Putting my right and left hands together as one,
Just bow to become one with Buddha and God.
Just bow to become one with everything I encounter.
Just bow to become one with all myriad things.
Just bow as life becomes life.
-Uchiyama Roshi’s death poem
There are many ways of interpreting, understanding, and categorizing peace. What might be helpful, however, is dropping all ideas about peace and looking for its actual reality. This means that we drop our philosophies and theories about peace and “just bow as life becomes life.” In other words, there is a kind of existence in which all of the aspects of being merge into awareness. This merger is not a state where there is no emotion, a state where there is no feeling, a state where there is no energy. Rather, this ability to experience moments where life and time are suspended and concentrated is what we are, what is.
Last month, I was asked to write a “beginner” article on meditation. Depending on your understanding of what constitutes meditation, you can either move through your life accepting all that arises or you can practice this in a more formal way. Practice and discipline are avenues of knowing what is essentially always there—peace. So, if we begin by accepting whatever arises—anxiety, grief, confusion, anger—then we can do this by just sitting and having breakfast. We can also do this—sit with whatever is arising—more formally. It does not make a difference. If you notice that you don’t want to sit formally, then see if you can challenge that preference. If you have no problem accepting your immediate interior and exterior experience, then do that as your “meditation.” However, if you feel you are suffering, then there is a need in your life for meditation.
A preliminary to meditation is embodiment—having a sense of being in your body. One way to accomplish this is by practicing a short relaxation exercise in which you feel the heaviness or tension at the top of your skull and begin to imagine it descending down—literally feeling it move into your face—sense your forehead, eyes, cheeks, and mouth—feel the tension moving out of your face and then down your neck, shoulders, spine, upper and lower belly, and, ultimately, into your feet. Once the heaviness and tension is in your feet, then imagine all of the tension moving through the soles of your feet and into the ground. Relaxation helps us to center and to feel that we are in the present moment.
The next steps are simple breathing exercises. Basically, you are looking to breathe naturally while dissolving any fixations in the out-breath. So you contact your breath—however you notice it and just be with it—don’t alter it, don’t force it to be other than it is, just bring your full attention to your breath, the life force that energizes your being.
Next, we attend to environment. You will need to disengage from any stimulation by finding a space without people, phones, television, books, and computer screens. Certainly, early morning is a good time to meditate—before the world, at least on your half of the continent—is moving about. You can sit on a chair, a couch, cushion, or even lie down (you’ll have to monitor sleepiness while lying down). You will need to sit/lie in a relatively still position for about 20 minutes, twice daily. This should not be torture. So, you can shift your position to become more comfortable, but you don’t want to start walking around. The point is that you wish to remain quiet, awake, and comfortable. It may also be important to schedule in some transition time from the sitting-proper to your more active involvement in your life.
The above are the prerequisites and now for what you do: you do what you do! Based on the intention and vision you have, that you wish to suffer less, you do not try to change anything. You are simply being with what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. If you’re following your breath, follow your breath. If you’re reciting a mantra, recite a mantra. If you’re daydreaming, daydream. There is nothing to do! So, maybe you are observing the process and maybe you’re not. Maybe five minutes have gone by and you don’t know where they went. If your eyes are open, if your eyes are shut—it makes no difference.
Coherence and peace are what penetrate the surface appearance of suffering, not because we are looking for anything, but because it coexists with suffering. Fulfillment, by definition, requires nothing more—all things arise in their space—and nothing needs to be different. When we know this, it constantly reinforces itself, but until we know this, we take our spot and sit with wakeful dignity—the rest shows up because it’s already there. As Krisnamurti was fond of saying, “Don’t just take my word for it, find out for yourself!”
© Copyright 2010 by Linda Jame, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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