A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Unfolding Path

In the middle of this road we call life / I found myself in a dark wood / With no clear path through DANTE Inferno

The journey metaphor is used in all cultures to describe life and the quest for meaning. In the East, the word Tao, Chinese for 'Way' or 'Path', carries this meaning. In Buddhism, meditation practice is usually spoken of as a path - the path of mindfulness, the path of right understanding, the path of the wheel of truth (Dharma). Tao and Dharma also mean the way things are, the law that governs all of existence and non-existence. All events, whether we see them on the surface as good or bad, are fundamentally in harmony with the Tao. It is our job to learn to perceive this underlying harmony, and to live and make decisions in accord with it. Yet, frequently, it is not exactly clear what the right way is, which leaves plenty of room for free will and principled action, and also for tension and controversy, to say nothing of getting lost entirely.

When we practice meditation, we are really acknowledging that in this moment, we are on the road of life. The path unfolds in this moment and in every moment while we are alive. Meditation is more rightly thought of as a 'Way' than as a technique. It is a Way of being, a Way of living, a Way of listening, a Way of walking along the path of life and being in harmony with things as they are. This means in part acknowledging that sometimes, often at very crucial times, you really have no idea where you are going or even where the path lies. At the same time, you can very well know something about where you are now (even if it is knowing that you are lost, confused, enraged, or without hope). On the other hand, it often happens that we can become trapped into believing too strongly that we do know where we are going, especially if we are driven by self-serving ambition and we want certain things very badly. There is a blindness that comes from self-furthering agendas that leaves us thinking we know, when actually we don't know as much as we think. JON KABAT-ZINN Wherever You Go, There You Are


Tramp said...

I recall a conversation over a map from some years ago:
"So, do you know where we are, Mick?"
"Well, er no. But it's irrelevant where we are, it's where we are going that matters"
"Do you know where we are going, Mick?"
"Well, er no...."
But we got there ... Tramp

Rachel Fox said...

I read this post the other day and liked it so much I came back to read again today!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Tramp, for your story!

No law against it, Rachel - I also sometimes read blogpsots twice or more if I really like them.

The Solitary Walker said...

I like in the passage that he says it's OK to be lost - and that if we are arrogantly certain we know the right path, then that can be dangerous and self-deluding.