The Sweet Spot of Being
When Martin Aylward was a teenager growing up in England, he became obsessed with what he calls “the miracle of being human.” But he couldn’t find anyone in his community, not even the local priest, who could help him understand what he was going through. So, at age 19, he took off and moved to India, where he spent several years studying with Hindu sage Sukhanta Giri Babaji on how to achieve, as he puts it, “a totally free human existence—free of reactivity, free of fear, free of pettiness.”
I caught up recently with Martin, now a prominent meditation teacher based in France, to talk with him about his new book, Awake Where You Are. What followed was a wide-ranging interview on the key role embodied awareness plays in stimulating creativity and living a fully liberated life. “Whether it’s creativity or sports or meditation,” he says, “there’s a kind of sweet spot of being, having your attention really focused and steady, but also really relaxed and open. Those things, for most people, tend to be in opposite places….But if you watch Roger Federer playing tennis or John Coltrane playing jazz, that’s the quality you see. And what it looks like is what we usually call freedom.”
One of the best ways to break through creative blocks, he adds, is to embrace the fear: “I have a friend who’s a writer and her line on writing is to go fear-wards. Go toward that which we habitually ignore or deny or get distracted from. That has great parallels in meditation, right? If something feels too painful or overwhelming, you can’t work with it. You need to give careful attention to something that isn’t so overwhelming. But, increasingly, you learn to touch into and make room for that which you’ve hitherto been afraid to push against. Going fear-wards is what’s healing.”
“Freedom of being is the absence of anxiety about imperfection,” says Aylward (teaching in New York).