My meditation practice has inspired and informed my baking from my first loaf through the founding and running Four Worlds Bakery in urban West Philadelphia. For 12 years now, baking has deepened my meditation practice and my meditation practice has deepened my baking experience. Over the years and quite gradually, the separation between the two "activities" has blurred. But I would go off about yearly for a 7 day silent retreat to "check-in" with myself and the Practice; and reset my mind with insight and inspiration to carry on. And, of course, the birth of my son Max in April, 2011 really stirred up my life in a new direction. Since Max came, I have been a full time parent as well as Head Baker and owner of a bakery; my wife also works full time and we have not sent Max to daycare.
But over the course of the last four years, I have gravitated my "meditation" practice to a paradigm which can best be understood as "non-meditation." So after 12 years of daily sitting practice and regular week long retreats, I got skilled in calming my mind, focusing my attention in deep concentration, and being mindful on what is happening around me. Increased compassion, appreciation, patience and happiness has been the byproduct of this practice; but I'm still me with all my faults, emotional ups and downs, attachment to the things I love, and aversion to the things I don't like. Over the course of these gradual changes, I became more aware of the deep paradox of meditation practice: by using my mind to focus my attention in meditation practice, I, cannot be in the present moment.
Meditation practice is inherently tied into the normal dualistic world we all live in: ie You and me, good and bad, etc. So when I meditation, "I" am focusing my mind on "[fill in the blank]" to acheive "[fill in the blank]." Yet the ultimate "goal" of the meditation practice for many is the cessation of suffering (even if temporary) which magically occurs when we can rest in the Now, the Present Moment, the Great Perfection, aka Dzogchen in Tibetan Buddism. When I taste or experience this Perfection, I know it and recognize it as something that is with me all the time as it is present for me (and all living beings), all the time; but mostly I don't recognize it. Ironically, the way to recognize it is in an effortless state of nonaction; non-meditation; which is the culmination of training in learning meditation skills. In short, I had to learn how to meditate to learn how to nonmeditate. And thus I entered in the world of Dzogchen, a philosophy and practice of nondualism known by many as the highest level of Buddist Practice and taught by my teacher in what he calls the "Class on Confusion."
On my last retreat in June, I had a major breakthrough in my Practice and I have now immersed myself in the Dzogchen teachings and practice; and the changes are real and marvelous. And so I switched the topic of this blog to share my experiences, in the hope that my experiences can be of help to others and relieve some of the suffering in the world. For when I enter the experience of the 'Dzogchen Great Perfect, I see that we are "all in this together."