Morning’s cool rain did wonders to dispel the stifling heat of the previous evening. I opened the window to my meditation room so as to welcome its gentle pattering sound into the room. Oftentimes I begin a meditation by “watching” my breath. On occasions when my mind is especially scattered I will even count them – from one to ten, and over again. More often than not, though, it is the sound of my surroundings that eventually becomes the object of my meditation. On this particular morning my mind was fairly still to begin with. I took to listening to the patter of the rain from the moment I’d finished ringing the bell.
In the latter stages of meditation sound will simply wash over me, or even “through” me if I’ve allowed myself to become sufficiently still. Early on, though, with my intellect still engaged, I will notice things, perhaps, or make discernments of one type or another. And so it was that I noticed a pattern to the rainfall and its accompanying sounds: There was the higher-pitched sound of raindrops splashing on the eves and on the leaves of the trees outside. There were many drops, of course, and not all of them had the same pitch, but their dripping and dropping and pattering was largely confined within some unmeasured range. Less frequent, and of a much lower pitch, was the gurgling of water flowing through the gutters and down the drainpipe. And even less frequent than this was the occasional sound of rolling thunder – deep, distant, resonant.
Deeper still, though, were the sounds that I heard when I held my breath and submersed myself entirely in that gushing stream.
Before finally allowing this mental activity to subside, a memory popped into my conscious mind: I was soaking in a fast-flowing stream after a hard day of riding through the mountains. The surface waters rippled and splashed, much like the raindrops in their narrow band of sound. But there were branches hanging in the stream, as well – pushed downstream by the rushing water, only to spring back so as to be pushed back down again. These sounds were lower and less frequent than those of the surface waters. Deeper still, though, were the sounds that I heard when I held my breath and submersed myself entirely in that gushing stream. Somewhere were boulders rocking back and forth in the current – kerthunk, kerthunk…; kerthunk, kerthunk. Clearly the pattern of the morning rain sounds had brought to the surface that wonderful memory.
As I write this, I’m reminded of the practice of Lectio Divina, “Divine Reading,” engaged in by some Christian contemplatives. Beginning with a scriptural reading, the practitioner will then settle more deeply into prayer – perhaps allowing all activity of the intellect to coalesce around a phrase, or a single word, before finally settling into wordless contemplation. Thus, there is the higher frequency presence of the more readily recognizable worldly phenomena, the reading of the recorded words. What follows is a deeper, lower frequency utterance of some sort of distilled meaning. Ultimately, though, the contemplative rests in the presence of the Divine – perhaps even in oneness with the Divine.
Returning to my morning meditation, however: I eventually settled into a wordless contemplation of my own, allowing the sound of the very world from which I arise to wash over me…, and through me. I can’t for the life of me articulate a difference between where I “end up” via the practice of Zen meditation and where the Christian contemplatives “end up” with theirs. And therein is rooted my sense of kinship with contemplatives of various stripes. The “kerthunk” of Truth is of a language all human beings may understand.
Copyright 2018 by Mark Robert Frank
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