meditation

What happens when you sit still? St. Francis attracted wild animals— the foxes and wolves and hawks— when he was sitting still, praying outside. When you sit still, things will approach you, things you cannot actively beckon.

When you sit still you can create something. The monastic traditions of different religions all agree on this. They have different ways of describing what you can create by sitting still by yourself, or sitting quietly still with others, but they are thematically similar: peace, understanding, love, nonviolence. I understand now that, as absurd as it sounds, meditation in solitude has an effect in the world. Not that it is a direct effect, or one that is easy to trace. But I understand now that something real is created by that serenity.

What you can’t do by yourself, no matter how peacefully you contemplate the light on the trees or the rhythms of your silence, is control what things come to you. St. Francis may not have wanted anything to approach him. When I am sitting calmly still there is something, someone, I want to approach me. But although I beckon, he won’t draw near.

When I reflect on my inability to control who and what approaches me in my moments of peaceful solitude, I feel despondent. I think about you, and the serenity you achieve. You radiate such calm and peace when you sit still that hummingbirds land on your shoulders, and tigers sprawl into sleep on branches over your head.

What happens when I sit still is meager, but it is life. An earwig falls from a leaf above me. It writhes along my leg, and I shiver and flinch. Then the bug lands, safely and alive, on the grass, and disappears from sight.