Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"It's REALLY dark in here!"

My 2 ½ year old son will play this game.  He suddenly closes his eyes, really squeezing them shut, then says “It’s REALLY dark in here!”

According to the shastras, the ancient texts, we are doing the same thing.  Except all the time.  The shastras tell us that, as humans, we are blessed with the ability to stop fumbling around in the dark and awaken to our true nature.  But it ain’t easy. 

Lofty stuff, right?  No, I’m not going to be ultra cool and claim that I know the answers and have attained Self Realization.  But I know that doing nothing means a whole lot more time with eyes closed.

First we have to realize that we are closing our eyes ourselves.  Sounds easy.  But our minds have created such complex and very convincing delusions and circuitous back up systems to keep our eyes shut that it is tremendously difficult to make any progress.  Very easy to sit in one place and think “I’m not the body, I’m not the mind, I am Spirit.”  Try to keep that same thought when you get up and try to stand on a foot that is asleep.  Or when you get a paper cut.  Or at the DMV.  Or are stuck in traffic after finishing that Big Gulp. 

Swami Vivekananda says, in Raja Yoga (get The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda Vol. 1 for free from Google Books [unpaid/unsolicited product endorsement]) that “Until you know what the mind is doing, you cannot control it.”  He says “The first lesson, then, is to sit for some time and let the mind run on…you will find that each day the mind’s vagaries are becoming less and less violent, that each day it is becoming a little calmer…but we must patiently practice every day.”

Sivananda and Vivekananda both compare the mind to a monkey (Vivekananda adds that the monkey is drunk on wine and has been stung by a scorpion):  if you try to forcefully control it, it will revolt, screaming, clawing, biting and kicking; but if you give it some space, it will eventually (eventually) settle down.

This is where we encounter problems. All too often, we try to force the mind to settle “I said OM now why aren’t you shutting up!!!!” And meditation seems easy.  Just sit.  Just breathe.  Not like asana where there is a more immediate warning (although, admit it, you ignore it sometimes.  So do I.).  If foot don’t go behind the head, foot’s not going behind the head. Force it all you want.  Pull one or more muscles.  But it’s not going there. I can easily identify current limitations and find out where I need to work.

 I took a course in formal zazen (zen meditation) at a Zen abbey.  Enjoyed the class, felt I learned a lot.  Showed up to an open zazen session.  Sure, I can sit still for an hour.  Bulls#$%  By the time they rang the bell to end the session I was about to scream.  Nice peaceful Zendo and I want to throw furniture through the window.  Just needed more practice, I thought.  Tried a good 5 times with the same result.  Left seated meditation all together for more than 10 years. 

My error was forcing the practice.  2 minutes everyday is what I needed, not 1 hour once a week.  Just like asana.  Day 1 isn’t full Galavasana from handstand.  It takes time to get there.

I lost 10 years of meditation practice.  In the grand scheme, I probably wasn’t prepared for it 10 years ago.  But maybe I would have been if I started as slowly and methodically as I approached asana practice. 

Do not be afraid to start small.  Take 2 minutes EVERY DAY.  You can find 2 minutes. 

I know you can.

Of course, knowing we are walking around with our eyes shut is one thing, learning to open them is another.  Someday I hope to be able to write about that.  It is getting lighter all the time.

“Come up oh Lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep!” ~Swami Vivekananda  

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but it's cool none the less. Molly and I demonstrating that culinarians can do yoga too!

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