On Meditation, Sort Of . . .
Updated: Feb 27
At the outset of a recent retreat I facilitated, I was planning to say a few words about formal practice. I chose to contextualise a talk with a poem by Mary Oliver. It’s called On Meditating, Sort Of …
Meditation, so I’ve heard, is best accomplished
if you entertain a certain strict posture.
Frankly, I prefer just to lounge under a tree.
So why should I think I could ever be successful?
Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place — half asleep — where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter —
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.
So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.
Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints —
all that glorious, temporary stuff.
So much can be said about technique, sitting position, intention, attention and attitude, and about finding that delicate balance between trying too hard and drifting off. But any notion of success in meditation is, of course, a trap. One is either a meditator or one isn't. It’s that simple. What happens between gongs is so very personal; Let no-one ever say that it should have been been other than what you experienced.
Forget about success. Meditation is merely an invitation to befriend your experience. Of turning towards the questions, what’s happening for me right now, externally and internally? How am I relating to this? And can I be with this right now? For this breath? And maybe this one. All that moves through the bodymind is temporary, like the seasons. Can I be with this unfolding?
To meditate is to be with reality as reveals itself to us moment to moment, unreserved. Sitting on the cushion, we engage with the intimacy of the process of demystifying our being in this world. Breathing, we ventilate our experience.