My cousin grew up practicing Buddhist meditation. She says that, contrary to popular perception, thinking doesn’t cease in the meditative state. Rather, she finds herself in this still space where thoughts pass in front of the mind, like fleeting images on a TV screen. Instead of being whisked away with them, as in regular consciousness, she is still, watching them, all those thoughts that unconsciously accompany her throughout the day. This is transcendence.
This is a ride on the Boston T, the city rail system that carries me across the metropolis every day. Today I am sitting in a quiet car, nearly vacant, staring across the aisle out one of the big glass windows. Sitting there, I am still for the first time in many days, and I am mindlessly mesmerized by the images that pass across the transparent screen before me.
In Exodus 33, Moses says to God, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” God replies, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live!” But then God goes on, saying, “Behold, there is a place near Me. Stand there on the rock. It will then come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” On that rock Moses stands still and God passes by him, providing a glimpse of the Divine for his human eyes.
That, more often, we may be still enough to watch God pass before us through the world, I pray…
Jessica Coblentz is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. Follow her writing on the Web at www.jessicacoblentz.com.