Sunday, January 27, 2008

There’s no place like home —and you’re already there!

Now that I’ve constructed the metaphor of the mountain, I’m going to knock it down with one sweep of my hand — like a wave washing away a castle in the sand. Yes, the journey of meditation requires steady effort and application like a climb up a mountain. But that metaphor hides some important paradoxes:
  • The summit doesn’t exist in some faraway place outside you; it exists in the depths of your being — some traditions say in the heart — and awaits your discovery.
  • You can approach the summit in an instant; it doesn’t necessarily take years of practice. While meditating, for example, when your mind settles down and you experience a deep peace or tranquility, sense your interconnectedness with all beings, or feel an upsurge of peace or love, you’re tasting the sweet water of being right from the source inside you. And these moments inform and nourish you in ways you can’t possibly measure.
  • The mountain metaphor suggests a progressive, goal-oriented journey, whereas, in fact, the point of meditation is to set aside all goals and striving and just be. As the title of the bestseller by stress-reduction expert Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Or as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home” — and the truth is, like Dorothy, you’re always already there!
Of course, you’re not going to give up all your doing and striving instantaneously and just be, even when you meditate. That’s something you work up to slowly by practicing your meditation and gradually focusing and simplifying until you’re doing less and less while you meditate — and being more and more. The following are a few of the stages you may pass through on the path to just being:
  • Getting used to sitting still
  • Developing the ability to turn your attention inward
  • Struggling to focus your attention
  • Being distracted again and again
  • Becoming more focused
  • Feeling more relaxed as you meditate
  • Noticing fleeting moments when your mind settles down
  • Experiencing brief glimpses of stillness and peace
And here’s perhaps the greatest paradox of all: If you practice meditation diligently, you may eventually come to realize that you’ve never left home, even for an instant.

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