— HawaH (Read his article.)
Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a restful break. This year, rather than making resolutions, I have been letting them go. About eight years ago, I made the resolution to do sitting meditation every single morning. And until recently, I have kept that resolution, rising from bed very early, even in the darkest, coldest mornings, sitting through illnesses, sitting in hotel rooms, on planes, and even while in doctors’ waiting rooms. But last month, something shifted.
One morning, while traveling abroad with my husband, my alarm went off, and I prepared to get up and sit. And I had a moment of noticing that if I got up, I would be severing something very precious with my husband, and myself. We had recently been feeling very close and enjoying a deeper intimacy and connection with each other. So when my meditation alarm went off, I realized that I had to choose between staying cuddled with my beloved and getting up and sitting alone in a chair. And I decided to stay cuddled.
During much of December, I stayed in bed with my beloved in the mornings, each of us feeling a sense of love and care for each other that we hadn’t experienced before. And questions kept coming up in my mind: What does it mean to practice mindfulness? What is the practice, and why do we do it? Is it sitting up and following the breath, or is it loving others in the deepest way we know how? When do we let go of the form of the practice in order to stay with the formless practice of love?
The Buddha said that his teachings were like a raft that leads us from the shore of suffering to the shore of non-suffering. And he asked his disciples whether someone, after reaching the other shore, should carry the raft with them on their shoulders. Clearly, they answered, a practitioner should not carry the raft on her shoulders once she has reached the other shore. In the same way, there are times when our discipline is important and we need to cling to the raft and the practice, coming to yoga class, and having a strong home practice. And there are other times when we have reached a further shore and we need to set the raft down and enjoy the new landscape by loving and playing and enjoying this precious life to its fullest.
In my case, spending quality loving time with my husband was the most important thing in that moment. And what got me to that moment were all of the mornings when I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed to sit. Those daily sits were what allowed me to see my husband and our relationship more clearly, and helped me wake up to the love that we shared. Without those mornings, I might not have gotten to this point. But once I was there, I could let go of my attachment to my morning sitting practice in order to fully engage in love.
It’s not easy to know when to hang on to the raft and when to set it down. And very often we need to pick it back up to reach yet another further shore of non-suffering. Even though I have really enjoyed the connection with my husband, I can see other parts of my life which need more meditation and mindfulness practice. So I have started sitting again, sometimes in the morning, but also finding other times that work when I don’t have to separate myself so dramatically from my loved ones.
As one of my favorite meditation teachers, Jack Kornfield, says:
There are many ways up the mountain, but each of us must choose a practice that feels true to his own heart. It is not necessary for you to evaluate the practices chosen by others. Remember, the practices themselves are only vehicles for you to develop awareness, lovingkindness, and compassion on the path toward freedom, a true freedom, a true freedom of spirit.
May all of your 2012 resolutions serve your ultimate purpose of developing awareness, lovingkindness, and compassion on the path toward freedom.
with much love,