Why Meditate? (written 2005)
Why do I meditate? Closer to the truth...why do I want this to be part of my life? No, integral to my life? I think of my friend Kuya's short story. The woman who longed for monastic life, continually pulled by family needs to roles elsewhere. Knocking at the gates of the temple finally, an old woman now, but moving into the world that called her.
The story spoke to me. To my need for, love for, solitude and silence. And yet, being honest I know I need and love my family with the same intensity and also that the variety of my life is important to me. Yet, there is undeniably a kernel of my being that is and always has been drawn to the spiritual life, asking the “big” questions.
This has been my spiritual quest. The experimentation with this and that path when I was a kid. The reading of sacred books from multiple traditions. Even my choice to study philosophy and the hollowness that I first felt when the God-space inside me was emptied. And now, in these years, to find a path that echoes explanations I had tried to articulate for myself.
Why meditate? Because it is important. Because of all the busy things I do in my day, two seem most significant in the world. First, to love. And then, to be still and to see, to breathe. When I love well...when I am there for family, friends, animal or stranger, I know I have touched what is real. And when I am still, when I feel my breath and know the connection with past and future and all beings, I feel this truth too. Then, the busyness of shopping, cooking, eating, cleaning, remembering events, paying bills and entertaining others and myself...all this falls away. Sometimes I feel the pain that my life is slipping away...at 50, half of it is gone, maybe two thirds, and yet I keep stepping back into the “busy” stream of traffic, not able to stay quietly at the side often enough.
Exhaustion is my biggest enemy of late. Love your enemy. Enfold him. Too often rest is my greatest desire. Just to collapse and sleep. And so I settle for oblivion, sleep over that alert and knowing stillness. Not the same at all. I need both kinds of nourishment.
I am disgusted sometimes with myself, sad, irritated. Ah! Judging. And yet how do I achieve the discipline to do this if I do not first judge and determine to move in the direction I intend? I am still so much the novice when it comes to understanding, to letting go and letting be. I try to remember there is no secret, better place to be behind the monastery gates. To remember that this life is my practice. Can I be still in the midst of it?