It was hard to hear part of the sermon this morning. Someone was doing something noisy in the parish kitchen. It sounded like taking out the recycling, with lots of metal clanking. Just as it subsided, the minister concluded, and there I was, having missed out on several of the final sentences. And you know, it’s that last paragraph of the sermon you really don’t want to miss.
Driving home, I thought about my little one-track brain. I can remember as a kid, my mama would call me when I was buried in a book, and I wouldn’t hear her at all. It was as if reading made me deaf. I’m a little better at hearing now, but put me in an environment with multiple things going on — parallel conversations in a business meeting, commentary nearby during a speaker’s address, or even just background noise like this morning — and my little one-track brain simply disintegrates, switching back and forth between the different sounds.
You would think that I could use the powers of concentration that helped me to tune out my mother, to hang on to the most important sounds — the executive, the speaker, the priest — but no. My internal noise-cancelling mechanism doesn’t function very well. I don’t think that it’s a hearing problem, though.
When I’m meditating, eyes closed in a quiet space, my little one-track mind obediently listens to the unspoken mantra, the sound of my breathing, for a short while. But then, when some random thought drops by to say hello, it’s off and running, having a nice little chat with itself. It completely forgets about the mantra, the breath, and listening for God in the silence. When I return to the mantra, return to the breath, there’s a feeling of loss, like those lost words from today’s sermon.
I have no doubt that God could find some other way to tell me what I miss when I’m distracted in meditation. But what if I was able to keep focus? What if I could keep my little one-track mind still, listening for Him? I’ve noticed that in my best relationships, both parties listen to each other. Maybe I talk more in one visit, and the other person talks more in the next, but there’s a whole lot of listening going on. Just think — all that time I’m distracted during meditation, is opportunity lost, for deepening my relationship with God.
The good news is, after the service today, the minister was happy to show me the end of his sermon. It was all about faith. I do have faith. I have faith that with prayer, and more practice with meditation, I can become better listener, and improve my relationships. That’s a good message. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.