Meditative Question: What is this life?
Symbolic Color: Green
Symbolic Direction: North
The UO winter term is winding down, and with it comes a lot of pain and frustration for nearly everyone in the university. The graduate student contingent has it pretty hard, for not only do we have to start pulling together serious work on our multiple term projects, but we also have to be teachers and care for our students and make sure they learn something. It is a lot of work, and–frankly–it sometimes makes you wonder if this life is worth living.
At this point in time, if someone was to ask me “What is this life?” my answer would be pain, and I wouldn’t be facetiously riffing off The Princess Bride either. Being asked to seriously contemplate that question right now is like a little taste of hell. So I guess I’m going to burn for a bit.
Begin by finding a comfortable, meditative sitting position. This time, sit facing the north. Light a green candle, place it in front of you, and cast your gaze upon the flickering candle. As you have already learned in previous contemplative questions, be sure to sit holding the question for 20-30 minutes.
This month’s question is one that both scholars and mystics have pursued over the course of history. Neither through intellectualization, free-association, nor even through guessing can you arrive at a satisfactory or compelling resolution and mystic realization. Don’t expect to unravel the mysteries of this contemplation in one day. Instead, hold the question firmly in your mind over whatever length of time may be necessary. See the question as in manifests in each of your activities. Do not try to logically answer the question. Instead, become one with the question itself in each of your tasks. Be this question as you eat, sleep, work, and play. Over time, a shift in your perception will take place and you will realize your own answer.
I took a peek back at the last contemplation day I undertook, day 91 back in June of 2009. I’m glad to see I’ve done something between now and then: while I was noting a lot of fidgetiness when attempting meditations back then, I slid into this one fairly seamlessly. That’s not to say I don’t have some work to do, but it has gotten much easier.
At any rate, I was able to contemplate upon this question with much less pain than I anticipated. After a while, one of the first answers that came to me was ‘temporal.’ And this is true: This life is indeed a temporal, ephemeral creature. We are here for such a very short time in the grand scheme and then we snuff out. If we do go on, it is to someplace removed from this realm and so it is not-life. If we re-incarnate, we’re experiencing a new life, and so it is not this life. This life is a moment, that’s all.
As a moment though, we can make it present and immediate. That was, in fact, my second answer: present. It is our gift and our obligation to be conscious of the present moment, to inhabit it fully and thoughtfully. Living in the past or in the future is living in dreams, really. Only the most tangible, most immediate, most concrete experiences are the experiences of life.
So, to quote an old high school paper of mine, to find the meaning of life, one must live a life of meaning.