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October 6, 2020

Meditation is Child’s Play – Because Staring into Space Comes Naturally.

I remember the boy with his forehead pressed to cool glass wondering at the moon that followed them everywhere that evening. It was another one of those daily trips to the haloed place called Daddy’s Work to collect and bring him home and there was nothing peculiar about that. But what was peculiar was how that white disc that he knew to be the moon, and perhaps what he already vaguely knew to be a satellite of the earth, and one that waxed and waned and caused the ebb and flow of tides, what was peculiar that evening was that it was so very clearly following them. Another future day he would know more about its genesis, about how celestial bodies would converge and collide and literally blow chunks out of one another to form these universal dalliances; or about how the moon’s cycle aligned with that of his sister, and then of friends and lovers; or about the mythologies of Artemis and Diana, and of Chandra and Soma, of the nadis and the cakras and so much more. But that day, that evening, his forehead pressed to the glass, regardless of where and how, all that mattered was that the moon was following them.

He may well have said as much to his mother who was driving the car. He certainly contrived in his mind to question how it was that it could remain alongside them no matter how far and how fast they drove. I know that he did wonder as much because the memory is lodged so firmly in my mind today that I am led now to wonder: what was the background to that moment? Was there something particularly poignant about that day that etched the moment in my mind? Was there something traumatic that had preceded the trip? Or was it just another random moment in the evolution of the boy who became me? I can’t possibly know and these thoughts and queries that arise now in me are similar in nature to those that no doubt flitted across the boy’s mind and then passed as he stared at the moon, wrapped up in his amazement.

Translations of Patanjali’s Yogasutras (1.2) commonly refer to these passing thoughts as “the fluctuations of the mind”, the whirling vortices of everyday musings, and in that yoga tradition one aspires to the cessation of those fluctuations; with the result that countless earnest modern-day yogis have despaired of wrestling with their so-called “monkey mind” and deemed themselves failures in the practice of meditation. It was one thing for ascetics of the ancient world to retreat to their remote caves to meditate, one thing for renunciates to adhere to the strictest physical and mental regimens in their quest to still the mind, and in doing so to achieve a connection to the divine. Similarly, those able in the modern day to go on a vipassana retreat, or to dwell in a monastery, may align with the teachings of Patanjali and other noble traditions from Hinduism and Buddhism. But what of those of us in the everyday world? What is there for those of us caught in the turmoil of our lives?

I happen to love the fluctuations of my mind, just as I love the racing of my heart when I am excited, and the fire in my belly and in my groin when I am impassioned either by a call to act, or by a call to love. Even as I sit in meditation I do not renounce or denounce these urgent marks of my existence – indeed I welcome them – for they summon me to embrace the totality of my life, each of them a doorway to a better understanding of who I am, so that when I cross that threshold, when in a state of wonderment at the most sublimely mundane thought or sensation I follow with all the intention and focus of a boy watching the moon, from there I enter – however briefly – a more complete connection with the energies of the universe.

The only difference between me and that boy, between me at the peak of my meditation practice and that boy with his forehead pressed to the cool glass, is that I now know that those moments of reverie are moments of connection with the divine. For the boy yet to be lost in his mind and in his ego they were typical of the awe and wonder that accompanied his everyday, but for me now I strive for them, and I do so knowing that they are to be found precisely via the fluctuations of my mind, and not in spite of them. For what yoga, what union, could be better than that which is wholly immersed in reality?

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