A mindful time in meditation might mean all sorts. Frequently for me it means trying to look over the shoulder of worries and needs to a quieter place. Consider the wonderful line in the poem by RS Thomas, The Moor, linked here: What God there was made himself felt. I’m really not very good at it. It’s as if I know the words but can’t fit them to the tune. I know what it means for the “breath to be held like a cap in the hand,” or to “look with kind attention at my distractions” but can’t ever really get it right. There may not be a “right” to “get,” of course…
So it was with some surprise that an early morning in the run-up to Pentecost found me in the garden trying to be mindful, trying not to try, trying not to notice I wasn’t trying… It was, as the poet Rick Greene writes, “earlier than history by an hour.”
And the blackbird flew across the garden, with that wonderful liquid chortle….and a wren hopped about after the chickens’ mealworms, scolding , needle, pin, “sharp-song, briar-song, thorn-song” as Rob Macfarlane puts it. And then the littler of the two squirrels came across the shed roof and I watched it run along the fence, heading for Jo next door’s bird table. They came, and they went, and I watched them come and go… and I wondered (and wondered so much I thought I’d blog it) if this is what Martin Laird is getting at in his books. Here he is in Into the Silent Land.
The thinking mind that “whirls about” is constantly concerned with thoughts, concepts and images, and we obviously need this dimension of mind to meet the demands of the day, to think, to reflect on and enjoy life. But the thinking mind has a professional hazard. If it is not engaged in its primary task of reason, given half a chance it fizzes and boils with obsessive thoughts and feelings. There are, however, deeper demands, deeper encounters of life, love and God, and there is far more to being alive than riding breathlessly around in the emotional roller coaster of obsessive thinking…This profound ignorance of our innermost depths presents a singularly convincing case. This is the human condition and we have all eaten of its fruit. But this is a lie. It is a lie spun largely out of inner noise and mental clutter.
Maybe my chasing thoughts is just like chasing the squirrel (not something I do) or following the wren as it picks about on the lawn. I let them go: the cool, dark of the garden is the thing, not the scurrying busy animals. Maybe this is another thing we learn from being outside: that there are aspects of our mental states that are mirrored by what we see around us. Maybe, at a deeper level (or a more convoluted metaphor), I need to see myself as a place where thoughts scurry about, when what I came to do was enjoy the peace and the dim calm of the morning.