Monday, June 25, 2007

Of solitude, silence, and meditation

It's hard to find solitude and silence in New York City. In the summer, I love the beach. I go to the farthest field where the buses don't stop and they rarely have lifeguards. On a weekday it's just me, a few surfers and some fisherman. But today was too chilly for the beach. Absolutely gorgeous - sunny, blue sky with fluffy white clouds, no humidity, 69 degrees.

I tossed a towel and my books in my string bag and walked to the park about a mile away, with a stop at Dunkin Donuts for a ridiculously large iced coffee and bagel. Waded through the little leaguers, bikers, joggers, and people sunning themselves to a place where miraculously no one else was, a gazebo in the woods, overlooking the highway far below and the bay. Not exactly silent, tho the highway traffic is more white noise and almost matches the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

Finished Richard Foster's chapter on meditation in "Celebration of Discipline." He describes three different forms of meditation - meditation on scripture was the first and the one that appealed to me. He points out that meditation is not study, or exegesis, but personalization of the passage.

He quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer as saying "just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation."

Foster suggests "that you take a single event, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you."

How do we pick what scripture to meditate on though? Today selecting was easy because I picked something quoted in the boo. Foster quotes Bonhoeffer again as saying one should meditate on the same passage for a week. Fine, but then what about next week? We are reading Genesis in Bible study, and I'm working my way toward psalms in my own reading, tho admittedly have been reading more books that actual scripture this past year. Foster's descriptions of using the "sanctified imagination" to place ourselves in the scene with Jesus makes me want to pick something from the gospels. So, how do I choose?

Today I chose James 1:17 because it was mentioned elsewhere in the chapter, and therefore handy.

All that is good, all that is perfect, is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow caused by change.

Some ramblings I jotted down:

God is light with no change of shifting shadow (I know I've read that in another version), like the way the light shifts and shimmers on the leaves and the water. So, pure light with no shadows such as leaves cause. But elsewhere in scripture it says God is the shade on our right hand or something to that effect. (note to self, next time might help to actually bring a bible along) So God is both pure light and shade. How can that be?

The sun is warm but also contains harmful radiation. shade is cooling and safe, protecting. So God is pure light that causes no harm and provides shade?

Am I supposed to be meditating with a notebook and writing things down? And is what I am writing down making any sense?

Bottom line: Not sure if I was missing or getting the point of the exercise. Foster says you don't learn to meditate from a book (darn b/c I like learning things from books). You learn to meditate by meditating. So that is what I am attempting to do.

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