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The meditative life is not limited to sitting down someplace quietly, nor is it limited to someplace in time where we can control conditions so that we can experience something of a quiet mind. It can be said that meditation is the active relationship that an individual has with the whole of his or her life.
Indeed, if we were able to see clearly enough into our own life, we would see something that is in itself an invitation to meditation: we are always off balance.
Curiously, and what takes time to discover, is that individuals in this world are so used to being in search of balance that the search for balance has become their sense of balance. This is a phenomenon that has to be seen interiorly in order to understand it.
Are we in balance or out of balance when we’re unhappy, afraid, lonely, ambitious, excited, or anxious? For example, you’re at the supermarket, and you ask the produce man why the price of lettuce is so high. He gives you a reason, and for the next five minutes you think about lettuce. Do you even see the person in front of you? No. You’re not aware of anything because you’re caught up in worrying about lettuce world! It sounds silly, but the fact of the matter is, when that kind of thinking is going on, aren’t we looking for a way to resolve the disturbance that’s inside of us? Are we not looking for a way to find what we would call the center of ourselves, a neutralizing balance, so that we don’t feel the disturbance anymore? If we’re going to understand what it means to have a meditative life, we must understand this.
All it takes is a thought or feeling, a piece of news, and we’re rocked off center. The “center” becomes something “out there” having to do with the condition that knocked us down — an opposite in the mind of what we imagine will finally restore the sense of stability that was lost prior to the blow we received.
Every single day, we are on a mission to bring balance to ourselves — achieving nothing but to throw ourselves further out of balance. Our life becomes a kind of reeling to and fro, and afterward we say balance is the search for that moment where at last we won’t feel like we’re going to fall down. That is not what balance is! A person has to look at his or her life and see very clearly that the pursuit of balance is not the same thing as balance.
If we are walking along and someone bumps into us, the sensory capacity of our body will instantaneously seek balance. We have become wrongly captive of the idea that being balanced, centered, is a sensation like that. In contrast, true balance is an awareness, just like beauty or stillness. Stillness doesn’t have a center; it’s everywhere. Awareness of stillness — and the stillness that one is aware of — are one thing, which means that real awareness has no center. There is nothing to be gained. It is already there. Likewise, beauty has no direction, which means that its center is everywhere. Everywhere we look it’s the whole thing. . . and so it is with real balance.
How would we know how to walk straight unless there was the idea of a balance that already existed as a rectification between opposites? It is the same thing when it comes to being still. When we’re quiet — whether we’re sitting in silence or walking down the street doing a walking meditation — we must learn to recognize those thoughts and feelings that push and pull on us. We must start to become conscious of their movement, because it is their movement that presently drives us to seek balance. If we let them go as they come up, balance is there. That is meditation: letting go to be where balance already is the center of everything in us.