For me the aim of meditation is not always to still the mind or have no thoughts, but to allow something that has been swirling to become crystal clear. We all go about our days making meaning out of what's happening around us and within us. The time I set aside to meditate is a time to let that process of meaning-making become a little less rushed and habitual. I want to be able to see and understand my life from a higher vantage point.
Jacqui Lewis from The Broad Place would describe what I'm talking about as "opening the aperture" on our own lives. I love that language. I don't want to be stuck in the minutiae of the happenings around me. Rather, I want to be able to see the unfolding of life on a more vast scale. We all touch this place when we are gifted an experience that gives us perspective on our life and, for a moment, we are able to see clearly the meaning in what can be a seemingly chaotic and haphazard existence.
When I teach my tantric meditation course I describe the action of meditation as sacred listening. By this, I mean we are intentionally cultivating a reverence for something that is quiet, something that requires an internal silencing in order to be heard. What I am noticing lately, is that my creative process mirrors this concept in a visual way. To allow an idea to emerge into form, there is a softening and an inviting of stillness. I close my eyes in order to see, which as it turns out is a fairly well known quote by 19th century French artist Paul Gauguin.
But this practice must not be reserved for brilliant painters alone - are you not the creator of your own reality? Each of us has sculpted this life we call ours and each of us applies our brush to the canvas of our mind in every moment with our thoughts and our words. Perhaps we could all do with tending a little more mindfully to the art we are creating.
One morning last month as I sat and opened myself to this process of sacred listening, what I found was a lucid visual metaphor of my present life situation. I have included the words that accompanied the visuals below (I am not a painter/illustrator!). What for the previous few days had been a murky pool of thoughts and wonderings was now sketched out before me clear as day. Clarity. Guidance. Possibility. What I saw offered me a way out of a feeling that I had not known how to shake.
A few days after this visualisation came to me, I remembered that I had in the days prior to its arrival, said a little prayer asking for a way out of what I was feeling. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to remember to offer my worries up to the universe (I do try to practice what I preach). In that moment, nothing happened, and this is often the point where we lose faith. We ask, we wait, nothing changes, we give up.
My meditation practice inserts into this process a crucial step that the ego would rather we leave out - the listening. This is the step that restores the relationship which is essential to seeing clearly, allowing creativity to flow, or evolving as a human - the relationship between the aspect of our self that asks the questions, and the aspect of our self that whispers the answers.
For my friends with big dreams and bigger self-doubt.
Standing at land’s edge
gazing out towards some island
that seems so much more charming than this
where I am
so dull by comparison.
Here is dread and there is freedom
an ocean lies between us
an ocean deep and wide
full of not yet and not quite
not ready and not enough.
Stories swirl in the ocean and
I turn my face to the sun above
letting its warmth sting my face
heat seeping deep inside
reigniting what has been forgotten.
The heat begins to dry out the ocean
I walk to the water’s edge and drink up what’s left
swallowing it into the fire of my belly
and softly gently life springs forth
from the land that once lay at the bottom of the ocean.
All around me and within me is wild and alive now
I look to the horizon and see the island
the earth from here to there now carpeted in lush green
how easily I could wander there
but I don’t remember why I wanted to.