Meditation on life

I finally made it to the meditation class at the Koan Abbey last Thursday night. My friend H and I have meant to attend on a regular basis, but we’ve both found that, as lecturers, we’ve been overwhelmed by paperwork – so actually, we’ve only been on one occasion a few weeks ago. After my last blog post about meditation, I decided that I would make the effort and get there again! H had to cancel at the last moment, so I went alone. We arranged to meet up later that evening, though.It turned out to be one of those meditation sessions that has unexpected outcomes.

Essentially, the class is two hours of sitting and walking meditation, with occasional sessions of stretching to loosen the joints.It surprised me how much cracking came from my shoulders! I still find it a little difficult to sit properly; the meditation cushions are much thinner and lower than the ones I’m used to, so it’s a bit tougher on my legs.

Chan meditation often focuses on breathing from the dantian, and there was a lot of this on Thursday, along with attention on awareness of the body. Perhaps because it was already on my mind, it seemed to me that the breathing was stimulating a lot of massage of the internal organs, especially the intestines and liver. The walking meditation also was interesting in terms of posture and weight; my Achilles tendons were definitely taking a lot more strain than usual when I walk – which is good, I think, as it means I’m sinking my weight. However, my knees often hurt, which is not good – it means that I’m not yet able to take the postural improvements I’m seeing from zhan zhuang, and transfer them into everyday usage. Not yet, anyway, not automatically. I worked on this a little during the zen walking, and my knees did stop hurting, so the weight was perhaps being transferred a little better.

By the end of the class, I was feeling much calmer and clearer in my thoughts. As I went to meet H, I became aware of a strange feeling; it felt as though my qi had been stirred up, and was swirling around my body as it looked for a new balance. It was a very odd sensation, and not one that I remember having experienced in quite that way before. It left me in a rather unsettled – no, not unsettled, maybe ‘detached’? – frame of mind, which lasted until the following day.

On Friday, I finish work early and, after doing some shopping at the Xidan bookstore, I went to the Stone Boat in Ritan Park for a late-afternoon beer. A large group was on one of the other tables; it seemed to be a meetup for New Zealanders in Beijing. I couldn’t help but overhear a lot of their conversation, which was about which posting they might be applying for next etc…

I heard a lot, and still.. didn’t hear anyone sounding really happy. A strange thing happened then; I suddenly remembered an occasion, over ten years ago now, when I almost fell into a still, black, freezing sea, with hundreds of cold stars shining steadily in the moonless sky. I saw those stars again, it seemed. as I listened to the chatter in the Stone Boat. I don’t know why that memory rose again then, but I think there must be some meaning. It’s true though, that over the past few years, I have oscillated between the pursuit of money and career success on the one hand, and meditation and martial arts on the other. At the moment, I’m having to make choices about direction again. It’s not unimportant that the times when I’ve had dead-end jobs, but was working hard on studying Buddhism and martial arts are the periods when I was happiest and, made the closest friends. On the the other side – money is helpful, and no-one wants to die a pauper!

H and I met up again yesterday; she came to Yiquan class, and we went for a drink afterwards. We chatted about a lot of these things, as she shares a lot of my views. We talked about attachments, and what we are trying to achieve. Neither of us has had a conventional career path…. We talked about romantic attachment… I’m single again, she has a new boyfriend… Also, is our study of martial arts an attachment? We could, after all give it up and work exclusively on meditation. For me, I think not… I do feel, somehow, that the study of neijia is something I feel driven to do, and somehow, it is intimately connected with karmic development…

I saw someone on Twitter asking the other day for articles about the connection between meditation and martial arts; I’ve lost the link, but perhaps I’ll write up my thoughts on the subject.

As for a conclusion…. Well; this is another stream-of-consciousness post, I’m afraid. Part of the process of trying to figure out “what it’s all about”, and “what next”…

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