If you play a stringed instrument, you know that if you tighten the string too much, it will break and if it is too loose, it won’t play. If you play the Blues on your stringed instrument, you know that too many notes and the music is chaotic; too few and the music lacks depth. Finding the right balance between sound and space between tight and loose between action and rest makes it all possible.
Today, more than ever, we live on the frontier of constant activity. People buy groceries while texting on Blackberrys, jog while talking on cell phones, and play games on electronic devices while waiting in waiting rooms. We are literally wired to constant contact, contact that is with others but often separated from ourselves. Of course, in any endeavor, too much activity leads to exhaustion. If we were a parent to such a constant activity child, we would say, “Honey, you need a nap.”
So, how are we to connect to ourselves again? How are we to return to inner consciousness? In the Many Paths One Truth issue of Parabola magazine, there is a profoundly important article by Tracy Cochran, an editor of Parabola Magazine, titled Finding the Path. In the article, Ms. Cochran shares her insights while on silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Society, a Buddhist meditation center in rural Massachusetts. Since no summary of the article is a sufficient substitute for reading the article, I simply encourage you to read it. But I will share with you that Ms. Cochran is an editor of Parabola Magazine, a writer, and an emerging Dharma leader; she also leads a sangha in Tarrytown, New York. And if you live near Tarrytown, New York or are in need of a spiritual journey, I would strongly suggest that you attend her sangha.
For while many of us have daily meditation practices, there is something about sitting with others. Like the best Blues music, in communal meditation, there is alone and together which by the way is the title of the next issue of Parabola magazine. When we meditate with others, we gain a profound connection to ourselves and to others. That is quite difference than jogging while on a cell phone. Yes, we are physically alone while jogging yet connected to another through an electronic device but we are really disconnected from both experiences. As I once read in a New York Times article on the brain, the brain can only do one thing well at a time. Yet one of the many beautiful paradoxes of communal sittings is that our mind is fully engaged in meditation but we are intimately connected to others.
Of course, communal sitting has the added benefit of a talk that follows meditation. When Ms. Cochran leads the sangha, she weaves together many insights and experiences like a masterful spider. There are many fine connections coming together in great insight. So, if you find yourself in need of deep connection and insight, find your way to Ms. Cochran’s sangha. As Eric Burdon sang in San Franciscan nights, “if not for the sake of this song but for the sake of your own peace of mind.”
And if you have followed this blog to the very end, you may be wondering what is the Temple of Muddy Waters? Well, again there is no substitute for experience, so download King Bee and tell me? In great Blues like great life, there is space and sound, alone and together, silence and action.
May we go into the great silence together. See you in Tarrytown.