The most common difficulty with meditating is being distracted in the silence. You would think that silence would be calming but for many it raises the chaos monster. The Buddhists call it “monkey mind”. Wendy, one of the members of our Wednesday evening meditation group at LaSalette Retreat House in Attleboro, recently pointed out the following quote from the Benedictine monk, John Main:
You will find as you go on that you can be saying your mantra at one level while at another level there are thoughts going on below and at another level above, at another on one side, at another on the other side. Ignore them all. Say your mantra. That is the art of meditating: to say your word in the silent eye of the storm (from “Silence and Stillness in Every Season”, May 9).
What a great image about the challenge of meditating: remaining still and focused in the eye of the storm! Life is often a storm (even a hurricane) of competing forces and influences, all trying to get our attention and allegiance. John Main’s perennial teaching is to keep repeating the mantra, Ma-ra-na-tha (four syllables), slowly and silently to yourself. It sounds overly simplistic but it works. Surely it is more complicated than that? We say, “That is not very challenging intellectually – any idiot can say one word over and over again!” It is indeed very simple but incredibly challenging to do. The task is, in the midst of all our chaos, to pay attention to the divine presence, the Spirit who lives within us and all creation. No wonder Genesis 1 says that God created from the chaos. Our task is to be still, to be open to God, letting go of other concerns by repeating the mantra, resting in the eye of the storm.
It would be easy to judge my meditation as a failure, and in one sense (if I am looking for perfect peace without distraction) it always is a failure. On the other hand, I have learned that the task is not to judge but to rest in a non-judgmental state, and if I experience the peace in the eye of the storm then all the better. Being kind to oneself, loving oneself, believing in the goodness and love of God, are basic to the spiritual journey. Being still and open in meditation will reaffirm that God is good and loving, if we do not judge our performance but let judgment go along with all other distractions. I welcome your comments about your experience.
(For more detailed instruction on how to meditate go to: Meditation)
On a personal note, I was honored recently by the First Baptist Church, Attleboro, with the title Pastor Emeritus and a celebration of the 40th anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. I have been blessed beyond measure through my teachers and mentors and through the people I have served in ministry. It is a very challenging vocation requiring spiritual stamina beyond my strength. People tell me that I was very helpful to them at critical points, but I am sure it was God who was doing the helping and I sometimes had the good sense to get out of the way! First Baptist, Attleboro continues on the road with Jesus with an open mind and a welcoming heart. Praise God for them and their Pastor Cheryl Harris!