Interlude: Nú hverfur sól í haf, performed by Schola Cantorum Reykjavicensis, on the Meditatio: Music for Mixed Choir album
Have you been on any road trips this summer? Rented a car in some distant city? Did you use a map to get from here to there? Sometimes it can be really difficult, getting from here to there. But when the people or places you want to visit are far away, we rely on maps to get us there.
Not that long ago, we all used paper maps on our road trips. You opened them up just the right way to show the route you’d be taking, your shotgun passenger became navigator, and off you went. It wasn’t without its problems, though — when your navigator forgot to give advance notice of the turns, or if they found the map confusing. And then there was refolding the maps. Road atlases helped, as long as your trip stayed on one page.
And then in the 90s, along came cars with built-in navigation systems. Nowadays, you don’t even need to buy the navigation option for your car — your smartphone can run Google Maps or Wayze, pull in live traffic information, along with ways to get around that backup. No shotgun passenger required!
I just got back from driving around in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, by myself, and I was oh-so-happy to have the navigation technology on my phone. However, it wasn’t foolproof. There were times when my phone couldn’t get a GPS signal. And the time when I was trying to find a restaurant’s parking lot, and it told me to turn down an alley that I couldn’t see until I’d passed it — twice! A human being, that extra pair of eyes, would’ve been nice.
Now, meditation doesn’t require maps. When we want to visit with God, we sit, we breathe, we repeat our mantra, and settle in. It just works. As John Main says, there is no goal — no destination, just being. I quote:
When you begin it is essential to understand that meditation is something utterly ordinary. It is just of the same sort of order as breathing, and meditation is to the spirit what breathing is to the body. Basically, we have to learn to be who we are now and with great simplicity. Do not imagine that anything should happen when you meditate. Do not imagine that your meditation is successful if something happens, or a failure if nothing happens.
[Paul T Harris. Silence and Stillness in Every Season: Daily Readings with John Main (p. 242).]
And yet, as simple as meditation is, it’s nice to have a little help, someone to keep us on our path. We can read books from spiritual teachers, or read newsletters or websites on contemplative living. But for me, having a real human co-pilot, being able to listen to the voice of another human being riding with me on the meditation journey — that encouragement keeps me going.
Meditation isn’t on a map. There is no there there. It’s all here, and now. Still, it’s important that we keep going, stay on the journey, and encourage each other on the way. Paul’s encouraging words to the Romans so long ago are still apt today:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Delivered at La Selva Beach Community Church, August 8, 2017, and at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on August 19, 2017.