Recipes for an Ordinary Happy Life :: Interview with Karen Maezen Miller (Part 2 of 2)

Recipes for an Ordinary Happy Life :: Interview with Karen Maezen Miller (Part 2 of 2) May 21, 2010

Continuing from Part 1, Karen Maezen Miller here addresses meaning, meditation, and the sacred in the mundane


You write, “The search for meaning robs our life of meaning” Are you saying there is no meaning? And if there is meaning, what is it, in your view?

It is the search that leads us astray. The meaning is always at hand in this moment. This moment right now is the fruit of an infinite past and the seed of a limitless future. How can you find more meaning than that? You can’t.

A lot of people try meditation and find they can’t do it. What then? Is peace of mind available to them?

Yes, peace of mind is always available to us when we attend to what is present instead of to our worries, fears and anxieties about the past or the future. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who tries meditation comes away thinking they can’t do it. That’s what we’re always telling ourselves about nearly everything we do! In a way, telling yourself you can’t meditate is the first step in meditation: you notice the things you tell yourself – all the limiting and self-critical thoughts. Meditation is simply the practice of paying attention to yourself, noticing the grip your thoughts have on you, and releasing thoughts instead of pursuing them. When we pursue our anxious, fearful ruminations, we leave the peace of mind that is already present. Peace never leaves, but we leave peace. Bring your attention back to what is in front of you and peace is instantly restored.

As for learning to meditate, everything in life takes practice. Everything! What we lack is patience with ourselves, and the grace to keep trying no matter how inadequate we judge ourselves to be.

Is the peace and fulfillment you describe really possible for people who aren’t priests or who don’t devote their lives to spiritual pursuits?

Being a priest has nothing to do with it. Spiritual devotion has nothing to do with it. All it takes is a change of view. With only a change in one’s perspective, the most ordinary things take on inexpressible beauty, and everything you’re looking for is right there. I became a priest to make my life more ordinary. When I make my life more ordinary I can devote myself wholeheartedly to the laundry.

You describe the culmination of your journey as trusting the world as it is – trusting our communities, our schools, our cities, and everyone in it. But the world seems to be in a dangerous downward spiral. Is trust realistic and practical in these difficult times?

Trust is not only realistic, it is imperative. We live in a world of our own making. The world is in its current state not because of naïve faith or blind trust, but because of distrust, anger, greed and fear. Trust is the only antidote for distrust. Kindness is the only cure for unkindness. The world doesn’t need another enemy or faction, not another wall or barricade. The world needs a homemaker – it needs each of us to make ourselves at home within it. When we do that, at least one conflict – our conflict with the world around us – comes to an end. We’ve turned our patch of pavement into paradise.

For more information about Karen Maezen Miller:


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