I was recently asked by Jan Stewart, yoga, meditation and mindfulness teacher, to contribute answers to her Quiet Interviews series. She is doing a series of brief interviews with meditation/yoga teachers and practitioners. You can read the interview here, or on Jan's website.
How do you find quiet in your life?
Simply by stopping.
Sitting out before dawn, gazing across the forest, looking up at the stars, gradually noticing first light dissolve the night sky. Then reading a few words from one of my teachers, sitting in silent contemplation of them a while.
Silent walks and walking meditations in the forest, on the beach, alone, with my partner, or with a group I am leading.
At night, gazing up at the ink-dark sky, the Milky Way, shooting stars, the moon. I never tire of this show.
Practicing QiGong and TaiChi outdoors at sunrise and sunset.
At night, to sit outdoors (summer), or indoors by the fire (winter), reading Zen poetry by Masters of haiku and Zen. Or simply sitting, doing nothing, just being.
Writing and recording contemplations and meditations for my students.
Writing poetry, which mostly arises out of silent sitting.
Writing Quiet Letters.
Retreat. By finding time for retreat in my life, I take a day, a weekend or a week, for group or solitary retreat.
We don't allow enough time for non-doing in busy 21st century lives. But we could. It’s a choice we can all make, to choose to do nothing.
How does meditation/quiet influence your life?
I am troubled by nothing. Not even death (I’ve had a few close calls to practice with). I can be calm in a storm. Even if there is the appearance of some personal response on the outside, inside, there is only calm, peace, and I can respond to all of life’s events from this place. It’s like residing in the trunk of a strong old oak tree, with the young branches thrashing around in a storm up top, not troubling you.
I know who I am, and what the world is. This guides me in how I move in life, and with others. It’s the greatest gift. And it all began with a desire to meditate.
What did you find most difficult when you first started practicing meditation/quiet?
Being still. Being quiet. Lasting longer than 5 minutes. It felt like torture! I was restless, and mostly waiting to see how long had passed. I also did not have a clue, as I was trying to learn from books (there was no internet then), and I have to say, that doesn’t really work.
My recommendation to someone comparatively new to meditation, is to find a teacher you can meet in person and sit with, if only once. If it must be via Skype, then that is better than nothing. Video too, is better than nothing. But you can’t beat sitting with someone experienced in sitting with themselves, and with others, who can teach and guide you. A book simply will not do it.
If you have a little experience, go on retreat, and take your practice deeper, in a 3 to 7 day silent meditation retreat.
I spent years trying to find my own way with meditation, before I came to sit with, live with, and go on retreat with awakened Masters. Grab every opportunity you can to learn through direct experience.
This interview was by the invitation of and first published by Jan Stewart in her Quiet Interviews series.