I’ve not been looking forward to this post. When I first came up with the idea of the “Tools of the Trade” feature, I thought it would be a good motivator to explore things I hadn’t tried before. It would give me a reason to do new things and see if I could meet God there. When I wrote the first part to this post almost a month ago, I had hoped that when I wrote this one I would kick open the door to my office, fire a gun at a ninja, and continue typing unbothered by the explosion that occurred behind me. I would be one of those Christian badasses like you read about.
But then, my birthday happened. And then a trip to Nashville. And then you can take your pick of any number of distractions that filled my life. Before I knew it, it was today, and I had meditated like I intended exactly once.
That’s right. Once. As you can imagine, there was no gunfire as I took my seat in front of the computer. In fact, the process mostly involved sighs and a deep sense of resignation. I’d be lying if I said the thought of telling you all it was an astounding success hadn’t crossed my mind. In the end, I couldn’t escape the promise I made to remain authentic instead of trying to save face or look like an expert.
So, there it is. I’m a failure. But an authentic failure, dammit. All of that said, I do think there are a few points worth extrapolating regarding my failed attempt at a spiritual activity.
First, looking back on the month, the things that kept me from meditating weren’t mandatory. Hell, most of the time they weren’t even important. If I’m completely honest, the fact of the matter is that I just didn’t make it a priority. I know from experience that if you truly decide you’re going to do something, nothing can stop you. I never made it to that point.
Secondly, I didn’t look forward to meditating. At all. This wasn’t my first dance at the meditation hoedown. I made another ill-fated attempt at it two months ago as well. From that experience, I had already learned that more than anything else, meditation just felt like… wasting time. Recently, I heard someone speak about meditation and say that a large part of learning how to do it correctly is learning to believe that it matters. That was a bridge I wasn’t able to cross.
Third, I lacked any formal instruction. I had hoped that if I read enough about it on the internet that would be sufficient… It turns out, for me at least, that’s not the case. If I had someone in my life that could tell me how meditation helped them, if they told me how I was supposed to sit or what I was supposed to do with my brain, I might have had a chance. As it was, every motion I made, every thought I had was immediately questioned. It’s difficult to reach the next plane of enlightenment if you’re constantly wondering if you’re getting there correctly.
But, that’s not to say that it was all a loss. That “once” I alluded to at the beginning of the post? That was kind of a big deal. It was the fifteenth or sixteenth, I believe. There has been a lot questioning this month regarding what comes next in my life; should I go back to school? Is that a waste? Can I get by without it? Do we need to move? It’s been a veritable smorgasbord of existential quandaries.
That evening, I felt like a computer that had been turned on for too long. Too many things had built up in my mind. I needed to reboot and clear some RAM. Suddenly, I had found the purpose of meditation. I went into our bedroom, popped in my headphones and played a monaural meditation track. For twenty minutes I sat on our bed with the lights off, slowly repeating the word “Shalom” in time with my breath.
Instead of banning thought, I allowed myself to convert those ideas to prayer. Once the prayer was said it could be let go. Eventually, God made an appearance. I know that telling you those details are kind of the bread and butter for this site, but I’m hanging on to that one for now. When everything is in place I’ll go a little more into detail.
But since that night, I’ve had the word “Shalom” etched into my subconscious. It’s there, just below the surface. Sometimes when my attention drifts I’ll snap back to reality and be surprised to find “shalom” is floating through my head. At night, after Leah is asleep and I’m trying to be, I’ve started repeating it to the tempo of deep breaths.
Maybe the month wasn’t such a failure after all? I don’t know what the end result of this is, nor do I know how much focus I’ll continue to give the idea of deliberate meditation… But I do feel that much like Shalom itself, it will remain there, just under the surface.
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB