Meditation is not easy, I get it. There are aches and pains in the body, the mind gets restless, and the breath fades in and out of awareness.
Sometimes, mostly out.
But, as Hawaii-born retired Sumo grand-master Akebono would say to reporters after winning yet another match, “I just try my best.”
That’s all we ask. Try your best.
Just show up on the cushion, again and again. If you just keep showing up, the magic starts to happen – but it helps a lot to show up in the right way.
We can all dutifully drag ourselves to the cushion, set the timer, and wait it out.
Or, we can discover the rapture of being fully alive in each moment.
Why do we experience these two often conflicting streams of experience? It’s how we show up.
Christina Feldman once described what Buddhism calls “right effort” in our meditation practice by quoting a 6th-century BC Taoist sage:
Keep a green bough in your heart and a singing bird will come.Lao Tzu
We quietly refresh the heart with our breath meditation. Our steady intention and playful inquisitiveness nourish the inner branches and leaves to sprout green, alive, vivid shoots.
“Rivulets of delight” (as Craig Hase it recently) flow into the spaces in our body once closed, dark, vague or numb, as we relax fully into what each moment of life brings.
We are touched by the even simplest, most mundane things.
There is nothing more profound, more mysterious, more pregnant . . . more dazzling than a window lighted by a single candle.Baudelaire
How do make a grey heart green? By showing up every day to water it!
But the showing up itself is a practice—showing up with respect, patience, curiosity, and no real agenda other than to show up and see what’s here.
And stay in our aliveness.
As confidence in this simple practice grows, our addictions to the trinkets of the world begin to fade. We find our self sitting more and naturally being more mindful at work.
We begin to taste the fruits of an “inner austerity” — of shifting from having our own needs front and center and opening to the needs and discomforts of others as make the loving-kindness practices an integral part of our day.
Mindfulness informs more and more of who we are, naturally, organically. I love how the poet and essayist Mark Nepo talks about living his life with simplicity and love:
We can plant flowers. We can plane a board of walnut till we are completely in the stroke of the plane. Whatever the activity, once we love it, the task opens us to all that is holy and our effort leads us into the flow of aliveness that is within us and around us.Mark Nepo
We softly move into a keener love for inner and outer simplicity — of life style, speech, and even how arrange our sitting space and do the dishes.
We get less caught up in what others say about us, or imagine what they say. The grip on our likes and dislikes begins to soften.
The other day I read a short piece by the former Buddhist nun Marine Batchelor, in which she recalls various conversations she had while doing intensive practice in Korea. Here is one I particularly love:
I once went to speak with a nun I really respected, to ask her about meditation. “What about practice?” I asked her. “Practice? Oh, just do it. There is nothing to say about practice. You just have to do it. You do it in the meditation hall, you do it in your daily life. There is nothing to say.”Marine Batchelor
This really touched me. So simple, yet so deep.