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Lions Roar : July 2014
When you first come to meditation, you may not like your- self very much. You may feel that you even hate yourself, or hate your world. But you continue to practice and relate with your world and yourself simultaneously, both in meditation and in everyday life situations. Doing so properly, thoroughly, and com- pletely, some kind of warmth begins to develop. You find that the phenomenal world is workable after all. It may not be lovable yet, but at least it’s workable, manageable. And you realize that maybe you too are workable and manageable. So the practice of meditation is composed of these three el- ements: working with yourself, working with the phenomenal world, and working with the warmth that develops. You begin to take a liking to your frustration, pain, and boredom. everything is part of your world. The practice of meditation is the only way to develop this basic trust in yourself and your world. Beyond that, meditation is the key to developing openness and the potential of enlightenment. Without this practice as the basis, you may be sidetracked by all kinds of entertaining processes. Those sidetracks may feel quite good for a few months. You can do all kinds of exotic, seemingly fantastic things. Still, when you are going through these experi- ences, your vessel has a hole in it, somewhere or other. Some- where, you are still leaking. You are not able to hold things within yourself properly. Your fascination, your sense of impatience, and trying to make the best of things in the world by entertain- ing yourself is the heart of what I call spiritual materialism. That approach is always a problem, not only in the modern world but also throughout history. It existed in the past, going back 2,600 years to the time of the Buddha. Spiritual material- ism, the desire to turn spirituality into something you can pos- sess and the tendency to see spirituality as a thing outside of yourself, is always there to be dealt with. With the mentality of spiritual materialism, when you feel that everything in your life is a mess, you try to find someone to blame. We might blame the president of the country, the head of the po- lice force, or our own boss. But you are missing the point. You ignore the leak in your own vessel, the leak within yourself. Nobody regards his or her own vessel as inefficient. We miss the point: that actually our vessel is leaking; our pot is leaking. Meditation, especially at the beginning, exaggerates the leaks that are taking place. You keep pouring all kinds of goodies, all kinds of interesting experiences, into your vessel, but it never fills up. finally, through the practice of medi- tation, you realize that there is a leak. It’s not all that magical. The leakage is distrust. You realize that you are rejecting your basic sanity, and that we think that this basic sanity is something you have to purchase from somebody else and then transplant it into yourself. The real weakness is thinking that you are not good enough, and that there is some outside security that you have to find. That you have to become like someone else. That somebody else has the sanity and you are messed up. You think that you have to become like someone else, rather than becoming yourself. When you real- ize that this is what you have been doing, then your life becomes real and workable—because it has been workable all along. In summary, meditation is a means of working with oneself and the phenomenal world. Working with those two together produces sparks of warmth and trust. A sense of workability be- gins to develop throughout your life. ♦ ©NeLSoN-ATkINSMuSeuMofART,kANSASCITY,MISSouRI.PuRChASe:WILLIAMRoCkhILLNeLSoNTRuST,34-6 Luohan (detail), Chinese, from Yixian, Hebei Province, 11th–13th century, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.