This last week has been hard for me. I have been surprised at how hard it has been to sit during this time. It felt like I had never begun these contemplative practices at all. While meditating, I wanted to get up and move and do things. Thoughts and feelings and fear were so invasive.
There is a part of me that is tempted to write that meditation sucked this week. People who are wiser than me, people that have been at this longer than me, I think they would have pushed back at this idea claim.
I am just starting to grasp this concept: the success is in the practice of it. It’s not about what we get out of it. It’s not about what mind states we end up with. The theory is that If I am doing this to attain calmness, then I am missing something, cheating myself out of something. I haven’t, for the record, internalized this idea. I still have a desire for how my meditation will go. I have a sense that I am getting there, that I am slowly letting go of my desire and intent. But I am not there yet.
As the dust starts to settle from this challenging week, and I return to more calm in contemplation, I am starting to see something else.
As Shrek might say, there are all these layers. I don’t mean that there is a hierarchy, in the sense of of one thing being more important than the other… But the most intense meditation reaches me somewhere incredibly deep within. The thing is, even when I can not get there, important things are going on. Let me be a bit more specific.
Let’s call my very deepest place spirit. It’s the interface between me and God. A meditative practice is only ever going to reach my spirit by making it’s way through my soul. My soul is more identifiable with me. But for a meditative calm to get here, it must move through my mind, home to thoughts and feelings that seek to intrude. But to calm the mind, I must first calm my body.
This week, I didn’t get much deeper than calming my body. But as I did this, I have this sense that their are lessons that carry over. It was especially hard this week to resist the urge to scratch my itches, as I meditated. Once I began, I kept wanting to shift my weight and position. I was there, mostly in my body, trying for something deeper.
When I was able to work through these temporary desires, I built up some sort of discipline that would apply at the deeper levels. I had the experience of waiting out a desire, working through it and past it, witnessing that I wanted to do a thing, and just letting that desire exist with out satisfying it.
I suppose the big picture is that we take these lessons past the time we are sitting quietly and breathing. Because in my everyday life there are countless opportunities when it would be wise to resist instantly fulfilling my urges. There are dozens of times each day that I ought to simply observe my discomfort and accept the idea that a little bit of discomfort won’t kill me.
There is value in these bad weeks. But they still suck.