You never know when your life is going to completely change, we often tend to think that we can create strategies for all the eventualities of life, but life proves over and over again that it has its own ideas and deeper intelligence and can pretty much swoop in and things can change at any moment, and actually this is a very good thing. I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about something astonishing along these lines that happened to me at the Mindful Living Show in London in March that has changed everything, and I’d also like to reflect for a few minutes on how meditation has helped me with the dimensions around this change.
My own interest in meditation both as a teacher and as an eternal student goes far beyond its use as a tool and back to the ancient roots of meditation being about answering life’s two great questions of Who Am I? and What Am I Here For? In other words, bringing about the realisation of our true nature. I’m only interested in what can really help us, I really have no time for anything else. My spiritual practice is centred in turning up as best I can each moment. living a soul-led, authentic life which is signified by the movement from fear-based existing to love based being. Change is our constant, and all our plans and strategies, our statuses, identities and tribes, and even our money are not always reliable currencies in the land of change. This is where meditation really perhaps is most ‘helpful’ around navigating change, vulnerability, and answering the questions of life itself.
That day, I had no idea my life was about to change. I’d just come off stage after guiding 200 lovely people in meditation and was leaving the hall to go get a cup of earl grey in the cafe when a young man approached me. He had been sitting at the back of the hall waiting for a chance to speak with me throughout the morning, but I’d not seen him until now. The second I saw him I knew who he was; it was my son AJ. We’d been missing from each other’s lives for 25 years. His first ever words to me were – ‘Can I come for a cup of tea with you.’
Can you imagine how it must have been for him getting himself there? Sitting in that hall throughout the meditation? I’m not going to tell you anything about the situation that lead to AJ not being in my life or me in his. Things are what they are. If we live by holding onto stories too much we don’t meet life in the moment, nor can we meet each other with any openness. What I can tell you is that I had nothing up my sleeves that I could rely on at that moment, I didn’t suddenly think ‘Oh I’d better be mindful.’ I simply put my arms around my son for the first time in a quarter of a century, and we held each other for a long time, and then we did go for that cup of tea.
For the longest time, I had the feeling that AJ would turn up. I had long resisted going to try to find him, something always told my heart to wait and allow. I actually had no idea where he was, and he seemed to have no online presence whenever I searched for his name. By the way, I’m writing this with his full permission. After we were parted before his 1st birthday, I fell terribly ill with a complete breakdown and was close to being hospitalised. I was a meditator already, but I can honestly say I had such a legacy of family pain and dysfunction that I thought was ‘me,’ that this loss took me right over the edge. Now here we are 25 years later, and we have been in contact for three months, seeing each other when possible, keeping in touch each week, so I want to reflect on the question, how has my spiritual practice, my meditation, been of use in all of this?
I’d like to share with you three things that I can observe that meditation and spiritual practice has been helpful with in relation to what we’re discussing here:
After my illness, meditation began allowing me to see that I was not the person my mind thought I was. As I began to reach soul level, which was largely a case of shedding things rather than adding other identities to myself. I could see the psychological, physical and spiritual work I needed to do to actually heal my life. I gave up hanging on to stories of being the victim of my past, and I began leaning into the work for its own sake, not knowing if I’d even make it through the next moment. All I wanted was to be present in my own life instead of living through all this stuff. This process is what has allowed me to be successful on my own terms and not be a wreck when AJ turned up. Can you imagine being the kind of person who holds on to bitterness and stories for 25 years? How that would shape and warp everything in your life. If I’d have lived that life we would not have really met that day, he would have met my identities, my victimhood, my righteousness, anger and projections.
My second observation is that presence kicked in the very moment I recognised him, I found myself completely with him in the moment. We talked in the cafe area for two hours, both emotionally overwhelmed and not knowing what to say, but being met being. It is never about what we say, it is always about presence and being here with the other person. Authenticity can never be faked. The space in myself allowed space for my son, whether angry, sad, overwhelmed, blank. Here he was, here we are, and presence gave us the room to be together. The past wasn’t important, love is now. Love too can never be faked and is not a product of the mind, but the natural expression of being. Meditation doesn’t make you a feelingless robot, you feel everything but you know that you are feeling it. After our meeting, I had to be completely out of the world for a few days, here too meditation let me gently return day by day into the new life.
And thirdly as the months now unfold, meditation allows me to meet the impossible questions and new previously unknown feelings of being a father and being an open space with this wonderful young man – my son, as we learn each other from the ground up. Meditation takes me beyond judgement and drama to the core of what is. We are alive now, we are here, and come what may – the space of life holds all that we are.
We make our plans for life, but we have to choose to be here, to do the work. If we listen, life will always show us what we need. Fear or Love? React or Respond? Be lost in stories and drama or be here now, the choice is ours. Meditation is about our lives and our real love, and removing anything in us that stands in the way of them both. Bless you for reading this. I wish you all the love in the world.
John Siddique is a meditation teacher and author, to find out more about his work, retreats and courses visit www.authenticliving.life. You can meditate with him for free using the Insight Timer Meditation App.