The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Yesterday morning, I pulled out my meditation stool and sat on it for 15 minutes. And? – Well, my confession is that, for the first time in decades, I managed to avoid sitting in formal meditation for almost the whole of 2014.
I happen to believe that deep meditation and mindfulness begin after the sitting, rather than only during the sitting. Much harder to maintain an inner stillness in the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. In some ways, then, the whole of my waking life is dedicated to – well, waking up.
And what a convenient excuse that is to avoid sitting in meditation. And truly the times when I most avoid it are usually the times when I most need it. Of course.
But I've had eight rather grim years in terms of the sheer quantity of serious family illness, at the end of which my own burnout took quite a toll. So last year, in addition to seeing my father over his own threshold, I gave myself 'time out' from all the 'shoulds'. And yes, it is true that meditation practice is still a 'should' for me, 40 years after I first began it.
But here's the thing. As soon as I sat on my stool with the intention of watching my mind and bringing it to some kind of stillness, there was an immediate sense of some kind of utterly essential connectedness being restored, even after that year.
My meditation practice is rooted in Zen. So in a very real way, when I am sitting, I am just sitting; not trying to achieve or attain or escape or transcend. I watch the mind, the games it plays and its attachments and aversions; its distraction and avoidances and cravings; the way it flies out like a cloud of gnats to colonise any imagined or remembered landscape it finds mildly interesting. Gently, I'll harness it to bring it back home. I'll breathe. I'll focus – with effort but without a battle.
Gradually, and just occasionally (important to mention that it's only now and then), something else happens. I notice that certain egoic boundaries dissolve, and maybe a sense of oneness takes over. No me, no you. No inside, no outside.
Somehow, a kind of verticality and a kind of horizontality bring themselves together. Does that make any sense?
It didn't happen this morning for me. I stayed firmly scattered in the questing sniffing host of gnats that were my mental wanderings (can't grace them with the word 'thoughts'). What do you do? You just sit, and notice.
But it did happen yesterday morning; just as it happened again later when I walked, late, alone with Dog, on a long beach where the last time I walked I was still married; my daughter was only a few months old; my then husband and I alternated his going surfing in the early morning in the ocean we could see from the window of our tatty little rented flat with my exercising someone else's enormous ex-racehorse on two miles of golden sand.
At dusk, yesterday, the waves curled and laced themselves around my boots, and I didn't know what was ocean, what me, what gathering night.
'Staring into the heart of light, the silence.'
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