I've been enjoying reading A Path with Heart - A guide through the perils and promises of spiritual life. It's written by meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, and in layman's language the book discusses the journey of the spiritual seeker through the practice of meditation. This wonderful book, which I highly recommend, has prompted me to share some of my personal journey with meditation thus far. Perhaps by shining a little light on my story it may help to illuminate yours?
It may come as a surprise to you that I am a novice meditator. Although I have been practicing yoga for years until recently it has largely been about asana practice. All those down facing dogs and pigeons and cats and locusts and crocodiles and... have eventually led me to want to experience more of this yoga caper. In the past I have fiercely resisted meditation. I have endured it when instructed to do so, but loathed every moment of it. My experience has been somewhere along the lines of, "You want me to sit still and feel every cell of my being screaming RUN, run as fast as your little legs will carry you? And willingly do it again and again? And believe this torture to be a worthy endeavour? I'd rather stab myself in the eye with a fork!" I remember being on a retreat and someone describing their meditation practice as going to their happy place. I looked at them incredulously and thought, "What's wrong with me?"
So what's changed? Has something in me awakened? Is meditation an inevitable step on the yoga path? Have all those barking doggies trained me to sit still? I don't have the answers - but over the past couple of years with patience, a double cream dollop of persistence, and the guidance of a teacher that I trust implicitly, I find myself able to sit. Miraculously, I am ready. The shrieking banshee no longer deafens me, my energetic body has settled, and I can sit with minimal physical discomfort. But don't be fooled, it hasn't suddenly become easy, and I haven't joined the I go to my happy place yogis. The fear is just now bearable. A little space and a little distance has opened and part of me can simply observe the ever changing life within. There is some room to breathe, room to feel, room to witness, room to accept and forgive, and room to love.
For some meditation comes right at the start of the spiritual path. They take to it with conviction and dedication. They lap it up! There is no right or wrong way to walk the spiritual path, but with consistent, intelligent effort the transformation can happen, whatever your chosen mode of transport. The layers of understanding open and bloom as they are ready. Jack Kornfield puts it like this:
"Our body, heart, and spirit know how to give birth,
to open naturally, like the petals of a flower.
We need not tear at the petals or force the flower.
We must simply stay planted and present."
I encourage you to keep walking along the path. Your path. Whatever the vehicle. Keep planting the seeds, adding the fertilizer, watering and weeding. Stop and rest when you need to, as often as you need to. We all share a deep desire to evolve into our very own unique, best at show flower. Recognise it, honour it and watch out for any impatient tearing at the petals. What shape, colour and form might your best in show flower take? Well, that is not for us to know, but with faith, tenderness, and love, into it we will surely grow. And finally I offer another excerpt from A Path with Heart where the author quotes his first teacher, Achaan Chah, who is describing the commitment to regular practice:
"Just go into the room and put one chair in the centre.
Take the one seat in the centre of the room, open all the doors and windows,
and see who comes to visit.
You will witness all kind of scenes and actors, all kinds of temptations and stories,
Your only job is to stay in your seat.
You see it all arise and pass, and out of this, wisdom and compassion will come."
© Claire Heywood, September 2013