Have you ever had the experience of being irritated with someone or about something, like a parking ticket, while waking somewhere when suddenly you notice a gorgeous sunset is also happening?
How long did it take you to let go of the “irritation voices” in your head to take in the sunset?
Or maybe you simply ignored nature’s evening show and continued in miffed rumination?
The ego wants to know how we can justify pausing to take in yet another boring sunset when we do not have enough time to do all we need to do, and plan for.
But as we learn to just be in the silent simplicity of meditation, we slowly let go of the life-robbing habits of worrying, planning, and seething.
As James Finley, a teacher of spiritual contemplation and student of the late Thomas Merton, writes:
We must be patient with ourselves as we devote ourselves to this lifelong, transformative process of meditation. Taking the time to transcend the tyranny of time is time well spent. In God’s good time, an underlying meditative awareness grows within us to the point of becoming our habitual way of experiencing everything that we experience.
“In God’s good time” = not according to the ego’s timetable. We are often so concerned, thinking Am I doing this mediation thing right? I should definitely be seeing some changes by now.
Results of meditation simply happen when they happen, no sooner.
Growing out of the shell of ego, leaving the nest ego has made for us, can be a little scary. It’s just part o the process, and you can’t accelerate this thing once it gets going, or you’ll risk what some folks call “spiritual bypassing.”
The caterpillar spins its cocoon of contemplative practice and emerges as a free flying being “in God’s good time.” Trying to break a little piece off the cocoon sends the whole thing crashing on the rocks of disappointment, resentment, frustration.
This is a poem from Swami Nirbhayananda, who lived in North India in the nineteenth century, which describes this process of what some psychologists call “transpersonal individuation”, or the gradual shedding of the tyranny of ego. In this extract the Swami is speaking to his own ego:
Your thoughts are restless, mine are forever peaceful.
You are attached to name and form.
I go beyond them.
O dear one, I listen to you, but am not quick to respond.
O mind, we part company and are friends.
I salute you a thousand times.
You are all pain and tears.
I am peace and perfection.
Life just as it is, is eloquent. The world is its own magic, if only we would let it in.
We just need to need to stop seeking some additional meaning, figure stuff out, plan revenge, and just let things come forward and enlighten us to their magic in their own time, not “ours.”
This liberates us from the tyranny of our mind, borrowing James Finley’s powerful word. We are then potentially liberated by every moment in our life, if we allow ourselves to enter into them in intimate way mindfulness allows.
What’s the living meaning of life? That sunset over there.
Or that the monkey pod tree in the beach park.
There is a quiet, dignified feeling to sunsets and trees.
Also to animals, children, food, sitting in the dentist’s chair, disease, frustration, impatience and death.
If I think “I see that monkey pod tree in the beach park over there” I am partly living in my own private conceptual universe, which is always a day late and a dollar short, as they say.
Our practice is experience is simply letting seeing see or hearing hear. At that moment there is no time, no space, no self, no other. There just is what is, “full and complete, lacking nothing”, as the Zen masters of old used to say.
Through our simple, quiet mindfulness practice, we shed our conditioned, conceptual approach to life.
But that doesn’t mean we somehow destroy it, no, we simply grow out of the compulsion to only experience life in this protected, safe way.
In the often quoted teaching to Bahiya, the Buddha just gave the briefest of meditation instructions, which hit the bull’s eye, and Bahiya awoke to his true nature.
In John Ireland’s translation:
“Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.”
In savoring a sunset or seeing a monkey pod tree in a beach park we let go of the experience of “I see” and doing something called seeing. There is just the seen.
No mental overlays.
Then our so-called mundane experiences, of stubbing our toe or our ego, become magical, revealing to us our natural essence, which many have said is love. In this inner shift of “In the seen will be merely what is seen” mindfulness lets us in on the magic.
Of just this incredible tree.
Or just this breath.
Or a baby’s first tooth.
Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.
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