The mundane doesn’t need to be meaningless. Often times, the ordinary can be the perfect opportunity to slow down, to reflect — to meditate.
What do you do to unwind after a long day? Some opt for the Netflix route, plopping on the couch and turning their minds to autopilot. Others feel that the best cure for a stressful day is to sweat it out on a run or at the gym. But those just don’t do it for me.
Meditation has become a fairly loaded word in America these days. With it usually come exaggerated images of Buddha crossing his legs and “om-ing”, or a cryptic sense of spiritual zen (whatever that means). But in reality, meditation is a very simple practice. It doesn’t require any secret knowledge or tricks: it only requires a willingness to slow down.
And for me, that first step is often the hardest part. I wish I could be the kind of person that can turn off their mind at will, detaching from the to-do lists that dominate my life. It seems that my mind constantly spins, like one of those hamsters on an endless wheel. But despite my self-diagnosis, I know that my problem isn’t a lack of will or discipline — it’s a fear of losing control.
Our minds resist meditation because, when we truly withdraw from the world and into ourselves, we feel the unsettling release of letting go. We feel the need to constantly be moving even when we know that God is calling us to be still; we find a false sense of security in our own capacity to manage, control, and run our own lives; we clench our fists tighter around the sand in vain, blind to the fact that the tighter we clench, the more swiftly it falls to the ground.
It’s a scary thing to let go of control. But it’s also incredibly freeing. I believe that the more time we spend trying to meditate, the clearer God’s voice becomes to us. In the small times, the mundane tasks, we can be reminded of the truth that God is in control, and we are simply not. We don’t need to worry about our lives. We need to trust, and be still. I know I do. Every day, usually more than once, I need to surrender control to God.
Since I often find myself cycling, I have been trying to use this time to practice my own form of meditation. It can be hard to find a place of solitude and peace in a crowded urban city. Despite my initial, highly romanticized perspective on meditation and solitude, I’ve learned that God doesn’t reside in the quiet of the forest or the stillness of a mountaintop. True, it can be easier to focus in these settings of natural stillness; but more than anything, I’ve found that God is in the inner stillness, the quietest and calmest parts of the soul.
Often, my bike-time meditations digress into thinking about irrelevant tasks like taking out the trash or stopping at the pharmacy on my way home or finishing my work on time. I fall into the usual trap of my mind wandering, grasping for control over whatever it can hold, no matter how small. But sometimes, I succeed. Sometimes, I manage to block out all my worries, my to-do list, my anxieties.
And I breathe.
…switch gears for uphill…
…pedal right, pedal left….
…turn left at the stop…
Until I connect with God and hear that still, small voice: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Photo by (Flickr CC) Nahemoth