At our summer church in Kennebunkport a small group meets once a week in the rectory for Centering Prayer, a meditative practice founded in Massachusetts by three Trappist monks in the 1970s. We meditate for twenty minutes by focusing on a sacred word of our own choosing, then watch a short teaching by Thomas Keating on DVD.
The first time I went last summer I was very intimidated by the prospect of a twenty minute meditation! Sitting in a quiet room alone listening to the “noise” in my head is old hat to me and I often mistake it for being productive. Making mental to-do lists, planning, lamenting the past, worrying about the future can happen in the most bucolic of settings. Sitting with a quiet mind? It’s a challenge, but meditation gives me moments of inner silence, the benefits of which are deep and lasting.
I don’t believe that one needs to engage in a formal meditation to be fully present in the moment. As an example, when I spent time with Wishy, without effort I was focused on the here-and-now with a very quiet mind. Nothing brings me more down to earth than connecting with the natural world. Wishy also brought me great joy!
When Wishy moved onto the next realm, I didn’t just lose a dear friend but my meditation buddy.
I had never really been able to sit down with the intention of meditating. There are just too many “enticing” distractions. I had tried various practices of focusing on my breath, counting to ten and listening to guided meditations. I found them annoying and then I’d get annoyed that I was annoyed.
Meditating at St. Ann’s changed that for me.
I attended only a couple of meditations last summer, but those two were the first time in my life that I was able to truly shut out the incessant banter in my brain without needing an outside distraction to ground me. When that happened, I experienced an unparalleled peace. It seems that in those truly quiet moments I made room for a healing Holy Presence. It’s nothing I can put into words. The impact is immediate and lasting.
This summer I plan to attend all of the sessions and will then continue on my own afterward. My hope is that I will eventually be able to quiet my mind during times of anxiety. Magical Maine summers and making friends with wildlife helps me feel connected to God, but those are temporal. A quiet mind is ultimately a discipline. It does get easier each time I meditate, and twenty minutes no longer feels like two hours.
Inner silence is a sacred gift that is available to us all.