-in my meditation garden-
Yesterday I heard a doctor say that instead of prescribing drugs, more and more he is now recommending that his patients practice"mediation"as a technique for relieving stress. Personally, I think this may be a good idea, and I believe that mindful meditation does indeed relieve stress; but I also think this basically misses the whole point of what "meditation" is really all about. Meditation is "all about relationships."
Sitting quietly, mindfully aware and in the moment, I become aware of "relationships." The ego shrinks and I become awake to the truth of what is "really real"- there is no such thing as an isolated "me," everything and everyone "belongs" together in a dynamic web of relationship. Yes, I suppose meditation does reduce stress, but if people practice meditation as a technique for focusing inward, they miss the point of it all -the practice of meditation, in fact the practice of any spiritual discipline should help draw us outward.
I hear (and use) the term "spiritual journey" very often, so from time to time I need to remind myself that a "spiritual journey" is not a private act confined to what you do while praying in a church or temple or sitting on a yoga mat. The spiritual journey is a "way" of living everyday life. In fact I believe that anything any one of us might think or say or do in our everyday routines that helps us to deepen or heal relationships is in fact a spiritual practice.
I am reminded of an ancient Buddhist story:
The Buddha's faithful friend, Ananda, asked about the importance of having companions on the "way." He asked the Buddha whether having friends and companions wasn't half the holy life. The Buddha replied, "No Ananda, friends and companions are the whole of the holy life.'
The spiritual journey is not a path that is ever traveled alone.
After the Buddha became enlightened, he gathered together five faithful companions to be with him on the "journey"- to accompany him on his preaching travels. In similar fashion Jesus gathers 12 apostles to accompany him on the "way" and when he sends them out to preach the "good news" to others, he doesn't send them out alone, but sends them out in pairs. And, in the core story of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish people wandering in the desert on the "way" to the "Promise Land" are told to travel together, taking good care of one another along the "way," for if any were to wander off alone they will surely die.
As I sit in my garden for my morning meditation, I am acutely aware of relationships - earth and sky, the blazing morning sun, desert sands and stone mountains - all of us belonging together. I am keenly aware of and thankful for my wife who has been such a faithful companion, always at my side along the way over the many years of our marriage. I am aware of and thankful for my children, for all the friends who have accompanied me on the way, for all those others who have touched my life, for people I hardly even knew. I am also aware of and thankful for all the strangers I have not yet met - there are no different others, and we are all companions on the way.
My meditation time may help me to feel less stress, but mostly it is a time that awakens my sense of belonging and prepares me to go out into to the routine world of my everyday life - to walk with all my companions on the "way."