Good day, good people. Welcome to this glorious Friday, September 13, 2019. This is a rare and precious day that will never ever come again.
Although less true now (thank goodness!), my life has been an extreme example of needing to change the way that I feel not later, but now! Right now! Of course, my parents and many other wise people tried to tell me that good things come to those who wait. I heard that patience is a virtue. Phooey! Why would I possibly wait when I can have it meow?
If we look at the world we live in, pretty much everything we desire is right at our fingertips. Once considered seasonal foods are now available any time of the year. I remember getting a box of grapefruit as a Christmas present – it was such a treat to have this summer delight in the midst of winter. It was like magic! It used to take some early homesteaders a few days travel to get basic supplies from the nearest town. These days, we can have groceries delivered to our homes in just a few minutes.
The way meditation is sometimes being marketed and perceived, many tend to think that if they meditate, they can have peace, now! Well, you can. This good feeling inspires us to continue to keep coming back to the cushion. Nevertheless, I get concerned sometimes because I don’t think that what’s advertised does meditation justice.
I read about meditation in popular magazines how we’d feel better and have less stress if we all meditated – the world would be a better place. Yes, meditation can produce an immediate sense of peace. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. There is nothing wrong to wanting to feel peaceful and calm, right now. What I didn’t realize in the beginning was that there is so much more to mediation than this immediate sense of calmness.
Because I was so focused on the pleasurable feelings I’d sometimes experience with meditation (which inspired me to keep coming back), and because I used to judge my meditations as good or bad depending on what happened during or how I felt afterwards, it kept me from discovering the full usefulness of meditation.
I’ve had quite a few conversations with people who tell me about their meditation experience. I sometimes hear that they had a really good mediation – they were able to focus on their breath; it was calming and pleasurable; their breath was like a warm, comforting flowing breeze. It was a wonderful meditation. I also hear experiences where people describe a bad meditation – their mind wandered; they were distracted; their body wouldn’t relax; they couldn’t get comfortable; they felt no calmness nor sense of peace. It was a bad meditation. I can certainly relate to evaluating my meditations!
Though I now know that meditation is a process of growth, I didn’t know in the beginning that when I think about meditation in the terms of good and bad, it can potentially reinforce my attachments to things that are pleasurable and strengthen my aversion to discomfort. It took me a long time to come to this understanding.
I want to stress that when you recognize that you’re upset, angry, anxious, tense or scared that its highly beneficial to remove yourself from a troubling situation, even for a brief moment, to ground yourself and breathe – a mini meditation if you will. This calming effect is highly useful and beneficial. I believe it’s the right thing to do.
When I started meditating regularly in 2012, I didn’t know that Mindfulness of Breath (Shamatha) meditation was a tool that produced much more than pleasurable feelings. When I started to really follow the directions, “when I notice that my attention has drifted away from my breath, let go of whatever distracted me and gently return my awareness to my breath,” that it will foster relaxation, mental stability and clarity. It also teaches me how to be at peace with whatever arises. Now that I’ve practiced this particular type of meditation for some time with this new understanding and intention, I find myself experiencing an ongoing and underlying deep sense of peace and ease – much more than the pleasurable feelings I first experienced. This in no way suggests that life is smooth and easy going, that I don’t experience uncomfortable emotions, that I never have pain or must work to overcome difficulties. It simply suggests that when these difficult conditions do arise, I’m able face them with an increasingly more stable and equanimous mind that is relaxed, calm and has more access to wisdom and clarity. Though I have much to learn, I’ve come a long way!
With clear instructions from my teacher, John Bruna (and of course others), I’ve seen how my practice has evolved from something that initially felt like instant gratification, to a life-long practice increasing my ability to relax, improving my mental stability and clarity promoting an even stronger sense of peace and ease. My intention is that through this practice and its long-term benefits, I can be of more skillful use to our environment – which includes you!
Wherever you’re at in this process, just keep sitting!
I love each and every one of you and there isn’t anything you can do about it!
With deep appreciation,