After reflecting on the pieces of literature such as Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”, Jill McDonough’s “Accident, Mass. Ave.”, Frances E. W. Harper’s “Learning to Read”, and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education”, I realized how these specific works related to the Zen meditation session I attended last week with Loyola’s Zen meditation teacher, Dr. Davis. These works make a connection with the meditation in the sense that there are instances in the poetry where the characters take time to realize the reality of situations where there was too much thought involved or more thought was needed to understand the situation. During times where there is too much drama to make rational decisions and cope with the reality of things, it’s necessary to take a step back, relax, and set your mind to a goal that is sensible and worth your time.
Attending the Zen meditation at Fava Chapel with Dr. Davis last Thursday gave me a chance to think about my college life thus far and reflect on it a little bit. Dr. Davis told the class meditating is a way to find oneself in a state of deep relaxation. Meditating with Dr. Davis and the rest of the class gave me the time I needed to take a step back from school and to forget the stress – just for a little bit!
The act of meditating calls for a certain posture to increase one’s breathing that in the end leaves the person meditating feel more flexible, both in a physical and mental sense. What I found to be the most useful in regard to the mental flexibility of this exercise was my ability to intensify my concentration. The meditation requires a person to avoid thinking about the day and the stresses it brought, but rather to focus on the “now” moment by counting your breaths. By counting my breaths, I was able to escape from the worries of school. This for me was my way of stepping back from it all to give myself the time to tell myself to relax and that I shouldn’t make the time to stress, even if this feeling was only momentary due to the meditation.
In Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”, the anonymous character being addressed in the first person takes an opportunity to step back after he sets the wall once again with his neighbor. In line thirty-two, the man says, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense” (Frost 360). Here the reader sees the man question his own action of setting the wall again between himself and his neighbor. I take these lines to mean that the man is questioning his actions of putting the wall up because he doesn’t know what he’s trying to get away from or keep out. He even begins to think about who would take offense to his actions of constructing another wall and that maybe it isn’t necessary to have one. But the anonymous man reminds himself that “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” (Frost 360). This comes off as a sudden thought where the man realizes that some unknown sensation exists by having this wall between his neighbor, as if it’s only natural to have one. By the end of Frost’s poem; however, the reader recognizes that the wall exists because good fences make good neighbors.
In Frances E. W. Harper’s “Learning to Read”, the reader understands that the time period is most likely during the era where slavery was once tolerated. Chloe, the main character of the poem, talks about her interest in learning how to read, especially the precious words of the Bible. Chloe mentions that knowledge is not something that agrees with the lives of slaves and so when Chloe takes the interest in learning, people only shake their heads in disappointment. Chloe reacts to this insensitive disapproval of the general public by taking a step back to realize her current circumstance. Line thirty-five reads: “But as I was rising sixty, / I had no time to wait” (Harper 609). In this passage Chloe confesses that she has no time to waste with her life as she’s approaching sixty and there are still things that she wishes to accomplish, such as reading the Bible. By embracing her goal to read, combined with the achievement of settling down in her own cabin, Chloe admits that she “felt as independent / As the queen upon her throne” (Harper 609). This shows that through thoughtful observation and consideration, one is able to establish goals that would not have otherwise been recognized and benefitted from in the end.