What keeps us separated from God? Why do we not behold him when we close our eyes? Why is meditation so difficult? Why does progress seem so slow? A story by an unknown author provides the answer to these questions in an interesting and thoughtful manner.
A disciple of a particular master used to sit in meditation every morning. One day he noticed a spider in his room. He thought about the spider during meditation and hoped that it would not crawl on him or bite him. The next day he thought that the spider descended right in front of him, and he spent his entire period of meditation thinking about the spider. Each day the creature returned, gradually growing larger and larger each time. The student was so frightened that he decided to put a knife in his lap during his meditation practice; if the spider returned, he planned to stab it with the knife and kill it.
First, he went to his master to tell him about the problem and how he planned to deal with it. The teacher said, “Don’t take a knife and kill the spider. Take a piece of chalk instead. When the spider appears, mark an X on its belly. Then report back to me.”
Being a dutiful disciple, he followed his master’s instructions and put a piece of chalk in his lap when he sat down to meditate the next day. When the spider again appeared, he resisted the urge to attack it and instead drew an X on the spider’s belly just as his master had suggested.
Later that day he reported back to the master and told him what he had done – how he had drawn the X on the spider. His master told the disciple to lift up his shirt and look at his own belly. There was the X.
The spider was a distraction in the disciple’s meditation – a distraction that loomed larger every day.
A poem in the commentary to the Song of Songs so beautifully illustrates this dilemma:
The distractions of the mind, encompassing the soul,
keep guard on the inner citadel, and hold me back.
They are the ones who know where my Beloved is
and why I cannot find him.
Then my soul merged into his,
travelling higher until we came to the source of Wisdom,
The essence of my existence.
Commentary on Song of Songs 3:3 in, Song of Songs: The Soul & the Divine Beloved
So, it seems it is our own mind that stands in our way and creates the obstacles to meditation. We can overcome these obstacles by persistently obeying our Master’s command: to keep returning to our meditation every day. That simple act is a giant victory.