Meditation Buddies

A student emailed recently, pleased with how regular her home practice had become. While I imagine several factors played into this development, one was identified as key. A routine had emerged between her and a friend, someone who also wanted to make meditation part of her daily life. After “we meditate,” the student explained, “we just text ‘10 min’ or ‘15 min’ to each other...We have become ‘meditation buddies’.”

This comes up a lot in classes and workshops: ‘How do we bring this work more deeply into our lives?’ In many ways, this might be the issue for us household practitioners. How do we bring the practice and perspectives of meditation more fully into lives that are typically characterized - at least at a surface level - by something quite different?

To some extent, the answer involves simply doing it. We deepen our relationship with this work by bringing it into our days in as many ways as possible. This often requires a bit of creativity. It also asks for a certain amount of curiosity and even daring. More than anything, though, this task requires we just try. Whenever we remember, try in whatever way seems appropriate to bring life and practice closer together.

When we feel unsettled during an intense work meeting, for instance, we can spend a few moments with the breath in the lower belly. While watching our favourite television show, we might contemplate how the characters express the truth of suffering and / or the fact of basic goodness. When a friend mentions wanting to be more regular in their practice, we can share our aspiration in this regard and suggest we be in touch. In other words, we can become meditation buddies.

After reading the message above, I realized I have a fair number of meditation buddies, each of whom plays a unique role in my life. There are buddies I reach out to when I want to know more about a particular practice or teaching. There are buddies I call when I feel lost or uncertain in this work. With certain buddies, the rich intersection of meditation and art forms the core of our relationship. With another self-selected few, our dharma conversations centre upon tennis great Roger Federer.

Each of these relationships helps bring the teachings and practices more deeply into my everyday. Each counters any tendency I might have toward making meditation this ‘special thing’ that is somehow separate from ‘ordinary’ concerns. Each encourages me to see and understand practice plainly; to see and understand it as one aspect of a diverse life - much like washing dishes and meeting old friends for tea - which strikes me as where it most properly belongs.

- Neil