Last night, several of us had the opportunity to share in the experience of simple awareness. I can really feel—and maybe some of you all notice too—the group and the practice ‘settling in’. Although we have only been working together five or six weeks now, already there is a real sense of evening out.
Maybe initially, many of us felt some powerful response to these sittings: feelings of doubt, resistance, discomfort; or possibly, increased focus and clarity, a sense of opening up and letting go. These experiences may have felt intense, like they held some great significance and, in some way, defined the practice. Yet, there is not one of us who can say our practice has not developed: powerful discomfort dulled, feelings of deep relaxation normalized and preconceived ideas about mediation challenged.
When I first began my meditation practice, I remember having some incredible experiences of relaxation and presence. For the first time, I was able to calm the busy mind and break through the discomfort of tension and internal conflict. After a while however, I found myself experiencing these effects less and less.
Although I grew very frustrated with the practice and disillusioned, I kept at it. Looking back, I can see that my quality of life was dramatically improved: I drank and used drugs less, I wasn’t quite as harsh and cruel to the people I cared about and my performance at work and school improved somewhat. The suffering continued, however it did not affect me the way it once did; the really self-destructive forces in my life were gone.
At the time, none of this positive change was clear to me. I only knew I felt bad and meditation wasn’t doing what I wanted it to. However, I see now that this simple practice of sitting quietly has a profound effect on my life, whether or not I am aware of it.
So often, we have some idea of how meditation should be; how pain and fear should be transcended and deep focus cultivated. In the moment when we actually experience this, we think, “Yes! This is it. Now I have arrived.” But soon after, the busy mind and reactive nervous system return, and we imagine we have lost our way. However, around our efforts to achieve desired results, there is a quiet ‘settling in’ occurring, naturally and spontaneously.
As you continue to practice meditation, see if you can notice the changes occurring in your life. Some may be obvious and others subtle; some may seem significant and others minor; you may notice your senses heightened to both the painful and joyful aspects of life. See if you can recognize that while some elements of practice may be intentional, all experience occurs spontaneously.
Great to see so many of you last night. Looking forward to counting the exploration next week.