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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 56 that you “did it” or that you’ve “arrived.” You feel that you just relaxed enough to experience what’s always been within you. I sometimes call this transformative process “grace.” Because when we’re developing this courage, in which we allow the range of our emotions to occur, we can be struck with moments of insight. These insights could never have come from trying to figure out conceptually what’s wrong with us or what’s wrong with the world. These moments of insight come from the act of sitting in meditation, which takes courage—a courage that grows with time. Through this developing courage, we are often graced with a change in our worldview, if ever so slight. Meditation allows you to see something fresh that you’ve never seen before or to understand something new that you’ve never understood before. Sometimes we call these boons of meditation “bless- ings.” In meditation, you learn how to get out of your own way long enough for there to be room for your own wisdom to manifest, and this happens because you’re not repressing this wisdom any longer. When you develop the courage to experience your emo- tional distress at its most difficult level, and you’re just sit- ting there with it in meditation, you realize how much comfort and how much security you get from your mental world. Because at that point, when there’s a lot of emotion, you begin to really get in touch with the feeling, the under- lying energy, of your emotions. You begin to let go of the words, the stories, as best you can, and then you’re just sitting there. Then you realize, even if it seems unpleasant, that you feel compelled to keep reliving the memory, the story of your emotions—or that you want to dissociate. You may find that you often drift into fantasy about something pleasant. And the secret is that, actually, we don’t want to do any of this. Part of us wants so earnestly to wake up and open. The human spe- cies wants to feel more alive and awake to life. But also, the human species is not comfortable with the transient, shifting quality of the energy of reality. Simply put, a large part of us actually prefers the comfort of our mental fantasies and planning, and that’s actually why this practice is so difficult to do. Experiencing our emotional distress and nurturing all of these qualities—steadfastness, clear seeing, courage— really shakes up our habitual patterns. Meditation loosens up our conditioning; it’s loosening up the way we hold ourselves together, the way we perpetuate our suffering. Attention The fourth quality we develop in meditation is something I’ve been touching on all along, and that is the ability to become awake to our lives, to each and every moment, just as it is. This is the absolute essence of meditation. We develop attention to this very moment; we learn to just be here. And we have a lot of resistance to just being here! When I first started practicing, I thought I wasn’t good at it. It took me a while to realize that I had a lot of resistance to just being here now. Just being here—attention to this very moment—does not provide us with any kind of certainty or predictability. But when we learn how to relax into the present moment, we learn how to relax with the unknown. Life is never predictable. You can say, “Oh, I like the unpre- dictability,” but that’s usually true only up to a certain point, as long as the unpredictability is somewhat fun and adven- turous. I have a lot of relatives who are into things like bungee jumping and all kinds of terrifying things—all of my nephews, particularly, and nieces. Sometimes, thinking of their activi- ties, I experience extreme terror. But everybody, even my wild relatives, meets their edge. And sometimes the most adventurous of us meet our edge in the strangest places, like when we can’t get a good cup of coffee. We’re willing to jump off a bridge upside down, but we throw a tantrum when we can’t get a good cup of coffee. Strange that not being able to get a good cup of coffee could be the unknown, but somehow for some, maybe for you, it is that edge of stepping into that uncomfortable, uncertain space. So this place of meeting our edge, of accepting the present moment and the unknown, is a very powerful place for those who wish to awaken and open their heart and mind. The present moment is the generative fire of our meditation. It is what propels us toward transformation. In other words, the present moment is the fuel for your personal journey. Medi- tation helps you meet your edge; it’s where you actually come up against it and you start to lose it. Meeting the unknown of the moment allows you to live your life and to enter your relationships and commitments ever more fully. This is liv- ing wholeheartedly. Meditation is revolutionary, because it’s not a final resting place: you can always be more settled. This is why I continue to do this year after year. If I looked back and had no sense that any transformation had happened, if I didn’t recognize that I feel more settled and more flexible, it would be pretty dis- couraging. But there is that feeling. And there’s always another challenge, and that keeps us humble. Life knocks you off your pedestal. We can always work on meeting the unknown from a more settled and openhearted space. It happens for all of us. I too have moments where I am challenged in meeting the ➢ page 81 PHOTOBYLIZAMATTHEWS