, and 1 Corinthians 2.16 ‘But we have the mind of Christ’.

For me metanoia leads to an understanding of the universality of spirituality, unlike ‘repentance’ which usually has a narrower interpretation leading to living by moral confines that the church so often erects around Christianity.  This can’t be what Jesus means when he asks us to ‘be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5.48).  The context shows us that this means love – loving everyone, even our enemies.  Neil Douglas-Klotz says that the word in Aramaic (gmar) comes from a verb that means to fulfil oneself or to be complete (see ‘The Hidden Gospel’). 

I believe that Jesus came to encourage and enable us to live as he did, a model and mentor, not someone so holy that we stress his difference and separateness from us.  In John 17.20ff he said ‘I pray….that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us….I in them and you in me.’  This means we are welcomed into the trinity!  I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t ask us to ‘obey’ as so often translated but to ‘keep my commands’ interchangeably with ‘keep my word (logos)’ (see John 14.23-4) which has a very different feel. 

Realising that the essence of repentance is changing/enlarging/going beyond our mind shows me why a meditation practice is so helpful.  And I wonder if ‘faith’, one of the terms that Jesus used most frequently, was to describe the effects of this metanoia rather than belief in a set of dogmas as often taught . 

I see metanoia as a dynamic process representing the interaction of our life and the life of the Sacred, bringing about transformation and an awareness of the Oneness linking all.