Writing From Home
With these writings, I highlight some of my own experiences as a household practitioner: a meditator navigating the challenges and opportunities of our modern world.
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.
I’ve been working with a practice known as ‘labelling’. This is something I find useful when my attention begins to wander a lot in meditation. And my attention has certainly been wandering of late. In brief, this practice involves acknowledging moments of distraction – moments in which I drift into rumination and storytelling – by labeling the experience ‘thinking’.
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.