19 April 2010

Setting the Clock

A couple of good friends have regular meditation practices. Every day--sometimes more than once a day--they sit quietly in stillness with their eyes closed and breathe. And while a considerable amount of reading about sitting meditation and a meager amount of experience have convinced me of the deep spiritual nourishment possible with the practice, I haven't adopted it.

Why? For the same reason any of us don't floss our teeth or get on a diet or start exercising more.

After several days of bright sunlight and steadily climbing temperatures, this day dawns with a solid white cloud cover. I sat in the courtyard with my morning coffee and scowled. Yesterday at this time I'd stood before a Unitarian Universalist fellowship with my guitar and sang

Let us sing this song about the turning of the world
That we may turn as one

With every voice, with every song

We will move this world along

And our lives will echo with our turning

And our lives will echo with our turning...

After some repetitions, "turning" became "sharing".

The minister joined me in the song. I looked into her eyes--a dear friend I have known since seminary. Back then, she was a reserved, prematurely frumpy intellectual. Today she has blossomed into an inspired leader. My heart swelled with pride and celebration as we sang.

By the third or fourth round others began to sing with us. My eyes scanned their faces--strangers to me really, people I'd never seen before a week ago. They met and held my gaze. Such extravagant encounters! Truly holy communion. Looking into the eyes of strangers and singing together. In fact, it was decades of experiencing this kind of communion through music that led me to enter seminary.

I looked over their heads, to the scene beyond the glass wall at the back of the room. Brilliant sunlight. Lush, rolling hills of green. Horses grazing in a corral made of dark wood posts. Half a dozen helmeted, spandex-clad bicyclists, streaks of color whooshing past.

I felt how big the world is: somewhere, at that very moment, everything imaginable in the realm of human experience was happening. I was singing with tears on my cheeks and somewhere a child was being born and another child was dying in the bombed wreckage of his home...somewhere a man and woman were making love for the first time and another couple were making love for the last time...someone was preparing a meal and someone else was painting a self portrait in oil.

And unarticulated knowing saturated my awareness: The world is huge. And intimate. There is room for all of us and we are in this together.

This kind of awareness -- when every part of me is awake and tuned in and everything is known (and forgotten) with an immediacy that makes the usual chattering commentary of my mind unnecessary -- this is as close as I get to meditation. It is certainly a "practice": I return to it again and again, have done so for years. But it is irregular, unscheduled.

When I became aware of my scowl this morning (that tension in the forehead, along the jawline, around the lips...the tight, whining voice in the mind), I burst out laughing. What my face must look like, I thought. I felt distracted from the turning of the world. A self-centered, rather than sharing moment.

I allowed my attention to drift away from my face and thoughts. Directly in front of me in a neighboring yard, beyond a tall redwood fence, I saw the unequivocal green of a fir tree against the creamy white sky. I felt the steadfastness of the trunk simultaneous with the delicate trembling of the slender leaves in the barely-there breeze.

I felt the deep quiet of the landscape: no planes or sirens or voices, no birdsong or thunder. Just a faint tinkling of wind chimes. I felt the white blanket of clouds holding the world.

A world where everything imaginable is happening, has happened. A universe so vast that it holds yesterday and today and tomorrow.

The world in God's pocket.

This is as close to meditation as I seem to get. I also sometimes think of it as prayer.

What would happen if I did this at the same time every day?

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