What strikes me as I read this that as the Psalmist meditates before God, using “the law” as the focus for her or his meditation, it begins to put their whole life in perspective. Their whole range of emotions and life experience are described – from moments of failure, where they wander from the path and suffer for it; to moments in which they know they are following the path; moments of anger and despair; of being rescued by God’s grace and of feeling led and guided. Yet as they are described, I can see the Psalmist groping for meaning in them and discovering where they fit through their practice of meditating on God’s law.
I don’t know exactly what meditation practice this was, nor what God’s law was for them. Likely it was some section of teaching that later became a part of the Hebrew Scriptures that make up the whole of Jewish canon, and the first half of the Christian Scriptures – perhaps part of what would become Deuteronomy. Perhaps it was a teaching she or he had been taught to memorize and recite daily, like the Shema later becomes for Jews or the Lord’s Prayer for many Christians. But the centrality of meditating on this symbol of faith, with its promises and challenges, is paramount to this section.
I find the same to be true in my own life. The practice of meditation helps me center both in days with very little stress and days in which I feel like life is stretching me out in every direction like taffy. It helps me find a center on calm days and times my soul is like a tumult of storm wind & cloud. In my case, I mix breath meditation, which doesn’t have any symbol to focus on but just the feelings in my body, and forms of Christian meditation which focus my mind on the promises and challenges of faith found in Scripture & Christian tradition. I can say truly that this practice so often helps me put the experiences I find before me in a fresh perspective, one colored by grace.
I think the fact that the details about what specific practices of meditation and prayer saints of old like this Psalmist, like Jesus, like the prophets, had is significant too. It is clear such practices were a common part of how they connected to the Spirit who gives life. But I think few details are provided because there are many different ways that are valid in which we can find the place of quietude and peace in the center of our lives where God listens and God speaks. What counts is not if my spiritual practice or yours match, but that we both find the way to drink deep of those life-giving waters.