Interlude: Stars, by Helen Jane Long, performed by Helen Jane Long, on Porcelain (Air Studios 2013)
Have you had breakfast yet? Breakfast can be a wonderful experience. There’s the solitary meal with your favorite morning reading, or the view out the kitchen window. There’s the romantic kind, with just the two of you at home. And then there are breakfasts with friends, eating out, maybe at Gayle’s, or Cliff Cafe — we have so many good places for a tasty breakfast around here.
As much as I love having breakfast at the restaurants, though, it can be more work. Yes, they decided what to put on the menu, bought the ingredients, prepared the food, served my order, and they’ll take care of the dirty dishes. That’s work I’m happy not to do. But eating breakfast in a popular spot is harder along another dimension. Imagine, there you are, with your friends, your conversation, and your breakfast — along with everyone else, their conversation, and their breakfast. That’s a lot of distraction. What dish is that, that the server is carrying to the next table? What an interesting story that gentleman is telling at his table. She looks familiar — where have I seen her before?
And yet, here I am with my friends. Am I talking with them? And this delicious breakfast I ordered — am I tasting each bite? Am I paying attention? It can be very hard to let the stimulating environment fade into the background, so that I can focus on the important thing – sharing a meal with friends.
Meditation is a lot like breakfast with friends. Okay, so we usually don’t eat breakfast with our eyes closed. And in general, it’s not as noisy — well, not so your ears can hear it. But if you think about it, the noise is there — your brain chattering away about this or that. What somebody said, something interesting you saw, some activity you’re looking forward to. It’s really hard to let those thoughts fade into the background. We have help — our breath and our mantra — but like those tasty bites of breakfast, we need to bring our attention to the here and the now, and recognize what we’re doing. Stay in the moment right here, and not in the past or the future that the mind is going on about.
And let’s not forget who is with us. Yes, this morning our friends are sitting near us, but I’m referring more to someone who’s there every time we meditate — at home, here, or in some other lovely meditation space you’ve found. Father, Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Jehovah — we have company when we meditate. If we let our thoughts fade into the background, if we stay in the moment, perhaps we can sense God with us, Emmanuel.
Easter will be here soon, and in one of the stories after the resurrection, Jesus has breakfast with the disciples, who had returned to their old jobs as fishermen. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus had an important conversation with Simon Peter. I expect that they had had breakfast together many times, and had many conversations, but this one, “Tend my sheep”, was very important, and guided Peter onto a different path.
May our meditation times help us to quiet the chatter of our minds, and become better listeners — to our friend across the breakfast table, and to the still, small voice that guides us along our way.
Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on April 1, 2017, and at La Selva Beach Community Church, April 4, 2017.