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Lions Roar : March 2014
we train in letting go, if we bring relaxation as well as faithful- ness to the technique into the equation; if we work with open eyes and with being awake and present, and if we train that way moment after moment in our life—what begins to happen is that the crack begins to get bigger. It’s as if we perceive more. We develop a wider and more tolerant perspective. It might just be that we notice that we’re sometimes awake and we’re sometimes asleep; or we notice that our mind goes off, and our mind comes back. We begin to notice—the first big discovery, of course—that we think so, so much. We begin to develop what’s called prajna, or “clear wisdom.” With this clear wisdom, we are likely to feel a growing sense of confidence that we can handle more, that we can even love more. Perhaps there are times when we are able to climb out of the box altogether. But believe me, if that happened too soon, we would freak out. Usually we’re not ready to perceive out of the box right away. But we move in that direction. We are becoming more and more relaxed with uncertainty, more and more relaxed with groundlessness, more and more relaxed with not having walls around us to keep us protected in a little box or cocoon. Enlightenment isn’t about going someplace else or attaining something that we don’t have right now. Enlightenment is when the blinders start to come off. We are uncovering the true state, or uncovering buddhanature. This is important because each day when you sit down, you can recognize that it’s a process of gradually uncovering something that’s already here. That’s why relaxation and letting go are so important. You can’t uncover something by harshness or uptightness because those things cover our buddhanature. Stabilizing the mind, bringing out the sharp clarity of mind, needs to be accompanied by relaxation and openness. You could say that this box we’re in doesn’t really exist. But from our point of view, there is a box, which is built from all the obstruc- tions, all the habitual patterns and conditioning that we have created in our life. The box feels very, very real to us. But when we begin to see through it, to see past it, this box has less and less power to obstruct us. Our buddhanature is always here, and if we could be relaxed enough and awake enough, we would experience just that. So trust this gradualness and welcome in a quality of patience and a sense of humor, because if the walls came down too fast we wouldn’t be ready for it. It would be like a drug trip where you have this mind-blowing experience but then you can’t integrate the new way of seeing and understanding into your life. The path of meditation isn’t always a linear path. It’s not like you begin to open, and you open more and more and you settle more and more, and then all of a sudden the confining box is gone forever. There are setbacks. I often see with students a kind of “honeymoon period” when they experience a time of great openness and growth in their practice, and then they have a kind of contraction or regression. And this is often terribly frightening or discouraging for many students. A regression in your practice can create crippling doubt and a lot of emotional setback. Stu- dents wonder if they’ve lost their connection to meditation for- ever because the “honeymoon period” felt so invigorating, so true. But change happens, even in our practice. This is a funda- mental truth. Everything is always changing because it’s alive and dynamic. All of us will reach a very interesting point in our practice when we hit the brick wall. It’s inevitable. Change is inevitable with relationships, with careers, with anything. I love to talk to people on the meditation path when they’re at the point of the brick wall: they think they’re ready to quit, but I feel they’re just beginning. If they could work with the unpleas- antness, the insult to ego, the lack of certainty, then they’re get- ting closer to the fluid, changing, real nature of life. Hitting the brick wall is just a stage. It means you’ve reached a point where you’re asked to go even further into open acceptance of life as it is, even into the unpleasant feelings of life. The real inspiration comes when you finally join in with that fluidity, that openness. Before, you were cruising with your practice, feeling certain about it, and that feeling can be “the best” in many ways. And then wham! You’re given a chance to go further. ♦ From How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind, by Pema Chödrön. © 2013 by Pema Chödrön. Reprinted with permission of Sounds True. The Bearable Lightness of Being SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 37