The Buddha taught about impermanence. We have cravings, then we satiate, if we’re lucky. Then we might feel full for a little bit. Wash, rinse, repeat. That cycle is called samsara. It’s harder to notice if we’ve never missed a meal, unless we lose someone or something we love, which of course we all do. But then it’s a stark shock, isn’t it. Some people intentionally go into meditation or even retreats of different lengths (varying from a morning to a lifetime) to encounter this cycle of suffering. Meditation can be seen as a kind of a self-induced little mini-suffering session. In such a setting, we have the option to confront, or allow, or observe our condition with mindfulness and other tools.
Seated meditation is good for that. Yoga is also good. Hang out in Titibasana for a bit haha (no, I can not get into that pose!). As I tell my students, which is again a quote from Joko, “Be a bigger container.” When the pose gets tough, the breath gets deeper. We get into the asana (pose), be it seated meditation or any position any time, and we try to be present, mindful, aware.
But the average being isn’t aware. We just blindly stumble from craving to craving, forever. The Buddha called that ignorance. I think most of us don’t want to be aware of the cycle of craving, satiation and more craving. We’d rather just spend our lives moving from one false fulfillment to the next. My old Zen teacher, Joko Beck used to say, “Enlightenment it boring.” No craving=no excitement. We love our drama, don’t we? If we don’t get it, we create it. If we don’t create it, we seek it out in our favorite form of media; books, TV (especially news), YouTube, Facebook. “My drama’s not that fun, I need to indulge in someone else’s, or some drama that’s not even real, just so I can feel something.”
So what do we do about this situation? A nice, new-agey, hippy answer might be to be. Personally, I’m a little more new-edgy than new-agey. The platitudes were obsolete before they were even uttered. “Just be, bro. Just BE.” What, am I not being or something? OK, you can practice just being while your dog dies in front of you. Or as your girlfriend is being blown to bits by some psycho muslim militant terrorists. Just be, man. It’s much easier to just be when things are chill, isn’t it. But if we want to just be when the dentist is drilling, that might take a little more practice. Maybe a few meditation sessions. Or a few million lifetimes of meditation practice, depending on your skill level.
To practice mindfulness is to learn to just be, no matter what. Suffering, bliss. All points in between. But let’s not delude ourselves, or worse yet, others, into thinking it’s so easy. Try sitting still for 60 minutes. Just be with that for 60 minutes. No moving, no flinching, oh and no fantasizing. No indulging in dreams. Just sit. Just be. Let me know how that goes.
May we all find peace.