This conversation allows us to witness some of Julia Simmons’ journey toward presence. From difficult beginnings, Julia shares a little of what’s helped her develop an ability to turn toward life. This involves meditation, of course, but also a range of other modalities and perspectives – including the encouragement to ‘let it be okay’.
On meditation and everyday living.
In Bringing Meditation to Life, I reflect upon the potent intersection of meditation and everyday living. Complimenting my own experience as a household practitioner with wisdom from a wide range of sources – including interviews with fellow meditators – I consider the ways daily living and meditation practice illuminate and enrich one another. Short enough for a single sitting. Deep enough to affect your practice and life.
Whether in meditation practice or in the hustle of everyday living, ‘just keep it simple’ is a helpful instruction to remember. When the time is right, these four words can aid us in navigating the challenges of too much: too much thinking, too much to take care of. They can help us find our way back to the immediacy of this.
In this conversation, Eric Manning brings a lifelong curiosity to his engagement with meditation. We learn about how the practice came into his life and about what it now offers his everyday experience. Eric concludes by sharing a wonderful ‘mantra’ to help us remain open to and curious about our lives.
It is relatively easy to believe meditation is all about ‘getting it right’. In this episode, a live recording of Jerry Garcia reminds us how important it is to let our approach to this work be porous and adaptive. Through such flexibility, we become familiar with the vibrant humanity of our lives.
Engaging meditation as a process of slowing down and settling in lets Jo Runnells connect the practice with all areas of her life. From accessing awe when immersed in the natural world, to checking out the conceptual models we live within, meditation allows her to approach everyday living with curiosity and fascination.
Turning attention toward embodied experience is not only the stuff of formal meditation. Here Neil McKinlay speaks to how his informal engagement with this act reignited a sense of relatedness in the midst of hurry and overwhelm. Taking time to connect in this way remedied the apparent separateness of the online work environment.
In this episode, Alaina Chambers talks about her ongoing conversation with life. This is a relationship she describes as “unwavering” and “the most important (one) I have.” Within this continuing dialogue, meditation plays the role of enhancer – deepening a sense of connection that pervades every aspect of living.
This episode considers the role words play in bringing meditation to life. Through connecting with words’ overt and covert potency, we can let meditation and daily living enjoy a more intimate and penetrating relationship with one another. Which encourages us to experiment with language while working with the dharma.
How do we practice in a manner that appropriately meets and respects the realities of both our immediate state of being and our lives more generally? In this episode, WendyLeigh White discusses the process of exploration and discernment that helps give shape to her formal and her informal engagement with meditation.
The renewed practice of ocean dipping gives rise to some insights regarding impermanence and, through this, a sense of appreciation for our ever-shifting lives. This reflects the importance of asking ‘What is the value of this?’ when engaging the teachings of meditation. What is the value of a personal realization of this (almost) always changing world?
In this episode, Neil McKinlay sits down with fellow practitioner Rivka Simmons. Discussing the role of meditation in her life, a recurring theme involves the ways this practice helps Rivka discern between thoughts that are in alignment and those that are not. This discrimination is a big part of the process that she describes as ‘being natural’.
This episode speaks to the pause and reflection Neil McKinlay has engaged since the start of 2022. In doing so, the core inspiration of this podcast – to connect meditation with daily living – is reaffirmed. A new interview-style feature is also announced. Beginning next time, the voices of other practitioners will be heard here, alternating with Neil’s usual contemplations.
Through meditation we develop a more conscious relationship with life. Assuming this to be true, one might ask what value such consciousness has. Reflecting upon the relationship a local shop-keeper developed in his own neighbourhood, Neil McKinlay connects with the power of affection – our ability and capacity to affect one another.
This world offers no shortage of chances for us to wake up and connect, for us to return to a sense of conscious relationship with the world of which we are part. In this episode, the familiar presence of fresh-laid mulch provides a pungent reminder of this fact. A reminder and, it is well worth noting, a sense of acknowledgement and appreciation.
A simple inquiry raised while readying a website leads to a relatively deep contemplation of the term ‘embodiment’. What exactly is meant by this commonplace word? What aspect of human experience is it pointing toward? And how might an understanding of ‘embodiment’ illuminate our sense of ‘embodied meditation’?
The central dynamic of meditation – the act of placing one’s attention and welcoming what one finds – is not exclusive to formal practice. Here Neil McKinlay reflects upon the presence of stability and insight in Cormac McCarthy’s affecting novel, ‘The Road’. This book is considered as, among other things, a work of steady and unwavering attention.
Identifying where we are going to place our attention in a practice session is an act so simple it often passes unacknowledged. Yet it is central to our work with meditation and very useful when we take this practice out into our lives. For this reason, Neil McKinlay identifies this as one of more helpful teachings he’s ever encountered.
How do we stick with meditation over time? How do we keep our long-term engagement with this practice fresh and alive and dynamic? In this episode, Neil McKinlay affirms the value of having role models in these regards. Of being familiar with others who have stuck with something over time and managed to keep this tenure invigorated.
Asking the question ‘Why meditate?’, Neil McKinlay reflects upon meditation as becoming familiar with. In the course of this, he links his familiarity with impulsivity – the act of responding in habitual ways – to events unfolding in and around his home. This reveals a tentative answer to that potent inquiry, a sense of why he practices today.
In this episode of ‘Bringing Meditation to Life’, a poem by Ted Kooser reminds us of the everyday ordinariness meditation – the simple practice of being present – allows us to connect with. Far from being characterized by moments of big ‘P’ presence, meditation is more often marked by immediacy of the small ‘p’ sort.
Blurring the distinction between meditation and the so-called ‘rest of our lives’, the Five Minute Meditation is a practice we can easily engage while in the flow of our busy days. This particular version uses the settling qualities of posture work to let us rest in our unique sense of the embodied present.
A weekly meditation class and a brainstorming session about making good transitions lead to a deeper understanding of a friend’s illness and death. In doing so, these events reaffirm one of the main inspirations of this ‘Bringing Meditation to Life’ podcast: to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that teachings are everywhere.
A instant of ‘fed up-ness’ reminds Neil McKinlay of the fact that meditation does not distinguish ‘practice-worthy’ and ‘not practice-worthy’ moments. In truth, everything in our life offers opportunities for us to return to embodied experience and be curious about what’s happening. Everything offers opportunities to practice attending to this.
“Should my eyes be open or closed?” Using this inquiry as our starting point, this episode of ‘Bringing Meditation to Life’ considers the issue of working with practice instructions. Neil McKinlay looks at how attending to and respecting the interface of offered instruction and personal experience can afford meditation a living presence in our lives.
How do we maintain a regular practice? An appropriate response to this inquiry requires we attend to the ‘enoughness’ of our routine. Reflecting upon his own experience with daily walking, Neil McKinlay affirms that while sometimes a relatively informal approach is adequate, at other times we need to be more definite and rigourous.
In Margaret Laurence’s novel, ‘The Diviners’, protagonist Morag Gunn eventually surrenders to the “necessary doing” of her unique life. Encountering this passage during a recent read of this award-winning work, our host, Neil McKinlay, realizes this inexplicable motivation has played a notable role in his own practice life.
Through meditation, we develop our capacity to resist the temptation of impulse and deepen our relationship with qualities – like clarity – that lay inherent in our immediate experience. Is it possible to develop and deepen like this during everyday life? Can we do this the next time we are stuck in a grocery store lineup?
In the first episode of this podcast series, meditation teacher Neil McKinlay shares some of his story and some of the inspiration behind these recordings. He invites us to loosen our sense of distinction between meditation and everyday living, to discover how life and practice enrich and illuminate one another.
About the Host
Neil McKinlay has long been fascinated by the intersection of spiritual practice and so-called ordinary living. As a partner and parent, author and swim coach, he has sought to understand the ways these roles influence and are influenced by his longstanding engagement with meditation. As a teacher of somatic meditation, he encourages his students to ask similar questions of their own practice and life.