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Are We There Yet?
The Road to Awareness is Paved With Impatience.
Prior to leading my first corporate meditation seminar, I was filled with pleasant expectations. I had an opportunity to relieve stress, spiritually enhance a work environment and deepen awareness with simple practice. I was really ready. My syllabus included guided imagery, experiential contemplations and breathing exercises. Of course, I reserved time for questions and answers. That being said, does anyone know just how long an hour can be?
The conference room was filled with diverse and well mannered individuals who were open to having a positive experience. By the time we were 15 seconds into our first 2 minute sit, I knew I was in trouble. The discomfort in the room was clearly apparent. Furrowed brows, rutching, coughing, yawns and audible exhalations fused into a ambient message of pure irritation.
It dawned on me that I was expected to provide an experience of meaning. Uh-oh. That willingness to sit and move beyond discomfort wasn’t calculated into my planning. I had forgotten how difficult practice was in the beginning. I suffered through that hour feeling like an incompetent fool.
Hatha yoga, comprised of two of the eight limbs of Raja yoga, offers logic. Pranayama (regulated breath) and asana (postures) enable us to reap the benefits of feeling better through exercise and cardiopulmonary toning. There isn’t much to argue about when we can add up the pieces to simple benefits. Effort and reward are easily a cause and effect process.
However, regular practice tends to open a door that isn’t initially perceived. The chatter stills, and reverence slips into the clearing. Something quite real yet nebulous pervades. Like a baby who sees something shining, we look intensely for that elusive glow.
Suddenly, we are consciously seeking. We use words like relaxation and calm to describe our intentions. They fall short of our inner quest. That nameless drive that motivates us to sit in practice comes from a deep invitation. It’s as though physical yoga has enabled a sensitivity to a different reality.
It’s not really a belief; we’ve empirically found a truth that defies simple explanation. At the same time, we realize no need to explain that which simply exists.
Imagine sitting for an hour in zazen while contemplating:
While it is true that form is empty, emptiness is also form.
Now imagine having a conversation with someone who says, “I’m a man of science. Show me proof that meditation works.” Have you ever responded to that tossed gauntlet? There is no answer. The space between a belief and a wordless truth is sacred ground. Until a soul answers the invitation to practice, there is nothing to say. Oddly enough, after one has embraced the same invitation, there is no need to talk.
It’s very hard to sit in stillness. Thoughts are like broncos that whip us into restless mind. The body tires, and the muscles ache. Why would anyone enter this challenge? We can’t sell it as a means to enjoyment. We can’t give it to anyone. Yet we participate. We sit in our discomfort, we seek, and we are at a loss to disclose the experience.
After sampling my dreadful hour of Introduction to Meditation, 26 corporate professionals signed up for an ongoing meditation series. In disbelief and trepidation I wondered, “How could they possibly want more of this?”
When we choose awkward discomfort as a process of seeking, we leap from mundane assumptions and into a space of non-space. A koan comes to life when the tangible world is suspended and we listen for something beyond rational, measurable intentions. There is no “why”. There is only the possibility of connection. Beyond the maya of time and space, we are one. One without words, without ideas, without struggle.
I feel great affirmation within a single quote from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In good conscience Charlie explains that selling his gold ticket can bring 500 pounds. His grandfather shakes his head and says, “Oh Charlie, never sell magic for something as common as money!”
There is tremendous risk to our egos when we dare to suspend expectations. Magic can’t be proven, but it can be experienced. We can’t really sell or by it. We need to participate in practice, sitting in available self... Allowing logic to realize that it is simply a convention of the time/space agreement within temporal reality.
“Oh, yogi... Never trade awe for something as limiting as logic!”
in Yoga Living --
May 2006 issue