Writing

The Path

by | Oct 20, 2021 | 6 comments

I was watching television the other night. Hardly the activity one might expect for a bit of meditative insight, but this is the truth: I was watching television.

I’d tried viewing from the couch. Laying on one side and facing the TV, I found my glasses far too temperamental for this position. They kept pushing up one side of my face, leaving my vision not quite up to the task of actually seeing what was happening onscreen. So I switched to my back. I got off the couch and lay on my back down on the floor.

After a small amount of fiddling, I discovered something workable there. I let my feet cross at the ankles and point toward the set. My head and neck found comfort supported by a pair of pillows. Arranged in this way, I settled in to watch an episode of Julia Roberts’ Homecoming. Much to my surprise, I quickly found myself really settling in.

Though the surface beneath me was relatively hard, consisting of nothing more than a thin rug and bare wood flooring, my body seemed to take to this location. All along my back, skin and muscle felt drawn to the support waiting underneath. After a while, the more forward regions of my body, too, started to give, started to yield, began to surrender to this steady presence. Before half of that Homecoming episode was complete, I was as relaxed as I’d felt in ages. Relaxed and yearning for, aching for more.

When the show concluded, I went on laying there for a while. On the one hand, I wanted to take advantage of the nourishing sense of holding I felt. On the other hand, I was curious. ‘What,’ I wondered, ‘is going on here?’

One of the things I contemplate a lot is how the wisdom of our lives – the wisdom of our bodies, the wisdom of embodied experience – infiltrates and influences our journey as meditators. What, if any, role does what happens to us play in this work? This thread of reflection is admittedly a work in progress. In fact, I sometimes suspect it may be a work in eternal progress; one of those inquiries that is never, thankfully, fully answered. An inquiry along the lines of, ‘Why do I meditate?’

In this case, however, the answer – or perhaps more accurately, the invitation – was clear. I haven’t paid all that much attention to the earth in my practice for a while. I can’t claim to know the reason for this. Attention, I suppose, has literally been elsewhere recently.

My experience watching television on this particular evening suggests it might be appropriate to give a bit more in this direction. And this is what I’ve been doing of late. I’ve been giving a little more time, a little more energy, a little more attention to the humble task of acknowledging and respecting – respecting in the sense of giving myself to – the steady company the earth offers.

I don’t know where this is going to lead. I don’t know what, exactly, is going to come next. But then what comes next isn’t really the point, is it? The point instead seems something like this: insight (there’s something here) leads to response (more attention to the earth). This is then followed by an experience of ‘I don’t know’. Insight. Response. I don’t know. Insight. Response. I don’t know. Insight. Response. I don’t know. This is, I believe, what people sometimes call ‘the path’.

– Neil

6 Comments

  1. Food for thought!

    Reply
    • The moment this piece was finished, I thought the exact same thing!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for sharing these familiar, ordinary, relatable moments from your own life, as a way to help others relate to “the path”…

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    • You’re welcome, Carrie. I appreciate the opportunity because it helps me see and relate to ‘the path’ as well.

      Reply
  3. Your story reminds me of a time when one of my 6 year old students just couldn’t stay in her chair, so I said, let’s tutor on the floor. It felt so intimate and turned into a great lesson. I used to spend so much time on the floor as child and teen. Our bodies really do know! Thanks for the perspective.

    Reply
    • And it’s such an intimate, such a primordial knowing! Curious, that I find myself ignoring and forgetting so often. Great, however, to find one’s way back.

      Reply

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