Middle of the night meditations

The Resident Judge does not always sleep well. But one thing that will send her nodding off within minutes is the sound of voices on the radio, especially when they’re talking about something that she’d really be quite interested in if she…didn’t…drop…off…halfway..thr…….

It is not really a practice to be recommended, though.  Not only do I wake with the wires to the ear-buds wound several times around my neck, but I find that I really have very little memory of what I have heard.  I think that the great plan of the 1970s to learn subliminally while playing information while you sleep was a pile of hooey- and certainly rather impractical if you had to wake yourself up to turn the tape over.

Unless ABC Radio National has something that interests me, I listen to the BBC World Service which is rather repetitive because it has a news broadcast about every 15 minutes, but given that I’m usually asleep by the end of it, what I miss this time I will catch up with next time as my sleep cycle turns around again.

It does lead to some rather garbled reception of what I’m hearing, though. Sometimes when I open the paper the next morning, I recognize a news story that I might have heard in snippets.  I sometimes remember small details, but am not really sure enough of them to be able to vouch for their veracity. And sometimes- like yesterday- I’m actually able to check up on what I thought I heard and what I actually did hear.

Early on Thursday morning, I heard what I thought was a fascinating workshop discussion about meditation in Christian and other religious traditions.  The speaker, who was a Christian, led a guided meditation about darkness: the way that when you are walking in the dark, your eyes gradually adjust and you’re able to see things more clearly than you would have thought.  I thought it was wonderful- I let him take me, and I was able to actually walk through the meditation with him. Then, I thought the Dalai Lama responded…and by now I was actually waking up, and I was so impressed with this guided meditation that I resolved to find out what the program was by looking up the Radio National website that day.

Well, that’s what I thought I heard.

So, I was fascinated to find that I was actually listening to a program called “Encounter” that came on at 4.00 a.m.  I was right- there was an interfaith component,  it was about prayer and meditation, and the Dalai Lama was a contributor to it.  But where was the guided meditation that so impressed me? Here’s what the transcript says:

Margaret Coffey: Paul Murray, who then took one of Johannes Tauler’s 14th century sermons to explore the Christian notion of searching for God in prayer. It was a sermon built around a reflection on a passage from St Luke’s Gospel.

Paul Murray OP: Today’s Gospel, Tauler tells us, tells of a woman who has lost a coin and lit a lantern and searched for it. The woman in her great anxiety, Tauler informs us, turns her house up side down searching for the coin. But what, we might ask, does this searching mean?

First of all it refers, according to Tauler, to the two most ordinary ways in which people seek God – an active way, which entails the external performance of certain religious practices and good works, and a passive way which entails a beginning journey into the innermost self. Tauler writes, we must allow ourselves to sink into our ground into the innermost depth and seek the Lord there, as he instructed us when he said the Kingdom of God is within you.

Up to this point in his sermon we have heard for the most part about our searching for God but Tauler now goes on to speak about another more important searching. Earlier he had noted that it is eternal wisdom itself which has lit the lantern and now, he says, as soon as we enter our house to search for God, God in his turn searches for us – and the house is turned upside down. He acts just the way we do when we search for something, throwing aside one thing after another until we find what we are looking for. All of a sudden then we discover that the object of our search for God and of our search for wisdom is not some kind of passive divine truth, something which we are able to assess and possess with our own minds and at our own pace, but is rather something literally uncontrollable, a mystery of love our minds can barely begin to grasp, an urgency of attention to our most basic human needs and wants, a divine compassion and care for that very aspect of our lives which seems most hopeless and most lost.

Where was my guided meditation?  The light was there, and the darkness, and the looking…. but what had I done to it in my half-awake state? And yet, I felt so sure that I’d experienced it as a meditation- that I’d actually done the walking and the looking and the searching.

Or maybe it was just a glass or two of wine too many before bed?

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