India. Sarnath. Somwhere close by the Buddha gave 2600 years ago his very first talk. For some people a place of pilgrimage and contemplation.
Walking meditation - the ground is shaking, the windows rattle. Just over the fence an Indian wedding takes place. The noise makes the thinking mind spin.
Aversion creeps in: How on earth am I supposed to concentrate in midst of this overwhelming attack on my sense doors? It is day nine, and I am still not in deep meditative absorption. This is what I am here for, meditation, right?
And finally: Why on earth am I doing this?
Ideally we observe the mind on his rant and take a next step. And a next step. We trust in our practice rather then in the multitude of stories, fantasies and commentaries. We watch the broad range of moods and mind states that continuously enter the stage, make their appearance and finally take a leave. At some time the mere repetition might allow for more equanimity.
And still, this question that is borne from frustration is worth exploring: Why am I meditating?
What would your spontaneous answer be? Not one from the books or a quotation from some teacher you heard – why are YOU meditating? What is it, that you want to gain through practice?
Why not doing pottery instead, having a cappuccino with a friend or roam the cities at night? Why sitting on a cushion and bear physical and mental discomfort?
This question might be worth exploring – especially in times when life gets rough and we have to bundle up and channel every ounce of energy we have left to carry us through. And it is hard to imagine that something vague can carry you through the booming sound of an Indian wedding!
There is nothing embarrassing about asking this seemingly basic question every once in a while. It has the power to peel off all pretense from our practice. It will bring into the open any wish to be someone or become something and with it all the pressure and desire, which might silently govern our practice.
Beyond all ideas who we could be or should be – is there a heart’s wish? A sincere longing, a search that accompanies you now for quite some time?
Something that makes people go to India or other places, without hot showers, the comfort of a cup of coffee in the morning or friends to have one’s back. Something that makes every discomfort and inner upheaval worthwhile.
It is not touchable with the intellect, the reasoning of the mind. It is rather a quiver of the heart, a resonance with a longing for the depths of ease, peace and freedom.
Sometimes this depth is almost palpable, close at hand. Precious moments in which our wish, our longing is confirmed once more. Energy wells up, we are remembered, we are mindful of the path.
Now that we are remembered, we turn around and ask: what is it actually, that keeps me from diving into this peace, this ease, this freedom? What is it, that I can not see, do not understand?
And here, meditation unfolds its potential. Meditation, when practice wisely, settles heart and mind, it soothes the high waves that built up insight. It calms the stormy lake and transforms its surface into a translucent mirror.
Practice on and of the cushion has not the goal to bring us into deep meditative states, as nourishing and beautiful as they can be.
We practice to settle the mind in order for clarity and wisdom to arise.
We practice to safeguard the mind from getting lost in the shove and pull of the dance at our sense doors.
We practice to be able to watch the workings of the mind with precision and to get to know them like the back of our hand.
We practice to know freedom from and freedom to be.
Let’s not settle for less.
Let’s not make meditation another form of becoming someone or somebody.
Let’s remember the heart’s wish and align with it.