I was trying to meditate yesterday morning, but for some reason, I couldn’t.
The way I normally like to meditate is by clearing my mind and letting go of as many thoughts as possible. But my brain was going a mile a minute. I had not felt great the night before. I was tired and a little achy. I had wanted to spend my Saturday night out having fun, but a coughing fit had zapped my energy. So instead I took my walk, ordered Pita House, and decided to relax. Which is fine, but relaxing is not my normal mode of operation. Of course one could say that my normal mode of operation got me into this situation in the first place. Still, I like doing things, and this whole “relaxing/self care/doing nothing” thing is taking some getting used to.
I not even sure what my mind was racing about yesterday morning. I tried to remember but I couldn’t. That’s illuminating: the things I couldn’t stop thinking about a mere 24 hours later I couldn't even recall what they were.
I decided I would do something different. Since my thoughts wouldn’t fade away, I would put them to good use. I borrowed a page out of the Jesuit hand book and meditated the Ignatian way.
St. Loyola of Ignatius was the founder of the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order. He taught his followers to pray and meditate by taking a story from the bible, and picturing themselves there in the story. What did it sound like, look like, feel like. He believed that the human imagination was a gateway to higher truths, and should be tapped into as often as possible.
I picked the story where Jesus is on the boat and calms the storm. It’s a famous story, one I know pretty well. I read the version in Mark because Mark gets right to the point. I figured that would give my mind more room to work.
After I read it, I closed my eyes, and pictured myself in the story.
The first thing that struck me was the collective need to get away. The reason they were on the boat in the first place was because they were exhausted from all the crowds. They weren’t even going anywhere specific. “Let’s go to the other side,” is all Jesus said. What a beautiful, human moment:
Disciples: Where do you want to go?
Jesus: I don’t care, as long as it’s not here.
How many times have we all said that?
And if Jesus needed to get away from the crowds, to take some time for himself, who am I to think relaxing and healing is somehow below my pay grade?
I’m not picturing myself as Jesus, however. I’m picturing myself as a person on this boat. What would I be thinking? First off, I would probably be thinking what the hell is going on? Until recently I was fisherman. Now I’m following this dude and all these other people are following him. How did this happen? How did I get here?
I ask myself that all the time. How the hell did I get here? 40 years old, back in my hometown, back in Greenville. This wasn’t my plan. I’ve lived in New York and Los Angeles. I’ve lived in Charleston and Atlanta. Greenville? Ten minutes from my parents?
I wondered if this fisherman felt homesick, out there on the water. If being on that boat made him long for the comfort of the life he left. I wonder how seriously he entertained the idea of going back home. How happy his family would have been to see him. I think all the time about how relieved my parents would be if I had a normal life with a normal job. I was just thinking that thought this morning. I saw a Facebook post of a person I used to perform with. About five years ago he stopped performing and went a different direction and now they’re living this other fabulous looking life yet here I am, on the boat with this strange guy who’s underneath the deck fast asleep.
And what must the family and friends of that guy on the boat have thought about his decision. He just up and left his job as a fisherman. I’m sure that was a decent gig back then. Probably had some benefits and a 401K. Probably had a savings account and a decent little crib. Plus he probably enjoyed it. Out there in the sun on the water. Tossing nets and hauling in carp. Or tuna. I don’t know what they were catching. I’m just saying, it was probably a sweet little set up until all of a sudden this guy comes along and says, “I’ll make you a fisher of men” and for some idiotic reason you said yes and now here you are, on a boat in the middle of nowhere, heading to "the other side" or whatever that means followed by throngs of people all the while watching your bank account dwindle and avoiding the passive aggressive messages from your parents and friends questioning all your life choices! Yeah- go- be an actor- write solo plays- who needs a house and security when you can teach part time and be an artist! Nothing wrong with that plan. Sounds super solid. No wonder I couldn’t meditate. Who cares if it’s Sunday- I should be applying for jobs and please turn this thing around and get me off this boat!!
Surely these thoughts ran through these people’s minds. We imagine that these first followers, trying a different way of life were full of certainty the entire time but that just isn’t true. They were like us. Sitting there wondering what the fuck is going on?
Then, of course, at moment of greatest doubt…comes a storm.
I'll finish my thoughts tomorrow...
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