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Returning to the Source

In a recent issue of Kyoto Journal, a well-regarded English-language publication based in Kyoto, William Stimson writes of his experience at a meditation retreat in upstate New York.

While Stimson has been meditating for twenty years, he has a discomfort for the trappings of institutionalized meditation. When his wife and a student in his meditation group sign up for a three-day retreat at a Catskills meditation center he used to visit, he ends up joining them. During the retreat, he comes to several realizations. At first he is inspired by the architectural windows of the meditation hall:

It struck me, seated there on the cushion in meditation, that I was also a window. The light would flow in to the extent the window was clean. The only thing I could do from this side was to keep that window clean.... I immediately saw that cleaning the window entailed relaxing the body, stilling the mind. Keeping the window clean was surprisingly difficult. A thought arose. I saw that thought as dirt. "It's getting in the way of the light," I told myself. The moment I did so, the thought vanished.

He continued these efforts over the course of the next day, until realizing:

Then, in a flash, it occurred to me that this idea of the window that I was imposing upon myself was only another thought. It too had to fall away.... I knew at that moment, the body had to be left alone. Not tampered with. The mind, the same. I had no idea what would happen. I began doing this. This wasn't the window anymore; this was beyond the window. This was no window. Immediately I found myself seated there in the most blissful peace — mind and body totally stilled.

Later in the retreat, Stimson re-experiences strong memories and feelings from times past. He reflects on and reappraises the thwarted hopes of his younger self for an education and career in botany. Hopes which were nurtured by the desire to recapture his experience of innocence and simplicity as a child in Cuba.

In my youth I'd tried to go to Harvard and study under Dr. Schultes as a way of getting back to the earlier magic of Cuba that the Communists had deprived me of. I had tried to use one illusion to chase after another. It never could have worked. I felt life had defeated me and left me behind — only to discover now, during these three days of seated meditation, that it had led me by the nose straight to the real source of what I'd always been trying to find.

January 31, 2005 | Meditation | Permalink


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