Showing up for Practice

Life undoubtedly will present us with many challenges, but it seems that over time, we learn to accept things. The resiliency of spirit somehow gives us the ability to accept almost anything, in time. When we make an effort to show up everyday to practice meditation, we are training ourselves in a deeper way, to accept things as they are, in that moment, no matter how we feel. Meditation is an act of deep surrender that spreads out into all aspects of our life. Conversely, what arises during practice, often relates to our dealings in day-to-day life, one reflecting the others.

At times we may feel enthusiastic about sitting for meditation, and at other times we may feel like it is the last thing we want to do with ourselves. In my practice, when I’m distracted and preoccupied with the daily list of things to do, I make a note of what it is that needs attending to afterwards, and then resolve myself to the practice as earnestly as I can by saying to myself, “There is plenty of time for all of “that,” after “this.”

Often the mind will make every excuse in the book to not take the precious time out to sit. This is precisely where our practice of meditation can really start bearing fruit. When the river of emotion is swollen and ready to breach its banks, if we can bring ourselves to the meditation cushion, withdrawing the mind away from the pulls of the world, we are in a sense strengthening the muscle of dharana (concentration.)

Over the past 23 years of practicing meditation, I have become less interested in what will be gained by this process. I am less concerned with what I am getting out of it. At first, it is natural to yearn for some release from the tumult of the mind, from our struggles and suffering, but over the months and years, it has become apparent to me that practice has been of tremendous benefit in my daily life. Many meditators I have met over the years have shared with me a similar sentiment about the value of practice. It may not be an easy journey we are on, and at times it seems that we are dragged into the abyss against our will, kicking and screaming. The waters of mystery tempted us to the edge, and we couldn’t resist dipping our curious toe into the water, and whoosh, we are pulled in.

My guru often says, “fake it till you make it,” to students that complain about how distracted their minds get while attempting to meditate. What I feel he is trying to convey by this comment is that when we maintain a regular practice, making a concerted effort to sit still, calm the breath, and gently and persistently redirect the mind back to the present moment, the murky water of our mind will eventually settle. Another point he makes is that each time we sit to meditate, it is like adding a thread to a rope, which over time gets thicker and stronger, until we can climb quickly into the stillness of meditation; into the clear sky behind the clouds our thoughts. This process may take time, even years, so it’s helpful to balance our effort with softness; remembering that where we are trying to get to is closer than our own skin. It may be helpful to reflect on the truth that there is nothing to attain that we don’t already possess in our heart. There is no perfect technique, posture or practice that can enhance the changeless, pure consciousness that is the source our own breath.

It is the restlessness of the mind that keeps our true nature obscured, and the very act of practice is a willingness to turn within to uncover the truth of our being. When we stabilize the mind through meditation, day after day, the muscle of concentration is strengthened, and the gaps between the thoughts become larger and more spacious. This can happen for just a moment, but these moments can have tangible affects own our being. When we become become less interesting in the endless chatter, the thoughts the mind become like a distant roar of a crowd and the mind soon becomes merged into the object of our meditation. This object can be a thought, such as “I Am,” or one of the many the names or forms of God or Great Spirit.

In my experience, the one thing that I can say for certain is that the practice never leaves me alone for long. If I try to shake it off, and just hovers around like a horsefly, until it can again land on my shoulder again. The impressions formed in meditative states have a way of resurfacing in all aspects of our lives, coaxing us ever closer to our true Self.

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