|So sure of myself, I took the robe and bowl, hustled off and got lost. Would I be so wise today if I hadn't screwed up so badly?|
A dear friend of mine lived in New Zealand for a year on a Rotary scholarship. She roomed with a woman from South Asia who remarked to her one morning while sipping her tea: "You Americans, you only know how to do. Why can't you just be?"
After an almost ten year hiatus, I am picking back up a formal meditation practice (and starting this blog) just when I need to be removing as much effort as possible in order to focus on healing. My hope is that both will serve that purpose more than they work against it. For instance working on drawing, posting, sitting helps me to not obsess about getting better -- to not work recovery relentlessly like a business problem.
Our tech-permeated culture, much influenced by Protestant and other hard-working immigrant traditions, doesn't much cotton to rest as a value. Whether focused on the fruits of labor, accomplishment, the sweat of your brow, or kicking back to party hard, chill with Angry Birds there is just not a lot rest-full about our days, weeks, months.
Vacations are for going somewhere and doing things you don't normally do when you're working.
Most often, how we enumerate our own value is completely wrapped up in what we do, our job role, family role, what we contribute, what we earn. Living up to our own and other people's conditioned expectations of who we should be and what we should do. All so much story and ego. This nurse who worked with the dying tells us that nobody on their deathbed ever said "I wish I had worked more." In fact, #2. on the list was "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
It is radically counter-cultural to practice being. Even when in every visible way we who choose to stop, sit, breathe in and breathe out, may not be cultivating being. In my own practice I have caught myself over and over doing what Suzuki Roshi called "trying to be the best horse." Trying to get to some goal through practice.
Lately that goal has been better health, and that means most of my meditation time is spent lying down, counting breaths in the middle of the night. Or just being with symptoms, trying to allow them to be ok without fighting because that creates an ever greater energy deficit. Trying not to practice with the goal that it should serve healing -- trying not to make it work. Just letting it be.