As many of you know or don’t know, I spend lots of time meditating here in the woods.
Meditation started seriously for this one in 2003.
Since no formal teacher materialized to teach me, I started sitting cross-legged on the couch by the burning wood stove in our walk-out basement (OK, only by the wood stove nine months of the year) back in the early part of this century and concentrated on the breath.
You breathe in, you breathe out.
You breathe in, you breathe out.
Your thoughts begin to think this is the silliest thing in the entire universe and rebel. They stage terrorist acts and take attention hostage. They plan dinner. They debate religion or politics. They plan next week’s schedule. You snarl (or, if you’re advanced, you sometimes patiently smile) and regain attention on the breath. Breathe in, breathe out.
You finish your five or twenty or thirty minutes sometimes disgruntled and thought-crazed, sometimes peaceful, sometimes downright angry, sometimes miraculously expansive and quiet.
People meditate for all sorts of reasons. Some people meditate for health. Breathing calmly and slowly, concentrating the mind, often lowers blood pressure and cures some stress-related illnesses. Some folks meditate to find happiness. People who meditate are sometimes calmer, more peaceful. There are as many reasons for meditating as there are meditators.
Others meditate to penetrate the crux of humanity: Who are we really?
They meditate in an effort to wake up from the trance of thoughts and beliefs which keep us believing we are only a limited self, a single individual separate from everything we perceive.
When you start to look very closely at your self you will begin to re-assess your deepest beliefs and ideas. You will begin to perceive that you are not really your body–even though you are 100% sure that you are your body, and no one will ever ever convince you otherwise.
You will begin to perceive that you are not your thoughts–even though the thoughts are 100% convinced that they are the Masters and you will follow them onto your deathbed.
You will begin to see that you are not your personality–even though your personality will not let go of you no matter how hard you shake it, and will utilize a cunning and practical device called an ego to keep you thoroughly attached to its patterns.
If you ask “What am I?” or “Who am I really?” for five or ten or one hundred years, you begin to see that you are nothing. (Do not believe me. Please do not believe me. Try for yourself if you’re so inclined. Or smile in amusement or frown in disinterest if you’re not.)
Sometimes you will glimpse that you are nothing. Other times you will realize that you are everything.
But you will, if you’re anything like many meditators, go back to following your mechanical personality around the eternal wheel of your days. You’ll begin to see that you’re really nothing (really no-thing) and yet not be able to fully integrate that into your life.
So you keep breathing. Or repeating your koan (such as “What am I?”) Or you sit quietly in the larger awareness that you are.
You might even write a blog in between meditation sessions, letting your personality play.
Or take photographs.
Even though you realize that you are nothing–it is very interesting to watch the personalities called Kathy or Michael or Donna type blogs in which they repeatedly announce that they are something or someone. (Sometimes meditators do this more fervently than the general non-meditating public. They have glimpsed that they are nothing and their personalities revolt. We’ll show you, the personalities clamor, we’ll show you that we exist and we’re in charge!)
I am spending this week-in-between Christmas and New Years meditating, and then running errands, and meditating, and then going out to work at the school, and meditating.
The personality suggested a couple of really funny blogs to write–but I decided to share what is really happening in my life. What is the passion that drives me, more than anything else.
Snow falls lightly outside the window. Green spruce point fingers at the end of sweeping branches toward a hidden moon. The wood stove hums.
Ask yourself: Who hears the wood stove?
When we penetrate to the core of that mystery, when the wood stove and you are one, when you and I arise as one unfolding, then let’s bake some cookies and have a cup of tea.
OK, OK, let’s not wait until then. What kind of tea would you like?
Do you have a spiritual practice which guides you through the bright or foggy days of your life, helping you steer your boat to safe harbor or adventuresome seas?
Thank you for listening to my heart.