What Happens Next

by | Jul 22, 2018 | 2 comments

It’s been some time since I’ve written here.

Initially the issue was overwhelm. Spring kept me in near non-stop motion for months. Early summer’s catch up and recovery was not much easier. Through each span, any thought of updating was immediately swept aside by fatigue, by the next thing to do – sometimes both.

Over the past week or three, however, something different has been going on. I’m a little more rested now, my ‘to do’ list is less robust, yet still this blog’s been left unattended. Each time I sit down to write – even when I simply consider writing – something freezes inside. Not knowing what will emerge when fingers meet keys, ice forms over both contemplation and composition; neither goes any further.

I tell myself I never know what I’m going to write. While I may on occasion sit down with an ill-defined sense of direction, of some uncertain thing wanting to emerge, I never really know details beforehand. The specifics of a piece emerge only in the doing – like walking into a bank of fog and discovering one shadow is a tree, another a park bench. 

This surprise and revelation is something I love about writing. That the process’ requisite not knowing now scares me into inaction thus shocks a little – though it shouldn’t; the dynamic is far from unprecedented. 

Much like writing, I never have a sense of specifics when I sit down to meditate. I might feel some vague possibility. I may – and usually do – entertain a range of hopes and expectations. But knowledge of the particular feelings, sensations, images, thoughts and memories that will arise during practice must await my tuning into the body, wandering into that fog.

While this fact typically draws me into mediation, it also occasionally scares me away. Some days, the notion of not knowing – of not being certain, not being in control, not being able to predict – seems too much. I find myself standing immobile, staring at my cushion in fear. I am not moving forward, not stepping away; I am just not.

In these instances, a leap is often called for. Chogyam Trungpa used to encourage this of his students. “Leap to the situation,” he would say. Not figure it out. Not push it down the ‘to do’ list. Not snow it under a flurry of busy-ness. Certainly not plan or anticipate or determine. Just leap into whatever is waiting – the meditation session, the empty page – and discover what happens next.   

– Neil


  1. Thanks for this, Neil. I’ve been living in the fog bank lately – perhaps we’ll see each other there.

    • You know Sean, reflecting upon your suggestion it occurs to me that – contrary to conventional usage of the phrase – the only place we ever really meet one another is in that fog bank. Here life reveals itself moment by moment. So, yes, I hope to see you there soon.


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