by Richard Farmer
A common caricature of a meditator is someone looking a bit like a Buddha in robes, who can contemplate their navel effortlessly all day without distraction. By taking this view we assume that they are above human distractions and are dislocated from normal everyday life. Therefore, it follows, seeing as I do have human distractions and I am in life, meditation has no place in my life.
There is a saying from the Taoist Tradition, "Embrace Tiger return to Mountain". This is a metaphor for living life. 'Tiger' represents anything which makes us feel threatened - an illness, an emotional problem, a parking ticket or what to have for lunch today! 'Mountain' represents peace and tranquillity, wholeness, home, a sense of balance. So we are encouraged to embrace the tiger, and in so doing we return to the mountain.
What we usually do is attack the tiger or run away. But have you ever been in the position of being labelled "Tiger"? Can you remember what happened when they attacked you? It made you fight the more to justify yourself. But suppose you were honoured. Suppose your point of view was listened to. In that honouring and listening the tiger relaxes and is more open to another approach. It changes from a battle with winners and losers into a partnership in which the possibility of creative living has a chance. Life is full of examples when enemies finally understand one another and become lifelong friends.
Illness is a pretty
big tiger. We wish we did not have it, we want someone to fix
it. We get angry about it and we are terrified of it. Whether
we use conventional medicine or complementary medicine, this
split between the tiger and me needs to be addressed for a complete
and balanced 'cure'. Illness has a message for us. It is a shout.
Sometimes in a language we do not understand. We need to listen.
Meditation is a way of practising Embrace Tiger return to Mountain. The peace and tranquillity comes from the balance felt as a result of this meeting, not from some idealised state of no thought. The thinking mind thinks, that's what it's good at. It is the thinking mind that understands Embrace Tiger return to Mountain, but it is the heart which actually does it. It is said the mind makes a wonderful servant and a lousy master. Meditation allows this balance, from master to servant, to take place. It allows for the uniting of mind and heart through the watching of the breath. The breath anchors us in the present allowing us to make friends with our tigers.
To allow the luxury of uniting and making friends with ourselves is truly a wonderful gift, a great adventure and a healing of the separation between our bodies and minds. When the mind and body are in harmony our spiritual nature has room to move and be expressed. We live our day rather than survive it.
So meditation is an art of living practised by people who have distraction but who are not ruled by it in order to live life. You don't even have to wear robes!!! You can wear anything you like!
Richard Farmer 1995