Interlude: The Prophet performed by Rudy Perrone, from the Language of Spirits album.
Summer is here. Are you planning to travel this summer? We live in a beautiful county, with many places — indoors and outside — where we can feel a spiritual connection. So how will you keep that connection when you travel? Is there “time with God” in your itinerary?
On some of my travels, “time with God” has been a destination on the itinerary.
- In Japan, I’ve visited beautiful Buddhist shrines and their gardens. The most popular shrines attract droves of local and foreign tourists, but from time to time, you can find yourself alone, or with another quiet tourist, taking in the beauty and peace of the space. My favorite Zen temple in Kamakura has a meditation room – closed during my visits so far, but on a porch behind the room, several benches face a pond and hillside — it’s a beautiful spot for a few minutes of quiet meditation.
- Another trip, I visited the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, a bucket-list destination for me. The former cathedral, converted to mosque, and now a museum, is almost 1500 years old. It’s huge, and stunning in its architecture. Taking in the majesty and palpable history of that beautiful sacred space was an unforgettable spiritual experience.
- I visited St. Petersburg for business, but it became a spiritual experience for me. On the weekend, I visited several active Orthodox churches. Contemplating the icons of saints with the sounds of a chanted service in the background was definitely “time with God.”
- Closer to home, Vancouver, Canada is a favorite spiritual destination. I love attending Evensong at the downtown Anglican cathedral, walking a labyrinth to 12th century choral music in an Anglican parish hall, and soaking in the quiet beauty and peace of the Nitobe Japanese garden out at the university.
So will your travels this summer take you to a beautiful, spiritually rejuvenating place like Kamakura, Istanbul, St. Petersburg, or Vancouver? Or perhaps this summer you’ll stay home, in our little California tourist destination? Maybe you’ll take visitors to stroll in the redwoods, or along one of our beautiful beaches. Maybe you’ll invite them to a church service, or to meditation at Resurrection or La Selva Beach, with breakfast afterwards. Or perhaps, you’ll just be patient with all the tourists on our roads and highways.
No matter your destination, house guests and fellow tourists do make it more difficult to meditate.
Yet including meditation “time with God” in the itinerary can be just the antidote to the extra busy-ness and togetherness.
- If your plans involve plane travel, Tom Lehmkuhl once advised me that after the safety announcement and before the cabin service begins, while the plane is taxiing and climbing to altitude, passengers are often quieter, and that time can work well for meditating in your seat. Good advice, and I’ve used it often.
- If your plans involve a hotel stay, I’ve found two things that work: I let the rest of the family go on ahead and meet them a little later, using the vacated hotel room for meditation. Or, I take the first shower, and head outside to a chair by the pool or on the veranda, and I’m back in the room by the time the rest of the crew is ready to go.
- With house guests, it can be difficult to find space and time as well, but I’ve found a lounge chair in the back yard works just fine, once I’ve identified a time when I needn’t be hostess.
- Sometimes the biggest challenge to meditation can be fatigue when you’re worn out from your trip. Eknath Easwaran recommends that just sitting a bit away from the back of your chair can help keep you from dozing off.
As challenging as it can be to meditate in the travel season, it feels good to renew that connection with God in the few minutes of silence.
No matter how we manage to keep “time with God” in the itinerary, I think it’s most important that we remember one of the skills we practice as we meditate: be present. Be in the here and now.
- Be present at your destination, be it natural or man-made, and absorb the beauty, the sounds, the history, the feel of the space.
- Enjoy the transient company of your fellow passengers, tourists, and houseguests.
- Tap into that peace we seek in meditation, and bring that calm into what others may perceive as stressful.
- Know that God is with you, wherever you may be.
I’d like to close today with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, for those of us who are travelling, for the friends and family who will travel to visit us here at home, and for the tourists who will share our roads in the months ahead.
O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Delivered at La Selva Beach Community Church, June 13, 2017, and at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on June 17, 2017.