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Dredging the Channel of Peace

This is a photo of Swan Creek, a meandering stream that runs right behind the home that my parents lived in after raising their eight children. I have kayaked a bit on this stream, but it doesn’t take long to run into logjams that require portaging. My nephew kayaked all the way from the spot in this photo to the Maumee River in downtown Toledo—about ten miles (and ten portages). It occurred to me that if I could kayak from this spot to the Maumee River, then I could get to Lake Erie, and then to Lake Ontario, and then to the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and then… to the Atlantic Ocean! Maybe I’ll start training for that great paddling adventure in the new year!

After Mom died just over a year ago I purchased her home (Dad had left us sixteen years earlier). Now the presence of the creek in my daily awareness has become a strong symbol. It represents the narrow stream of consciousness I live in most of the time. All of us live much of the time in a narrow, small self—what Thomas Merton called the false self—that has little ability to sustain a sense of its connection to the Great Self (God, the Ocean). Our “Swan Creek mind” is full of logjams and has little or no awareness of the Ocean. Even though the narrow creek is muddy and polluted, it is flowing with the Ocean even though it believes the Ocean is a long, long distance away.

It sounds like a lot of work first to paddle through all the logjams in Swan Creek and then continue for hundreds of miles across the Great Lakes and the Seaway to get to the Ocean. But there is another symbol that has been delighting me since I purchased Mom’s home. Whenever it rains, the Ocean comes to the narrow stream! The narrow stream does not need to purify itself or remove all of its logjams to be filled again by the Ocean. It doesn’t need to do anything except receive the Ocean.

Meditation and prayer are a time for my narrow stream to re-load an awareness of the Ocean. Formal meditation for a longer period (20-30 minutes) each day helps me get better at re-loading Ocean awareness throughout the day. Whenever the logjams of stress, worry, irritation, and doubt make their presence known in me, I am getting better at pausing to breathe and remember the Ocean that is always flowing through me.

My kayak ride all the way to the Atlantic Ocean may be a fantasy, but ocean boats regularly make the trip in the reverse direction all the way to Toledo. For those deep-hulled oceangoing vessels to pass safely through the Maumee River, about 850,000 cubic yards must be dredged from the river each year. Below is a new take on St. Francis of Assisi’s “Make me a channel of your peace…” that was inspired by all this thinking about kayaks, ocean boats, and channel dredging. This nested meditation is dear to me because the first two lines come from Buddha and the final lines are inspired by St. Francis. I enjoy bringing two sages together in a short piece like this. I think if they had been alive at the same time those two would have gotten along swimmingly!

I will not be punished for my anger. I will not be punished for my anger, I will be punished by my anger. I will not be punished for my anger. I will be punished by my anger making me hit bottom again and again. I will not be punished for my anger. I will be punished by my anger making me hit bottom. Again and again God says: Dredge the channel of my Peace. I will not be punished for my anger. I will be punished by my anger making me hit bottom. Again and again God says: Dredge the channel of my Peace deeper in you—deeper than the deepest darkness passing through.

From Now is Where God Lives: A Year of Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul copyright 2018 by Kevin Anderson

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