A moment of presence can be likened to a letter at the Post Office, the instructions are written on each one. If I am present for it, Life is guiding in every moment. The inspiration for doing something isn’t separate from the doing that flows from it. Seems Life isn’t real interested in keeping nouns and verbs separate. Just like I don’t need a reason to have lunch with a good friend, Life doesn’t need a reason to take care of Life. So, when the call comes to meditate, I make my way to the cushion for no other reason than—this is who I am, this is what I do.
It’s hard to imagine I would ever willingly surrender something I love so dearly, something like meditation, over to becoming content to a process of suffering. The transition often begins in a seemingly innocuous way. Perhaps I’ve just had an expansive experience on retreat and am enthusiastic about meditating more, I might hear a conversation in my head like: “I can’t wait, this is going to be great. I love the way this feels. This is a wonderful track to be on. Life is going to finally get easier.” As the conversations continue, little by little ego weakens the bond between authentic inspiration and action and I begin to experience a growing sense of dis-ease, a hollowness or emptiness where once there was well-being.
The sleight of hand here is quite remarkable. What was once the vibrant Emptiness/Fullness of all of Life (empty of a separate self, yet full with All That Is), egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate has now neatly tucked behind a projected veil of “emptiness.” It’s emphatic in letting me know that what lies under the veil is lifeless, meaningless, bereft, cold, worthless, the source of unspeakable evils, shameful deeds, and all manner of horrible, painful deaths—a completely accurate projection of its qualities and characteristics! And if I am to avoid the impending annihilation of the way-too-close proximity of this “emptiness,” I must join forces with it in resisting all of what it says the veil means; essentially, I must join it in rejecting all of Life at this most fundamental level.
Conditioning now says the way out of the mess it’s gotten us into is to do something to get something. And if I choose the right thing and do it in the right way at the right time with (or without) the right people, in the right place with all the right furniture in all the right places, I will feel better and that gnawing sense of emptiness will go away… forever. It projects the well-being available in this moment into an imaginary future, gets me to long for that well-being, then suggests a plan of action that will make it mine. And once again, I’m hopeful it will finally work. And just as it seems I’m making progress, often when least expected and seemingly from nowhere, a wave of disappointment or melancholic sadness washes over me. I’ve somehow missed the boat, something has gone wrong, a conditioned standard not met, I’m not the person I should be, things aren’t going to work out. What I was certain would make the difference for me is now beyond reach. Hope dashed, energy sinking, well-being slips out of the future and into the past as I’m pulled towards grieving the loss of what seemed a really good plan to get what I want.
If I consider the idea of impermanence, that Life is flux, everything is changing all the time, then on some level there’s no such thing as content. Content is something that somehow manages to stay still (lifeless) long enough for another process to act on it. So, if I allow any part of my life to become content to the process of suffering, it’s tantamount to giving permission for the human to be viewed as “lifeless” and treated accordingly. Seems I’m required to take ego personally, but it will never see me as human—that’s just not in its programming. Trying to get ego to see me as the perfectly fine human being that I am is a bit like trying to get a lunch date with Siri or Alexa.
If I get talked into meditating to feel better, it’s a sure sign the voices have taken me from loving meditation to loving the idea of meditation—to what I’ll get from meditating. And as the voices more and more make meditation into a ‘should,’ the call to the cushion can more readily be passed over in favor of the first thing the voices say they would rather do. The transition is now complete. The experience of the life-affirming flow from authentic inspiration to conscious compassionate action seems inaccessible, and in its place is a familiar offer from egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate—faux life in the form of a “passion” for (its) survival.
Fortunately, the ways back to center are as many as the moments of identification. As I continue to meditate, to show up for practice regardless of how I feel (saying thank you until I mean it!), the territory becomes increasingly familiar, the escape ramps more apparent and easier to navigate. And at some point, I find interest in the escape ramps waning as I become increasingly focused on only one thing—being inspired by and in love with all of Life. And when the call comes to meditate, I know what the answer will be—this is who I am, this is what I do.