Emptying Meditation -or- In the Still of the Mind
Okay. I get it. The idea of meditation that empties the mind is a little disturbing. I mean, nothing inside your mind? That’s creepy. I could give all sorts of potential psychological explanations for why it feels creepy, but that’s really not what I’m after here.
Instead, I want to offer an alternative. What if the purpose of such meditation is not to empty the mind, but rather to still it? We’ve all had minds that aren’t still. In fact, we’ve all had minds that you could qualify as crazed. Songs that go through our heads for hours on end… Can’t sleep because our minds are racing with thoughts from the last day or perhaps of what’s to come… Unable to focus because we keep jumping from thought to thought to thought… If this is what’s going on in your head, you can’t pray, you can’t study, you sometimes can’t even hold a conversation. This is not an ideal state of mind.
And if this is what’s going on in your head, what are your chances of ever being able to hear anything if the Holy Spirit did want to say something?
When you’re in a conversation with someone and you’re chattering at them nonstop, you can’t hear anything from them. And sometimes, if that person is a little shy or if she’s terribly thoughtful, you have to wait a bit for her to say something. And if you’re not paying attention, if your mind is somewhere else, not only is it just rude, you might miss something. And if this person is important, you might miss something valuable.
Likewise, if our minds are distracted, running about, and unable to concentrate, if we’re not waiting and listening, we may miss what God is trying to say to us. You wouldn’t call waiting and listening to a friend emptying your mind for him. Likewise, maybe it’s a little misleading to say that meditation that’s calming and leads one into quiet is an attempt to empty the mind. Instead, it’s trying to keep it still and available. You’re trying to gently set aside distractions and keep things calm and focused so that you can hear. And maybe you won’t hear anything. And maybe you will. But in a place of mental chaos, there’s no chance. But in a place of stillness, there is the possibility of hearing that quiet whisper of the Lord.