Power of Meditation

Part of my everyday spirituality is a daily reading from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. I’ve been around the calendar with it a couple of times now. Recently I was looking through some of her comments about meditation and came across this one:

When you sit quietly with Me, I shine the Light of My Presence directly into your heart.

This is one of the better descriptions of the power of meditation I have seen because it makes a useful attempt to describe what actually happens in meditation. The line resonates especially well with me because it is so close to what my first spiritual director explained to me many years ago. I had told her about my meditation practice and some of the changes that had come about in my life apparently as a result of it. She nodded and said, “By sitting in silence, you opened a door for God to speak directly to your heart.”

The practice of meditation, and this explanation of its impact, have been profoundly important in my life.

           

When Life Gets Away from You

On the first day of this month, my partner took a bad spill and ended up with a fractured radial bone in her left wrist. It took only one look at her arm to know that the break was a bad one and the bones would have to be set. We went immediately for X-rays, and the first doc who saw her was actually more concerned about the possibilities of concussion from the bump on the head than he was about the wrist. But the orthopedic surgeon could be dissuaded from surgery only when she learned about my partner’s five heart stents and the blood thinner she regularly takes.

So, purple was chosen for the cast color, and Christopher, who applied the cast, turned out also to be in charge of setting the broken bones. At the last possible minute before the cast turned to stone, he grasped the wrist and squeezed with all his might, expertly aligning the bones for healing.

Since then, I’ve been my partner’s left arm, helping with dressing, helping more with the dogs, doing more in the kitchen, doing her hair every morning and washing it every few days, etc. These may be labors of love, but they are labors nonetheless and they have pressed in on my available time for things like writing regular blog posts.

The question is: what do you do when life gets away from you. First, it’s a stretch to claim that my life has gotten away from me; I have simply become busier. But second, it’s been a good exercise in examining how to pursue everyday spirituality in situations like this one.

I’ve found that when patience seems to be in short supply, prayer is not. I am reminded every day that patience is Item #4 in the fruit of the Spirit [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control] (Galatians 5:22-23). These nine gifts are our birthright when we choose to be children of God, and it helps to bring them to the surface in our lives when we repeat the verses over and over from memory or reading aloud from Scripture.

My everyday spirituality has also been enhanced by continuing my meditation practice. When I sink into the chair to begin the twenty minutes of absolute quiet, I know that I know that all is well in my world.

This has been a painful break for my partner, and it hurts to see her in pain, even after more than two weeks. The cast will be on a while yet and if the pain is lessening, it is doing so at a very slow pace. Meanwhile, I can make it part of my everyday spirituality to look for and find the ways to be helpful.

           

Contemplation

After so many years of regular meditation, I can no longer imagine my life without it. On really busy mornings, it is the last thing I am likely to cut in order to get out the door on time. I have written before in these postings that of all the spiritual practices, this one has been the most vital and life-sustaining for me.

So, I was very interested in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Living Peace, a publication written and distributed by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, because the theme of the issue is “contemplative stance.” Contemplation is a form of meditation that focuses, usually, on the breath rather than on a mantra.

Of the articles in Living Peace, the one that most resonated with me was by Terrence J. Moran, CSJP-A. He wrote, “Contemplation is not another agenda item we add to an already overfull day. Rather, it is the wellspring that nourishes all our other activities. It is a choice we make to look at our life and our world in a particular way. It is a lens not a chore.” And in my experience, the nature of that wellspring is such profound peace that it changes the texture of everything else in your world.

Later Moran added: “The contemplative stance is not a matter of reading, workshops, ideas. It is a practice – daily, diligent, persevering even when results seem scanty.” This point is so important that I was surprised it was buried in the text rather than set off as a breakout quote. What makes meditation yield results is the dailyness of it, the regularity, the continuity of sitting in silence every day, regardless of whether you “go deep” or stay on the surface, whether your mind is beset with thoughts or as still as a frozen pond.

You could read about it, or go to a workshop to hear about it, or talk about it as an idea with someone else, but what makes contemplation work is actually doing it.

           

Spiritual Practices – Surprising Possibilities

I’ve been listening to a CD of the Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL), Seattle, last August. Based in Canada, he’s the Spiritual Leader of the Centers for Spiritual Living. His talk in Seattle was about living in our purpose – but what most struck me were his comments on spiritual practices.

Dr. Gordon described spiritual practices as “vital” for living in purpose, but he quickly explained that he wasn’t necessarily talking about meditation or prayer or any of the usual things we tend to think of. Here’s how he defined spiritual practice:

“Whatever you choose to do: mowing your lawn, looking in the mirror and seeing yourself, playing with your children or your grandchildren – anything that awakens God within you, that can bring you back to the realization and the recognition that you have a vital purpose in this thing called life, that you play a part, and you’re part of a mosaic that is unfolding to the benefit and beauty of Eden itself.”

His phrase “anything that awakens God within you” is the best definition for spiritual practice I’ve ever heard, and it shows how wide the range of possible activities is.

It takes vigilance and a willingness to continually remind ourselves and to return again and again to the path of our purpose, said Dr. Gordon. And if we trade it away in order to “be right,” in order to fit in, in order to “have our level of pissedofftivity satisfied,” then we’re trading away our peace, abundance, joy, love, and light for the smallest thing.

If you have occasion to hear Dr. Gordon speak, don’t pass it up.

           

Clarity

Yesterday an episode of Bones included an observation that went something like this: “It’s a barbarity that clarity is such a rarity.”

Since much of my delight comes from words, I stopped paying attention to anything else in the show and devoted myself to rolling variations of that sentence around and around my mind.

But apart from the clever sounds, the message hits home with me because of the importance of clarity in our spiritual lives. It’s tough to have clarity these days, with so much in the way of images, sounds, and messages coming at us nonstop. We have to find a way to be still long enough to process what’s come in, determine what’s real and meaningful, and absorb what is of value while discarding the rest. Clarity, once we get to it, enables us to know our own opinions, to say what we really mean, to be who we are meant to be. Many of us rely on our spirituality to bring clarity to the rest of our lives.

One avenue to clarity is meditation, the kind where you quiet your mind for long enough periods to come to rest in the cosmos of your soul; another avenue is prayer, the kind where you take your time and say out loud everything – everything – that’s on your heart and then listen to what response there may be. A common avenue is journaling.

Whatever your method, arriving at clarity makes your entire life work better. The rarity of clarity is a barbarity.

           

Waiting for God

Today has been a day of complete rest: sleeping late, then meditation, then a nap later, then lying about reading all day. I’m sure it’s been years since I have taken a day like this, and I am grateful for the complete quiet, the extraordinary peace. I would not want to live like this every day, but something negative happens if a day like this is never taken. It’s probably the buildup of how seldom such a day is enjoyed that makes it become imperative. It’s been a retreat day without going anywhere or paying anything for the privilege.

So, why am I writing about this? My purpose is really not to push this sort of “not-doing” day as a spiritual practice, though maybe it should be – it’s certainly benefited my spiritual being. I’m writing this because yesterday a friend of mine said (in gentle ridicule, I think) that my blog posts happen when God tells me what to write. Today, after many days of silence in this blog, this is what I felt compelled to write … so could be she’s right. I think that’s how I’m going to approach this blog from here on. Thanks, Erin!