This term has been in the subtitle of this blog for one year now. I’ve written more than 50 posts that relate to meditation in various ways and my course Relaxing into Meditation offers some direct guidance. This year I’ll go even deeper into these skills.
One thing I find interesting is that I’ve learned a lot about meditative skills simply by living my daily life, not only in teachings on meditation or on long meditation retreats. And I’ve met many people—colleagues, patients, friends and others—who have integrated such skills beautifully into their normal lives. I so admire them!
The elderly people I meet in their 80s and 90s especially inspire me. They’ve mastered much of life already and have great knowledge, wisdom, and experience. They know our collective history as well as having addressed the many questions, hopes, challenges, and dreams coming from their own individual perspective. Watching them go about their daily routines teaches me a great deal about peace, ease, and natural precision. Hands, bodies, and minds that have already done things thousands of times can radiate a competence and beauty which inspires me to find similar routines and rituals in my own life.
The truth is, most of are so caught in our projections and fears about aging that we can’t really see the elderly as they are. We can miss the timeless youth still in them, and we can be blinded by the natural infirmities of age, missing the mastery they have. And sadly, this is just what many have told me, that very few people are able to see them. I come to them with admiration and interest and they smile and begin to bloom with relief at being seen.
We are all on our way to old age (if we are lucky!), moving along our paths and habits. Deeply involved in life, we find ourselves in complex routines fulfilling duties and wishes. We meet experiences that make us happy and others that are challenging.
How do we react to all of it? Do we see life as fascinating adventure or do we feel burdened, that life is just difficult? Although we may not currently recognize it, our view of life depends greatly on whether or not we can find simple ease inside. By learning to skilfully bring more ease to our inner state, our view of life will change for the better. Without even trying, we will find that we can be open and curious when we start our day rather than easily getting caught up in negative anticipation.
Our inner state also affects our reactions to all of the experiences that cross our path.There are days in which everything seems to go south and there are others that are sunny all the way through. But nevertheless we are not our inner weather. Like taking refuge from a storm, we can notice what’s going on and then find an accepting place from which to relate to it. These are meditative skills.
For a mind that knows how to locate inner calm and space, then trust and confidence will gradually build, making everything much easier. We were not necessarily born with this ability; most of the elders I so respect had much to learn. But having learned, they built amazing lives.
We will have good and bad days, in every age. Our experiences change constantly and many winds move in this vast game. An accepting and steadfast attitude to relate to whatever is happening; an inner space that allows us to observe different experiences before we react; learning to notice what’s happening both inside and outside at once; recognizing and practicing conscious choices—these meditative skills can form the base from which we live our lives. They can be the ground into which we can integrate new ways of thinking and experiencing. More on this in the coming weeks.
I hope you have a spacious and pleasant week.
P.S: I’m sorry, I’m two days late!