When we meditate together in the Online Gatherings, people are encouraged to arrange themselves however feels appropriate in that moment. Some of us lay down. Some of us sit up. Some of us move from one position to the other within a session.
In the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about teaching. More specifically, I’ve thought a lot about what guides my teaching. What are the core principles shaping my presentation of meditation in the world? I find myself coming back to three main elements again and again.
We affect one another. I was thinking this earlier today. After encountering a series of unexpected difficulties, I found myself frustrated and grumbling, beginning to view my life with a whole lot of resentment. And then, I remembered.
New year is a pretty common occasion for connection and reflection. Whether this occurs in solitude or whilst discussing a popular year-end ‘Top Ten’ with friends, whether this results in a list of formal resolutions or a quiet inner acknowledgement, many people mark this time by tuning in and taking stock.
Covid made it’s way into our household recently. With one of the three of us stricken by the virus, we decided to try preventing any further spread. We co-ordinated movements, opened windows wide, donned masks. This did not work as hoped.
I took a tumble in a local mall recently. Making a sharp turn through the gap between a pair of upholstered benches, I discovered there actually was no gap between those benches. A low table occupied the space. Which was a fact that soon had me sprawled on the floor in the midst of Saturday afternoon shopping.
It was striking. The moment I stepped out of the grocery store, the soft autumn afternoon engulfed me. ‘Embraced’ might be a more appropriate word here, however. So let’s try again: the moment I stepped out of the grocery store, the soft autumn afternoon embraced me.
Weather around these parts has shifted. While most days still get hot – or, at the very least, warm – there’s a coolness in the air that communicates quite clearly: things are changing. It’s tempting to tumble into some sort of narrative about this. ‘Summer’s hard on me,’ for instance, ‘I can’t wait for fall!’
One could – quite justifiably, I believe – look at this world of which we are part and feel concern. Polarization and conflict, political, economic, and environmental instability, aggression, uncertainty, and fear are all prominent aspects of our present landscape, never mind some of the more specific difficulties that might be pointed to.
This has not been an easy piece to write. My schedule is overfull right now. My to do lists are overburdened. Concerns about the present and worries about the future are robust and active. These are coming at me like the crows that sometimes dive toward my head each spring, mad with an intention it’s hard to outrun.
Bruce Cockburn is on tour right now. I’ve written before of the fact that, having followed his career for so long, every new release from this artist feels like checking in with an old friend. Since the advent of YouTube, every new tour provides something similar.
I have, over the years, been asked all kinds of questions about meditation. There have been big questions and small. Difficult questions and easy. Questions I’m able to respond to immediately and others that have required time – in some instances, a span of years – to consider.
I offered a livestream meditation practice earlier today. This is something I do on Insight Timer with some regularity now. Usually the first Monday of every month sees me host a very short (15-20 mins) exploration of embodiment there. Still, Livestreaming is not something I’m overly familiar with.
The meditative tradition makes frequent use of the verb ‘solidify’. We have a tendency, the teachings assert, to do this. To the extent that we do solidify, we suffer. All of which seems pretty straightforward in a 1 + 1 = 2 kind of way. But what the heck is meant by this term? What is being pointed to with the word ‘solidify’?
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.
I believe meditation has much to offer. I believe, for instance, that the practice can allow us to relax some of the gripping we do. Gripping to hopes. Gripping to fears. Gripping to expectations. Gripping to identities. All of which seems to cause a great deal of tension and suffering.
In a few weeks I will, if all goes according to plan, return to in-person teaching. This has not been part of my life since March 2020. So in a few weeks I will, for the first time in many months, walk to Monterey Centre, grab some props, and sit down to meditate with whomever is there.
It’s grey outside. The window to my left reveals low-hanging sky. Leaves and grass and the narrow street are all slightly dark, suggesting rain not long ago. An occasional person wanders by. Rare voices rise muted in the air. Which is the tone of this scene as a whole: muted, subdued, slow.
I remember purchasing ‘Down In The Groove’. It was one of the last entries in Dylan’s considerable back catalogue brought into my collection. I’d seen the album before, but had resisted the impulse to bring it home. Though I had not yet read the words quoted above, I’d heard many similar verdicts through the years.
Through the past many months, I have been discerning what my work with embodied meditation might look like moving forward. Events in the past year or so have provoked this question to the surface. The resulting contemplation has been rich and active and, more often than not, wholly surprising.
My daughter has been listening to Bob Dylan lately. She’ll come out of her room and, while prepping lunch or making tea, talk about some of the more recent tunes in her playlist rotation. ‘Visions of Johanna’ and ‘Blind Willie McTell’ have come up several times. ‘Shelter From the Storm’. ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.
It was a simple return. My daughter had a pair of socks she wanted to take back. As I was going to the mall anyway, I volunteered to do this. After taking care of my own errands, I searched out the appropriate clothing store, offered up the item and receipt, and watched as the amount was placed on my credit card. Like I said, a simple return.
I’ve struggled with this post. Three different drafts have been readied. There’s a sense of pushing in each of them. Too much knowing where the piece is going. Too much wanting to be something specific. As a result, not one of these feels quite right to me. Which is frustrating for any number of reasons.
I used to walk downtown a lot. Sometimes for an acupuncture appointment or work meeting. On other occasions, I’d run errands or go for a cinnamon bun at Bubby Rose’s. Whatever the reason, I used to make the thirty minute journey there and thirty minute journey back several times a month. The pandemic has changed this.
I’ve been reading A Wonderful Creation: How the LP Saved Our Lives. Looking into what author David Hepworth affirms to be the golden age of the long-playing record (1967 to 1982; from Sergeant Pepper to Thriller), the book considers how our relationship with music altered through this span and how this connection has shifted since.
It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing. Certainly nothing out of the ordinary: four columns of shopping baskets, stacked and sanitized, waiting for use. At the same time, however, there was something different about this.
When Bruce Cockburn’s most recent album appeared in September of 2019, my initial response was disappointment. Crowing Ignites is a collection of instrumental pieces. While I do admire Cockburn’s musicality – he is, in my opinion, one of the most accomplished guitarists of my lifetime – this is not what draws me to him.
I started listening to a podcast recently. The Daily Poem, as the name suggests, offers poetry every weekday morning. Episodes begin with a recitation. This is followed by a short commentary from the show’s host, David Kern. A second reading then concludes each broadcast.
Since returning from another month in Colorado, I’ve done a fair bit of reading. One book that has held my attention through this span is ‘Birds Art Life’ by Kyo Maclear. Among several other things, this work acknowledges, embraces, and with appropriate discretion celebrates the lulls in our lives.
In 1999, Stephen Reid was given an eighteen year prison term. His crimes were robbery and unlawful confinement. Sometime prior to this, he became addicted to heroin and cocaine. At some point following his conviction and confinement, Susan Musgrave – Reid’s partner of many years – released Origami Dove.
A student emailed recently, pleased with how regular her home practice had become. While I imagine several factors played into this development, one was identified as key. A routine had emerged between her and a friend, someone who also wanted to make meditation part of her daily life.
I find myself in a difficult position these days. It’s a busy time of year – as is often the case, truth be told – and I’ve been sick the last week or so. This means my already robust workflow has been left mostly unattended for a while, allowing a strong moving stream to become a raging torrent. I have meetings to schedule and essays to prepare, classes to ready for and talks to present.
Fires burn tonight. Throughout British Columbia, more than five hundred wildfires are alight. Thousands of people have fled their homes; nearly four times as many wait on evacuation alert. Highways and airports have closed. Though my corner of the province has been spared this fate, a smoky haze has lingered over everything these past weeks.
In a recent comment, Emily raised that most pertinent question: “How do I do this?” How does one honour the body – the clear, potent wisdom of the body – while, in her case, taking on the professional “role of digital guide and web designer”? Many of us ask this. How do I bring the openness of meditation into the various roles I hold in the so-called ‘real world’?
“Will this be easy to maintain?” While designing this website, this question arose a lot. While I did hope the site would become a useful resource for us, it was not something I could afford to spend hours updating. So again and again I voiced these words – and many decisions reflect their influence. This is why, for instance, there has been no comments section here.
I woke early last Sunday morning; shortly after one. Normally this is cause for distress, realizing another sleepless night may have arrived. This time around, however, was different. A sense of delight pulsed through my body. Simmering excitement suddenly came to full boil. Roger Federer was playing in the final match of this year’s Australian Open.
Bruce Cockburn’s new album just came out. Bone on Bone is the twenty-fifth studio release in a recording career dating back almost fifty years. It also happens to be Cockburn’s first in quite a while – since 2011’s Small Source of Comfort. Is it any good? While I understand this question – it seems a most natural inquiry – it’s not one I’ve really considered.
‘I thought you would save me.’ These words arose in my mind the other day. I was sitting at the dining room table, enjoying breakfast. My gaze, which had wandered out the window and into the waking day, was drawn back by one of our bookcases. It’s a sizeable structure, seven feet high and three across. The two upper shelves are swollen with dharma books.