Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I checked the calendar today and realized I have been sitting regularly for about six weeks now, which is really not that long. And yet, it feels like I've been at it for a long time when I consider its impact within my life. The process of entering a meditative state feels easier and seems to have gotten a bit faster, and I typically look forward to my daily practice with happiness and sometimes even excitement.

A while back, I wrote about some of the changes that often come with regular meditative practice. It's been very interesting to note some of those same shifts in myself, as well as ways in which a commitment to regular practice has increased my awareness and mindfulness in multiple areas of my life.

You see, I began practice in search of a panacea; something to settle my soul, ease my heart, answer all questions, and finally ground me in a profound sense of knowing. And, of course, it's not really like that at all.

My experience thus far has not been such that all unhappiness, uncertainty, insecurity, or bad habits have magically and immediately been erased—replaced with calm, peaceful, enlightened perception through which I may encounter the world and never be hurt, hurtful, or lost.

Silly to think there would be no work involved. Instead, my suspicions have been raised. Ah ha... I think. This is not THE ANSWER I was seeking. At least, not in the immediate sense.

And yet, it is an answer of sorts because it helps me define my questions and note areas of concern, disconnect, or damage much more quickly and honestly. The work and commitment seems to be as much an aspect of the practice and all that comes with it as what I had hoped would be my automatic and fruitful reward. Peacefulness. Awareness. Acceptance. Happiness.

One of the greatest changes I have noticed thus far has been increased awareness. This often translates to being less able to ignore certain things and more cognizant of the impact my thinking/speaking/doing have upon myself and others.

In other words, it's harder to bullshit myself. It's harder to run away from things in an effort to pretend they do not exist. It's harder to fake it. Harder to stay in one spot or be stuck. Harder to give up, not try, or half-ass it.

It's as if all the work I need to do to reach those longed-for emotional states and places of contentment got kicked up to a level of obviousness I simply cannot laugh off. And, wonderfully, at the same time, it's been coupled with increased reserves of patience, acceptance, and the ability to reset... which seem to be necessary for growth.

So... I am at this interesting point that reminds me of those months preceding an eventual decision to stop smoking. Have you been there? You still reach for the cigarettes, still crave them with a palpable ache, but when you light up and begin to suck it all in, it feels hollow. Maybe even distasteful. You feel sick. It stinks. Your body doesn't respond the way it used to. Something is missing. And there is this increasingly powerful nagging thought in the back of your mind, stomping its way expectantly to the forefront, that maybe you don't really enjoy it anymore. Maybe it's time to quit.

(Relationships can feel this way too; particularly those that are not "good" for you.)

This awareness - this mindfulness - seems to accompany active practice and becomes similarly demanding. Lately, these are my realizations requiring action because they are increasingly impossible to ignore:

  • I don't feel well when I yell or lose my temper.
  • I don't feel well when I eat red meat. Possibly all meat.
  • I don't feel well when I drink or do drugs.
  • I don't feel well when I speak ill of another person or say hurtful things; this is especially true if I have said things in the person's absence.
  • I feel a persistent emotional need to be acknowledged, and then feel embarrassed or shy or ego-heavy when I do get noticed.
  • Getting hurt, physically or emotionally, does not really last very long. The actual hurt is often sharp, but brief - like a bee sting. Yet, I seem to have some form of influence over how long the feeling of being hurt persists.
  • There is very little, if anything, so important from my past that it must be carried with me into the present. This is particularly true of regret, guilt, injuries, or harm.
  • I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. But a part of me still wishes to be. This is not helpful.
  • Patience and acceptance seem to assist in all situations. Every single one. Being something other than patient or accepting seems to produce some form of pain: sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness.
  • I smile more when my mind is quiet.

I don't know what path you walk, or where this finds you today, but I hope you find connection, assistance, or reassurance somewhere so that you may keep going, buoyed by an alert awareness of your multiplicity and capacity for change.

May your awareness of self be a source of light and hope. May you remain mindful of others in all you do.

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