L’Engle on Meditation

I am rereading all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. When I was in high school, I read all of her books that I could find. She was my first writing-of-faith hero, and as I’m rereading her, I think I can fairly say: Everything I ever needed to know about yoga, I learned from Madeleine L’Engle first.

The following scene is from A Ring of Endless Light, where 15 year old Vicky Austin is talking with her grandfather, who is dying:

“Did I interrupt you?” I asked. “Were you meditating?”

He smiled at me, his welcoming smile, so I pulled up the chair and sat down. “I was meditating. But I’m glad to see you.” His eyes twinkled. He looked relaxed and very much himself.

“What is meditation, Grandfather? How do you do it?”

“It isn’t exactly something you do.”

“What, then?”

He was silent a long time, and I thought he wasn’t going to answer. I was beginning to get used to his removing himself as completely as though he had left the room; suddenly he just wasn’t there. Sometimes he seemed to retreat deep within himself; sometimes he would mumble as though he was trapped in a bad dream. But now he said to me, and I wasn’t sure whether or not he was answering me, or if he was changing the subject, “You like to go down to the cove by yourself, don’t you, Vicky? And sit on the rock and look out to sea?”

“Yes, and usually at the wrong moment, when Mother or Daddy needs me to do something else.” 

“But you need to go to the rock and look out to sea, don’t you?” 

“Yes, and sometimes I think you’re the only one who understands why.” 

“What do you do when you go to the rock?”

“I don’t do anything. I sit.” 

“Do you think?”

“Sometimes. But those aren’t the best times.”

“What are the best times?”

“When I sit on the rock–and I feel–somehow–part of the rock and part of the sky and part of the sea.” 

“And you’re very aware of the rock and the sky and the sea?”


“And sometimes?”

“Sometimes it seems to go beyond that.” 

“And then what is it like?”

I thought for a moment. “It’s hard to explain because it’s beyond words. It’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself.” I thought of what Adam and I had talked about the other night. I tried to tell Grandfather some of what we had said, and ended, “And it’s being part of everything, part of the rock and the sky and the sea and the wind and the rain and the sun and the stars…”

“And you, Vicky? Are you still there?”

No. yes. How do you explain no and yes at the same time? 

“I’m there–but it’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself–I’m not in the way.”

“There’s your answer,” Grandfather said. “That’s meditation.”


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