I was once asked to come and give a talk to a group of people about what meditation is… I always find it difficult to talk about or write about what meditation is and after weeks of pondering how to answer this question: 5 words resonate: “Breathe in, breathe out, observe.”
Long before I knew it was called I was practicing meditation. I would sit and clear my mind, breathing in and out, coming into the present moment, before playing competitive hockey at 12 or 13 years old. It was a good thing that I was a goalie as our lot was considered a little strange in the first place; so while others blasted Bon Jovi, or flicked balls of tape at one another, I began a life long love affair with meditation. I eventually ended up learning Zen style meditation in Karate classes an unintended positive side effect of trying to increase my reflex speed again for goal tending.
Throughout most of my 20’s and part way through my 30’s I struggled with keeping a regular practice as I struggled with a crippling drug addiction to heroin and crack cocaine with periods of times in recovery and relapse. Luckily, I had learned a TM technique for meditation and in my periods of clean time (recovery), I practiced periodically and experienced some relief from my constantly chattering mind.
However, after an ugly 3 year relapse I moved to Penticton to enter a men’s drug and alcohol recovery home for a year. To my delight we were obliged to meditate every morning. I noticed however that many of my fellow housemates hated meditation and had no understanding of it whatsoever. I offered to give some instruction and from the first day a few of them noticed a huge difference in their practice and attitude toward practice.
I began to commit to a regular daily practice and at about 6 months in, one morning I had a calmness and emptiness of mind that freaked me out. For a good few minutes I sat wondering if I should be checked into a mental hospital until I realized that for the first time in my life, I was experiencing quiet.
I attended Birken Forest monastery for a couple of 4 day retreats and I began to study with Kassandra Morrison at Purple Lotus (best decision ever!) and also learn Taoist practices such as Walking Meditation, Inner Smile Meditation and the Microcosmic Orbit practice through Mantak Chia online.
I kind of fell into teaching when I attended a workshop and the teacher didn’t show up. I offered to lead some meditation and the response from a student was: “I wish I could do this all the time! Too bad you don’t live in Vancouver.” I explained the good news, that this WAS possible anytime and without me! (It is however a powerful experience to find a good teacher and a group to practice with, but there are many.)
Meditation has mainly helped me to JUST BE. With that in mind, I would sum up this essay with a poem that I have written about meditation and what it means to me:
What would you be?
if you could finally
just let everything go,
and for this moment
choose to be free,
what would you be?
If you didn’t have an image to project,
if you had no beliefs or secrets to protect,
well, what would you be?
If everything was finally done,
and every single rat race finally run,
if you had no work, or bills, or worry, or strife,
& there wasn’t even wrong or right?
could you could finally start living life,
not tomorrow or tonight,
but right here & now, today,
if you finally put the past away,
would you be okay?
would you really exist,
or would life just cease & desist?
if you no longer identified with heartache,
with heartbreak, with guilt, or with shame,
if you decided to empty your soul of all pain,
if right here & now you just started again,
just gave up all efforts of the ego,
to exercise control,
and just jumped into the stream?
would you realize then
that your life is bout a dream?
What would this mean?
And what would you be?
If you only ever had this eternal moment left
to explore limitless possibility…
And nothing EVER else that you HAD to do,
would you still be you?
Could you just fall into the vast open nothingness
of the eternal now
and understand you have always been blessed,
for you are a guest
in this moment of vast openness
that has forever been,
yet shall never come again…
what would happen then?
If you finally just let go,
of everything you were so sure you know,
and just stepped into the light?
Would you be alright?
Well, I think you might…
but what would you do,
if even none of this were true?
When all you ever really needed to do,
was close your eyes, take a deep breath, be still,
and you may see
that you don’t even have to answer me,
because you’ve always been free…
then what would you do
what would you be?