Spiritual Daydreaming, or The Uncomplicated Art of Meditation
So there you are…the moment when you have finally decided you are going to try and do what you’ve got to do. You're going to give yourself to the spiritual life that you know you were meant to have - that you need to have. So the resolution is made - you’ve got to start meditating. You’ve heard it a thousand times from priests and religious and a hundred times from the voice inside yourself that knows it's something that has to be done. So you go into the church or kneel down beside your bed, close your eyes and then…well…then what?
You’re not quite sure actually. You know you’re supposed to close your eyes but you’re not really sure what to do once you’ve closed them. You squint sneakily at the clock and hope that maybe the customary ten minutes have gone by and then you realize that it’s only been sixty seconds. Dang. So you go a few more minutes attempting to be really holy and thinking about nothing, or trying to, before you conveniently decide that the three minute effort was probably good enough for a beginning. You get up and move on with your day thinking meditation is not so bad after all. This I can do. In fact, I think I just might have gotten a little holier.
Two days later you’ve stopped meditating.
You figured it’s something more for priests and monks...possibly your mom or the boring kids your age who aren’t open minded enough…but you? Maybe one day when you’re older but for now…God is just happy that you're saying the rosary…sometimes…or…going to Sunday mass…usually…right?
Yeah no. You just plain gave up.
Why? Because you have no idea what you’re doing. And it’s frustrating because you wanted to try but you just have no idea how to. You’re clueless. We are clueless. Why?
Because we complicate things. We complicate everything. And we most especially complicate the spiritual life. But it’s really not that complicated. In fact it’s quite simple. I mean, what’s the point of meditation? Well, what’s the point of anything? To get closer to God. To discover Him. That’s all meditation is - moments spent in trying to get closer to Him. And how do you get closer to someone? By getting to know them. If you don’t ever try getting to know someone then you can’t possibly get closer to them. It’s the knowledge of them that brings you to a greater understanding of the beautiful things about them. And from that realization comes an appreciation for who they are and maybe, just maybe, a certain love for who they are. There you go. That’s it. That’s why we meditate. To get to know someone. To understand them more. To try and see who they are and what makes them beautiful to you.
So try it. Just try and get to know God. Take something simple about Him and reflect on it. Think about it. Who cares what it is. As long as it helps you think about Him then it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s the image of Him on the Cross or maybe it’s thinking of all the things that He has done to help you during your life. Maybe it’s just thinking about a close friend that you love and realizing that the goodness and love of that friend is just a reflection of God’s goodness and love. Or perhaps it's something as simple as thinking or looking at some beautiful scene from nature like a powerful waterfall or the majesty of the starlit sky. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the image or the thought helps you to reflect and think about Him.
Well then we get worried. I can’t think of something for that long. I don’t even know what new things I would be able to think of in order to make it worthwhile. That’s ridiculous. Of course you can. You do that very same thing all the time. When was the last time you daydreamed? The last time that you just sat there on the couch with your mind wandering or drifted off as you were driving or just talked to yourself or thought things out loud about whatever came to your mind? We do it all the time. Well, that’s meditation. Just taking something and talking to yourself about it, breaking it down into whatever parts come to your mind.
Wow. The sky tonight is incredible. Look at the stars. So beautiful. Imagine what God’s beauty must be. Imagine what Heaven must be. It must be just like this only better. God - you’re incredible - that you actually made this sky. I wonder if there is even an end to the sky, to the universe? Does it just keep going? Where is God? Heaven. But what is heaven? What will heaven be like? Where is heaven? Is it near one of those stars? I don’t know. I just know that this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Thank you God. You are beautiful, because you have made such a remarkably gorgeous thing. Maybe next time something is awful I should just think of this right here and remember - everything will be fine - because You, the One who made this - is here. Thank you.
There it is. That’s a meditation. Just looking at something and thinking about it. Talking about it. Reflecting on it. All the while directing it all to Him. Meditation is simply that.
But maybe you can’t think of anything that day or you’re not able to place yourself before a vast canyon or a glorious sunset or a mountaintop. Well, if nothing else is working then just grab a favorite spiritual book and open it up and start reading. Read slowly. One sentence at a time. When you find something that hits you - think about it.
Daydream about it. Talk to yourself about it. Don’t try to be all intellectual about the sentence. Just be yourself and chew on your own thoughts. It’s that simple. It’s what we do all the time when we drift off thinking about our future, our day or what we want to do with our friends tomorrow. Only this time the topic and the goal is something that eventually leads us to God.
And don’t forget that distractions are there to help you. Too often we get completely sidetracked by distractions. We kneel down and try to meditate but all we get are thoughts about our day, our friend, or our job or whatever. Well instead of sitting there trying to ward off those thoughts every ten seconds, let those be a door of opportunity to go to God. You’re there meditating on how painful it must have been for Our Lord to have been all alone before He was going to suffer when all of a sudden thoughts of your job or your friend come invading your already tired mind. Good. Don’t keep trying to throw those thoughts away. Embrace them. Think about your friend and how good they are and let that be an avenue to God.
Thank you, God. You’ve given me this friend. How can I be a true friend to them? What is it to be a true friend? I guess it’s basically what you did when you helped me. You fought for me. Lived for me. Died for me. Did everything for me. That’s a friend. Doing anything for the one I love. That’s what I want to be. What you were to me. Help me to be that to my friend and to you. Help me to see you as a true friend. Help me, Christ.
There you go. Distraction turned into meditation on God and friendship with Him. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even science. It’s just thinking about Him. And eventually just talking to Him. So try it.
Remember at the end of the day it’s not about the results. Too often we give up meditating because we don’t feel like it did anything. We get this notion in our heads that we have to come out of a meditation understanding God more profoundly or filled with zeal to do all for Him. Not really. At the end of the day meditation has nothing to do with what you get out of it. If that’s what you think then you’ve missed the point. Meditation is simply about the desire and the effort we put into it. God doesn’t care if we come out of meditation knowing Him better. He doesn’t even care if we spent the whole meditation fighting off or rather redirecting distraction. All He cares about is that we got down on our knees for ten minutes and tried. That’s it.
So try it. Find ten minutes. Or if that’s too much then start with five minutes. Whatever you decide to do, do it. When you go to do it, set that alarm for whatever time you have decided on and don’t you dare get up until that time has passed. And while that clock is ticking, just try your best. Sometimes you might come out feeling awful. Who cares. You put the effort in and that is all that will ever matter in the eyes of God. Every person in Heaven is simply that - someone who struggled, someone who often received no great knowledge from their meditation but still someone who tried. Day in and day out they tried and that made all the difference.
So go - discover your God. Think about your God. Talk to yourself about your God. And soon enough, come to know your God. If you really want to, you will. Because you can’t miss Him. After all, He is literally shining all around you.