As we approach the start of a new year – a new decade! – it is not uncommon to hear people say that they want to start a meditation practice. Usually they say something like, “I need to relax and de-stress. I am too busy and meditation will help me calm down.”
Cue the bitter internal laugh.
Ok, that is a little harsh but there is always a piece of me that says “uh-oh” when I hear that kind of comment. Not because I don’t believe the person saying it. I do! I have no doubt that the person will benefit from a meditative practice designed to bring relaxation and focus into their life. We live in a world of distraction and anything we can do for ourselves to counter it is good. The thing is that meditation, and by this I mean sitting down, being completely silent and still and turning your attention inward, rarely results in a relaxed, calm state in the beginning. Often the first times (weeks, months, years, decades) that we meditate, what is shown to us is just how wild and unruly our mind has become. We sat down for relaxation and instead we found a rampaging keg party several decades in the making.
I mean that metaphorically, of course.
Often the next most common comment about meditation is, “I tried it but my mind is too busy.” People who say that perhaps don’t realise that their meditation was, in fact, a success – they noticed exactly what they needed to notice.
Eihei Dogen, the 13th Century Japanese master, talks about zazen or seated meditation as the gate of ease and joy. In my experience, finding that ease and joy is the work of a lifetime; dedicated, slow work requiring our utmost attention and patience like we have never been asked to have before. It is not what you call a big seller once people realise what they are in for. Over time, however, for those willing to hang in there, the mind can and does settle. By simply being still, silent and paying attention to the thoughts as they arise without being caught up in them, the environment that made that mental keg party so raucous will begin to shift.
Everything quiets down – and flares up – and quiets down. And so on, like that.
Millions of people have been “taking the backward step and turning the light around” for thousands of years. As my teacher is fond of saying, you are not so special that you can’t do this. (Jeez guy – ouch!)
As we move into this next decade that seems to be promising that it will be wild and unruly in ways that we can only barely imagine now, finding that place of stillness and silence feels ever more urgent. I would go so far to say that this work is vital. Further, it is the very opposite of being self-centred. I really hope that you will make your new year’s resolution to meditate. And then, please, hang in there. Maybe even find some others doing the same and sit together. It makes a difference!
If you live in the Bay of Islands area, please join me and others doing this very thing at Namaste Studio at the Veitch Medical Centre on Saturdays at noon, the Corner Brook Public Library on the first Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. or in Gillams every Tuesday at 8:15 p.m.
If you would like to work with me privately, you can book an appointment here.