If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned: If you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you – even for an instant – then our hero will surely perish.
[ first lines of Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)]
This is how one of my favorite films, Kubo and the Two Strings, begins, the words of a young storyteller, to an audience who is about to hear and see a most amazing story.
When I begin to meditate, sometimes I have good days, and sink into the rhythm of my breath, at peace, gently clearing my mind. But other days, not so much. An itch. Discomfort that makes me want to shift position. Annoyance by a sound from outside. On one of those days recently, I remembered the words from Kubo, his bidding to pay close attention.
A storyteller from another era began more briefly:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,…
[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere’s Ride]
I think both of these beginnings give us hints. They tell us to turn our attention from whatever else we have been doing — they prepare us. Here on Saturdays, each of the leaders introduces the period of meditation with a few words, before sounding the beginning gong tones. The words differ, but they help us to shift into contemplative prayer.
Do you have some words at home to help shift you out of the mundane and into meditation? Instructions to self? A poem? A bible verse? A prayer?
These introductions also bid us to listen, to pay attention to the story about to be told. On several occasions recently, I’ve been deeply disappointed when I went to a movie, an immersive ride at a theme park, and even a Broadway play, fellow audience members failed to pay attention, engaging in side conversations or commentary. Not unlike those unbidden monologues that our meditating mind can fire up, worries, gripes, commentary on life.
But the storyteller bids us to pay attention to the unfolding epic. Our repeated mantra is the rhythm of the storyteller‘s voice. We need to pay attention, hang onto the words. Listen. Listen, not to the chatter of our own minds, but for the Holy Spirit.
And as Apostle Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit is definitely worth listening to, as he prays in Ephesians:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on September 22, 2018.