Meditation & The Open Way
Monday, January 5th, 2015
New Year is a great time to start a daily sitting meditation practice. Before we begin, it’s important to question what the practical application of such a practice is: can it actually bring about the enlightened state at the kitchen sink level and on the street, to bring sanity to ourselves and this world? There’s a Tibetan proverb that says there’s no point grabbing at the tongue before the head has been cooked properly; until we can sit down and master our own state of mind its hopeless to try anything else.
Often we are in too much of a hurry to settle down and cultivate the right mind, from which skilful actions spring. Meditation is hard because we have to face the chaos and whirling Dervish of our mind, always roaming and cirlcing, like a bird of prey looking for some tasty morsel to feed on. Naturally, it feeds on what we give it, which generally is the chewed-up rubbish of our past thoughts and emotions which never seem to abate. In the scriptures the confused mind is often referred to as a monkey, locked in a house with five windows, representing the five sense perceptions.
The monkey tries to escape his prison by rushing here and there, banging on the walls and shaking the iron bars, fighting harder and harder, but to no avail. After a great deal of struggle, he eventually wears himself out and begins to see the possibility of a more spacious way to be. He discovers that he has been creating his own problem all along and starts to make friends with himself. There is a sense of openness and restfulness and the monkey settles down and sees that his prison has been entirely of his own creation. The solidity of the walls dissolves and he finds himself back in the jungle, relaxed in his natural habitat, and he discovers it is a friendly world rather than a hostile one.
Meditation is known as the net of disciple, which catches the monkey, not through violence, but through hospitality. So sitting and breathing is the basis; it is the ultimate practice of non-violence. Inhaling and expanding; exhaling and dissolving. When thoughts arise we just let them be; they are like dry wood abandoned in the jungle. Grasshopper thoughts, jumping here and there, hovering thoughts, overlapping or dialectic thoughts, positive or negative thoughts, just leave them as they are. If you try to suppress them you just end up feeding them with your own rejection. When you push them away they begin to fight back which creates perpetuation. Return to the breath, the posture and the present moment and allow for some space in which things can be as they are, and you can be as you are. It takes time for our state of mind to unravel, so take your time. Start with ten minutes a day in the morning on waking, and build slowly. Eventually, after much loving practice, our thoughts become like thieves entering a deserted house, and finding nothing to steal, leave empty-handed.
Naturally, in time, our sitting practice becomes walking meditation and extends to meditation-in-action, through the development of mindfulness. Relating precisely and unhurriedly to the details of the present moment empowers us to live full and purposeful lives, without falling into the tired old neurotic traps of fear, doubt and confusion. This is the open path of meditation: how to make friends with ourselves and properly communicate with the state of mind of others.
Opening ourselves completely means that we can enjoy the workability and spaciousness of our present life situation. Everything can be felt through and experienced thoroughly, expressed and liberated; there is enough time and patience to do so. Thus cultivating our sitting practice we can learn how to deal with the inevitable thorns and challenges that are thrown up along the roadside. We begin to see life’s mishaps as part of the workshop. Developing efficiency with overcoming obstacles becomes part of the transformative process, and in turn, our state of mind and heart can reflect the warmth, compassion and inspiration that our sitting practice ignites. We can then begin to cultivate skilful means through which this awakened warmth and energy can expand and be transmitted into the natural environment of our everyday world.