Run to your dreaming when you’re alone
Unplug the TV and turn off the phone
Get heavy on with diggin’ your ditch
-Dave Matthews Band – “Diggin’ a Ditch”
“How’s your meditation practice coming?” my friend said with a slight smile.
He smiled because the question was really a joke between us. He knew good and well how my meditation practice was going – it was non-existent. We had talked often about the benefits of meditation – of being still and knowing God. But, I always had excuses. My partner had promised to make me a meditation bench. I was waiting for her to build it before starting a practice. I needed a meditation bench to meditate. I couldn’t start without it.
That promise was made years ago and I’m still waiting for the meditation bench – and for my meditation practice to begin.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have. I’ve set egg timers for 20 minutes with the best of intentions to connect with my heart, chant my mantra and bring the calm and peace that my mind has craved. But, without a meditation bench, how am I supposed to get serious about my meditation practice?
Of course, it’s all my partner’s fault that I’m not seriously being still before God. I can’t be expected to meditate in my office chair or heaven forbid on the couch in the living room! What if I fall asleep?
It’s not easy to find stillness in our busy world. It’s a lot easier to find excuses. We’re too busy. We don’t know how. It’s too hard. We don’t have a meditation bench!
We’re not Jesus. We don’t have the power to say, “Peace. Be still,” and have life’s storms suddenly cease. For us, getting still, finding peace in the midst of life’s storms isn’t an instant occurrence, it’s more like digging a ditch. It’s often hard, grueling, endless work. It’s sweaty and nasty work.
Dave Matthews, in his musical wisdom, urges us to run to our dreaming whenever we find a quiet time. If we’ll turn off the phone and the television for awhile, we can start digging our ditch:
Where all these troubles
That weigh down on me will rise
Run to your dreaming
When you’re alone
Where all these questions
Spinnin’ around my head
Will die, will die, will die…
When we run to our dreaming and carve out a regular practice of prayer and meditation, we’ll find that all the things in our life that weigh us down, all the questions that spin in our head, begin to die. We begin to think clearer. We begin to see through the game of charades that life plays with us. We begin to understand God’s will for our lives. We begin to understand what a peaceful life feels like.
The psychological benefits of prayer and meditation are well document. Some monks who have practiced meditation for years have shown significant changes in their brain wave patterns and are immune to loud noises during meditation – showing no flinch response. They are at peace. Some studies have shown that even a few weeks into a dedicated practice of meditation our brainwaves start to change. The benefits of digging our ditch are numerous.
But, what do I know? My meditation practice is still practically non-existent. I started a serious loving-kindness meditation practice a few months ago and did quite well at it for a little while. My mind was clearer. I did feel more peaceful. I did begin to lift the veil on this world of appearances. Then, I got busy. I found other things to distract me – writing, television, the ever present temptation of the Internet and email. It’s endless, the distractions. Unplugging the TV, turning off the phone, not obsessively checking email – it’s difficult to pick up that shovel every day and dig our ditch a little more.
I have what a friend of mine calls a “monkey mind.” It wants to screech, run around the cage of my skull and swing from synapse to synapse. We all have it and the monkey mind seems to get worse when we take up a practice to diligently dig our ditch. The monkey screeches when we sit and try to be quiet. It throws itself from one side of our cranium to the next when we try to get still. It cackles at us when we try to clear our minds. It feels impossible to escape the monkey mind.
In these times, when the monkey mind is running rampant, and we cannot seem to find peace in our lives, we need the only one who can bring us peace – Jesus. We need to realize that Jesus is in the boat with us. Jesus may seem to be asleep, but he is there, ready to help whenever we cry out. We must trust that Jesus has the power to calm the storms of our lives with just a word.
But, we’re fearful. Like the disciples we see the waves of trouble coming for our little boat and we panic. Even though Jesus is resting with us in the boat, we forget his presence or we blame him for not being alert enough to calm the storms of life before they whip up to terrifying size. There’s Jesus, asleep in our boat of life – not even having the courtesy to be alert and solve our problems before they arise.
Jesus admonishes us the same way he admonished his disciples. “Why are you afraid? Do you still not have any faith?” Jesus is in our boat, but he’s busy digging his ditch. He’s cultivating peace and invites us to do the same. The waves headed our way may seem like a tsunami, coming to demolish our lives. But, if we’ve taken the time beforehand to dig our ditch, nothing can destroy us. Can we overturn or wash up on the shore? Oh, yes. Sometimes devastation comes – but that does not mean that Jesus has abandoned us or peace is beyond our reach. Jesus remains with us through it all. He’s not in our boat to prevent disaster, but to be with us no matter what may come our way. Our faith – our absolute trust in God and our absence of fear – keeps us afloat during the worst storms life may bring our way.
If we dig our ditch now and run to our dreaming whenever we get a free moment, we’ll understand that God has give us the power to say, “Peace, be still!” and find calm in any storm life may bring our way.
So, get heavy on with digging your ditch.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.