On one of the hottest days of the year, a mother and her young son walk downstream in the shallow creek at midday.
“What are you doing?” the little boy asks.
“Meditating,” I reply, “do you know what that is?”
“No, what is it?”
“It means watching your mind until it is very quiet, so you can hear God whispering in the leaves.”
The mother gives me a look.
“You don’t meditate?”
“We pray,” she says, with finality but without an edge.
Without a sense of condescension, I begin to have the feeling I am talking to two people at the same level of spiritual understanding, and that speaking to one I am also speaking to the other.
“Sometimes I don’t understand what people mean by prayer, just as they don’t understand what I mean by meditation,” I reply.
By now I’m nearing weirdo category, but the boy remains very curious. He keeps looking at me, asking questions. Why do adults stop asking questions when it is so natural for us as children to do so?
His mother steers him over to a favorite tree on the other side of the creek. He sits in the crook of it for a bit, and then climbs up fairly high, directly over the creek.
“How old are you?” I ask, as he stares down at me.
“You climb pretty well for five.”
By this time mother is ready to go, but the fun isn’t over. The boy can’t or won’t shimmy back down the tree, and he won’t jump down to her.
“I was afraid of that,” she says.
Though I have running shoes on, I ask, “Would you like some help?”
“Yes, if you would, though you have shoes on.”
I thought I might be able to stand on stones sticking out of the shallow stream, but of course it was not to be.
Though I’m tall, the boy is out of reach. He’ll have to trust a stranger to catch him the couple feet he needs to drop into my hands.
I stand under the tree, my feet slipping into the water, and put my arms straight up, fully extended toward the boy into the cloudless California sky. Commandingly I say, “I have you, drop down.”
Without hesitation the little guy pushes off and in one motion I hand him over to his mother. They walk back upstream and I go back to my sitting, taking off my wet shoes and socks to dry in the sun.
Strangely, seamlessly, there is no feeling of interruption, much less disruption. Indeed, it doesn’t feel like an interruption of the meditation at all.