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Lions Roar : March 2015
Doubt Another obstacle to watch out for is doubt: doubt about what you are doing and doubt about yourself. Without the encouragement of a teacher or community, it is easy to begin to doubt what you are doing. The people around you may be uninterested or even threatened by what you are doing. Furthermore, we are deeply enmeshed in a world where materialistic assumptions dominate, and it is not so easy to go against the momentum of that paradigm. Many of us also have the deep-rooted doubt as to whether we have the chops to succeed as meditators. We doubt our own nature—our own goodness and capacity to grow. On the other hand, a certain amount of discouragement is good, as our fantasies and unrealistic expectations begin to be exposed. It is actually an opportunity to let go of a lot of mental anguish and complexity and come back to a simpler, more unadorned rela- tionship with your practice, your world, and yourself. What lies beneath Meditation practice is a way of calming and steadying the mind, but it also brings insight, and it is not always so easy to deal with the insights that arise. Meditation is like a mirror that reflects yourself to yourself dis- passionately and accurately. The inner world it reflects turns out to be quite busy, with multitudes of thoughts, memories, emotions, moods, fantasies, and visions. Everyone you know lives there, and everything you have done lives there, including your loves, embar- rassments, regrets, losses, disillusionments, and betrayals. The good news is that this uncovering process tends to be a gradual one, going from more surface concerns down to more deep-rooted patterns. The challenge is that this process can bring up strong emotions. Always, the best response is to be gentle. As you get more expe- rience with practice, you may be able to slow down and see how emotions emerge quite subtly, but rapidly become full-grown and overwhelming. Catching the emotions as they first arise shifts the balance of power, so that you are less under their control. Shared loneliness You may feel lonely and isolated as a DIY practitioner but, in fact, practitioners within sanghas are lonely too. When you are practicing meditation, no matter how many teachings you have received or sangha compatriots you have, you are on your own. No one can practice for you. You have to do it yourself. This is as true for the longtime Buddhist as it is for the DIY beginner. You are the only one who knows what is going on in your own experience, the only one who knows your history from the inside out. Other people may have their ideas and opinions, but only you know when you are genuine and when you are phony, when you are just going through the motions and when you are really practicing. The challenge is to learn to trust this loneliness, to rest in it and acknowledge it in others. It is the ground for a more open and heartfelt connection to the people around you and for an enhanced appreciation of the natural world. You Have All You Need Dharma practice is not for a select few privileged ones. It is for anyone who is inspired to engage in a journey of self exploration. You don’t need special credentials to become a good dharma practitioner. As my teacher once said, all you need are three things: a restless body, a wandering mind, and out-of-control emotions. With those three you are well qualified. As a DIY practitioner, you are your own coach and encour- ager, and your own critic as well. Fortunately, you can also rely on the people around you and the situations of everyday life as a reality check as to how you are doing. You can bring every aspect of your everyday life onto the path of dharma. It’s like the basketball saying, “Nothing but net.” But in this case, it is “Nothing but dharma.” ♦ CANDLECOURTESYOFMICHELENERINO/WWW.WAXINGLYRICAL.CA SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2015 56