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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, February 18

My eyes are awake before each watch of the night that I may meditate on your promise.
—Psalm 119:148

In the crush and push of the hectic world most of us live in, meditation—the purposeful, focused centering of our spirits—is essential. It nourishes us, awakens us, and gives us quiet confidence amidst turmoil. But it is extraordinarily difficult to discipline ourselves to stop doing and to simply be, in silence.

One of the best writers about meditation is Jack Kornfield, who calls meditation the art of awakening, steadying our attention. As most of us know, that is not easy. We are so easily distracted, our minds scattering in a hundred directions as we try to breathe rhythmically and settle into silence. Buddhists call this condition "monkey mind," an apt description if I’ve ever heard one.

Kornfield offers a marvelous image to those of us who struggle to bestill: training the puppy. "You put the puppy down and say, ‘Stay.’ Does the puppy listen? No. You sit the puppy back down again. ‘Stay.’ And the puppy runs away over and over again. Our minds are much the same as the puppy; we have to start over and over again."

Then he makes the most important point of all: in training a puppy we want to end up with the puppy as our friend. In the same way, we must practice seeing our mind and body as "friend." "It takes a gentleness and a kindhearted understanding to deepen the art of concentration," Kornfield says.

What a blessing to know we can approach meditation this way, with an open heart and a gentle spirit, smiling at the monkey mind when it takes over, and befriending the playful puppy who tries to distract us.

May we give ourselves permission to be still before God, and when we become distracted may we remember that always we can begin again. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2007.