Topic: What your practice will look like a year from now
It’s interesting how humans predict future events. We aren’t like animals, who rely on instinct and habit to survive. We seem to be able, with varying degrees of success, to define and promote logarithms within our social, financial, and economic spheres. The microcosm tends to reflect the macrocosm, so it seems reasonable that one should be able to do that on an individual level. Any prediction would only be accurate if I maintain my current practice as-is which is unlikely to continue precisely the same even until next week. But for the purposes of this post, it would do. Since the end goal is enlightenment I thought I could come up with a formula, because it actually makes a lot of sense mathematically. However, I couldn’t find appropriate mathematical symbols for ‘not greater than, less than, or equal to zero’. There is one, but I’ve only seen it in print. The closest symbol I could find was ∞ (infinity).
After I had gotten all of that out of my system, I cut the crap and asked myself really, where will I be- not in what I do, but my practice itself. It doesn’t really matter if I can sit a little longer or anything like that- that’s the foam on the surface. But underneath, the real meat of the issue- the tender, pink core of my practice.
My practice has to keep fresh or I get stuck really easily. Last time I tried to set up a ‘meditation routine’ I was stuck for three months, spinning my wheels until I saw the pointlessness of it all. Just meditate and practice all the time, Em, and the rest of it will fall into place (again and again). Momentary arising meditation, all dependent on the intention and energy that is put into it. This makes for a very fluid, freeform practice. If something isn’t actively propelling this being downstream, then I am in the way, likely hanging onto some passing rock with shiny spots in it.
Once this pattern became evident, it was clear that the ante was not high enough. Bare attention would keep this from happening, but my acuity was pretty weak at the time. For moments only could bare attention rest at the surface, and I knew I was capable of better. I waited, looking for a good solution to try out, observing the disquiet. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon the ‘truck’ meditation.
The idea first came from a story from the Empty Cloud Teachings:
A warlord once stopped at a monastery on his way home from a successful military campaign. He came to visit the abbot who was an old teacher of his.
As the abbot and the warlord sat in the courtyard pleasantly chatting and drinking tea, they were distracted by an argument between a novice and a senior monk. The novice was complaining that the meditation technique given him by the senior monk was ineffective and worthless. “It cannot teach me how to concentrate much less meditate,” shouted the novice. “Give me a more reliable technique.”
Observing that the argument was distressing his old master, the warlord stood and said, “Please, Master, allow me to help this young man.” When the master nodded his assent, the warlord summoned six of his archers.
The warlord then filled his teacup to the brim and carefully handed it to the novice. “Take this cup of tea,” he ordered, “and without spilling a single drop, carry it around the entire periphery of this courtyard.”
As the novice took the cup the warlord commanded his archers, “Follow him! If he spills a single drop, shoot him!” The archers drew their bows and began to walk beside the novice who, in the next twenty minutes, learned how to concentrate.
This imagery did not resonate with me personally, so over the next several weeks I began bringing to mind the truck- an enormous, fully loaded tractor trailer moving at 60 MPH – one inch from the tip of my nose. For it to work, I brought all of my senses into it; the smell of the gas, the cold metal grill and the heat of the engine intermingling, the glare of the sun and the full, unavoidable reality that this was it, the last moment. In the beginning, after practicing in this way I would start hyperventilating after just a few minutes but I would touch my breath (still in front of the truck) and plow on through. It’s really remarkable how much attention and sincerity in practice improves when you take it dead serious.
Since then there have been other meditations, some more gentle since I discovered that mortality exists in every moment, even the quiet ones. Even while I still appreciate humor and the light things of life, I touch the frailty of my life when I feel my heart beats, in every breath, in the fragile structure of the body that a single act- a wrong turn, a freak accident, or a single inattentive moment- can extinguish.
In one year, if none of these regrettable things occur, I know exactly what my practice will be- base jumping, with only a dhamma-chute on my back.
Thanks, NellaLou, for participating and for giving me this topic. I really had to think and reach deep for an answer that was truth.