• Jody Hart

Where do meditation and life meet?

In the talking, my mind had dismembered practice from life.

Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

Caminante, son tus huellas el camino y nada más; caminante, no hay camino,

se hace camino al andar.

Pathmaker, your footsteps are the path and nothing more; pathmaker, there is no path, you make the path by walking.

Life lessons sometimes arrive for us when we're not looking out for them. I was talking to someone about moving house and how discombobulated my mind was feeling. It was brought to my attention that I was talking about dharma and meditation practice as if they were separate from life. Life was kind of busy, scattered and unpredictable, and then there was practice and work. In the talking, my mind had dismembered practice from life.

So, if I may, I'll put two chains of thought out here. One, is 'normal' life practice and what can that look like? And two, is it possible or how is it possible to keep practice going even through tiring or turbulent times.

One aspect of real-life practice is the gentle and wholehearted meeting of experience exactly as it is. When Jon Kabat-Zinn extracted mindfulness from Buddhism and delivered it as non-secular, he identified 9 core attitudes to help mindfulness be cultivated. Two of these are non-judgement and acceptance. Sometimes however, even after years of practice and teachings, these two attitudes can still feel a million miles away in lived reality. What we can meet in body and mind when we come back to ourselves isn't what we want; we don't like it, wish it was different or feel overwhelmed in some way. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that we can easily be swept away in opposite and unhelpful attitudes like judgement, self-deprecation and avoidance.

If you wish, right now, exactly as you are, exactly, can you meet yourself without changing even one single thing. See how quickly any judgement or 'wishing for different' may come in. Watch if thoughts arrive that add a layer onto experience that maybe categorises into good/bad, should/shouldn't, useful/useless....etc. See how quickly the mind wants to change experince for something better or more acceptable. It's amazing; faster than the speed of lightening! Where did non-judgement and kindly acceptance go?!......vanished often!!

It really takes time to gently and willingly meet the inner world, as it is, with sensitivity; it really does. And that's ok. This is a path, a journey, an unwinding, uncovering and learning. We keep coming back to these teachings again and again and again. It's amazing how the mind can take us away and it's also amazing how the teachings arrive on the other side to pick us up and keep us going. There's no judgement. Only smiles, hands out held and invitations to start again. We may choose to sit on the cushion in a more formal way or we may choose to be in nature, see friends or listen to music in a more informal way. Whatever we choose, life is the way, life is the practise.