The other day I pulled a tarot card that said I may think I know more than I do right now. I flashed on how I bristle whenever one of the teachers at the meditation center begins a sentence with, “Those of us who have been sitting for a long time know . . .” I feel dismissed, as though all my years of paying attention mean nothing. And I feel excluded. I am not part of the secret club of seasoned meditators. But I know I am only beginning to wrestle with what may be possible through regular sitting practice. And even though I balk at things I am not ready to give up, even though doubt whispers in my ear, even though it seems almost impossible to imagine getting from where I am to where it seems people have gone, there is this underground current, this subtle sense that maybe sitting practice really does lead where people are saying it goes. Maybe I really do think I know more than I do right now. Maybe I need to stop thinking that, find a way to accept I am a beginner here. Maybe that’s the only way to move forward on this long, mysterious path. And maybe one day years from now I will be saying the same thing that so irks me today, like fingernails against the chalk board. “Those of us who have been sitting for a long time know . . .” But still, if I last all those years practicing, I hope I’ll find a kinder way to word it. Or maybe I won’t say it at all. Maybe I’ll remember we’re still the same regardless of where we are on the path, each part of this odd collection of human beings with all our messy imperfections who are willing, again and again, to just show up.
[Editor’s note: the post that follows this one is my apology for the tone of this one. ;-) ]
I feel the way you do about this sort of thing, Riba. Acquiring insight to life comes to us in all sorts of ways — attention to the natural world, a love of animals, noticing other people, writing, meditation… and I feel frustration sometimes with people who point to their longevity to a particular way of seeing as though it’s somehow a more genuine path. Love that last sentence.
I have just been writing about how bad I feel about this post, Bart! I think I will need to post a follow-up. But your note makes me feel a little better, too. Thank you!
The thing is, I have the feeling maintaining a sitting practice over time–or some other “formal” practice—might MAKE a significant difference (depending on the nature of one’s practice). So, I think I have not sorted it out yet. Because I do believe being present and living a contemplative life can carry us a long way. But I am wondering now if a steady meditative practice or mindfulness practice might not be the most thorough and effective route. ;-)
Hey! You are in Paris commenting on my blog! How especially kind of you. :)
I am thinking of you and your adventures.
I don’t meditate but I believe it can do powerful things. I had a wonderful therapist who believed that these self-created (and tension-inducing) mental dialogues are a coping mechanism that arises from not being heard during our formative years. The explaining-justifying-“winning” of these dialogues you write about is a result of a person who wasn’t accepted for what they were, and so to compensate they explain themselves, over and over again. I do this, too, Riba. When I become conscious of it I try to remind myself that it isn’t a failing — it’s a way of coping — and framing it in that way makes it easier to forgive myself for it. I hope this makes sense…
Yes, it all makes sense, Bart! I think we all do this in one form or another, though we each no doubt have our own “favorite” loops we return to. And I like your way of accepting this, too—I am working to turn that same kind acceptance toward myself, too (and trusting that as I succeed there it will naturally be turned toward others, as well!).
What you say here reminds me of my process recently in discovering blocks or pain in my body, too. I have made a point of trying to honor them, acknowledging they have been serving a purpose, have been in their own ways working to protect me. :)
I think one of the sweet things about the Vipassana practice I am doing is the emphasis on cultivating deep kindness in our efforts of self-discovery. I love that.
Oh, and by the way, Bart, I have no doubt in the world you can do powerful things!
You go. :)
I’m a terrible meditater, Riba. But what you’re saying, about finding some sort of path towards self-acceptance, maybe even self-kindness — this is something worth taking one’s time with (which…. ; > ). imo. One phrase that helps me, both w my own foibles and those of others is, “well, I/they must have come by it naturally enough.” That is, most of us had plenty on our platters that led us to develop our special styles of defensiveness, self protection and small-mindedness. Speaking for myself. And meaning to cut slack to others, when I’m able. I guess this sounds judgemental too, so I better cut myself some slack here. : ) p.s. like Bart, I did not detect any criticism or “neg vibe” in what you’d written. I think it’s great you can use this for your own writing and inner workings.
I don’t think anyone becomes a “good” meditator, Laurie, except over time. But as far as I can tell, the point is to ultimately become more and more able to be present and aware. (There is talk of eventually being “mindful” always! Hard to imagine!) My sense is that a formal meditation practice of some sort can speed up that process and help us to see ourselves (and others) more clearly, encouraging compassion, as well. I think your “method” for accepting others is charming. :)
And thank you, too, for letting me know you didn’t get a “negative vibe” from my post. I wrote about this in the comments for the next one at more length, but it has been a weird and interesting (and humbling) experience for me. I am hoping to not have to repeat this particular one anytime soon! Hee hee hee. :)