There’s a wonderful little scene in Rumer Godden’s novel, In This House of Brede. An irrepressible novice assigned to kitchen duty is overheard letting her fellows in the novitiate know what’s on the evening menu. “Sister Hillary, we don’t discuss the refectory until it is time” or words to that effect from the novice mistress.
How many of us can keep our minds focused for more than a few minutes at a time? Brede Abbey is a fictional community of Benedictine sisters fulfilling the call to pray unceasingly. When it’s time to have dinner, you concentrate on dinner. When it’s time to pray you concentrate on prayer. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have trouble getting through the Lord’s Prayer without part of my brain attempting to veer off on a tangent. Pick any of the following as you try to concentrate.
Our Father Who art in heaven
Hallowed by Thy name. (do I need to water the tomatoes)
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. (rats I forgot to pick the blueberries)
Give us this day our daily bread (hmmm, it’s time to bake rolls again)
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us (does that include_____?)
And lead us not into temptation
But, deliver us from evil. (fill in the blank on this one)
Thomas Cowan illustrates this beautifully in the intro to his first meditation in Yearning for the Wind. A teacher who combines Celtic traditions with Shamanism he spends a great deal of time outdoors. How many of us find ourselves in Cowans’ shoes. We’re in a lovely woodland grove. We’ve finally made it to the beach. And where is our brain? It’s balancing the check book, wondering if the roof will make it through another rainy season, or Cowan’s favorite; is it time to wax the car before winter.
He jokes that Mother Nature has her ways of regaining his wandering attention: it usually involves a well placed root or a tree branch up side the head to remind him that it’s time to get out of his own head, wake up and smell the pine trees.