Journey Into Stillness: Meditation & Wabi Sabi

I have practiced meditation for years, for many reasons.  Most often because I am tired, or anxious, or because it seems like the right thing to do after yoga.  Most of the time, it feels good.  Afterwards, I am calmer, more centered, more balanced.  And besides, all the wisdom traditions of the world counsel us to practice meditation–they must be on to something.

But because I have devoted these 40 days to a more intense meditation practice, I have begun to ask myself:  why meditate?  Because it feels good and makes me kinder and calmer are all good answers, sufficient on their own, and yet because it is the focus of so many different religions and spiritual practices, I want more than that.

So this morning, as I meditated over a hot cup of coffee, I asked the wind:  why meditate?  And heard this answer:  Because it is an opportunity to stop and see, feel and hear a moment that will never come again.  Because it allows you to embrace the wabi sabi nature of the world and your life.

Meditation is not another project for your to-do list.  It is not something else you need to do or obtain to prove yourself spiritual.  Many people meditate to be calmer, more patient, more enlightened–and this may be the result–but the real reason to meditate is simply to allow what is to be.  To allow yourself to be.  To rest in the now.  Not so that you can check “enlightenment” off your list.  Not so that you can achieve some standard of perfection you have set for yourself.  But rather, so that you can learn to embrace imperfection.

Wabi Sabi teaches us that everything is imperfect, impermanent, unfinished.  We spend most of our time ignoring or denying that fact.  We either cling to what is before us–our relationships, our possessions, those things we think we want–or we push it all away, hold it at arm’s length, because we know it cannot last.  Meditation is an opportunity to practice a different way, a way that neither clings to what is nor denies it.

When we meditate (which is to say, when we are firmly rooted in the present moment), we allow ourselves to experience what is before us.  We really hear the birds sing; we feel the wind through our hair.  We taste the blackberry melting on our tongues; we allow the colors of the grass and flowers to flood our eyes.  No moment will ever come again in quite the same way, but when you allow a moment to fill your senses, when you experience it fully, it becomes a part of you.  You may not remember it later, but you don’t need to.  It is you, and you are it, forever.

This is why it is not important how you meditate.  How long, where, with what tools–those are all just guides to lead you into the here and now.  What matters is that you open, and open again, and again.

We forget, in the rush of our lives, to be present.  We fall back into our old habits of clinging and pushing, clinging and pushing.  With meditation, we practice being, accepting, allowing.  We train ourselves to see the world differently, to experience our lives differently.  We learn to delight in the changes, rather than fear them.  We learn to love what is, even as it moves and transforms.  And finally, we allow ourselves to merge with time and space, forever entwined, a dance without beginning or end.

Wabi Sabi

Nothing is perfect.  Nothing is finished.  Nothing is permanent.  But everything is part of Love.

The Japanese art and philosophy of Wabi Sabi teaches us to embrace and celebrate the imperfect, the unfinished, the impermanent.  To notice that it is the crack in the vase that gives it character and beauty; that lets in the light.  We suffer when we deny this, when we try to make things fixed, permanent, perfect.  Those of us who reach for perfection, who want to capture time and hold it motionless, miss the glory of change, the gift of evolution.  The magic that lies in the mystery of transformation.

There is no reason to fear change, no reason to force motionlessness on a dancing world.  If you would be happy, learn to appreciate what is unique, what is changing, what is still left undone.  Instead of trying to capture the world, learn to dance with it.

It is the hidden beauty that connects us most powerfully to what is true and divine.  For who can ever know what is perfect and what is a flaw?  A closer look often reveals that a flaw is actually an object’s–a person’s–greatest strength and beauty.  What we call a flaw is merely an invitation to look deeper.

Can you be sure that what you see, hear and feel is a flaw, and not the very essence of beauty?

We Find What We Seek

The world we see conforms to our expectations, our hopes, our fears.  When our minds and hearts are open, everything is possible.  When we are determined to see what we expect to see, the world obliges us by fulfilling our demands.  Our fears are realized.  We prove ourselves right by finding the evidence we need.

Do we need to be right?  There is so much to explore, so much to discover.  There is so much we do not know.  Nothing is finished or perfect, including our understanding of the universe, of where we are from, of where we are going.  And that imperfect understanding means there is always more to discover, more to learn, more to be.

Endless joy.

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