We practice to be free from suffering. We have moments of sweet surrender, glimpses of the sublime, and intuitions of profound insight. But these all come as a result of sustained, long term meditation. Here are three reflections on nourishing this journey of a lifetime.
We are participating in a tried and tested rational system of spiritual development based on tens thousands of years of experience, when you consider the years thousands of sincere women and men just like you and I have spent in intensive practice.
As we reflect on the refined power of these instructions and see the efficacy of their results in our own lives and in the presence of our teachers we slowly nurture a taste for the contemplative life. We are motivated to wish to gain the sublime fruits of meditation. If you believe you can do this, you are more likely to actually do this whole heartedly. You develop slowly what our sacred literature calls saddha, our resolute confidence, both in the veracity of the teachings, as well in our own potential.
As confidence grows, organically like a seedling planted in nourishing soil, our addictions to the trinkets of the world begin to fade. We find our self wanting to sit more, to be more mindful at work, and to relish in the sweetness of contemplating the dharma.
We begin to taste the fruits of “inner austerity” – not from the outer mortifications of tapas, or physical tortures like wearing the medieval hair suit, but rather a gentle shifting from having our own needs front and center and opening to the needs and discomforts of others.
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 find ourselves getting less caught up in we others say about us, or imagining what they say. The grip on our likes and dislikes begins to soften.
As our confidence gradually ripens, maybe our curiosity begins to grow. As our mind begins to relax a little, maybe we begin fan tiny embers on our heart which marvels at the beauty of the ever emerging inner landscapes of stillness and joy. This joy, along with our sweet love for simplicity, may motivate us to establish a meditation routine – and gladly live by it.
I have to come appreciate using a shawl when I sit; not because it is the temperature is necessarily cool or chilly, after all we live in Hawai’i, but because of the it reinforces the habit of softly enclosing myself, of withdrawing my senses from the fascinating and addicting world of outer senses.
Letting Go of Hope and Fear
When I first heard these admonitions from my teachers I was perplexed – they wanted me to be inspired and motivate to practice, but not have any hope for spiritual fruits? How could I be motivated to do something as boring as meditation and not hope to get anything out of it?
I began to see that what they were telling me in little bits. After a few years of practice it became clearer to me that allowing myself to become seduced by the beguiling voices in my head asking “How am I doing?” “Is this insight into nama-rupa yet?” “How long is this going to take, for crying out loud?” were leading into the slippery slopes of fear and craving.
I would spend years in cycles of thinking I was the worst yogi, and the practice was ridiculously hard, to thinking I did not need to practice anymore because I got it.
It’s been a long, hard, dusty dharma trail to come to see what Munindra-ji once told a yogi, something like time has no place in the spiritual path.
Letting my practice slide because I felt it was too hard to really get anywhere with it I began to see as defensive skepticism, one of the famous five hindrances the Buddha went on and on about.
I have come to see that the most corrosive thing I could do was let a let a negative attitude like this grow.
So I have made peace with these admonitions. I try my best to take a fresh take on my practice every time I sit, or at least I try to remember to do so. I try to approach each sitting with an open curiosity like maybe a scientist about to print out the data from an experiment. Or at least I try to remember to so.
My struggles have led to have greater and greater confidence in these amazing teachings, and marvel at the incredible good fortune I have to receive them. I hope reading this helps you a little too.
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.