A favorite class in seminary was World Religions, taught by Dr. Ruben Habito at Perkins School of Theology at SMU in Dallas. He was born and raised in The Philippines and became a Jesuit priest. He was sent to Japan as a missionary and became so interested in Buddhism that he also became a Buddhist monk. I appreciated the opportunity to study with someone who clearly had experience in more than one religious faith, someone who could embrace multiple perspectives and see their contributions to religion.
One morning, Dr. Habito invited the class into a few minutes of silence. Then he opened his hand in front of him and asked us to tell him what we saw:
Several minutes passed. I kept staring at that acorn until sudden realization came to me:
“I see … myself.”
I saw that everything is connected. We are all one with the planet, its elements and atoms, breath and interdependence, formation and destruction, contribution and influence. In that moment of epiphany I saw myself, an integral part of this amazing universe.
He silently handed me the acorn.
Spiritual growth: For me it comes in fits and starts. Meditation? Monkey mind leaps into action and rarely stops for more than seconds at a time. But I show up and sit comfortably. I light a candle and set a timer with a pleasant sound for 22 minutes. Then I slow my breathing and count breaths to 10 and start over and over.
I started with 5 minutes. As soon as my monkey mind started to slow down a little, the timer went off. It occurred to me that 5 minutes was too little time for me to quiet my mind as well as my body. Every few days I would add a minute and try again. Twenty two minutes feels like the right number for me.
Years ago when I was introduced to Zen meditation, a Buddhist tradition, we would sit quietly for 20 minutes, then get up to walk in silence for 5 before repeating the cycle twice more. Then our teacher Ruben Habito, a Jesuit priest and a Buddhist master, would speak to us of some aspect of Buddhism. We would close with a tea ceremony.
Occasionally I attended a weekend sesshin–2 1/2 days of silent meditation, walking, chores, and meals. At the end of the weekend my senses were finely tuned to the colors, textures, and sounds of life.
By spending these 22 minutes a day, most days, I tune into an ancient practice that has multiple formats all over the world. It is a prayer without words, simply listening to the wisdom of the ages.