Whenever I think of meditation, I immediately have thoughts of old, wizened yogis, sitting in lotus position, possibly floating off the ground, and saying “Huuummmm…”. Which then reminds me of the Red Robin commercials because I’m convinced they’re saying, “Red Robin, HUUUUMMM!!!” Which then reminds me of how someone recently told me that the commercials actually say “YUUUMMMM!!!”, which makes more sense, but frustrates me that I mishear it every time. Then I think of how my ears are plugged up because of allergies, which makes me think that Austin must really not like people if it keeps trying to drive us out with sneezing and itchy eyes…
And that’s the problem I have with meditation. Every time I do it, my mind wanders drunkenly, (i.e. the paragraph above), and before I know it, I’m not meditating so much as letting my brain run around like a kid who’s eaten all of his Halloween candy in one sitting.
It’s distracting and not at all peaceful like I imagine, which is why I keep giving up meditation and going back to it.
Funny story, one day last year as I was driving to work, I was thinking about how I might start meditating again. I went back and forth about it, remembering how much I struggle with it, then finally set it aside as I walked into the Pastoral Center. About ten minutes later, I’m on the phone with IT because I forgot my computer log-in password. They give me a randomly assigned password, and it is this (don’t worry, I’ve since changed it):
Ha! Yeah, I hear you God, loud and clear! I’ll start meditating again.
And so I did… for about 2 minutes. Then my brain started going bonkers, and I gave up again.
I finally realized that meditating looks that way because we don’t often practice being still or quiet. Our lives are lived quickly and loudly, running from one place to the next, listening to music or watching TV, talking to friends, running errands… How often do we pause and quiet ourselves? At least for me, it’s not very often. Being still makes me antsy and anxious, my mind quickly filling with worries or to-do lists. But I know that being in a quiet place while I reflect on my relationship with God, is the only way I’ll get better at hearing his voice. I really want to get better at that… I could definitely use more of His guidance. His voice is usually quiet, soft and unassuming. Meditation allows me the opportunity to get better at hearing it.
“11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.” – 1 Kings 19:11-12
In closing, here are some tips that I have found useful in improving my meditative practice. It still takes me awhile to quiet my mind, but it’s worth it knowing that Jesus is waiting there for me, in the silence.
Tips for Meditating
1. Make a special place for meditating. I have a special corner of my room dedicated to meditation, where I have a pillow, some candles, and all of my religious books and rosaries. It looks comfortable and inviting, making it difficult to pass by an opportunity to pray.
2. Find a book with guided meditations. I really like the ‘Hind’s Feet on High Places’ devotional by Hannah Hurnard. It has an easy meditation on every page.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Meditation is not easy, and getting good at it won’t happen over night. Our brains need practice in that still space, and it may take awhile for your thoughts to settle down. Give it time, they will.
“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10