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Dear Donagh O’Shea,
I’ve been reading your new book A 100 Roads to Here: Introductions to Meditation, and finding it interesting, even if it has me wondering at times what it’s all about…. But it’s the title that makes no sense at all to me. If it was 101 I'd know that you meant any number, like in an ad. But why a 100 exactly? And where is here? Is it some particular place? Could you enlighten me on this? Daniel
100 is just a random number, like 101. It used to be a thing for writers on spirituality, particularly in the East, to write a ‘century’ – a book with a hundred sections: John Damascene for example, and Symeon the New Theologian; and in the West, Henry Suso wrote A Hundred Meditations on the Passion. It’s a round number, and maybe it’s a hint that the book won’t be too long. Meditation is not a story; it has no beginning, middle or end; it leaves that to the clock or the timer. Likewise a book on meditation: fixing on 100 sections is like setting your meditation timer to 30 minutes or whatever.
‘Here’ is wherever you are. Helpful maps in big parks and gardens inform you, with an arrow, that “You are here”. But when I say ‘here’ in the context of meditation, I don’t mean only your physical location. I mean whatever situation you are in: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. Much of the trouble we bring on ourselves is caused by being somehow distracted or absent from our real-life situation. We tend to think more about what we haven’t than about what we have, more about where we aren't than about where we are; more about the past and future than about the present…. This is normal enough, even though we know it can be a bit crazy and self-defeating. We have to keep on coming back to ourselves – to ‘here’ – every day, because we become so easily distracted. “I'm not myself at all today,” the old people used to say. They were right: if you are not mentally where you really are, you are not yourself.
Meditation means sitting quietly, doing nothing, waiting to come back to yourself – the self that you are in God’s sight, not the distracted ‘self’ that wanders around lost and far from home.
I hope that clarifies something for you, Daniel.