The future can easily look bleak and, when it does, motivation to move forwards can be noticeably lacking. There is no end of self-help stuff around and I am not about to rehearse or list self-help strategies now. Here I am interested in attitude, rather than strategy or instruction. And one aspect of attitude is perspective. When feeling a bit stuck, it can help to consider my position and my present perspective.
One perspective caught my ear in a short spoken piece on sitting meditation and has stayed with me since. Ed Brown is a Zen priest whose delivery is simple and clear. On the CD that accompanies a small introduction to meditation Quiet Mind he describes a sitting posture for Zen meditation. I can’t lay my hands on the CD at the moment, so what follows is from my recollection.
When he has concluded his description of posture he says, “This is a really good position in which to sit, right in the middle of your life”.
This is the bit that caught me. I have listened to it many times since and thought about it many times more.
Up until then the metaphor for my life had me stationed at the prow of ship as it cleaved the waves. This is fine when everything is going well, but when the ship has shrunk to a coracle and is not forging ahead, it is not such an inspiring image.
Perhaps we are at a disadvantage with our eyes at the front of our heads. I wonder if raptors get anxious or depressed when they are not on the chase. Alternatively, perhaps it is to do with the dominance of vision in our lives. With my eyes shut I realise that space is equally distributed around me. Sound, smell, and general sense of being are all around, not only in front.
And when I come to think of it, my life is all around me. There are cultures, I believe, where the dominant idea is that people travel through time facing backwards, as it were, watching their increasingly rich and diverse past fanning out behind. I can’t say that I would particularly want to swap my cultural perspective for that one, but when I am inclined to an idea of the future as a sharply focussed cone in front of my face, what do I do when it is poorly focussed or empty?
So here I am, right in the middle of my life. Not nearing the end. Not with a past forever buried or dwindling to an invisible and unreachable speck. Not in a dinghy drifting to a standstill with a fading wake the only thing to show for my progress. There is change, but no linearity. Am I growing like an onion from the inside, adding layers? Or am I a benign black hole, drawing experience into me from all directions, so that I gather in density at my core?
And I need not develop the image at all, but it repeatedly feels to me that this shift of perspective offers the attitudinal change I need.
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One thought on “In the middle of your life”
Yes. Nice thought. I shall try it out. I see the merits of the “travelling backwards” school — in that we know far more about that backward-facing cone than the forward looking cone of the rapacious go-getting Westerners. As for what I ‘see’ when my eyes are shut, I shall have to dwell on that. Initially, I see exactly what I saw before but greyed-out; a sort of after-image. I must ask the question when I wake from a dream.
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