Meditation Makes Us Ready
Today, I'd like to share a quote from my first teacher, P'arang Geri Larkin. She is a wonderfully light and generous woman with an incredible sense of humor and a laugh for the ages. In her book, Stumbling Toward Enlightenment, she says:
I learned that the core tool of Buddhism is meditation, with its focus on the breath. We are taught to follow our breath, in and out, in and out, watching it leave us, watching it enter us. In the watching we are calmed, and are made ready for serious spiritual work. And while there are other tools—chanting, volunteering, prostrations (bowing to the floor)—it is meditation that forms the path we stumble on and the walking stick we can grasp when the going gets unbelievably rough. Meditation is what sneaks spiritual progress into our days, finally offering the taste of bliss that is at the bottom of our yearning.
We've covered the fact that you don't have to be Buddhist to meditate, so if you aren't Buddhist you can just set that word aside. The core point in this quote for me is the fact that meditation prepares us for what happens when we're not meditating. We sit there, and we focus on our breathing and we learn to silence our wild and noisy minds (or we become better and not judging our wild and noisy minds) but in that space that we create with our practice, we are learning. For a while in the beginning, we notice that often we want to be elsewhere while we sit. We feel restlessness, impatience, judgment, even fear. When we don't settle ourselves into a workable posture, we feel that our practice in that particular sitting is ruined. But at some point, we figure out that we can live through the experience. We figure out how to be with whatever there is. That knowing goes with us into our active, sometimes turbulent days.
There are so many milestones that we take great care to prepare for in our lives. We spend months, perhaps over a year to plan a wedding. We study for a year to prepare for standardized tests, certifications and entrance exams. We spend time figuring out what to wear and how to style our hair when we are attending an important event or occasion. Meditation offers us an opportunity to prepare for every other moment of our waking lives... for the moments when our hearts are touched with sadness, when our thoughts are charged with anger, when our mouths can't contain our joy. We sit so we can be there when it counts, so we can show up for life present and aware.