Nowhere to Go To, Nowhere to Run

This is really an add-on to yesterday’s post. A kind of PS.

The thing about learning to meditate is that the place we’re trying to go, the thing we’re trying to get – we already have it.

The peaceful clear mind is already there. The ability to see reality clearly, ditto.

And while, we might be able to get away in other pursuits, with working very hard to “get it” or achieve some kind of mastery, in meditation that is a path doomed to keep us stuck, feeling like we’re not making any progress.

There’s an old Zen story about the student who says “Master, if I work very hard, how long will it take me to become enlightened.”

The master says, “Ten years.”

“Ten years! So long? What if I work extra hard?”

“Twenty years.”

“But if I practice very diligently, every day, what then?”

“Thirty years.”

In meditation practice, whether still or dynamic, the harder we try the worse it is for us. We need to practice with the simplest idea possible. That is, when we sit, we just sit. We know the body and the breath and that is all. No fancy concepts. No trying very hard. No chasing after anything. There is no mastery. Because all these are merely words and concepts that ultimately have nothing to do with meditation. Steven Hagen talks about this beautifully in his book Buddhism: It’s Not What You Think.

The Spanish have a saying, “It is one thing to speak of bulls, it’s another to be in the bull ring.” In meditation practice, we can say, it is one thing to speak about sitting, it’s another to sit. There is no thinking we can do to make us “get” meditation. There is only practice. There is no trying very hard. Nothing to chase.

If anything, it’s more a process of letting go – of concepts, of thinking, of notions of being good students who try very hard because we want to do well or please the teacher and so on.

There is only practice. So we need to try, all of us together, to practice regularly, diligently. It is beneficial to build up the amount of time that we practice. The more time we can manage to give, both in terms of frequency and in terms of individual sessions of practice the more time we give to train the mind, teaching it to settle down, giving the process our full attention. This is where training with a teacher and a group of friends can make a big difference. Classes reinforce our practice. We empty the cup of our minds and let the peace and clarity emerge, slowly, naturally, breath by breath.


Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

One thought on “Nowhere to Go To, Nowhere to Run”

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