Please welcome, as a guest speaker to this blog, Akincano Marc Weber. I have never met the man, but now know his voice well. He is a regular teacher at Insight Meditation Society and I find his insights particularly helpful. Akincano was raised in Switzerland but now resides in Köln, the one German city I am familiar with. He is a teacher and contemplative psychotherapist.
The talk I reference here was delivered on January 6th of this year at Insight Meditation Society. This was a "Morning Reflection" and in it Akincano gives an amazing oversight view of Meditation and its practice.
Meditation can be understood at four levels: as it relates to the body (physical - including the earth), as it relates to awareness of and interaction with others (social), as involving/engaging the core virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity—and the practice of concentration, and finally as relating to wisdom and insight about the mind and its behaviour.
Just this is so helpful as I approach my own meditation practice. The word(s) evoke so many thoughts and images. In AA meditation and prayer are lumped together as a central part of the 12 Steps. Yet the use of the word in its Big Book context really (it seems to me) refers to quiet reflection—maybe the fourth level noted above. In my own earlier experiences I have always associated the word with that which one does to attain alternate mental states. The clarity Akincano brings to the subject is in putting it in its original Buddhist context. And it is here that it has touched and inspired me.
The four levels Akincano outlined constitute the "What?" of Insight Meditation, working from the Buddhist text canons. He then goes on to discuss the "How?" based on his own experience as a practitioner and teacher.
A. Cultivate Stillness:
- the only way to break through to the non-dual
- stilling the mind while the mind is yet un-fixed
- getting off stage and into the audience
- this is not the end goal, nor is it "getting away from whatever afflicts"
- an ultimately lonely and not-liberating place
C. Re-Engage with Life
- crawling back in bed with that which was the "enemy"
- with new found perspective I can approach life with compassion
- inquiry and curiosity now lead to wisdom
D. Universalized Understanding
- my own personal journey now becomes transpersonal
- compassion now extends with wisdom to others
- insight about self grows into insight in the larger world
I don't know if this speaks to you. My experiences over the past six years, since I began this journey of mindfulness, line up in meaningful ways with what Akincano says. I hear the voice of my therapist, Tom Calhoun, as we worked through my crisis of faith and self. All of this reminds me of the bigger picture of meditation, the bigger picture of my AA recovery program, and the bigger picture of my morning meditation sittings.
This blog is being written from the Paresky Student Center at Williams College, in a lovely and very quiet second floor lounge. The entire east wall is a window, looking out on the main college quad and the Berkshire and Green Mountains. A major snowstorm is upon us, such that the mountains are nowhere to be seen. My particular view takes in the stone gothic tower of the college chapel and the classical white spire of the Congregational Church. There is a crow perched in a tree between these two landmarks, a crow I have seen before, who seems to serve as a lookout for his family.
There is the big picture, not altogether clear, somehow framing the wide picture of my mind, my family, our history, community, and world. It is all there, the seen and the unseen. In this moment it is all lovely and still. Just outside the door is a long and white-knuckled drive back home on icy roads...and an afternoon of shoveling. My intention is to know all of it as life, not just the stillness, not just the aversion. All of it. Thanks, Akincano.