Monday August 3, 2009
It seems to have taken a long time, but I’ve now settled into the new house down in Leicester. The books are more or less in order (we resisted implementing Dewey classification, although it was tempting as we tried to impose some semblance of order on things), the cat has taken to his new life down here and seems to be spending most of his time lounging on a beanbag in semi-bliss or pottering around the neighbours’ gardens, and most of the boxes are now unpacked. So this morning, after a break of a couple of weeks, I was back to my meditation cushions. And it was a pleasure to be settling back into meditation after spending ages shifting boxes, and dealing with the intricacies of negotiating with electricity and telephone companies.
As I was sitting this morning, it struck me that meditation is about as far from being an abstract pursuit as is possible. There is a popular idea of meditators as having their head in their clouds, and of meditation as an unworldly pursuit. But it seems to me that there is nothing more worldly than meditation. Not only this, but it also seems to me that a lot of what is sometimes called (although I dislike the term) “worldly” activity is, on the contrary, somewhat abstract and unworldly.
What do I mean by this? What I mean, I think, is this: that much of the time in our everyday lives, we are preoccupied with abstractions and with “what ifs?”. We perpetually run simulations of the world through our minds, testing out possible futures and reminagining the past. We weave endless stories, and then tangle ourselves up in the stories that we weave. Of course, this kind of abstraction is a part of the stuff of being human. Our capacity for this kind of abstraction is one of the things that helps us find our way around the world. But at the same time, there is more to life than this web of abstraction. And one thing that meditation can do is it can allow the senses to reattune themselves to the world, and it can allow us to settle back into the living, breathing, and absolutely concrete physicality of our being.
Sitting in meditation this morning, it was as if the clamorous and agitated flocks of birds that are my restless thoughts eventually grew tired of fluttering around, and they at last home to roost and settle. And it was as if, in turn, my body slowly settled back into the world, putting down roots as I sat there on the floor, so that I was no longer a thing set apart from the world, but once again was immersed in things. And as this happened, I felt a richer sense of life – one that has been somewhat in abeyance for the last couple of weeks – beginning to return.
It’s good to be back.
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