I'm in Wimborne, England, where I've traveled thousands of miles to study Taoist meditation with a lineage holder, Bruce Frantzis. He learned martial arts, healing and meditation in China, where he received the lineage.
The lineage is a living thing that can be felt, but only through applied practice, which I appreciate, because nothing worth having comes easy.
It starts in the body, another thing I like about this. It's so very practical. Whatever the beginning was and the end will be, there is no question that me writing this and you reading this are living in bodies, and in Bruce's lineage -- the Taoist Water Method -- we go through our bodies to reach what is beyond.
My path to meditation started with martial arts -- which express themselves physically -- or at least the idea of martial arts. I like to play, to hit and get hit (a little!), but martial relates to war (not a little!), and fighting is not play. Let's just say I've learned how to play to a minor degree of competence.
But far more importantly, I came upon some magic a little farther along the path. It turns out that the technology used to energize my martial arts practice also is an unparalleled tool for human cultivation; to be more earthly and practical, it keeps one healthy in mind, body and spirit. I wrote more about this in a previous post, titled "Why I practice Tai Chi."
In following the trail from martial arts practices to general wellness, on which I was and am lucky enough to have more than one guide -- mainly, Steve Barowsky, my uncle and an extremely accomplished practitioner, and his teacher, Bruce, who is a world treasure of martial arts, meditation and healing -- I came to "know of" deeper levels of understanding. While I'm still earthly in my immediate goals -- refine mind, body and spirit as relates to my physical presence among my fellow humans -- I'm on a far longer path to the truth of it all, which is where meditation is meant ultimately to lead.
I may or may not ever "arrive," but in the meantime meditation is slowly but surely helping me cultivate my humanity in ways that have worldly applications. Mostly, I'm clearing space inside myself in order to function better, by which I mean more smoothly, with a greater sense of ease.
This applies physically; who wants aches and pains, or tightness that prevents them from reaching for a can of soup in the cupboard, or bending down to hug a child, or if needs be, blocking a punch? This applies mentally; who hasn't felt their thoughts condense into a thick lump, frozen in place for a few moments or hours or days? It's called a mental block for a reason! This applies emotionally; who hasn't felt the words freeze in their throat, unable to respond to someone's love, unable to return a hug, or unable to express their pain? And this applies spiritually, although I'm not yet sure how to describe the effect of stuckness of spirit, other than to guess that it underlies, or hovers over, or surrounds, all the other stucknesses.
Tightness, frozen, blocks... these are words we work with in Bruce's meditation tradition. More accurately, these words describe what we're letting go of, finding ways to dissolve and release those things that are too strong, too tense, too contracted, or what we know doesn't feel right, even if we cannot say what it is.
I meditate because I want to be better at what I do. How many of us have projects left unfinished, or not done as well as we wanted, or done as well as we wanted but at the cost of draining every last bit of energy, so that we have nothing left for our families or even ourselves? I want to focus without effort and produce more and better work as a result.
I meditate because I prefer to face me as I am, just as I prefer to see the world as it is. I'm as much a dreamer as anyone, and to quote John Lennon, "I'd love to change the world," but I can't force anyone else to change. Things are what they are. I cannot even force myself to change, actually. I can allow myself to change, by being present to myself and allowing what is within to come out, and to let go that which is not real but makes itself appear as real through its expression in me.
I meditate because I want to be a better person. This starts with allowing compassion to guide my reactions to what is around me, as well as what is within me. How can I understand someone else's pain and struggle when I cannot face my own? As Bruce says, one must start with compassion for themselves.
I once wrote this. As noted in the text, there was a twinge of embarrassment in letting it go, but that's what this is about, letting go. It's simple but not easy, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life working on it.
November 25, 2007
by Sito Negron
Compassion. That is what I am writing about today, Nov. 5, 2007. Usually the Editor's Letter regards a news item, a current issue of politics or culture explained or illuminated in some fashion.
But we are humans, and our interests encompass all that it means to be human. Today is a detour from the worldly path of growth and development, strategy and implementation, Downtown Plans and road-building, into something even more fundamental.
All traditions have compassion as a foundational element. What is this? Compassion involves empathy, sensitivity, respect and regard for others. For some reason, we talk about it in regards to religion, but apply it far too infrequently to our worldly affairs, as if a person's spirituality must be severed from the person in order to function at work and play.
This does not mean we hold ourselves to impossible standards. We are, and must be, subject to human passions; to curse, argue, behave incomprehensibly. It is our job and duty as humans to work through these passions to find our compassion. I believe such is called enlightenment, and I do not expect to find that in my lifetime. But I am not absolved of the effort.
Recently, I was in a hospital, in the family room of the surgical floor. A man from Virginia approached a couple from Puerto Rico. They made small talk about the puzzle of the Golden Gate Bridge they were working on, to keep their minds occupied. Then the man told them his son had a brain tumor. The operation was still underway after something like 12 hours, and it was expected to be another six hours. They told him he was in their prayers. Whatever differences they had paled in comparison to their similarities at that moment.
The world is in crisis, and it is these moments that our worst and best instincts come to the front. I saw the best, the inherent compassion people in need have for each other. Why, on a community level, a national level, a global level, do we not feel the same thing? If we indeed feel a sense of crisis, as the media and the politics would have it, why is it preventing us from communicating at our best, rather than acting out of our worst fears?
Once in a while it comes clear to me, and I am able to find it and hold onto it. It provides clarity, strength and resolve, and brings me closer to becoming the human I was created to be.
What follows might induce cringing for many of you, steeped in the daily battles of life and fearful of appearing weak, or sappy, or silly. But c'mon, what harm can there be in allowing yourself the possibility that this is possible, and it is just as easy as thinking it; and even, that just thinking it leads to being it, and that is the thing!
So for the person who cut you off in traffic, compassion.
For the person who voted against you on the school board, City Council, County Commission or other government body, compassion.
For the person who speaks ill of you, compassion.
For the families of your enemies, compassion. For your enemies, compassion.
For the worker, for the boss, for the migrant in search of sustenance, compassion.
For your families, compassion.
And finally, for yourself, compassion.
For more by Sito Negron, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.