No one comes to spirituality for shits-&-giggles. Our arrival on the spiritual path is precipitated by our own suffering. Often times this suffering is exaggerated, but sometimes it is not. Regardless of the extremity, the contrast we experience between our anxious-stressed out “9-to-5″ world, and the simplicity of the meditation cushion is an impressionable event.
Initially, the freshness and simplicity of the spiritual path sticks out like a sore, but welcomed, thumb in the hectic world of deadlines, bills, and soccer practice. But after a while, our practice looses it’s edge. Relaxation is no longer something to be found in the practice of meditation. Rather, the practice of meditation becomes just another “to-do” on our list. Instead of being the refuge it once was, meditation is transformed into just another burden. That is, something we think we should make time for, while simultaneously resenting and rebelling against the idea that it is an indispensable part of our lives.
Despite the fact that meditation has become just another chore we have to pencil in, when, in the midst of a stressful situation, we always seem to euphorically recall our cushion. When we find ourselves on the tail end of a heated argument with our spouse, pressed to meet a deadline, or anxiously navigating through rush-hour traffic it becomes apparent to us that we need to take some time to ourselves and relax. We recognize the need to relax, and we associate relaxation with those deep moments of tranquility we experienced during the honeymoon phase of our relationship with meditation. Our minds will always remember the breath of fresh air that our practice once was. Unfortunately, this fixed memory sets us up for failure and frustration, as our new medicinal outlook on meditation deflates the practice; transforming it into an antidote or something else that we must do, which only adds to our anxiety and irritation.
If there is one thing I have learned in my short life it is that life is simple. But this simplicity is contingent upon trusting myself, and trusting my self can be confusing.
In other words, the movement toward meditation is intelligent and appropriate, but we tend to translate this movement of intelligence using a dead language. Let’s say, for example, that you are at work. You have a bazillion things to get done. Then, your boss pops his head in to tell you, “Corporate called and they want those reports by the end of the day!” You spend the day climbing over yourself trying to finish a weeks worth the work in 8 hours. Then, in the midst of your breakdown, a fundamental feeling emerges. This gut feeling seems to be a movement toward simplicity. But, when translated through the medium of conceptualization, this intelligence is thought to be saying, “We need to stop what we are doing, find a quite place, and sit in the cross-legged posture with a single-pointed awareness of the breath.” This suppresses the voice of intelligence by converting the need for basic awareness or mindfulness into a specific activity that can only be accomplished once the deadline has been met, dinner has been cooked, and kids have been put to sleep. It places an immediate need on the back burner, thereby denying yourself the opportunity to wake-up. The movement of basic intelligence, even in the most uncomfortable examples, is always towards awakening—trust it!
This misunderstanding happens because ego-centric thought establishes or completes itself through relationship with some fixed reference point. You see, fundamental intelligence is always operable—basic sanity is the uncensored ground all of our discursive commentary seeks to decipher. It is thought that seeks to translate or decipher this raw information. The institution of thought tries to render the natural expression of intelligence into some discernible language. This is what it means to second guess yourself; to not trust your gut.
The gut is always on target, but we curiously twist it. Thought listens to that fundamental feeling and says, “Aw, yes. What you really want is such-&-such.” The only material thought has to work with is the repository of experiences stored away in the memory. In fact, thinking is the memory in motion. Dualistic thought reaches back into the past to discover a fixed memory associated with the idea being expressed by basic intelligence. Then, that little problem solver lodged in our skull projects this expired information into the future and calls it a “solution.” Basic intelligence says, “Stop. Breathe. Feel the earth.” The ego interrupts and says, “Oh, what you want is to sit on your cushion and meditate.” This interpretation makes meditation obsolete and inappropriate, as the circumstances do not permit such an activity right now. We are forced to ignore the basic need for simplicity, and carry on with our nervous breakdown. Or exert ourselves even more, in order to gain dominion over our circumstances, and forcibly implement our little solution.
We cannot sit cross-legged and watch our breath while we are driving the kids home from school. In reality, the experience itself—the fundamental feeling—is communicating an appropriate and immediate need. ‘Feel the earth beneath your feet. Feel the wind rushing through your car window. Feel your butt firmly resting in your chair. Feel, feel, feel! Get out of your head. Come back to your body. You are a human; remember that, right now!’
Meditation is now or never. Instead of immunizing your practice, let it breathe. Let it live. The practice is alive. Discover the freshness and precision of basic sanity within the context of your daily life. Don’t put it off until later. Later will never come. Later is a make-believe place. Don’t transform your practice into a stale and expired idea dependent upon circumstance. In formal practice, the breath is but a symbol of the present moment. Returning to the breath is an example of returning to reality or the present moment. Learn to trust yourself. Open your gaze and realize that everything is a symbol of reality. If you want to let your practice fly, set it free. Extract the essence, which is reality. Then, throughout the day look to discover that essence. This is the movement of intelligence. Eventually you will discover that basic intelligence and reality are of one-taste or one essence. It will become as clear as day that the true nature of mind is reality. Finally, the practice comes to an end, as the mind rests with reality since the two cannot be separated.