This year I’ve been drawn to learning about Buddhism and Buddhist practices of yoga and meditation. I’ve held an interest in such practices for years, but have been inconsistent in my commitment to them. Right around the start of this year, I began to maintain a regular yoga practice, and in the past month or so have been building a dedicated time for meditation into my daily routines. I’m blessed to be able to practice among the wondrous pines, mountains and river here at the Guild, exchanging admiring glances and peaceful greetings.
As most people do, I began these practices caring for my Self: treating my mind and body as sacred tools in need of honing. I felt the physical and mental benefits of regularly moving, stretching, balancing and relaxing into my body. I began to find that in highly stressful moments, when frustration and anger started taking hold, I could pause, take a deep breath, and release the ways in which those feelings were not serving me. I’ve begun reading books about, or heavily influenced by, Buddhism. And as my practice grows, so does the scope of why I do it and who it is for.
How could yoga and meditation, which are, in Western practice, touted primarily (and at times, exclusively) as forms of ‘self-care’, become a practice for the betterment of humanity? This is something I try to ask myself every day. Kate Johnson does an incredible job tackling this question in her book Radical Friendship, in which she explores the ways Buddhist thought and practice can inform and transform our relationships with one another and, consequently, society as a whole. One of the base tenets of Buddhism is the recognition that we are all connected through our experience of suffering, that we all attach ourselves to various forms of suffering, and that we all possess the ability to liberate ourselves from suffering. That ability is our capacity to be in our lives – fully, intentionally, lovingly. Being – without attachment to what we want, or aversion towards what we don’t want. In this fuller sense of being, I can easily believe in a sense of belonging for everything and everyone. And yet, in our infinitely complicated world, the seemingly simple act of being is no easy task. We are constantly bombarded by endless external forces. Finding the Self, and connecting with others can be exhausting! But I find that as I am drawn continuously into the present, into my own Being, into relationship with others, I am filled with hope and trust and love for the world. I am assured of my belonging to this world.
By Ian Miles
Kitchen Lead, Communications Assistant, and Cat Dad of Two
During the season of Advent 2022, the Guild’s staff offers weekly personal reflections on the Guild’s 2023 theme – be•longing. May these reflections draw you into deeper reflection on the theme and how you experience it in your life and body.