Call Me Peripatetical, Throw in Perambulatory…
When I started writing posts for this blog back in July 2018, loving-kindness looked like an 8 to 5 favorite to carry me as a meditator for the rest of my life. I had been pursuing it for more than a year, and my brain was bristling with new loving-kindness topics, amply equipped for the sprint that lay ahead of me. But as the galloping meditation forms entered the far turn, some unknown entries began closing fast on the favorite.
Not that loving-kindness pulled up lame. Not at all. My intent was to practice every day, devotedly working my way through all nine elements of the roster I had so painstakingly developed. Or was it twelve or thirteen? Some parts had multiple focus points, and my routine could last an hour. Some days I would fall asleep, and when I awoke I could remember, just barely, where I had slipped away. So I began to miss some days, or I would pick out three or four elements that seemed most pressing. Sometimes I could not summon up all nine topics or recall their assigned sequence. I was still dedicated. I kept—and still keep—my unrecorded roster of topics for projected loving-kindness epistles.
The third meditation has had my attention for a few years, but I have never pursued it with discipline. It is daunting. It has thirty-seven components. I cannot imagine tending to all of them in a single sitting.
Then one day I felt compelled to acknowledge that at least three other meditations had my attention. One I have been practicing almost every day for two or three months. It is short, taking twenty or thirty minutes, It imposes its own order; discipline is required, but not much “thought.” Indeed, thought is not really welcome. A second meditation could be tended in the fleeting moment, a breath in and out—even in the interstices of the first. This approach has enticed me for three or four years. Now I have read a short book on this practice, and think I am ready to start sitting with it—no longer just catching it on the fly.
The third meditation has had my attention for a few years, but I have never pursued it with discipline. It is daunting. It has thirty-seven components. I cannot imagine tending to all of them in a single sitting. I can remember only three or four. Now I am resolved to pursue this practice through contemplation, perhaps piece by piece—keeping each element on the periphery of my mind for a week. Maybe longer. I am not sure of my goal. I do not seem capable of pursuing all these practices. For now, I must content myself to paying attention. Let goals come later, if at all.
As first pictured, I expected this epistle would at least name these three newer practices. I do not mean to tease. I will write at least one epistle on each, and soon. But their substance is not central here. The real point is to come to terms with myself as a meditator. At first I was chagrined to recognize that it was not within my nature to follow a specific practice for life, even the foreshortened span that still lies ahead. It would be neither loving nor kind to force myself into this straitjacket.
I am—both by nature and practice—a peripatetic. It was unrealistic to suppose that, after years of wandering among meditations, I could betroth myself to a single vision. Still loving-kindness will remain central to me. As the Cole Porter song has it:
But I'm always true to you, darlin', in my fashion
Yes, I'm always true to you, darlin', in my way.
May I be grateful for this devotion to continue rustling among new forms of meditation. This part of my practice provides reassurance that I am still alive.