|Cliff on the coast of California, 2007|
Every few days, my mother calls me, in agitation about the presidential election campaign. I talk her back away from the cliff, blathering on about the weather and the roads, the children and what we had for dinner. By the time we finish our conversation she is feeling a little better.
And I am left standing at the cliff.
That is why, when a clergy person invited us to meditation last Saturday morning, I jumped at the chance. I’m not usually one for meditating, but I craved it as a way to put some distance between me and the cliff. I have a fear of heights, even for metaphorical cliffs.
It was a fifteen-minute meditation. As an introduction, the rabbi reminded us of The Shema, the Jewish statement “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (disclaimer: it can be translated more than one way.). It begins with the Hebrew word “shma.”
Rabbi said, “You know, the word “Shma” is made of three parts.” Then he gently intoned:
Rabbi instructed us that he would set a timer for fifteen minutes. This is a great thing to say to anxious, time-conscious people. We don’t want to have to meditate for too long!
He said that before we fell to silent meditation, we would begin by s l o w l y chanting the Shma, with a breath in between each word, five times through. Then we fell silent and were alone with our thoughts and God. I spent a fair amount of time reciting “Shhh. Mmmm. Ahh.” over and over in my head.
It occurred to me that “Ahh” could be interpreted different ways, depending on pronunciation. It could mean calm and satisfaction. “Ah. A cup of hot soup on a cold day.” Or a sharp realization: “Ah! I missed my flight!” Or a scream of surprise or despair: “Aaaaaaah! The election! That candidate!” For any of these, “Shhh” follows, confirming calm, or providing a challenge to listen and step away from the despair.
Listen. Hear. Shhh. Mmmm. Ah.
|Cliffs aren't all bad. At the bottom of that cliff|
(which we descended by a wooden staircase)
there was this incredible beach, with
tide pools teeming with sea creatures.
PLEASE click to enlarge.
I have to add that if we had taken the interstate instead of back roads, we would never have seen that astounding beach in northern California. We were the only humans there.