Understanding the Terrain

Jeff:  Again and again, meditation teachers talk about the benefits of “popping out of your thoughts” – of panning back to a more spacious perspective, no longer embedded in fatalistic loops of rumination and mood and whatever else. To successfully do this, it helps to understand the terrain of thinking and feeling in the first place. In this guided meditation – one of my favourites – we’ll put on our field naturalist binoculars, and tip toe into the dark forest of the mind, looking and listening for local wildlife. Some the creatures we may encounter: subtle imagery, flickering through the trees. Inner talk – rustling, complaining, maybe helplessly repeating that damn Tik Tok sea shant(“Soon may the Wellerman come, to bring thumping sounds to our own eardrum!”). Vague atmospheric moods, tingling and contracting through the body’s core. And below it all, the low-level spread of subconscious processing, branching like mycelium networks through the forest floor of the mind. Exploratory good times!

Giving Up

Jeff: In this meditation, we are going to allow ourselves to be utterly defeated. It will be a race to the bottom, as each of us attempts to out-defeat the other. To say nothing of how each sensation will defeat us (by continuing to be ungraspable), each expectation will defeat us (by continuing to be unfulfillable), and each shining Enlightenment will defeat us – whoosh! – as it passes us by on the way to some sanguine dolphin or industrious garden shrew. How sincere, our defeat! How total, our destruction! “Tell it to no one but the wise / For most will mock it right away / The truly living do I prize / Those who long in flame to die.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Holy Longing” (translated by Shinzen Young).

The Well of Appreciation

Jeff: In my experience, there are two kinds of time: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal time is the conventional time we all know. It is mind time – it has a past, and a future, with our worries stretched across it. Vertical time is time out of time – time hidden in plain sight. “There is another world, and it’s inside this one,” said the French surrealist Paul Eluard, probably stoned on absinthe. Vertical time is body time – no past or future here, only the upwelling of the present moment. The closer you pay attention, the less and less seems to be happening. In this way, we use meditative attention to thin-slice our way back to the cutting edge of Now, of Now, of Now. It is insanely cool that this is even possible! Why isn’t everyone obsessed with it? Because, in a world of serious tragedy and consequence, it seems like navel-gazing.

It is not. It is sustenance, nourishment. Vertical time is a well of appreciation we can learn to drink from. We slip down, between our worries, and we reset. We return to our work refreshed. What begins as an exercise we do in stillness, becomes, over time (there’s that word again) something we learn to taste in all our moments. At least, that’s the direction, the practice, the training. This Monday, we go vertical.

The End. Thank you for reading this long-winded contribution from horizontal time.

Relationship to Self

Jeff: The template for our relationship with others is the one we’re engaged in already with ourselves. There is no escaping that truth: friendly or critical, neglectful or curious, the longer someone’s with us and the closer they get, the more we end up treating them as we treat ourselves. Among other things, that means the greatest kindness we can do for others is the one we begin doing for ourselves. In this meditation, we explore the life-changing magic of self-compassion. We’ll proceed in stages: first we create a bit of metaphorical space between our witnessing awareness and our seething minds and bodies. Then we kick back and watch our wiggly bits wiggle, always curious, on the lookout for subtle patterns. Halfway through we move into a deliberate self-compassion practice, the simple but profound orientation of caring for what we find inside. Thus primed, for our grand finale we’ll send the compassion outward in a breezy gust of microscopic cinnamon hearts, sandblasting all acquaintances with loving exfoliating goodness. If nothing else, it will be good for everyone’s complexion.

Nothing Is Healing

Jeff: It seems to be like this: overtop, there’s all this busy-busy-busyness, all this go-go-going, all this on-ramp activation and excitement as poop gets done-done-done. And that’s excellent. That’s life! We are alive! AND, it obviously causes a certain amount of wear and tear in the system. Our deepest healing happens when we rest. That’s when our system makes most of its repairs. I think it is healthy to plug into little nourishing wells of rest throughout the day, by stopping and doing nothing. In this meditation, we do exactly this, and explore what it might mean to orient to the stillness below the busy-busy. Then, for the loving-kindness portion, we’ll explore the always-healing stance of gratitude. And then we’ll get into a bar fight! No, that’s not true. The bars are all closed.