“We meet at this appointed time.
You’ve read where it says that
Lovers pray constantly.
Once a day, once a week, five times an hour,
Is not enough. Fish like we
Need the ocean around us.
Do camel-bells say, Let’s meet again
Ridiculous. They jingle
Talking while the camel walks.
Do you pay regular visits to yourself?
Don’t argue or answer rationally.
And dying, reply.”
From The Illumined Rumi, p. 122
All traditions claim they have the answers. But those answers must somehow come from within. Answers that come from books or someone else don’t satisfy, they are empty answers. They are somebody else’s answer.
So we die to ourselves, our small selves, as Rumi suggests, and are reborn, in a sense, in present moment awareness.
H.M.L. Poonja is said to have remarked to one of his students: “You visited the travel agent, bought the ticket, packed your bags, now why do you keep getting out of your seat to push the plane? Buckle up and enjoy the ride.”
So much of this work is about undoing. Not pushing the river. We enjoy the ride of the present moment.
It’s about releasing resistance to experiencing what is. Subtle agendas so easily creep in to our practice. We release them, too.
All we can take care of is this present moment. We simply surrender (and die) to what is.
Meditation is a path of coming home to who we are right now, not getting some mystical or altered states or changing into some fabulous new person.
Joy, freedom, truth, beauty is always right here. We relax back into inhabiting what we are, being who we already are.
At first we need to establish a regular practice, we pay regular visits to ourselves, as Rumi instructs. Later, we pray constantly, as Rumi suggests, by releasing into the present moment no matter what that’s like.
What keeps us trapped are the deeply seated habits of manipulating and resisting our present moment experience.
Our lives are like a cocoon in which we try really hard to stay comfortable and cozy and safe. Yet it’s stale in the cocoon. We recognize at some level that we have an ache in our heart that we are holding back somehow, we are not living up to what we are spiritually capable of, by reinforcing this cocoon of the small, fearful self.
Many of us deeply sense this pervasive sense of lack.
This sense of lack is perpetuated by our identification with thought. I can’t remember now who made this remark, but it’s on target: thinking is the ego’s foot soldiers.
We identify with thinking as belonging to us.
At best, thinking is an approximate symbolic representation of reality. The problem is that we often let thinking take the place of reality.
In meditation we clearly see how thought diverts our attention into the past or the future. When we mature in the practice we learn to rest in the present moment, in the heart of reality.
That’s why the core instruction in our practice is to simply recognize thinking as thinking and return to the moment to moment experience of body sensations or sound. Sounds and body sensations are unfolding in the heart of reality.
We just rest backwards into what is. What we seek is what we are.
This essential backward step, as they say in zen, is described beautifully by the poet David Whyte in his poem Tilocho Lake:
“In this high place
it is as simple as this,
leave everything you know behind.
Step toward the cold surface,
say the old prayer of rough love
and open both arms.
Those who come with empty hands
will stare into the lake astonished,
there, in the cold light
reflecting pure snow,
the true shape of your own face.”
David Whyte, from Where Many Rivers Meet