Well, well, well: it’s almost nine months since I came back to Beijing. Here are some thoughts as 2015 inches towards its close.
The biggest constraint I have to work around is work-related: in any given week, I am usually on the road for at least four nights and three days – leaving Beijing on Tuesday evening, and getting back late on Friday night.
A priority for me has been re-establishing my meditation practice. Of the various related activities that I cover on this blog, I’ve come to think that meditation is one of the most important, but my practice had more or less collapsed while I was in Wales, and only partially started again in St. Petersburg. Now that I’m back in Beijing, I don’t find my home very conducive to meditation; I still need to find a way to set aside part of one of my two rooms as a meditation area.
However, it turned out that several of my colleagues are also interested in meditation, and one of them put me in touch with a Meetup group that runs meditation sessions every Saturday morning. I joined, and attended a number of sessions which really inspired me. With a maximum of eight participants, both Chinese and Western, and a range of experience in meditation, the meditation was bracketed by Chinese tea ceremonies, and a knowledgable discussion. However, I very much want to learn Russian and, at the end of October, succeeded in finding a teacher – but the only available time was on Saturday mornings, so I’ve had to stop going to the Teahouse meetings, at least for the moment.
It wasn’t too big a problem since, at the end of August, while I was working in Hohhot, in Inner Mongolia, I began to meditate in my hotel room after getting back from work. I’ve kept up this habit fairly faithfully, so I can usually rely on meditating for an hour on at least two or three evenings each week. I began by listening to guided meditations from Sharon Salzberg, which I found very helpful for getting settled and focused. By the end of November, though, I was finding them a little distracting, and switched back to a playlist I made some years ago of S. N. Goenka – 15 minutes of chanting, followed by 30 minutes of silence, followed by another 15 minutes of chanting. This is working very well; I often struggle to sit for a full hour, but hey – it’s all in the mind, right? I’m working on it.
Meditation hones awareness. I’ve already blogged here that I’ve had some fairly odd and intense – but positive – experiences which, at root, I attribute to my background in meditation. I continue to have moments that are perhaps a little “spooky”, but which – I hope – are due to a growing sensitivity to my own energies, and to the energy of the people and places I encounter. Sorry, not giving details 🙂
Another thing I want to mention, but otherwise can’t talk about, is the value of metta, or loving-kindness, meditation. Generally, I’ve always focussed more on the awareness, or insight, aspects of my practice but the Salzberg meditations led me to work a bit more on metta. Recently, I was really, really, annoyed by a certain person – and I wasn’t the only one annoyed. I found myself taken aback by the strength of the negative emotions involved, and decided to consider the person concerned in the light of metta. It turned my view around, and led me to believe that the person actually needed help, so I took certain steps to do that.
I don’t know what the outcome was, but there are signs that I was right, and that things changed for the better for this person. I realise that all of this sounds very vague, but of course I can’t give any specifics, and I don’t need to, anyway. The important point I want to make is that practising metta profoundly changed my personal response to a negative situation and in turn, I hope, removed a lot of negative emotion and energy from that particular environment. If we consider the Buddhist position that negativity and hostility are responsible for setting negative events in motion, and generating negative karmic seeds that will have consequences in the future…. and if insight meditation sharpens our awareness of other people’s energies… I’ve had a very important understanding of the necessity for loving-kindess, even towards enemies. Now there’s an appropriate thought for this time of year.
Setting things in motion… I don’t know what the outcome will be, but conversations about my experiences of meditation led an acquaintance here, a very interesting young Chinese woman, to resign from her job to go on a 10-day retreat in Thailand. After it ended, she didn’t come back to Beijing; she decided to pursue a dream in Yunnan – something she’s always wanted to do but felt afraid to commit to. I hope things go well for her.
As I mentioned, a number of my colleagues are interested in meditation, and a number have previous experience in various traditions. I tried to find a teacher who could come into the Beijing office after work on the day when we’re all there, but for various reasons it didn’t work out. Still, the company is willing to let us use a room, so the next step will be to organise a group who will be willing to take it in turns to lead sessions. Several people have already confirmed their interest, so I’m hoping that 2016 will start off with a deeper meditation experience for me…
Image credit: Candle Meditation by user Susan Soosay on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons License.