Ever since I was a child I’ve had repeated dreams where I can fly. I literally just bend my legs and lean upward and I fly. At first there is a bit of an unsure feeling, but I quickly get the hang of it and delight in my ability to fly!
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend a day long retreat/teaching with the Dalai Lama. He spoke of meditation within our current frenzied cultural context as a source of peace, focus and something that engenders compassion. He also spoke about the endless chatter that we all have going on in our minds, whether or not we are aware of it. He said: “Who wouldn’t want a break from all that every now and then!”
The other night I had another dream that I was able to fly. As always I woke up feeling sad that it was a dream and that I really can’t fly. Yet, for some reason, this particular dream of flying began to get connected with my meditation. Meditation is a way to fly on this side of life; it’s a taste of the total freedom and total weightlessness that we will experience – both a psychological weightlessness and a physical weightlessness. When one meditates, the deeper we go, the more unaware of our body and mind we are and, in a sense, we begin to fly! Some even say we get more in contact and at one with everything that is around us – because, as physicists say, everything that exists is simply wave energy vibrating at a certain frequency. This creates matter. When we meditate I believe we are in touch with this Energy (capital intentional, i.e., God) at more fundamental levels and so we begin to experience a freedom from this particular body and a unity with all that exists, all Energy – and in this sense, we fly!
Jesus said “the kingdom is at hand,” it’s here! What a blessing and what a relief that we can begin to experience the kingdom right here and now. I believe I can fly!
I have so NOT been into my zazen sitting/meditation practice lately! The sweetness has disappeared and sometimes it takes everything for me to stay with the meditation and not bolt! I simply don’t want to do it! I’m not feeling anything. It doesn’t seem like I’m getting anything out of it.
It’s precisely during times like these when I should stay with it.
Developing any kind of disciplined practice is countercultural. We live in a culture which basically says: when ya stop feeling it – move on to something else. That’s why we live in a “throw away” society, where we see much brokenness in relationships.
Whether it is in my job, my writing, my meditation practice, my relationship/s, my music practice – it’s precisely when the going gets tough, boring or unfulfilling that I should stick with it. Just because I’m not “feeling” it doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening. Just become I’m not “feeling” it doesn’t mean I should stop my practice or acts of love toward another. Something magical actually happens when we stick with it.
In the book Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of St. Benedict Norman Fisher, a Zen priest, married man and co-abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center for five years says this: “After going through a time when you don’t enjoy your practice (add here job, relationship, exercise etc), you learn that the tough time is always where the reward comes in.” Somehow in the process of sticking with something or someone a greater depth, fulfillment and freedom is developed within us.
So, even though I don’t wanna, . . .can I keep trudging along and discover the reward that exists on the other side of boredom?
The silence of no thought
It speaks with increasing volume
Enticing me . . .
“Wanna figure it out?”
“Wanna live well?”
“Wanna die well?”
In this silence, the song rises in my heart again
And I am made new.
As I continue “Just Sitting” – my Zazen practice – I remain intrigued by what it’s doing, yet at the same time trying to be unattached from expectation that anything will come of it. This simple (and not so simple!) opening of the body, spirit and mind connects us directly to Source Energy, God, Spirit and when you think about it, that’s freak’n amazing!! I find myself more aware, looking to see what this silence will bring.
Most of the time I find it difficult not to think, and simply concentrate on my breathing. The mind, the ego will not easily shut up. It does NOT want to give up control! Yet, what a relief it is to stop the incessant chatter within! I can only imagine what this must do to the brain. I can’t help but believe that in the process of this silence of the mind, the brain is literally making new connections. I am convinced that in this silence I am more lined up with Source, and Divine will becomes my will. In this silence the ego is shut up and I somehow feel more directly connected to God – I let go of control. I get out of the way. Maybe that’s what “let go, and let God” means. Normally when I give up control, I find myself, at least apprehensive, if not downright fearful. Yet as a result of this silence I find myself looking forward in hopeful expectation to see what will unfold in my life – and that of the world (because it‘s not just about my life, but affecting the world). Instead of a problem to be solved, life is becoming a Mystery to be lived. I look forward to the journey!
The other day I was made aware of a movie called “Into Great Silence.” It is a documentary film directed by Phillip Groning which portrays the lives of the Carthusian Monks of the Grande Charteuse Monastery high in the French Alps. It’s known to be one of the most austere monasteries. I imagine that many people might be bored out of their minds by this movie, as it definitely takes one “into great silence,” as its title suggests. The movie is around two and a half hours long and most of it is silence. It simply shows the monks in their day to day lives – without offering commentary or explanation. These monks do not talk, except when they are in common prayer and once a week after a meal on Sundays. So it’s quiet! Disturbingly so! Yet, . . . Refreshingly so. Talk about counter-cultural!
After watching this movie I wondered how much we may all be seduced away from the silence by the incessant, and sometimes, unnoticeable noise all around us. I wonder if all the noise that surrounds us, or that we choose to be surrounded by – lulls us into a dull sense of living, and ultimately – in our society – a crisis of meaning.
When I enter into the silence, which is initially disturbing, I am lead to a greater sense of myself, a more peaceful place and, in the process, I become a more compassionate presence in the world. It is nothing short of hard work to stay with silence, but I am becoming more and more conscious of the tremendous difference it makes in my life and work. I feel as if I am slowly being seduced by it. In entering the silence I give up control to a Higher Power, which is initially disturbing. But now I am intrigued by it, curious and interested to see what happens. And something is happening. I don’t quite know what it is, but I know it’s good.
Today I was meditating, and, as often is the case, my mind gets going and I want to get up and start getting something done that I’m thinking about. Sometimes it is “work” just to sit there. Funny huh? “Work” just to sit there?
The White Robed Monks call this “Just Sitting,” a practice adopted from Zen, where one simply sits 15 minutes a day, concentrating on the breath and clearing the mind of all thought. When we do this our mind, our ego revolts. That little voice in our heads just doesn’t want to leave us alone.
What struck me this morning again is that when I want to heed that voice within, when I want to get up and start moving and stop this sitting – I am not trusting! In essence, when I break the meditation and start running, I am saying that I trust more in myself than I do in Divine Power. My experience, however, says that when I stay with this “work,” when I simply sit and make an empty space in my mind, I connect directly with Source Energy, God, the Spirit. Suddenly my work is given energy and much more is accomplished – and somehow – directly as a result of thinking no-thing, my thoughts are clarified and my life is given meaning and direction. It’s like I have suddenly been plugged in!
Can I trust enough to stay with the silent embrace and make a space in my life to connect with Source? Try it. And see what happens!
Can you relate to this?
Why is it that when I hit a stressful time in life, the very things – like meditation and exercise – that would help relieve stress, are the very first things to get bumped from the daily routine? It’s like something within me says, “there’s no time for this!” And so, I begin to shave these things from my daily routine. Then over time, I wonder why I am getting more stressed, having difficulty sleeping and focusing!
In reality, these are the most important things NOT to bump from the schedule in the midst of a difficult time. They are the very life-blood that keeps me grounded. Without them, all else begins to suffer – my work, my relationships, even my play time!
I lay awake last night, once again, feeling the pent up energy in my body and my restless spirit as my mind whirled. I have not exercised in a while. No wonder I am having difficulty sleeping. So much pent up energy! I have not really given myself to meditation in a while. No wonder I have difficulty focusing!
The irony is this: when I bump meditation and exercise from the schedule, it seems I don’t have enough time. When I take the time to meditate and exercise, it seems as if I have much more time on my hands, time even to play!
First things first. What are the REALLY important things that I need to maintain in order to live well, even in the midst of a stressful time?