Toughening Up Meditation

by Ken Briggs

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An item on the daily rundown of the local college read as follows: "Meditation Canceled Due to Snow."

I could picture the normally calm Trappist monks near my home town in Massachusetts being flummoxed by reading that. Meditation has been one thing that is even more doable than the mail carrier's rounds: stayed by neither sleet, nor hail or, in this case, by a measly five inches of pure, driven snow.

I'm quite sure that the notice referred to a group that meditates together, though that's in a classic sense a modern practice designed to attract campus curiosity seekers who wouldn't otherwise approach anything so inactive or "unproductive." So in the order of things it was proper to let the group know that the latest trumped-up weather disaster made it unnecessary to even think about undertaking a risky walk across the quad.

Still, they might have suggested that participants still had the option of quieting their minds by themselves in their rooms or even on a sled on the nearest snow bank.

For the growing number of people who have either discovered meditation for the first time or, like the Trappists, have observed it as a way of life for many years, it has been a marvel. In an action driven, achievement oriented society like our own, where both religious and secular rituals have largely displaced inner journeys as sources of affirmation and confirmation, meditation has come back from its long hibernation in western culture, an improbable "do nothing" answer to a fever of longing. Not terribly pragmatic in an age when home renovation appears within the grasp of television viewers. Meditation only offers the non-self as an answer.

Maybe the college meditation group encourages personal time alone or is a place for preparing to do so. Groups are endemic to Trappist life, after all, and that doesn't prevent their private soul searching.

In any case, my hope is that the college notice isn't a sign that meditation is going soft. It takes a tough meditator to keep on when all those outside forces are saying it isn't worth the effort anyway, that putting it off won't harm a thing. Those of us who depend on it beg to differ. Let it snow. Let us meditate.


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