Meditation corresponds nicely to the nature of life as a journey on which we never totally pause. There are many highs and lows, periods of intense struggle and times to relax and enjoy. But because we are passengers on the river of  time we are always on the move.  As with every journey, we need guidance, reassurance at times, companionship and food for the journey. And, meaning: because without meaning we are not pilgrims but aimless wanderers.
The desert with its oases and strange fertility has often been used to describe the interior aspect of the journey of life. Remembering the manna in the desert of the Exodus, we can think of the mantra as our manna just as many think of the Eucharist as ‘our daily bread’.
The mantra, like the light flaky substance of manna, doesn’t sound like a substantial feast. Rightly in one sense, because in the interior dimension of the human journey, as in the relational world of quantum physics, we are subject to different laws. Here a feast can be famine and hunger a feast. Here poverty is the key to the treasure-trove of the Kingdom. Here letting-go is the sure way to achieve our goal. Here even death is the door to fuller life. Failure transforms into flourishing through the many hidden springs of grace.
The meditator learns to live with paradox on a moment-to-moment basis whatever we may be enduring or enjoying.
We say the mantra lightly, learning to listen to it with full attention, rather than wielding it as a weapon of mind-control manipulated by our will. The mantra in its simplicity and delicacy is a lever that moves the mountain of the ego. Any meditator who has developed a practice, however imperfect it may seem to them, has learned to surrender to reality willingly, even though this means the renunciation of many cherished illusions.
Ask a meditator of long-standing why they practice and they will often find it difficult to answer at first. Where to start? On the other hand, every meditator for whom their daily practice has become a strand of the inner journey wound together with the work of daily life, will say ‘it’s a gift’.
This is the meaning of manna, that it fell freely, daily from heaven (twice as much on the Shabat). The same for everyone, it could not be hoarded. It could only be received by those who received it as a gift that proves their equality with all. It therefore pierced a funnel of perception deep into the nature of reality. It shows that each of us is destined for the equal degree of happiness but that this will take different forms for each. It ‘provides every pleasure and suits every taste’. And yet it is not for sale. It is, like our being itself, pure gift.
Law one-o-one about God: God never takes back a gift. Law one-o-two: God’s gift includes the means of accepting it.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022