What are you after?

This week I gave an interview to a writer who is pulling together an article on contemplative practice and communication. He ruefully explained at the outset that he will be working with a 100-word limit. Fantastic! This is a meditation teacher’s best constraint. Concise, precise, coherent teaching is the most effective way to convey what meditation holds out to those who sense the potential.

My interviewer got to the point quite quickly. He asked what I know about why people come to the practice of meditation. Now there’s a question that could generate a lifetime of answers!

Here’s how I responded: For most people, something feels “off.” It’s the kind of off-ness that is not responding to the known array of solutions. The something could be about handling a difficult condition in life: physical pain, trouble with the boss, overburden in general, a feeling of missing out, anger, compulsive behavior, depression, generic edginess.  This off-ness can just as easily manifest as a curiosity about the possibility of “something more.” Somehow, even with the expansive selection of life strategies and experiences we all have access to, there is a sense that when we add it all up, there’s still something important missing.

Most people who make it in the door stick around to listen and learn even a little bit, and for whatever the draw, their “something off” responds to meditation. There is a common, compelling response to what is inherently available, this very human quality of being, that arises through the cultivation of good-hearted attending to moment-by-moment experience. With a realistic mix of such nuances as skepticism, confusion, and certainty, that common response, in a nutshell: Yes!

Now, I turn this question right over to you, dear reader. Today, you chose to read this post. Why? This is a blog that asks you to ask yourself that kind of question, and to receive what comes with curiosity and an open heart. What are you after, as a first-time reader or months-long follower of this microscopic meditation form? This is an important question, mostly for you yourself. Please take this moment, right now, to pause, consider, and give yourself at least 20 seconds, to notice any and all answers that show up.

Having a good-hearted space to ask such questions and be with whatever answers arrive is maybe enough for you. Perhaps you found new information to take in, or to act on, or questions of your own to contemplate. I wish you all the best with what you discovered. And, if you’re willing to post a response, a phrase or a longer reflection, you may inspire another reader in a way they hadn’t known. Lastly, Jon and I can take what is given and use it to craft this form more precisely, concisely and coherently for our intrepid band of readers. As always, we invite your comments…

~Margaret

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22 thoughts on “What are you after?

    • Lynette, your comment here, your e-presence, and your work… I appreciate it so much, thus creating further temptation for that movement of mind. Please avoid my entanglements! ~ Margaret

  1. I do it because I never cease to be amazed by what comes up. Having a “good-hearted space” is essential, sometimes what comes up is not for the faint of heart!

    • The breath will always be there for the heart, so go there as needed to take care. Great response, thank you, Beth! ~ Margaret

    • Yes, Dusty, thank you for reminding us of this association. I will take this up with my co-writer. Although we’re using the image in a way to remind people that it’s possible to take a brief time span and make impactful use of it, still we need to be careful about the images we choose. I appreciate the comment and the love behind it. All the best ~ Margaret

  2. I think your answer to the interviewer was dead on. Sometimes I feel like I come to spaces like this because something is “off” in my life, off in a troubling, disruptive way that begs rectifying. But sometimes I come here during calm, comfortable times in my life, because I know there’s “something more” that has thus far eluded me, something worth seeking, even though I don’t know for sure what exactly it is that I’m seeking.

    I’m still grappling with whether to post to one of Jon’s recent entries regarding amnesia – whether to post, what to post… I recently had my own personal experience with retrograde amnesia (nothing to the extent of Jason Bourne’s case), but that post hit so close to home that I still haven’t reconciled myself as to whether I can even chime in or not. Without going too deeply into actually posting about it here, suffice it to say that it has been my experience that one’s memories are absolutely integral to a defining sense of self. (You can’t know it until you no longer have it.) I do concede that one could start over from “memory ground zero” and still have a satisfying sense of identity, but it’s been my experience that you would NOT be the same person you who had formed all those lost memories. Now I’m off on a tangent…
    In summary, I come here for all these reasons I’ve mentioned. Sometimes your posts just provide a super opportunity to ponder on something interesting; and how often do most of us allow ourselves the time to do that?

  3. The essence of my commitment to mindfulness practice – my original intention – is connection. Kara Matheson says it well: http://ed21c.com/2012/08/06/what-is-your-practice/ As with Kara, I appreciate the input of NVC (Non Violent Communication) approach in integrating mindfulness into everyday relationship.
    As I naturally tend toward solitude and stillness, and yet am a parent and work with children, one of the ways in which I can be mindful is to practice the skills of presence, loving kindness, non-judgment in interactive moments, to know peace not only in the stillness but in the chaos

    • My Practice #3

      my practice
      is to create mindful poetry
      from the threads of my wife’s gaze,
      my child’s cry,
      the undercurrent of my shame,
      and the calm blue of Winter sky
      (where unseen winds fly)

      here I walk, head-strong, mind-blown
      from room to room of my life
      Who’s life?

      a pelican, with the grace of being what it is,
      wings spread above the sand and waves
      creates an illusion of stillness
      in the spinning of the wind
      interwoven with all life

      rest in connection
      this illusion is no illusion
      this life is life

      we must not think ourselves
      too ugly to be grateful
      too broken to be in love
      too regretful to be wise

      where we are is our beginning place
      who we are is everything

      reweave the threads of your identity
      into a garment of everyday kindness
      which may speak your true names…

      Who we are is Everything…

      (Simon Williams, 10.8.2012)

  4. Partly, because these micro-meditations give me a break from the chain of repeating chatter – it’s more immediate than sitting down and practicing vipassana (which I should do to). Partly, it’s it my magpie mind looking for more shiny ideas to decorate the inside of my skull.
    It’s a good question. I should ask myself more often ‘What is my purpose here?’ or ‘What am I learning from this?’

    • Dave, you are a poet. Magpie mind: I hope it’s okay if I adopt this image into my teaching. All the best, Margaret

      • I don’t think it’s my metaphor originally, so you’re very welcome to it.

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