A post about Kirby Moore’s personal reflections on his attempts at meditating and how the process is shifting.
In speaking with one of my heart teachers recently, it is clear that my awareness and sensitivity regarding meditation sessions have shifted. This concept is reinforced by my weekly conversations with the I Ching, which, when I work with a quality interpretation of the “Book of Changes” (I Ching), reveals humorous, informative and occasionally poetic observations.
So what has changed? Or maybe a better question is what has not changed? Heh.
First, in my conversation with Julie Henderson (Ph.D, founder of Zapchen Somatics, a recognized Khandroma – meaning a woman teacher of Tibetan Buddhism or in her case, the word Yogini seems to be a better fit), I was reminded that of course my relationship with meditation is changing. That is normal and the way of things. If it was not changing, that might be a problem!
Julie pointed out that most people need years [anywhere from 3 to 20] of initial sitting – we gotta get our butts on the cushion! But then we internalize some form of the practice and we start to progress along the path. At first, we carry all our neuroses with us to our meditation sessions, but eventually, we can truly rest the mind when we sit. This next sentence is a bit of a joke: It’s really quite simple – we are moving toward resting the mind in a light, easy natural state; simply relax the mind. Ah, if it was only that easy.
Okay, so what is changing? In the past, I had a tendency to push. I wanted to force my way to enlightenment – push my way through any and all obstacles I encountered! No prisoners… Ugh! Well that has given way to being consciously gentle and kind, on a moment-to-moment basis.
As Julie says, and please keep in mind this takes years of practice, “first, free your breath [using techniques I and others have taught you], next return to alignment [this would be emotional, physical and motivational alignment – again using techniques from Zapchen, Dharma and other modalities] and then soften your eyes [this last suggestion is the hardest by far in our Western culture, and it also takes years of letting go to arrive at a point where we can notice (energetic) eye strain].” It really does not get any more difficult than this. Of course, there are practices which I have agreed to practice, but other than those, there is no longer any need to push, no need to force anything, and especially no need to insist on my way being right. Doh!
So what else is changing? Well I am no longer able to sit for such long periods of time. Actually, I suspect I have never been able to sit for long periods while resting in easy alignment. But that is another change – recognizing easy alignment, recognizing messages from my body/mind and honoring what I hear. What do I do if I’m not able to sit for long periods? Well for one, I can do shorter sessions and more of them if I like. So instead of trying to rock out hundreds of prostrations at a time (which the I Ching continually tells me causes me to get “tangled” and “exhausted”), I can do a dozen or more, over several sessions in a day.
Let me unpack a few of these concepts – what is resting in easy alignment? I define this as being aware of our needs – on physical, mental, emotional and psycho-spiritual levels. If we need to rest, as in lie down, there is no point in our trying to push through a half-hour meditation session. That is definitely not easy alignment – if our neck, or shoulders, or head, or jaw (or something else) starts to contract and tighten up, then listen to what your body is communicating! Rest down or deal with the emotional component of the body’s request if need be. And in case you are unaware, prostrations are a form of bowing, which in Tibetan Buddhism is one of the preliminary practices, and they are associated with going for refuge (in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha or enlightened community).
Julie mentioned that some of her advanced students sit for only three to four minutes per hour. Huh? When I heard this, my mind was unable to process the information at first. That did not seem to compute. But now, upon reflection, it makes complete sense. (Oh – I also realized I am definitely not one of her advanced students!!!) If we dedicate our lives to being more kind and compassionate towards ourselves (because this is how we translate these vital traits onto others), then our practice should soften and refine itself in response.
So my life is changing as a result. Instead of pushing to do an hour plus practice each morning, I do a little, check in, maybe eat breakfast, then do a little more, then go about my day. If I need to rest, I do that first and foremost! Imagine that, liberation upon napping… In the afternoon and evening, if I have the energy to do more practice, then I do a little more. I try to constantly check to see if / where I am contracting and what that might mean. Softening, sensitizing, mindfulness is becoming easier. Good good.
But I still have much work to do. The I Ching pokes fun at me from time to time, saying things like, “your response to stagnation is shameful,” or “you are surrounded by abundance, that would be the abundance of obscuration [delusion].” Ouch! But the truth hurts, and as one of the characteristics of enlightenment is clarity, and one aspect of clarity is a willingness to know the truth (no matter what we discover!), then I am slowly and painstakingly making progress. I’d rather know how I can improve than to wallow in my normal affliction-filled patterns. 🙂