Meditation daily practice ~ trust and surrender

Meditation daily practice is a dynamic relationship, nevertheless it is a consistent container allowing the practitioner to tap into the resources of trust and surrender.

Trust sets daily practice into motion of being, it is the spark that gets the practitioner to the cushion in the first place, trusting daily practice to be an essential for one’s well being and growth. As daily practice stabilizes, trust welcomes the possibility of surrender into play.

Surrender allows daily practice to evolve,  insight and direction arise when fundamental curiosity softens the  fear of the unknown, the practitioner gets to experience first hand the potential in fully relating to life, and so at this point the practice takes the front seat in navigating the practitioner towards further trust, thus further surrender.

As you can see, meditation daily practice acts very similarly to a refined dance for two, at times the practitioner takes the lead, at others the practice, nevertheless, as the saying goes “It takes two to tango” :)

Namaste

 

 

Suffering

There is a saying by Situ Rinpoche “Suffering is the broom that sweeps away the cause of suffering”. One might ask, define suffering first. I experience suffering as ignorance or lack of awareness, everytime I don’t have enough space to see things for what they are. For example, if I don’t hear from a friend for a long time I start projecting my own insecurity and thinking “oh, I might have said something to offend them last time we met” or “oh, they don’t like me anymore”  and perhaps keep going to “they weren’t good friends any way” and so on and so forth creating a whole suffering that is my inability to see things for what they are – I haven’t heard from a friend for a while end of story. If I could do that there will be no suffering. But since I can’t do that at this point in my evolution suffering is the broom that allows me to see what I am doing to myself, because lets face it – it’s painful after a while to keep doing the same thing and get the same result… (some call it maddening or insanity). Over time though, enough awareness is cultivated to sweep away the cause of suffering. Going back to the example with the friend I lost touch with “I haven’t heard from my friend for a while, let me give her a call”.

We do have to realize we are suffering first, and this is where the practice of meditation comes real handy creating enough space for us to see things for what they are. So you can say that the practice of meditation is handing us the broom to do the much needed sweeping :)

Awareness

Before emotions become emotions, there is a felt sense, a subtle energy detected with refined somatic awareness, offering us a gateway to basic intelligence that has nothing to do with what we think we know or who we think we are, thus non-self referential. Sounds lovely, right? basic intelligence and all that,  problem is we feel very uncomfortable in that place where we cannot fit the awareness to some kind of a concept to support our sense of self, something familiar, like a movie we watched before and have an idea where it’s going so we can relax and watch it again. As comfy as it sounds (the movie thing, that is), once the felt sense becomes a self referential concept – good, bad, I like it, I can’t stand it, let me see what I can do about it etc. – we lose access to basic intelligence along with the space that comes with it, and from here to being reduced to a closed in predicted story line with a definite solid emotion, there is no path…

Basic intelligence allow us to relate directly with what’s going on, therefore respond appropriately.

Take negativity for example, on an energetic level it has a distinct vulnerable energy, somewhat defensive, but it is just an energy, and around that energy there is space, which allows us to stay with that energy, embrace that energy until we become that energy, not trying to run away from it, or push it away. By doing so, we become fearless, we know negativity from within, it is part of who we are, we have no need to react or create a whole story line loaded with emotions to hold on to for our dear life because we feel uncomfortable with that energy. Furthermore, negativity as a felt sense offers a distinct sharp awareness that allows us to see our situation for what it is and respond with relevance and accuracy. It is not about us any more, it is a clear communication between the situation and the energy it brings with it.  We don’t have to go into a whole ego trip of resentment, and start planning the next step, which is a waste of time and energy, plus it has no relevance in reality. It is just the ego freaking out and seeking ground.

In meditation we practice accessing the awareness of the felt sense energy and staying with it as long as needed for basic intelligence to arise. Once it happens we are granted with the felt sense of knowing that is free of self and other, which is ground free of dependency.

Maitri ~ Unconditional Loving kindess

The practice of Maitri can land itself to be most profound realizing our full human potential, the secret is in the word unconditional.

Can we really love unconditionally, no reservations, no judgement, pure love for ourselves and others all over the world, all across the universe and beyond? When I was first exposed to the practice I experienced an expanded bliss as we kept sending our love further and further, only to experience the abrupt shutting down of the heart once I hit the road heading home (I do live in New Jersey…), I really hated all the drivers around me, I could wholeheartedly justify road rage… How can it be? How can I experience such an abundance of love and moments later could not even remember it’d ever happened? how can we love someone dearly, and once things don’t go well treat them like we would never want to be treated?

What is the practice of Maitri good for?!

On the path of meditation, as we cultivate complete openness, Maitri is the practice that supports our ability to do so courageously. As we expose parts of ourselves that have been ignored, unresolved, wounded,  the unconditional component of Maitri comes real handy, cultivating loving kindness to ALL of who we are, gradually welcoming rejected parts of ourselves, which is the foundation to our ability to relate to others unconditionally. Until I embrace the part of myself that has no tolerance to anyone standing in my way getting from point A to point B, really seeing what’s underneath that intolerance and relating to it as something that is not separate from who I am,  I am not able to relate to others who are doing the same thing. Maitri  practice encapsulate the basic understanding that all that is human cannot possibly be foreign to us. This understanding is key to our ability to live to our full potential.

Trungpa Rinpoche says “You don’t have to struggle to prove your existence”, it is a good reminder as we bring Maitri to everyday life, when you catch yourself shutting down because someone just said something hurtful, or didn’t return your email,  say to yourself softly “I exist” and relate to the awareness of being hurt as an invitation to get to know an outcast part of your infinite self.

Simplicity

Meditation practice happens when we surrender ambition in favor of simplicity.

When we start meditating, there is some level of ambition to achieve something through a specific practice. Relaxation, focus etc. Once we think we achieved our goal we are itching to move on to the next set of practices. Once we think we can’t achieve our goal through a particular practice, we are itching to move on to another set of practices to satisfy our ambition.

What would it be like to stick to ONE practice for a while?

Have a sit and follow the breath in your lower belly

Surrendering ambition creates space around our practice, we are able to soften restlessness and stay with one thing for a while. We create the conditions for the practice to inform us where we are and what we need. We become intimate with our practice, and in return our practice matures into a consistent practice that is not depended on certain idea we have about meditation. We start meditating…

 

Gentleness

Meditation practice is a concrete call for gentlness, softening gradually layers of self aggression.

Along the maturation of meditation practice we experience periods of intensity, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, the instruction calls for gentleness. Although sounds quite simple, most of us need to cultivate awareness around the default response to intensity, which is self aggression, how does the famous song goes ~ when the going gets tough, the tough gets going…basically self aggression is a checking out reaction to anything we don’t want to feel. Let’s say we sit in meditation and we start feeling a sharp pain in the hip. Some of the common self aggression responses would be to say to ourselves “oh, no big deal, 10 minutes to go, I can do it!”, start planning a hip replacement, or ignore the fact that our hip is in pain altogether going on a thinking trip to the Bahamas. What would it be like if we ask ourselves “what do I need right now?” perhaps we need to shift our sit, perhaps we need to lay down,  perhaps just asking the question is enough. Try it right now, ask yourself “What do I need right now?” notice the subtle sense of relief following the permission to be gentle with yourself, perhaps a warm softening sensation somewhere in your body, there’s space between your thoughts, delicate tenderness around the heart.

When intensity comes up, the first impulse is to judge it, numb it, manipulate it,  we’d do anything to refrain from feeling and being with the intensity, separating ourselves from it and by doing so cutting a life line for growth, moreover, hinder the maturation of our meditation practice. Ironic, isn’t it? whereas we try to toughen up to be “good meditators” sitting straight, not thinking, not feeling, shutting down anything that does not fit our conceptual idea of meditating, we are missing the point and pretending to meditate. So if you find yourself already in this mode of self aggression, one way to break the momentum  is ask yourself “What is it I don’t want to feel?”, asking the question offers a view of the intensity without the fear around it, moreover, we are able to see what we need to be able to stay with the intensity long enough for the intelligence that comes with it to mature and inform us.

Relevance

“Situations are the voice of the guru, the presence of the guru” (Chongyam Trungpa)

Meditation practice cultivates trust in the primary experience. We practice in feeling what we feel rather than thinking what we feel. Through this process we are able to read communications from within and around us, moreover,  respond in relevance to what the situation call for. If I wake up in the morning getting ready for the day and my son is telling me he doesn’t feel well, can I really feel his discomfort and tend to his needs, or am I in my head trying to figure out how I’m going to fit this unplanned situation to my schedule? It makes a difference in how we experience life, do I relate or do I try to impose my thoughts on the situation?

Trying to impose our thoughts on life creates a separation. We might feel comfortable and safe for a while, however in the long run it is not sustainable as we further ourselves from all that is current and relevant.  Situations are the voice of the guru in the sense that we can assess whether we are fully relating to the primary experience or we are still in our heads designing a master plan to eliminate any interference. Every time we resist a situation, refer to it as an interference, it is a reminder that we are still in our heads, hence it is an invitation to relate.

Through the practice of meditation, relating to the primary experience of the breath, body sensations, feeling the flow of energy in the form of body sensations, thoughts, emotions, we begin to cultivate a basic trust in our experience to be 100% accurate communication, thus our response has the capacity to be current and relevant.

Retreat

There is a story about an indigenous driving a visitor for days amid the African vastness, suddenly stopping the car, getting out, and laying down on the ground. The visitor, not knowing what to make out of it asks the driver when he gets back to the car, what was he doing laying down on the ground for no apparent reason. “Oh”, the indigenous replied casually “I was just letting my soul catch up with my body”.

Having the body and soul not too far from each other is fundamental for our well being, as the indigenous instinctively knew (also laying on the ground, but that is for another discussion).Sometimes though the body goes too fast and we become a soulless body. Other times the soul would leave the body behind (while we are still physically  alive…) and we would be disembodied soul. Neither is good news, and can manifest in sickness and/or depression.

This is what a retreat is for. Sometimes we need to step out of the world as we think we know it, and check in with our body and soul, see where they are in relations to one another. We don’t have to go no-where really to do so, but we do have to take ourselves out of our everyday life business for a while. It can be that we go for a few hours on a hiking trip in nature, or dedicate a morning to meditation and reflection, making sure we are not destructed by our phones and electronics. I would suggest that you do it on a regular basis, once a week if you can, make a physical commitment, put it on your scheduled if that what you need to make it happen.

People would report, even after 2 hours of being out in the woods, that they feel refreshed, more grounded, more in tune with the world around them, also more sensitive and receptive. I don’t think it would be relevant to label these experiences as good or bad,  nor do I think anyone should set up a goal to feel one way (we humans can do some unbelievable things with our brilliant minds…)however, this is the best we can do with language to express some of the experiences of the soul and the body walking hand in hand.

Coming back from a weekend meditation retreat, I’d like to offer one expression of my own experience. When my body and soul are catching up with each other briefly, I feel more oriented. Again, not saying whether it’s good or bad, I do know it is healthy for both my body(that is so achy from long sits) and soul(ordered perfectly raw this morning).

Relief

Meditation offers relief. At first we come to the practice of meditation to find refuge from our everyday life struggles. And indeed, we find peace, relaxation and a sense of well being. But not all the time. When we don’t get our dose of calm in a practice session we get frustrated, we even ask ourselves if all this meditation business is not just another fraud.

However, if we stay long enough and commit to daily practice without any expectation we begin to realize a deeper, much more sustainable and consistent level of relief, which has to do with meditation being a companionship. Just like a good companion, practice meets us where we are and allows whatever is going on in our life to expend and inform us. When I experience sadness or anxiety, sure enough, sadness and anxiety will show themselves in practice.

Meditation is the practice of allowance. To the degree we avail ourselves to whatever comes up, we experience more allowance in our everyday life.

Self Regulation

I just returned from a week long meditation retreat in a facility nestled amid the mountains of southern Colorado. The conditions were perfect for me to settle and deepen my practice, gorgeous retreat center, mindful group of people, the gentle sound of rain…but for some reason, for the first two days the relaxation felt somewhat compromised by restlessness and physical discomfort that got worse with every passing hour, something was desperately craving to release. I practiced what I preach, in the words or Trungpa Rinpoche “we are training to work with ALL mindsets” and stayed with the full spectrum of discomfort and pain. At some point we were given 4 hrs to practice on our own. We could do whatever we wanted, we could go out and come back to the practice space whenever we wanted. For the first hour my discomfort was peaking to unbearable, every bone hurt, my mind was as resistant as can be, I thought to myself it is just not going to work for me this time, but since there was really nothing else to do in the retreat center other than practice, I decided to stick around for a bit longer and instead of trying to stay with one practice for a while I decided to alternate the different practices, I walked out and back to the room a couple of times. By the second hour I felt my body is beginning to soften and my mind was willing to follow the the subtle waves of breath, I began to settle, I felt the practice is less efforted and much more relaxed and organic. By the third hour I felt my body is making the calls alternating technique and open attention. I felt alert and relaxed. I was reaping the fruits of self regulation.

Within the form of meditation there is an invitation for self regulation, which means going in and out of the technique according to subtle ques from the body.

One cannot will themselves to self regulate. There are two stages in the practice that need to come first

Alignment – positioning the body along the natural energetic flow of gravity

Relaxation – consciously softening tension in the body

Self regulation happens when the body is completely aligned and relaxed, it is an invitation to deepen our practice.

Drawing by my dear friend Sharon Tzomer

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About Sharon Avitzur

I teach Yoga and Meditation at Sakula Yoga studio. for any questions please email me: sharon.avitzur@gmail.com
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