Taking Time For You To Be With You

Beach Meditation

Interested in meditation? Let’s chat about it.

Today, I am taking a suggestion from Teresa (who commented and made a request over at 1000dayvow.com), and writing in a general way about my experiences with meditation to ground some possible expectations.

You can check out my other posts on meditation on this blog here. And you can read an interview I recently gave for elephantjournal.com, How to Bring Discipline to Your Practice.

One thing that is up for debate is exactly what meditation is. In my opinion, like so many things in life, there is no one thing that meditation is.

This would be my current working definition: Meditation means taking time to be consciously with your self.

It seems to me that all of us, to one extent or another, and with differing degrees depending on the occasion, navigate through life primarily through heuristics. We learn short cuts that we can rely on (more or less) to help us cope with the sometimes overwhelming amount of information that life can present us with. When dealing with all of that, it can get easy to forget the original source of a particular short cut, and keep using it past it’s due date. We can also loose ourselves behind a set of easy assumptions about what & who we are.

Meditation gives us a chance to cut through that.

By sitting consciously with our own being, keeping our awareness strong, focused, and present, we begin to peak past the wall of habits and presumptions. We can examine where we operate purely mechanically, and where we get creative. We can differentiate between what was installed by others, and what we came to ourselves. The meditation practitioner gets the chance to make informed choices as to which habits to keep, and which ones to discard or revamp.

In one version of the Buddha’s story, he did exactly this. When under the Bodhi tree, exploring the middle path he came to see the trends that were running his life. Some of those had negative connotations. By becoming consciously aware of those negative impulses, he was able to re-wire his system for more positive impulses. In one formulation, it is said that he saw that behind every negative action was a positive impulse. If that positive impulse could be exhumed from the layers of habit, examined, and honored, then the same actions could result in positive consequences. Yelling at a child to save them from grabbing something hot goes from a punishment and an infliction, to an act of compassion. The scream of derision and blame becomes a shout of warning and love.

All of that is imminently possible with meditation, and this shows just one of the many benefits that can come from the practice.

To get more on point with what I think Teresa was asking though, I will share some of my specific experiences.

Let me start by saying that it’s a vast area of exploration. The amount going on in the inner space, as far as I can tell, rivals all of what’s going on in outer space. I am not talking about just our immediate occupancy. I mean all of reality. In a way, each of us seems to be not only a mirror of reality, but in a sense a full version of it. The clearer you can make that mapping of the inner space to match the outer space, the less bumpy the ride.

In my time on the meditation cushion I have had lots of wild rides. I’ve also had sessions that were barely removed from naps. My favorite times are the ones with no fanfare and simple plain attention.

I’ve had my life pass before my eyes.

I’ve had previous lives pass before my eyes.

I’ve meditated on cushions, pillows, dust, towels, benches, beds, chairs, logs, boulder, bean bags, grass, and dirt.

I’ve twitched and spasmed and moved to internal energies balancing themselves.

I’ve been taken on tours “back stage” of reality by a threesome of energetic beings who have been visiting me since I was 12.

I’ve had plenty of lower back and knee pain. (Remember to stretch!)

I’ve ceased to exist as a personal noun.

I’ve cried, and laughed like a fiend.

I’ve doubted that anything good would ever come out of the practice.

I’ve been assailed by thoughts galore!

I’ve seen the source of hundreds of my habits and been able to (slowly!!!) modify them over time.

In the eternal wisdom of RAW, I’ve seen beyond doubt what a Cosmic Schmuck I can be. (Often!)

I’ve spoken to myself when I was a frightened child, soothed the historical pain, and let that child sleep safely.

I’ve been to places I was afraid I would never come back from. (Pro tip: Go further! Safety is one more step.)

And through it all, there I was. Before, during, and after.

In a sense, meditation is like going to a movie, either one that you have not seen before, or one of your favorites. No matter how many trailers you’ve seen, or how many times you’ve seen the movie before, you have not seen this play of that movie until you go see it. Once you do you may be swept away on an existential roller coaster with mighty peaks, and abyss like depths. Through it all, it’s just a movie, and when the timer rings (or the incense burns out, or the audio track ends, or whatever you use to demarcate your practice) you will be there and the movie will be a memory.

I want to also say that I categorically deny that meditation is a path to awakening in itself. Meditation gives us a skill, and an opportunity. It can also be a support structure for awakening. There can be awakening openings that occur during meditation, but as far as I can tell there is not really a causal connection. Meditation provides a context, and an equanimity, with which to come to terms with our awakening.

Those are my ruminations on meditation for today! I hope you enjoyed them!

Drop me a comment and let me know what you thought! Peace!

Keep These In Your Pocket

Life can be tough to navigate and deal with sometimes.  For my money it’s a good idea to have some tools & tricks to deal with the bugger when it goes pear-shaped, or gets weird.

I once read that the reason why Buddhism is given in lists (4 noble truths, 8 fold path, 3 root poisons, etc) is because the Buddha taught before such things were written down, and it is easier to remember lists.  Being as I have a terrible memory, I can really get behind the idea of keeping it simple.

To that end I think there are a few things everyone could use to keep handy.

A way to keep fit that you enjoy. For me that’s Aikido and Tai Chi.  Those have the added bonus of keeping me a bit safer too.  Tai Chi is awesome for its portability.  I also collect odd body-weight exercises that I can always do should I need a quick workout.

Some level of knowledge of how to keep your system fueled. Here I am thinking about a modicum of knowledge about food and how to make healthy choices.  I also have a simple food-plan I picked up from my active time in OA – three meals a day, no snacks, no sweets, no peanut butter, no pizza.  That combined with a basic fear of fast food keeps me well fueled.

A philosophical model/modality that helps you get through life. I keep a few basic truisms close to hand – “The map is not the territory”, “Opinion is not fact”, “We all see through our own distinct reality-tunnels”, and my personal favorite, “All statements are true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense.”  I also like, “Don’t be that guy”, and (thanks to Diane) “Just be cool, dude.”  I also like Buddhism for compactness and a basic strong grounding in psychology, Taoism for simplicity, and the Integral Model for catch all applicability/orientation.

A way to connect to the truth. Atma Vichara and Meditation are my mainstays here. Atma Vichara you can find out about (my take on it) here.  For Meditation you can poke around my tagged posts here.  The vichara gets me zeroed in on the basic truth of what I am, and by extension since there really is not-two in this reality, the truth of everything.  That may be a bold statement, but luckily the truth cannot be spoken so i don’t have to bother to try.  😉  Meditation helps me develop equanimity and sharpens my awareness.  Two very useful skills for dealing with this wacky world.

What are some of your tools for getting along in life?  I would love to hear them!


A Measuring Stick For Behaving Well

Diane Musho Hamilton has a great post over at her blog that inspired me today – Simply Uncool. It’s a great piece and reminded me of a distinction I got this one time at Burning Man

Don’t be that guy.

We all know examples.  This is the guy (or gal) who does something incredibly inappropriate at a high-school party, like trying to hit on the host’s Mom.  Or, the guy at Burning Man who keeps interrupting everyone to tell them how they should be doing what they’re doing.  Or, the layman in a sangha who snickers when someone asks a novice question at the Q & A after a dharma talk.  Or, the goober who always posts derisive, dismissive posts on Facebook threads making light of something held serious by the poster.

We all know that guy behavior when we see it.  Thing is that that guy seems to float about, doesn’t he? It’s a phenomenon we all inevitably partake of.  It’s those moments when we should have known better.  Those split-seconds where the words come out a fraction faster than we can catch them.  Where we behave as if no one could ever know.

We have all been that guy a time, or two (or three, or seventy-five.)  Luckily now I, and you, have a mantra to remind us to check in on our behavior.  We can hold what we are doing against our remembrance of the shenanigans of that guy, and if we are being that guy we can cut it out! (This time… maybe… heh…)

P. S. ~ Thanks Muse!