My old friend Karen, from my college days, is here visiting. She just came from a 9-day workshop on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts. She learned techniques of meditation and relaxation and is now ready to teach other to help manage their stress.
Karen and I met at a Vipassna meditation retreat two years after I left The Way. I had just started divinity school and was exploring other religious traditions. I figured Christianity hadn't worked out so well so I'd give Buddhism a shot. The retreat was held at a beach house and was led by Susan, a petite Jewish woman with wild brown hair and a thick Brooklyn accent. It being a silent retreat, we were instructed to not speak for the whole weekend.
One afternoon, I was walking along the beach, throwing stones and shells back into the ocean. I was yelling at God. Why had He let betrayed me and caused me to suffer at the hands of The Way? Why had He let everything fall apart? Why? Why? Why? It was unfair.
Susan came walking up behind me. I turned and ran towards her.
"I know we're not supposed to be talking, Susan, but I can’t hold it in any longer," I cried.
"What's up?" she said matter-of-factly.
"It's God. If God exists, how could He let all this bad stuff happen to me? Why did He betray me?"
Susan picked up a small stone from the sand and held it out in the palm of her hand.
"God didn't let this happen to you. God is being. God is everywhere. Maybe you the pebble on the beach felt betrayed but not you the part of the ocean. You are one with being. You can't be betrayed."
Then she handed me the stone and continued up the beach. I stood there dumbfounded.
That moment changed my life because it took me from being the center of my world to being part of God's. God is Mystery and I can't begin to know the reasons for everything but I know and believe that I am part of a greater whole and I am not at the center of it. It was and is a great relief.
I still meditate and find God in me each morning in the rhythm of my breath. I wrote a poem the other day about what it's like for me - this meditation. Here it is:
First, I strap myself in to the leather seat of my
invisible space craft. Then I launch into the deep,
ascend or descend, whatever you call it-
Until I find the orbit of my breath,
the magnetic field that holds me to this life.
Rocks and celestial debris assail my ship
in the form of thoughts and feelings but
I persist until I reach the still point
that pulls me out and pulls me in,
floating in the center of my inner space.
Mindfulness -Based Stress Reduction introduces a form of breathing meditation in which one follows one's breath to the center of one's being. For me, a combination of mindfulness and centering prayer has helped me connect with God and the Source. It has restored my faith and gives me a greater purpose beyond my own limited view.
If you're interested in learning more about mindfulness meditation and/or centering prayer, I recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living or Thich Nhat Hnah's Miracle of Mindfulness or Open Mind, Open Heart by Father John Keating.