I felt so happy when I first learned to meditate. I loved it. I meditated two hours a day. In those days, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland—at 21 Wardlaw Street, in a part of town called Gorgie. I liked to meditate 20 minutes in the morning before going to work. When I came home, I meditated another hour and 40 minutes.
Then I cooked dinner—usually something with gravy, because that's the Scottish way. After dinner, I knitted and watched TV. For a year, I knitted a big wool sweater that somehow ended up with three-foot-long sleeves! Then I curled up on an old sofa with broken springs. I loved that sofa. I enjoyed those nights in my wee place after meditating my ass off.
I meditated cross-legged on a gomden, a type of meditation cushion designed by Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa. I just sat down and let the good times roll. I felt like I never met my mind before. I loved getting to know this person and this body I live in.
In my meditation, I learned I can be with and appreciate all my questions. I learned I didn't have to have all the answers. I didn't have to have any answers. I learned I can appreciate the space around the questions, the space around thoughts, the simple space of being in my body. I learned to be. Those days, I struggled with interpersonal relations, so I loved having this time to let my worries untangle and unwind. I was just sitting and being in the living room of a two-room flat on Wardlaw Street in Edinburgh. And I was in heaven.
Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen (pictured) was the childhood teacher of my first Buddhist teacher, Chogyam Trungpa. Do you see how Jamgon Kongtrul sits in this photo with upright posture, hands planted on his knees? Do you see how he sits with that mindfulness of the body, with that heart in his eyes? That teaches me. I love this picture. This picture shows me how to meditate. I feel Jamgon Kongtrul is talking to me. He's saying, “Here’s how you do it. You can just sit like this, and you are doing it.” I feel like Jamgon Kongtrul is meditating with me. When Chogyam Trungpa was alive, he used to say, "When you practice, we will meet." I feel that's true. Tru dat. When I meditate, I meditate with Jamgon Kongtrul, Chogyam Trungpa, and my current teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
I live in America now. Here in Boulder County, Colorado, we get 300 days of sunshine a year. Sometimes I meditate indoors, but I like to meditate in my backyard. I plonk myself down in a patio chair and sit like Jamgon Kongtrul, upright with my feet on the earth.
Before meditating, I check in with my body. My shoulders relax and fall back, opening my chest. I let my arms fall by my sides, then lift the forearms and drop the hands to my thighs. A slight convex curve in my lower back holds my posture. My gaze is relaxed. I'm not looking at anything particular. My vision is neither focused nor blurry. I just let my eyes rest in their sockets. My head rises straight up from my neck, and my mouth opens a little to relax my jaw. I tuck my chin slightly to relax the muscles in my neck. I experience my breath flowing out from my body and let it dissolve into the space of my backyard.
When I notice I'm thinking, I realize I am not here in the present moment. I might be thinking about dinner. I might be in Scotland with my relations or vacationing in Hawaii. I come back to the moment. I come back to my breath. I come back to the sound of robins singing. I come back to the clatter of my neighbors putting away dinner dishes. I come back to the bushy tails of the squirrels who run along the top of the fence and up and down the pear tree branches. I come back to the slow sweep of the wide-winged red-tail hawk gliding across the field behind my backyard.
I come back to my rookie flow of thoughts. I come back to questions. I come back to listening. I come back to letting go. Letting go of the robin song. Letting go of the bushy tails and wide wings. Letting go of the neighbors. Letting go of thoughts. I breathe.