Part of my spiritual practice for a number of years has been meditation. I know what you’re probably imagining in your mind; sitting on the floor with legs crossed, a blissful smile on my face and a long solemn “ooooohhhhhmmmmm” coming from my mouth. While some people might meditate this way, for me, this could not be farther from the truth. Meditation is merely sitting in quiet and allowing your random thoughts to take a backseat. In short, it is enjoying the presence of God without imploring, seeking or asking for a thing. Like sitting with someone you love intensely and not needing to speak a word.
Definition: meditation (noun) med i tei ʃn 1. Emptying or concentration of mind; the emptying of the mind of thoughts, or the concentration of the mind on one thing in order to aid mental or spiritual development, contemplation, or relaxation. 2. Pondering of something; the act of thinking about something carefully, calmly, seriously, and for some time, or an instance of such thinking. 3. Serious study of topic; an extended and serious study of a topic.
I live in a crazy, busy house with seven other people. Five of them are teenage boys. To find a quiet moment at home seems like sitting in the eye of a storm most times. As a result, I usually get up a good 2 hours before everyone else so I can enjoy this sometimes elusive peace and quiet. Even still, in a quiet room before dawn trying to quiet my mind is like trying to calm the stormiest of seas. I set a meditation timer for 15 minutes and often, when that 15 minutes is up I’ve realized that I haven’t “enjoyed” God’s presence, I’ve thought about calling the dentist, a project at work, the money I forgot to give a kid for a field trip, what I’m packing for lunch, how the dry weather makes my skin itchy and the fact that I’m a little hungry.
I’m supposed to just acknowledge those little thoughts and then let them go with the recognition that I will deal with it later…..right now it’s time to sit. But a lot of the time, one thought leaves and another quickly takes its place. I’ve heard this called “monkey mind” by other people that practice meditation. Your thoughts are just like an active primate jumping from branch to branch. That is why the discipline of meditation is so important. It helps settle down those thoughts and gives me an opportunity to concentrate on something much more important, my relationship with God.
It sounds lovely right? Sitting, relaxed and calm and putting every stressful event and thought out of your mind for a few minutes. But it can also seem incredibly illusive and frustrate me to no end. Several times I’ve heard my timer go off and realized that I didn’t sit with God at all, I just planned my meals for the week or formulated a letter to a client in my mind. My first thought is to be a little hard on myself. That’s not productive either!
A few years ago I was chatting about meditation with my sister who is a therapist. She said she found it to be a very useful tool with her patients, especially teenagers. It was exactly those thoughts that constantly interrupt the peace and calm of meditation that she wanted to know about. She asked them to notice a theme in those thoughts and record it. When they got down to the bottom of it, there was a bigger reason that it kept coming up and that’s what they would work on in their therapy sessions.
Sometimes the fact that I can’t quiet my mind is an indication that God is working on something with me. This week I’m pretty certain God is working harder than usual because my mind is going 1,000 miles an hour! This is a cue for me to take notice of those thoughts and to put them in their respective place. Most of the time, the thoughts that interrupt my meditation are regarding a specific topic or person that I’m concerned about. This is like lighting up a neon sign indicating that this person or topic needs to be put in God’s care and lifted up in prayer. Or, I f I’m constantly worrying about lists, appointments and other to do’s, I know the bigger issue is letting go of things out of my control.
Eventually, I will get back to a place where I just enjoy being in God’s presence and I’m not annoyed and interrupted by the monkey mind. Those moments are indescribable! The result is feeling completely full with love and gratitude and it is well worth it.