Wednesday, September 15, 2004

pizza and beer - the contemplative's choice

Tonight, I had supper before I had a chance to meditate and pray like I normally do. Any contemplative will tell you that a belly full of pizza and beer does not help a session of meditation, and neither does tiredness - this causes what Christian contemplatives call the "Gethsamani sleep", referring to the disciples' inability to stay awake with Jesus at his most trying hour. However, I figured that a pizza-and-beer-fuelled sleepy meditation was better than no meditation so I decided to go up and pray at 8:30. Before that time I thought it best to let my food digest a bit, and passed the time reading some stuff about Buddhist-Christian dialogue that I found on the net.

I like things like this, and soon thought about the nature of reality, theism and atheism, the role of prayer and lots of other things began to rush through my skull. I then went upstairs, lit some candles and said some spoken prayers, which I felt went quite well, and then I pressed play on my Taizé CD which leads me into the twenty minute silence. As the music played, I asked God earnestly that he would grant me the grace to totally focus my mind in this session, to reject the preoccupations of the 'monkey mind' and simply repeat the prayer word: MA-RA-NA-THA, come Lord Jesus. I told God (telling God things is always a bad idea) that Jesus had promised that we would receive what we asked from God, for what Father gives his son a rock when he really wants an egg? Hence, I should receive my silence rather than twenty minutes of mad chatter. The music played out, and I felt confident (another bad idea). As usual, I focused on the mantra for an entire minute, before the monkeys got talking. This was not the egg I'd asked for!

By the end, I had realised that I was in no state to meditate properly - I was getting very sleepy as I continued (heck, my eyes are closing now!), but I stayed to let the session play out, and said the mantra softly to myself with my eyes open. I realised then that God doesn't work on desires. The desire to meditate better is just as bad as any other desire - I wrote this before (why don't I listen to myself?).

Jesus said we would receive what we asked for but what if we ask for a dangerous snake? Does a good Father give his son a snake? No, he gives him something better - like say... a loaf of bread. Tonight, my loaf of humilty was better than the snake of desire I really wanted. Hmm... I did want to say something about the thoughts I had on Buddhist-Christian dialogue, but that will have to wait. The moral of today's story is don't meditate at night with a full stomach, and be grateful for the loafs you're given even when they don't look like what you wanted. Now hopefully next time I will remember my own advice!

The elements of bread and wine always taste better to me after going through the story of the eucharistic prayers.Maybe that's related in some way, though I can't think why right now.
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