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Filtering by Tag: meditation

Ordinary Round Moments

Joanna Campbell


  • I cheated again at Centering Prayer.
  • Instead of repeating one sacred word, I contemplated the weight of my prayer beads.  Or rather, their lightness, how they rest in my palm like a cloud.
  • Each wooden bead is a container for hundreds of prayers.  The cumbersome words are an unfinished painting.

  • There is an eye on each bead.
  • Really, these are knots.  They are the connective tissue from when the wood was part of a tiny branch—the place where the branch met the body of the tree.
  • I roll the beads between thumb and forefinger.  Often, there are no words—only the hope I am pushing toward something.
  • I try to ease into uncertainty.
  • There is a squirrel storing acorns inside our house.
  • My brother-in-law has Stage 4 cancer.
  • A woman will likely be executed tonight in Georgia.  Not even the Pope could sway the clemency board.
  • Seeing Jesus in the eyes of everyone we pass is an act of resurrection. Rarely do I practice this kind of medicine.
  • Buried beneath my anxiety is a young woman, deeply shaken by the sudden deaths of friends.
  • At a recent ordination, love rolled inside the sanctuary like a pinball. Give your clever talents over I heard in a hymn. They spilled out as tears.
  • I could not hide my face.
  • I want to be like the woman who sings at the oddest times.
  • Today, my loved ones are alive.
  • I need things to push against in order to give shape to a day.
  • The catch phrase, life is short, catches me in all the wrong ways.
  • Dang it.
  • I may already be living my dream.
  • I listen to a favorite song and hear familiar words for the first time, words like cool water, elegant and true. I make them my own, and they move between the beads.
  • Roll and push and touch our perfect bodies with your mind.  Touch our perfect bodies with your mind. Hear this broken meditation and touch our perfect bodies with your mind.

Coffee Table

Paul Luikart

26 Luikart Two seemingly innocuous, unrelated events converged in my recent past. The first was that my wife and kids went to visit my parents in Ohio for a two-week stay. Without me. The second is that, whilst wandering the Internet, I came across an article called (something like) “Things You Can Make With 2x4’s.” I forget exactly what all the things you could make were, but I remember that one was a coffee table. 

You should know this about me: I’m the world’s worst carpenter. Except for the gumball machine I made in woodshop back in 8th grade, I have never even attempted to make a thing out of wood. Still. A coffee table out of 2x4’s seemed doable. So against any sense of logic, I proceeded with the project using these tools:

  • A small crosscut saw I got when my wife and I first got married, whose main purpose had been, so far, cutting the bottom six inches off our Christmas trees each year so they’d fit in the stand.
  • A Philips head screwdriver that had been with me since college. Mainly used to open up battery cases.
  • That’s it.

I made a trip to Home Depot and bought some things that I thought might be useful. Sand paper, woodscrews, nails, stain, lacquer and, of course, the 2x4’s. Certainly the employees at Home Depot thought (and kindly kept it to themselves) “There goes a guy who saw a thing on the Internet and now he thinks he’s Bob Vila.” Hampered all the more by the fact that my only workspace was my front porch (Come on. The saw I mentioned is a notch above a pocketknife. Do I have a workshop? Get real.), I got started.

Here’s something else: Aside from the fact that I just wanted to try something new, I wanted to see if manual labor, real work, carpentry in this case, could somehow be meditative. For me. I know it is for my friends who are good at carpentry, who do it regularly and draw intense satisfaction from it. The skin on my hands is too soft, I thought. I haven’t gotten enough blisters or splinters in my adult life. I haven’t ever physically sweated over an object I built.

The scratching sound of the sandpaper on the boards was peaceful. The rhythms of the paintbrushes, one for the stain and one for the lacquer, soothed me. The twisting of the woodscrews through the 2x4’s, over and over again, drove me deep into a conversation with myself, a kind of silent discourse beyond the range of words. I was getting to know a self that I assumed had never existed.

Sometime during the course of the project, I found a big moth wing on my front-porch-turned-workbench. As a monument, I guess, to this internal dialogue I stuck it to the bottom of the coffee table with my last coat of lacquer. Something impossibly delicate and silent, something incredibly hard to find.

I suppose it’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but maybe it’s true an old dog can find a new dog living inside his skin. And the best part is: now there’s a coffee table in my living room. When I drink coffee in my house, even if everything else I said here is total crap, I have a place to set my cup.

Getting It Wrong

Joanna Campbell

clouds and power linesI. The first time I tried Centering Prayer, I did it wrong. The teacher warned us we might hear outside sounds — buses, car horns, construction — and to keep an open heart because life is never quiet in the way we desire. She rang the meditation bell, and I closed my eyes. Within minutes, I heard dishes clanking from the nearby kitchen. I knew it was the white-haired church volunteer. She was preparing our noontime snack. I imagined baby Jesus in the kitchen with her. She gave him a bath in the stainless steel sink. She dried him with white cotton tea towels. She anointed him with olive oil. He got a little older. She opened jars of herbs for him to smell. Each time a plate smacked the table, Jesus giggled. They took water glasses off the shelf and set up an artist corner. Jesus dipped brushes in the glasses and made little paintings. When I opened my eyes, it was time for our snack. I saw the church volunteer in her apron, speckled with water, and I was overcome with gratitude.

II. The second time I tried Centering Prayer, I did it wrong. My husband downloaded the app on my smartphone, so that I could practice anytime, anywhere. I clicked the icon, and the bell rang. I kept my eyes closed for twenty minutes and repeated the word, create, until I saw hundreds of things creating. Petals unfurling, flowers blooming, children emerging from the womb, trees rising skyward, fingers on piano keys, enemies embracing, wounded creatures standing for the first time with their scars. No, no, no, someone said. You are supposed to pick one sacred word, a holy word, and just focus on that.

Oh, I said, No one ever gave me instructions. Is there a list somewhere of sacred words? Besides, it was all so beautiful.

III. The third time I tried Centering Prayer, I did it wrong. By then, I was too captivated by images and words that dance to discipline myself into picking a solitary sacred word. Maybe one day I will have this ability. For now, I am smitten by getting it wrong. Too enamored of surprise. A noisy tableware devotee. Oh, the danger of young love!

Our Moments Big as Years

Jean Hoefling

star beach O aching time! O moments big as years!   - John Keats

Tradition has it that after Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, the revived one never laughed again. Except once, while sitting in the marketplace watching a   thief steal a clay pot. He found that hilarious. “Clay, stealing clay!” Ah, the philosophical bent of those whose souls have temporarily stepped out of time and hovered above their own decomposing bodies.

Time is unruly, an elusive commodity temporarily spliced into the DNA of the universe. Whether we’re on time, out of time, or in the nick of time, we measure this invisible bafflement by simple things; the ticking of a clock, our breath, the movements of celestial bodies. Theoretical physicists like Sean Carroll offer visuals like his “arrow of time” that slices through a vast multiverse, where defining terms we recognize—causality, memory, progress, aging, metabolism—are attached to puny time’s events as they hang onto the arrow for dear life.

Yet here we are, mostly non-physicists, shuffling through the present, racking up piles of the past like old sales receipts, anxious about the future, and wasting time like crazy. So few of our recollections seem to inspire the sense that that event/obsession/outlay of energy was worth investing in, back then, when that was the now. We feel as wretched as Shakespeare’s Richard II: I wasted time, and now time doth waste me. If anything in life requires faith, it is the conviction that a worthy tapestry is somehow being woven from it all.

Think back to the night of your senior prom. You were supple and stunning in ecru muslin and pearls, he pressed a red rose into your hand, you danced to “Colour My World,” then slept within a stand of quivering aspen while sparks from your campfire wafted into open space, where Dr. Carroll’s “progress” or “causality” might or might not be relevant. Question: If sparks from a teenager’s campfire drift across the border from time into non-time territory, and no one is there to notice, is the power of young love strong enough to give the sparks causality?