Thursday, May 2, 2013

Scared Yet?

In an email correspondence i've recently had with someone considering the henro trail, a couple of interesting points came up; interesting enough that i thought i'd address them here rather than in an email to one person alone.

The first point seems pretty simple, but maybe for someone finding themselves at the trail head of the path for the first time it may not be that obvious.

"Some people tell me that I don't have to go on a ridiculously long walk to find answers, that it can start now...which is true. But it is so freaking hard to escape all the NOISE and STUFF..."

One of the reasons a good teacher is of importance is for just this problem. Your friends and family, everyone you know, has an opinion and are more than willing to share it with you even though they aren't practitioners and, therefore, don't know what they are talking about. Or, only have a limited clue.

Maybe the reason people think they can tell you that you don't need to do [something] in order to find "the answers" is because they aren't asking the same questions you are. For the majority of people, "the answers" can be found in their everyday life, in the messages they receive from friends, from the television, from the radio, from newspapers & magazines. This is the old adage of grow up, get a job, start a family, and everything will take care of itself. It's worked for everyone else, hasn't it?

Has it? That's the question to ask yourself. Have those options, those sources of information, shown anyone on this path even a glimpse of an answer that seems to address the questions that rattle around in your head? The obvious answer should be no. I'm not saying that their questions and answers are wrong, i'm only pointing out that their answers are not related to the questions you may have. Unless the person you are talking to can show that they are asking the same questions you are, why would you accept their answer as relevant?

The second part of this is to say, though, that they are right. You don't need to go on a long walk to find any answers. You don't need to go to a meditation retreat to find any answers. You don't need to do anything special to find any answers. That's all true. BUT, for most people, you have to learn somewhere and, as mentioned, until you get the basics under your belt the noise and chatter of everyday life is just too much to overcome on your own. There's the radio, TV, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones, mp3 players, ... the list goes on and on. It almost takes a superman/woman to be able to say "enough is enough" and disconnect for short periods of time on a regular basis.

It can be done, though. Lots of people do it. Daily.

Absolutely commit to a daily period of meditation, either early in the morning, as soon as you get up, or just before bed. Commit. Leave no room for doubt. Even if it's only for 5 minutes. Then once a month commit to an hour on one day. Two thirty minute sittings, four 15 minute sittings, or even six ten minute sittings, stretched throughout the day. Anytime between getting up in the morning and going back to bed that night. The key is sticking with it, not giving in to discouragement and apathy.

Do you need to go on a long walk? No, but it's a great place to start without the normal distractions. Do you need to sign up for a meditation retreat somewhere? No, but it's a great place to start. Or, just ask around until you find someone who already meditates in your town and contact them. Tell them, "listen, i'm new to this, and can't afford a full retreat anywhere, but i really want to learn to meditate. Can you teach me the basics?" Who would say no?

Later, in response to my saying, about the henro trail:

"Will it solve all the problems in your life? Will it give you all the answers you may be looking for? It certainly doesn't make problems disappear, but i personally believe all the answers are there, waiting to be found, but you have to open yourself wide enough to let them in."

Their reply was simple:

"That's scary."

I don't ever remember finding the path scary so it's hard for me to understand this point. Zen, for me, was always a no-brainer, so obviously true, so obviously pointing in the right direction, so obviously pointing to pertinent and valuable answers that it was just the obvious thing to do.

I never found it disconcerting to hear that i may not be who i thought i was, that the world may not be what we think it is, that the way most people live their lives, that the way i had been living my life, was leading in a direction opposite where my heart wanted to go. As far back as i can remember my response has always been, "Ok, then what do you think it's like? Show me."

What does it mean to "open yourself wide enough to let [the answers] in"? It doesn't entail "doing" anything. It entails stopping what you are currently doing, it means throwing in the towel and surrendering to your questions. It means giving up the chase for answers where you have been looking for them up to now.

Opening yourself simply means setting aside your past and turning off worries about the future and seeing what life looks like only in the present moment. For five minutes if that's all you can manage, but eventually for hour after hour, day after day. Open yourself to what this present moment contains, as it is, unadulterated by all those thoughts of what it should be or what you wish it would be. Uncontaminated by what you have been conditioned to believe it is supposed to be.

Let Life be who you are, forget who you think you are (gender, race, nationality, religion, social level, parental status, friendship status, etc).

"Opening" isn't something you do, it's something you don't do. It's letting go of what you used to do and seeing what presents itself with this new mindset.

This path seems to many to be a place where you learn things. It's not. It's a place where you unlearn everything. It's where you leave bits and pieces of who you were along the side of the trail because you realize they are no longer needed, or wanted. Where you drop off unneeded baggage because carrying it no longer makes sense. Scary? I don't think so. I'd call it liberating.

1 comment:

Damian said...

The “opening up” you describe is exciting—even exhilarating! We can walk the path of life with eyes focused narrowly ahead, closing our selves off to the possibilities for discovery around us. Or, we can view the journey as an adventure in which the norm is to be surprised and we expect to “unlearn” something in every encounter. Each piece of our old self we leave behind makes our step lighter and more joyous. How exciting is that!