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.
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’.
At the beginning of every practice session, I spend a few moments sitting quietly. I stop all obvious movement and orient my wandering attention in a single direction. I’m not too forceful with this. I don’t define that single direction too precisely. Nor do I demand too much fidelity in this regard. All of which means there’s a fair bit of drifting during this span.
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.