Sunday, December 29, 2013

3 obstacles to meditation (with inspiration from Dr Seuss)

Meditation changes things. It changes the body, it changes the brain, it changes the heart. Most people relish the possibility of a change, but when that change occurs, it can be terrifying.

You see, there are no hiding places when we get silent and still. We must be willing to face everything when we meditate—relationships that aren’t healthy, habits that are keeping us sick and confused, attitudes deemed admirable at work yet obnoxious at home. It's brave to sit in silence all alone with the only expert in your life: you.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go. -Dr Seuss

Besides letting fear keep us off the cushion, I was taught of 3 other obstacles that we allow to sideline our practice. Here they are—

1. Forgetting the instruction
Basic meditation instruction is that when we realize we’ve been highjacked by runaway mind, we gently return awareness back to the present moment. I usually do this by coming back to sensations of breath or body first; you may have your own way to come back. But the instruction is always, When you’re lost, come back. When we’re lost in thoughts about a situation that seems very serious, puzzling, and complex, the answer is, Come back. When the mind is running after thoughts that are delicious and seductive, and we don't want to come back, the answer is Come back anyway
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. -Dr. Seuss

2. Too much laxity or too much elation
Not only is the answer always Come back—it’s Come back without making a big deal out of thoughts, our practice, our life (too much elation). But make no mistake: the coming back is firm and definite; we do not wallow in runaway mind (too much laxity). Nor do we get too lax about what we consider a meditation practice—rationalize that the 30 minutes we were passively quiet while watching TV is equivalent to the 30 minutes we were actively silent while watching our mind. When we practice without making too big or too little a deal out of practicing, we cultivate the ability to see things as they actually are. And there’s so much to see.

You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut. -Dr. Seuss
What Deb saw after retreat, fall 2013
3. Laziness
Keeping our lives so jam packed and then convincing ourselves that we can't possibly let anything go is the 3rd obstacle to meditation. It's not a stretch to understand that if we keep our lives extremely busy that our minds will be that way too. While we certainly get applause for doing-doing-doing, it is through the discipline of simply beinging that we bring a different energy to our efforts. Maybe when we care enough to honor the space and time that it takes to practice stillness and peace within ourselves, we can create a world that is still and peaceful too.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. -Dr Seuss
The flower Daniel sees on his way to/from work: Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan
Thank you for caring, Daniel

The Journey, by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do, 
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations, 
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen 
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do 
the only thing you could do
determined to save 
the only life you could save.