Wk9, Day2: Reflecting on Wk8

You may have noticed a difference in the blog posts the past week. I did, and it felt odd not to address it.

Examining last week in hindsight, I believe before falling fully off the wagon last weekend, I was in a slow-motion process of watching myself tipping it over in the days before. I sat in meditation each day and blogged each day, but both more as a duty or afterthought than showing up in presence. I was also spending iteratively more of the time between involved in old numbing habits (veggie smoothies replaced by sugary ‘treats;’ journalling and reading replaced by movies online.

Now, several days back into the practice, back out of the old numbing habits, a renewed sense of connection to practice and to writing is re-emerging. It’s miraculous to me how truly available presence always is. Just waiting to be noticed.

Wk9, Day1: Relationships among the Refuges

Over the past two months, I’ve found myself regularly re-amazed at the intersecting relationship between the three refuges of Buddhist psychology. As a reminder, the refuges are Buddha nature, the teachings, and community.

For me, Buddha nature means the sense of wholeness and connection that can arise when I am present in the moment. For teachings, I’ve turned to articles, books, and free dharma talks by my favorites: Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, and Tara Brach among them.

I’ve found community in several places. Online I’m part of a bi-weekly group of spiritual friends that meditates together, discusses our practice, and shares a reading each time we meet. Each week for two hours, I sit with a local meditation community. Each day, as I do my morning and evening sits, I login to Insight Timer, which connects me to other members meditating at the same time.

It’s a wonder the way each of the three refuges opens me back to the others. Take the first refuge. Say I reach a point in a sit or during the day’s walk in which I’m re-awakened to my essential nature. Part of that nature is a sense of connection with all other beings (third refuge). I then become inspired to learn more of others’ experiences (the teachings).

Similarly, reading an article or listening to a dharma talk (second refuge) reminds me of my Buddha nature (first refuge) and reconnects me to the sense of joining others on a similar path (third refuge).

One refuge inevitably leads into another or contains the others in some form. They’re powerfully self-reinforcing.

Wk8, Day7: Back on the Wagon

Wk8, Day7: Back on the Wagon

Well, I fell off the wagon this weekend. I missed two days of meditating and writing in the blog! Then, last night, I had a wonderful KM meeting (spiritual friends). Some of us had experienced difficulty with our practice in the two weeks since the last meeting. Some of us didn’t.

In the meeting, we reminded one another that all experiences are temporary—including the difficulties that can arise in practice and that can arise in relation to showing up to practice (holla).

Everyone shared their favorite ideas getting back on the wagon and staying there: listen to free dharma talks, read books and articles by our favorite teachers, change our posture (walking, stretching, lying down), chanting, pausing during our day.

What struck me was the attitude expressed to choose ways to practice that you enjoy and find skillful. The meeting ended and I was rejuvenated in my commitment to practicing.

I feel so grateful for this online community of support. Thanks, KM group!

Wk8, Day4: Practicing Still

After graduating college, I lived in Austin, Texas in the 1990s. With Marion Winik, Spike Gillespie was one of my favorite writers for The Austin Chronicle, the city’s alternative weekly. Spike was sharp, savvy, and quick witted—everything I wanted to be as a thinker, as a writer. I left Austin at the turn of the century to pursue a career in mental health, leaving the Chronicle and its writers behind.

Yesterday, an old friend commented on Spike’s final blog post. I hadn’t heard her name in over a decade, so I clicked the link. The title of the post on her blog, Meditation Kicks Ass? “Year three, week twenty-one.” Instant humility. The mind quickly appropriates: Who do I think I am writing a meditation blog? What matters about what meditation is teaching me? How can I ever compare to Spike?

The spiral continued through last night’s practice and into this morning. I continued to sit, mired in these thoughts, resenting the regurgitating mind and its cuds. Then a thought arose from Pema Chodron’s teachings. In practice, we build muscle for times like these. She adds this passage from Shantideva’s The Bottisatva’s Way of Life:

What I have to say has all been said before
And I am destitute of learning and of skill with words.
I, therefore, have no though that this might be of benefit to others
I wrote it only to sustain my understanding.

Me, too, Shantideva! Me, too.

And after that, I found Courtney E. Martin’s On Being article, “How the Sausage Gets Made.” In it, she reminds us that we only see one another’s products and therefore we confuse the often polished end with the usually muddled process. We omit the fact that life, people, our minds impose themselves upon our idealized process each day, yet no one sees that. And not being privy to others similar experiences, the mind convinces us there’s something wrong with us. We are somehow not capable, not worthy, and should stop all endeavors now.

Martin continues:

I say it anyway. I write anyway. I just cling to that little rope of faith that what I’m doing matters, in part because I’m doing it. I might be the source of all this imperfection, but I’m also the only me that there ever is, was, and will be. So there’s that.

That’s true of you, too. So please, please don’t let the fictional person doing whatever you’re trying to do in a much more orderly, bulletproof way stop you from making a go of it. You’re all we’ve got.

Along with my friend’s encouragement, that’s just what I needed today.

Wk8, Day3: Attachment to Results

I saw two separate posts today on Facebook reminding people about the importance of letting go of our desire for others to be different. Joel Osteen and Don Miguel Ruiz were named as the authors of quotes asking us to stop trying to change other people, and rather to accept them as they are.

As I enter the third month of this three-month period of extended sitting meditation, I’d like to add to their wisdom: stop trying to change yourself. I say it as much to anyone reading as I say it to myself.

After two months of the most dedicated practice I’ve done in my life, there have been many positive changes. This makes it quite tempting to fall into a pattern of expectation that the purpose of sitting is to yield positive changes. To become habitually searching for the next big shift in awareness, the next new insight, the next wave of relief from previously intolerable experiences.

Yet, using the practice like that is another form of attachment. As another form of attachment, such an approach to practice can become another source of suffering.

This balance, then, arises as an option. To return to the heart of mindfulness—observing what arises and falls with curiosity and interest. Including the desire for meditation to cure all.