The Sieve

Interlude: Gymnopedie No. 1, by Erik Satie, performed by Charles Dutoit and Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal


Meditation is a real challenge sometimes. When there’s a lot going on, a lot to keep track of, maybe a few emotional issues to spice things up, or some mistake I haven’t figured out how to correct, my brain just refuses to stop.  Trying to meditate is like playing whack-a-mole at the Boardwalk.

Even on a relatively quiet day, my mind — usually a chain-link fence of forgetfulness — becomes a fine-weave fishnet, hauling in all kinds of memories and ideas.  I’ve had some very good ideas in that trying-to-meditate-but-not-really-succeeding time.  I’m thankful for the inspiration — quiet time is fertile ground for creativity.  But a creative idea has to be remembered.  I have to hold on to it.  That’s not meditation anymore.

Those days, I might say the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of mental warm-up, a reminder that I’m not in charge, thankfully, and I have help.  Then, as I begin to meditate, or re-start the meditation, I envision the cascade of thoughts pouring into my mind, pouring into a fine-mesh kitchen sieve.

And I begin to breathe, inhale, exhale, and with each exhale pushing between the wires, stretching it, inhale, exhale, like a weight lifter exhaling on a bench press, making the holes bigger and bigger.  Letting all the thoughts fall through, fall away.  Inhale, exhale, wider and wider, until I can’t see the mesh anymore, the thoughts aren’t there anymore, it’s just the sound of breath on the outside, and the whisper of prayer, of mantra, on the inside.

It’s a really big space when the visualization fades out.  Timeless, quiet, and open, a good place to hang out with God.

I expect you know what I mean, how it feels.  I think Jeremiah did, too:

my soul is bereft of peace;

  I have forgotten what happiness is;

so I say, ‘Gone is my glory,
  and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.’

[ The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
  is wormwood and gall! ]

My soul continually thinks of it
  and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind,
  and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,*
  his mercies never come to an end;
  they are new every morning;
  great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
  ‘therefore I will hope in him.’

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
  to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly
  for the salvation of the Lord.

[Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:17-26]


Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on July 2, 2016.