This Lent, I took on the spiritual discipline of meditation.
It got off to a rocky start, I did really well last week, and this week, my routine became unstuck: appointments, delayed chores, all have combined to stop me meditating except for a few blissful moments in yoga class today.
Yeah, it's blissful, it's something I long for, and yet, if there is an excuse for it not to happen....
And it gets worse. The one thing I struggle with when I do sit down to meditate is keeping my mind still. I live in my brain: it's where I nut out my writing, my battling with scripture, and it is what I feed with books on scripture, spiritual practices and living.
Yeah, stilling that is pretty hard.
Have you ever been told to give something over to Jesus, to lay it at the foot of His cross? Have you ever wanted to kick them in the shins because it's not as easy as saying it? But of course, we don't kick them because we are nice Christians. We smile and complain how hard that is to do, and change the subject. (Please tell me you do this too.)
Last night, after four days of no meditation, I lay awake. I ruminated over that evening's meeting. Something that tickled that I let pass.
Over an hour later, I'm still thinking about it. That's one of my quirks, which is both a gift and a curse. I review, I rehearse, I obsess.
I take a breath, use a meditation technique, praying The Jesus Prayer as I breathe in, as I breathe out.
A moment's peace and the subject grips me again. It takes me a little while to realize it. To realize that by sticking with this thought I am robbing myself of joy, of love, of peace. I need to stop thinking about this. Now.
"God," I pray silently, "I lay this burden at the foot of your cross. Please take it from me."
There's a release, a letting go. I start to dream ...
I didn't think it was going to be that easy, did I? My crafty brain approaches the thought from an entirely different, unwelcome angle.
I catch on quicker this time, think, "Looks like I picked the burden up again, God. Here you go..."
And at last, at last, I fall asleep.
I dream of water, of swimming in it ... and wake up with that sense of peace that so eluded me the night before.
My mind kicks in again, but not about an obsessive thought, but how dreaming of the ocean was God's way of forgiving me, of saving me, by washing me clean again and again and again.
You might have to lay your burdens at the foot of the cross more than twice. It might be ten times. A thousand. Ten times a thousand. It might be the hardest thing you ever do, but try it and receive God's love and grace, and especially for this tired brain, peace.