Welcome to Shunyata’s Apprentice!
This blog is intended for people interested in learning to meditate or in improving their meditation practice. I will offer an overview of my experiences in pursuing the meditation path over the past 40-some odd years, with helps in choosing a technique that is right for you and avoiding techniques that lead nowhere.
In addition, I will offer a continuing report on the current state of my own meditation practice, with reflections on how it’s working in my life now, as well as occasional reflections on the state of the world and the meditative perspective on that.
I call this effort Shunyata’s Apprentice because that’s how I see myself. That’s what we become when we undertake a serious meditation practice. At least one way of understanding meditation is that one opens up to being taught about oneself, about life, about the whole of existence. One undertakes to learn the actual nature of reality by simply giving it one’s undivided attention.
Shunyata is a Sanskrit word (Śūnyatā, शून्यता) usually translated as “emptiness” that – in that wonderful way that Sanskrit has of saying so much in one little word – actually means something like this: everything in existence, including you and me, is void or ‘empty’ of an inherent self-nature because everything is so intricately and inextricably linked with everything else that there is really only one thing and this is it, you are it, God is it, I am it, your toenail clipping on the floor under the bed from last week is it, and so… absolutely anything and everything that exists or happens or appears was, is, and will always be infinitely and completely wonderful, exquisite and delightful.
This concept arose in Buddhist intellectual circles in response to the Buddha’s teaching of paticca samupadda – the dependent co-arising of phenomena. Again, that idea that everything is connected and important and sacred, and nothing has some kind of independent, discrete existence. (See the entry on anyatta for more on this.)
I consider myself in lifelong apprenticeship to this radical notion of the nature of life and existence. Writing things and posting them on a website and having wonderful intelligent people like you come and read it is all part of this learning!
Meditation is at heart a systematic process of intensely observing one’s own mental/physical state, being open to seeing what is actually happening in this precise moment – moment after moment. Careful, clean, honest observation begins to reveal to you what is real, and this reality can teach you what you need to know to live life fully and authentically.
There is also the story of my way-finding here, the path that led me to the Buddhist practice I now embrace and how that developed over all those years. It was a journey that led me across the country a few times, from Arizona to Missouri, back to New Mexico and then to Maine and Georgia, and back again to the West — Oregon. And finally back home to Georgia again.
I learned a lot, though I’m a slow learner in some aspects, and it took me a while. I hope those learnings are interesting and helpful. There were some pretty deep revelations about my own emotional and psychological darknesses along the way.
[I invite you to visit my site A War Journal (at warjournal.org), which is primarily a vehicle for my book A War Journal and a few short stories, with a few entries on other subjects, including several essays on Buddhist subjects and is where I began posting the lojong slogans that I’m now posting as Practice Notes here.]