Friday, March 4, 2011

Being Boxed In

In the early part of Ajahn Passano's most recent dhamma talk, he said something which really stood out to me. He talked about how sometimes we can box ourselves in with our practice, and that it is important to always question ourselves and our methods. He told a story about how Ajahn Chah, tired of being around others, set off to go meditate in solitude. Once alone, Ajahn Chah began to feel very lonely. He realized that solitude was not actually what he needed.

Last week I set a goal for myself that was actually someone else's goal. I mentioned Wallace's book and instruction for developing insight and concentration. I then took it up as a duty or project which I would then carry out in meditation practice. And the most curious thing happened right after declaring that determination: I meditated once, maybe twice, and then stopped. Within no time at all the practice became stifling, irritating, burdening. I had boxed myself in. Everything that had once previously been unfolding and developing on its own accord stopped.

Of course, there are some subtle reasons for this experience that are things which need to be worked with: as soon as a goal is set something happens to the meditation practice which turns the practice into an obstacle and blocks the path. 'If I am not there then I am here'... and in this subtle belief I am already negating and am in a state of without. I have cut myself off from concentration and insight by the very quiet way in which I have told myself I do not have it but can and should seek it (and this is how I do it). The practice immediately became a struggle. I had little compassion for myself, little love, but much frustration and disappointment. I would sit and begin with my intention and instantly there was an army blocking the way.

So I decided to experiment with it to see what was going on, to try and question my efforts. I stopped the practice for a few days. I just gave it up. Naturally, after a while I began to want meditation back in my life.... but what I wanted back was not what I'd left it with: the desire and aspiration for concentration and insight. What I wanted back was the communion with my being, the loving silence of being with my self, the touching of the inner spirit and inner heart.

I'm taking away from this lesson two realizations:
One: Meditation practice is impossible without a loving, happy mind. An open, loving, compassionate heart must always be present.
Two: We must find our own way, our own path. While I can take nuggets of wisdom from Wallace, Pema Chodron, the Ajahns, etc, the only one who can point the way in every moment is my own self.

1 comment:

  1. as always, your words are like music to my ears! what's interesting is that I heard something similar on the psychology of setting goals. they basically said that once you begin to think about/talk about/write about your goals, you also begin to lose the chance that you will actually go through with it, b/c somehow you feel you've already completed it. I can see how you would also feel immediately blocked by it, and boxed in. so true! yet I just wrote an entire post on my goals. ah, well. the irony!