We sit together
The mountain and I
The mountain remains
I may have missed the exact words but this was the gist of a haiku shared by one of my meditation teachers many years ago in Bodhgaya.
There are many ways to interpret this but one way is to see it as a way of taking the ‘I ’ out of the meditation practice. Letting go of the self.
When we sit down to meditate our storyline often revolves ‘my’ grief, ‘my’ problems, ‘my’ stress, ‘my’ success, ‘my’ failure, ‘my’ relation ship, ‘my’ pain, ‘my’ suffering, how ‘I’ was done in by the world and so on.
These are probably the reasons we got here in the first place. A problem, a break up or a break down, loss, grief, undefined restlessness are all reasons we opt for meditation hoping to find answers or ways of coping. But ‘owning’ all these emotions can be a burden especially as we discover there are no pat answers in meditation. We continue to whirl with the “I” and wonder why we can’t get off the speeding roller coaster.
On the other hand as we explore meditation, the idea of going beyond the self, beyond the ‘permanent ‘, beyond the set- in- stone ‘truths’ society has drilled into us, can be equally destabilizing.
As we let go of things that we thought matter, we cling to old patterns hoping they will fit new realities. They don’t. It is important to try and stay centered and balanced. Easier said than done but ‘samta’ or equanimity is a necessary milestone in the meditation practice.
There is a technique you can try to break the clinging and the storms that arise.
All it does is create a gap between you and yourself.
You become an observer and when you observe without getting caught in the story you have a moment of respite.
A brief recognition that there is a quiet space somewhere inside you.
Instead of sitting on the cushion and saying, “My knee hurts, I hate it, my knee is getting damaged, I hate pain”, you merely note ,“There is pain”.
If you feel angry and resentful just note, “There is resentment.”
It is amazing how the intensity of the emotion dwindles when you get into observer mode. The minute it is not ‘your’ pain or your anger or your joy it is no longer intense.
Yes, it cuts the intensity of everything- happiness and joy as well as anger and pain and the roller coaster miraculously slows down.
It is difficult to be an observer but you as you practice you will see it unfold.
Even when there is pain or rage or hurt or delirious happiness you will find that there is a calm centre inside that stays untouched. As you practice even more the calm centre gets larger and the space for the emotional storm gets smaller.
Sometimes you may think your emotions seem more out of control, not because they are, but because you are so much more aware of their rising.
But they no longer fester or corrode or seduce or linger. At least not the way they used to.
It is non-judgmental observation and you don’t suppress anything as it comes up.
You don’t say “Oh there I go again, I am so bad tempered, I must stop, what a waste of meditation, I am such a failure,” and so on .
It is a clinical observation of the present state, whatever it is.
Practice it where you can and when you can. Not just on the meditation cushion.
Not only when you feel anger and pain arise.
Remember when we are stressed out old patterns and old habits resurface.
Practice before the storm so you are ready for the storm.
This piece is dedicated to the Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hahn, http://www.plumvillage.com . His books, ‘Old path White clouds’ and ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ are inspiring reading.