As of Monday I will be gone fishing for a week. But I don’t fish!?
So by gone I mean I’ll be away in the wilderness and by fishing I mean that I will be on a meditation retreat. Fishing in the pond of my mind. Fishing for emptiness. (Link to an explanation of the concept of emptiness in Buddhism)
When I return I hope my mind will be the mirror-like surface of a bottomless deep blue mountain lake. Fat chance of that… the waves will continue! I will report when I return. Or sooner, if I find a tree that has wifi.
Meditation is how the body cultivates the mind.
Most people would say that the farmer cultivates the land but I think it is the other way around. Over time the land cultivates the farmer.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have trekked to several remote Tibetan Buddhist temples to study the gut microbiomes of meditating monks. The findings suggest the long-term practice of deep meditation could positively impact gut bacteria composition.
Buddhist monk microbiome study reveals impact of meditation on gut bacteria
This cannot possibly be surprising. Would you prefer to live in the gut of a stressed person running from appointment to appointment or one who spends time in meditation and is centered?
Mindfulness meditation matches antidepressants for anxiety disorders:
The research recruited more than 200 participants with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder. Half were randomized to an eight-week course of the antidepressant escitalopram, while the other half completed an eight-week MBSR program.
The MBSR program comprised weekly guided mediation classes, daily 45-minute home exercises, and one day-long class halfway through the course. At the end of the eight-week trial each participant’s anxiety levels were assessed by a trained clinician who was unaware which intervention the patient had received.
Overall, both groups showed a decrease in anxiety measures of around 30% by the end of the eight-week intervention.
may all beings be happy
may all beings be healthy + safe
may all beings have enough
may all beings be at peace
I remixed those four lines from different loving-kindness meditations and arrived at this script by saying combinations of the words over and over until they felt right. These four lines feel right to me.
What I find remarkable is how each line influences all other lines. When we have enough, we are at peace, we are happy and we feel safe, etc.
I started doing this a week ago and I think it is changing me.
I start with people I love… that’s easy. Then I use names of people who feel neutral. That’s harder. Then I use the names of people I really don’t like, even despise, and that becomes really difficult. But this meditation gets stuff done, I promise you. The walls soften just a little bit. The light changes. The point of view becomes a little more flexible.
None of this is news. People have done this kind of meditation for eons. Maybe you can make your own remix and share it in the comments?
Pico Iyer in The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere:
One evening — four in the morning, the end of December — Cohen took time out from his meditations to walk down to my cabin and try to explain what he was doing here.
Sitting still, he said with unexpected passion, was “the real deep entertainment” he had found in his sixty-one years on the planet. “Real profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available within this activity.”
Was he kidding? Cohen is famous for his mischief and ironies.
He wasn’t, I realized as he went on. “What else would I be doing?” he asked. “Would I be starting a new marriage with a young woman and raising another family? Finding new drugs, buying more expensive wine? I don’t know. This seems to me the most luxurious and sumptuous response to the emptiness of my own existence.”
Typically lofty and pitiless words; living on such close terms with silence clearly hadn’t diminished his gift for golden sentences. But the words carried weight when coming from one who seemed to have tasted all the pleasures that the world has to offer.
and this quote, which I think nails it:
“Going nowhere, as Leonard would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.”
Yes, yes, so many yeses.