The Zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
When I feel out of balance, I see my first tendency is to add something more – to increase activity instead of slow down. To DO, always to do. “If I can just increase my asana practice…if I just reorganize the spare room…if I can just get rid of more junk around the house…if I just vacuum, clean out the fridge….buy a juicer and start juicing…start running…I will feel better.”
It isn’t much a surprise living in a society who rally cry is do more and thereby do better; who attributes our worth to production, and whose industrial-aged message has been echoed by most well-intentioned parents, teachers, employers, politicians, clergy in my generation. I am begging myself to differ.
It is in the not-doing where change is given space, where imbalances and true remedies are seen fully. Where the doing gives us the illusion of control, it is the anti-dote to doing – the surrender – that allows for transformation.
Go figure, the solution for having “too much to do” is to do actually do less.
On good days my insides might feel like they are in the midst of a circus riot. On bad days the mind can be a torture chamber. The longer I sit the more the dust settles and I get to see that beneath all of that commotion is a sweet spot. A candle flame flickering in the middle of it all.
Ten counts and begin again. I drift off, I begin again at 1.
How many times did I start over today? Too many times to count. My thoughts linger on how hard the last couple of days have been, the moments I could have handled better, tensing at the tasks at hand in advance, searching for the fortitude to rise to them; what I ate yesterday and conversations past and future, the dirty kitchen, the dog’s recurrent flea problem…why do I sit? To notice the patterns of the mind. Suddenly, when I am still, I can see what my mind is doing. In all that chaos exists a state of grace that is always there for us. If I sit long enough to find my state of grace, if only for a moment, I remember, “oh yes, this what it feels like, this is where I want to be”. The more I practice, the easier it becomes to revisit. I don’t meditate to achieve some sort of transcendental bliss consciousness but do train my mind, to bring my body and my mind again and again to that meeting place where nothing is lacking and nothing is required.
This is the practice. Beginning again. Not so that we can one day “get it right”, although we may find ourselves able to hold concentration longer and longer, but because to begin again is grace. It is all we do.