Your meditation cushion is your body

I’m sharing a link to an Elephant Journal article, an interview with meditation master Reggie Ray. It’s part 1 of 3, and after reading this, I will be looking for the rest of it.

This section of the interview particularly caught my attention. See if it catches yours.

When I found out that I was going to do this interview with you, I sat down and listened to some other interviews you had done. On your website I found an interview entitled, “The Body As The Guru.” In it you were talking about the spiritual path and daily life.  The host of the show said, “We have to take our practice off of the cushion,” which I have heard a thousand times. But your response was a new one on me. You said, “Or we have to redefine what it means to sit on a cushion.” You didn’t really go into what you meant in that interview… So, I am asking you to do elaborate on it now.

Reggie Ray: When we’re sitting on the cushion we are actually extending our awareness into our bodies. We are in a way present within the totality of our being, which on the surface is a somatic being. The information we need for our life arises within us, it becomes clear.

If you get up off the cushion and there is a transition into something else, which might be a lot heavier or disembodied that means you are not present in your life. Your cushion is your body. That happens whether you are sitting on a zafu or you are in your daily life.

You mentioned the transition from the cushion to the front door, so to speak. Basically, one is meditation, but the other is not. Is it fair to say that if there is a transition taking place, not only is there something off about the way that you are being present in your daily life, but also in your sitting practice? Is it possible that in such situations meditation is contrived? Is the transition happening because we are trying to zone out on the cushion or create some sort of meditative trance? Or are we present in the body while we are on the cushion, and then migrating into our head as we walk out of the door?

Reggie Ray: That’s a good point. If you sit down to meditate with some idea about a state of mind you are trying to get to, or have memory of some pleasant experience from the past, then you’re not doing anything different than sitting in a meeting and trying to make a good presentation, trying to impress the people around you. Only in this case, you are trying to impress yourself. That is not meditation. Meditation is when you sit and let go of all your effort, and allow yourself to be present.

That’s what meditation is.

So, as you’ve mentioned, joining your practice with your daily life—9 to 5, wife or husband, kids, and work—from the vajrayana’s point of view, this is the ideal situation. These aspects of our daily life have a capacity to break through our defenses, push our buttons, and invite us to unfold. You’ve said that spirituality is the unfolding of human personality towards its perfection. I am assuming that by “perfection” you do not mean some static idea about perfection. So what exactly do you mean when you say “perfection?”

Reggie Ray: Actually, instead of the term perfection, I would rather say, “fulfillment” or “realization.” In the same way that an animal goes through it’s life-cycle—from being an embryo, all the way to death—at the moment of death the biological, and I would say, spiritual imperative of being a lion or a worm is fulfilled.


So with human beings, we could use the analogy of initiation in indigenous societies. In indigenous societies, at a certain point people go through an initiation, which introduces them to the fact that life is much bigger than what they might have thought when they were children or even during adolescence. Our natural human awareness is limitless. Everything in creation has a life-cycle, and when people are allowed to unfold—when they are allowed to follow the natural, biological, and genetically driven cycle of what it means to be human—our understanding and awareness becomes bigger and bigger. We have more appreciation for other people’s points of view, for the world beyond our world—the animal world, the plant world, and the universe. That is what I am talking about.

There is a natural tendency towards what Buddhist call “enlightenment,” but it can also be seen in the indigenous societies. That is really what we are talking about.

In Buddhism we call it buddha-nature, but buddha-nature isn’t simply an established state. It is a process of being in the river of spiritual maturation that goes on-&-on, never reaching a static point. Perfection, in this case, refers to fulfilling the journey of the human life. When are fully and completely with what it means to be human, we have let go of any attempt to pin ourselves down, solidify ourselves, or encrust ourselves at any stage. It is an unending, open process. When we have completely let go of any attempt to withdrawal from life or freeze ourselves, that’s what I mean by perfection.

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