I struggle with meditation. For about the last six years, I have tried to build and sustain a regular morning routine of scripture readings and silent prayer followed by a period of meditation. The reading and prayer parts have been manageable, although sometimes my prayers are on the perfunctory side. (It would be more honest to say they were sometimes on the sleepy side!) But meditation is another story. That has been a dismal failure. But I’m trying again.
There are many ways to meditate. There are books, audio presentations and classes galore. The particular variety of meditation that I am striving for recommends 20 minutes of listening. Not thinking, not planning, not praying; just listening. Clearing the mind of today’s calendar, yesterday’s successes and tomorrow’s worries. For me that’s a pretty big mountain to climb.
I know that it can work and that it’s worth the effort. Experience has shown me over and over that days begun with a combination of prayer and meditation are usually my best days. Things are clearer, worries are less worrisome. I’m less fearful and therefore it’s easier to make decisions and take on the day’s challenges with more confidence. I remember to turn to God frequently throughout the day. With Him on my side, what’s to worry about? But it has to start from a solid foundation in the morning. And that’s hard.
Have human brains always been this noisy? Did Moses struggle with quiet mindfulness, or was it easier without dozens of emails, headlines, pop-ups and “alerts” in our non-stop world of electronic social media? Somehow, I suspect that it was just as hard for a shepherd of ancient days as a white-collar worker in modern America. After all, if’ we’re honest, doesn’t that “noise” really come from within our own minds? It’s not so much noise as us looking for mental amusement; to “have our ears tickled” as St. Paul warned. Our minds and bodies have a natural tendency to seek short-term pleasure and entertainment.
A friend and mentor told me that it took him a year of hard work to train himself to meditate properly. Every morning, he would force both his mind and body to sit for the prescribed time. Most mornings, it was more torture than mindfulness. But eventually, I am assured, the traffic in our head clears. The noise doesn’t go away, but it does lose its control over our heads. And God’s peace is waiting in that quiet space. We need more of that peace in our lives. The world needs more of that peace, and it begins within our own hearts.
It’s hard. But it’s worth it.